Everyone is heading for sunshine and I'm just staying in my room- - Gaby Soutar

It’s so much easier to take a staycation.

Pic: Getty Images
Pic: Getty Images

My friends and colleagues are jetting off to sunnier climes.

It’s an exodus of those who crave the sun on their backs. They’re like lizards clambering closer to the heat lamps in their vivariums.

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Now that most of them work from home, they don’t even have to worry about everyone laughing at them when they return with sunburn and peeling noses, still wearing a sarong because they didn’t have time to put a wash on. However, it is nice that we no longer have to politely eat the mysterious shiny-wrapped chocolates that they procured duty free. Thanks to whoever brought them in, but what were they?

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I think I’m the only one actually working right now, so expect my byline on every page. I will also be dealing with sales and distribution.

You may see me at your local newsagent, making sure the papers are fanned out nicely, and accidentally layered in front of our direct competitors.

Don’t worry, I will keep this thing afloat somehow.

It’s not just my colleagues who are snapping up cheap flights as if EasyJet and Ryanair had just been invented and global warming wasn’t boiling the Med like a big old bouillabaisse. Everyone is doing it.

My husband keeps asking, when can WE go away? I know he means abroad, not somewhere in Scotland, again. We’ve already ticked off Perth and Glasgow this year. That should be enough. I pretend not to hear him. To Italy, France or Greece or anywhere, he whines, then huffs off to do his Duolingo session, where he will learn how to ask for three purple cats if we ever get to Napoli.

The problem is, I can’t cope with the heat and I’ve always been more of a staycation person. Also, I’m out of the habit, since lockdown quashed the last of my wanderlust.

Not that I don’t love it when I get there. I pine for Venice and Prague.

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It’s just the thought of the passport hunt, the packing, the guilt over massive carbon emissions and knowing that I’ll never offset them just because I cycle to Locavore once a month. Then there are the chaotic airports and the queues, finding out what Covid regulations have to be followed, the price of a trip during a cost of living crisis, and, you know, the general faff of decanting contact lens fluid and finding both ends of a bikini.

It doesn’t help that we’ve got a penchant for cultural city breaks, always with so much walking involved.

When we were in Rome, we did about 13 miles a day, and my blisters had blisters. That’s not relaxing, especially when you’re the official route finder and spend most of your time staring at Google Maps and trying to fix the broken compass by doing figures of eight with your phone.

I also hate flying, so I need to procure a supply of Valium from the GP before every trip. It doesn’t really work. I still claw at my husband’s arm during take off and hyper-vigilantly monitor the facial expressions of the cabin crew.

You could say that I’m the least adventurous of the Soutars. Between them, as solo travellers, they have lived in Africa, been on the Trans-Mongolian Railway, visited Cambodia and eaten a guinea pig in Machu Picchu. To paraphrase The Waterboys; “They wandered out in the world for years, while I just stayed in my room”. Except I didn’t see the whole of the moon either, sadly.

On our annual family holiday, it was always the Isle of Arran for a fortnight. We loved it as children and now as adults, but as teenagers it was Kevin and Perry level boring. We’d pack everything there was to do into the first three days, then the oldies would park themselves in front of Wimbledon, while we went out hunting for boys.

There were slim pickings.

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Perhaps I’m not bothered about holidays abroad, since none will compare to the only trip to the sun we ever took.

Malaga, 1983. I went completely feral, aged eight, along with my six-year-old sister.

Back then, there was no such thing as helicopter parenting. They napped most of the time. I don’t really remember them even being there.

The doors were open. We ran through the streets in our flappy sandals, being chased by local children, who pinched our pale cheeks when they caught us.

We binged on huge bags of dusty and salty sunflower seeds and went to the nearby cafe on our own, where we used our only Spanish; “dos naranjas por favor”. I had to have pink baths filled with calamine lotion because my sunburn kept me awake at night. I also saw my dad cry for the first and only time, when he watched bullfighting on the telly. Apart from the sunburn and tears, it was probably the best holiday ever.

Maybe, after a three-year hiatus, I could be inspired to book a flight.

And, if you’re ever in desperate need of that Duolingo phrase, it’s “tre gatti viola”.



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