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Dreaming of holidays with New Forest Mark and Hugh

"Come fly with me"

New Forest Mark and Hugh and reflections on holidays the return of which we eagerly anticipate

Mark and Hugh signoff 600x400From vacation to staycation, from the history of holidays to personal holiday memories, to dreaming as most of us surely do of one day holidaying again, once again Mark and Hugh entertain us royally - although Mark does ask to be excused for a little naughtiness in the middle section. 

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Come fly with me, let’s fly, we’ll fly away

In this bewitching song the incredible voice of Frank Sinatra urges us to fly to a bar in far Bombay for some exotic booze. When the song was written flying was still something rather special. I remember when our family flew to Mauritius back in the sixties, sixty-four, I think. My father worked in the civil service and at the time Mauritius was one of our outposts. We flew with BOAC (British Overseas Aircraft Corporation) on the world’s first jetliner, the De Havilland Comet. We were lucky to get there unscathed as the aircraft had a terrible safety record with over twenty-six aircraft disintegrating and the loss of over four-hundred lives. Today flying is safer than driving.

When a staycation was the only vacation

Before the advent of affordable flying, holidays were almost always taken in the UK. Our family went to Whitsands Bay which is just over the border in south Cornwall. One year it rained for the whole two weeks. Comedians up and down the land found a rich seam of material in the form of the seaside landlady. Normally portrayed as a formidable old dragon with rules that you disobeyed at your peril; she became an easy target. Breakfast wouldn’t nourish a kitten and butter was served in pats barely visible to the naked eye. The front door was triple bolted at nine in the evening after which you were out for the night. It was sort of Colditz in reverse. Holidaying in the UK was not for the faint hearted. It’s no wonder we thrashed Hitler.

The birth of abroad

For the origins of the foreign holiday, we need to turn to a visionary called Vladimir Raitz. This far-sighted man realised that land-based travel across post-war Europe was the stuff of nightmares. Raitz chartered an aircraft called a DC3. Parachutists dropping into France towards the end of WW2 would have known this aircraft better as the famous Dakota. The first charter flight was between Gatwick and Corsica in 1949. He managed to offer a two-week fully inclusive holiday for less than the price of a return flight to Nice with BEA. Raitz was the Michael O’Leary (Ryanair) of the day. Suddenly flying became accessible to the average earner and an ordinary family could take a foreign holiday. It was adios to the freezing cold North Sea, windbreaks, deck chairs and Kiss Me Quick hats. Au revoir to goosebumps and gritty sandwiches. Ciao to the end of the pier shows. The continent beckoned!

On the piste, a paid holiday courtesy of the taxpayer

A long time ago your scribbler was lean and fit. If you could only see him today you weep to see how cruel the passage of time and a beer or two can be. When I was in the army, I used to compete in a sport called biathlon. This is a sport involving langlauf (cross-country skiing) and shooting and I wasn’t bad at it. The sport was classified as Adventure Training, something that would in some way make you a better soldier. The skiing was gruelling as anyone who has tried langlauf will attest but essentially, we had a great time and we were being paid for it. After a two-week long competition in Bavaria in southern Germany it came time for the prizegiving and a load of us crammed into a ghastly old Leyland Sherpa mini-bus. Someone noticed that the car following us was being driven by the 2IC (second in command) with the CO (commanding officer) in the passenger seat. The roads were narrow with steep banks of snow on either side that reflected the headlights perfectly.  I said “hold the doors, I’m going to moon them”. Down came the strides, open went the doors and as I held on for dear life, I gave them a good eyeful. We arrived at the venue and parked about twenty yards from their car and were still giggling as we tumbled out. The front doors of the car opened and the two officers exited; then the two back doors opened and their wives got out. Oops! I tried to avoid them for the rest of the evening. It wasn’t easy.

Beer, making you see double and feel single

It was at the end of the evening that the fun really started. One chap decided to climb a tree, well why not? Once up there he decided to settle in for the evening and like a leopard he draped himself across a branch and went to sleep. He was still there the next morning, snoring. When we got back to the gasthaus, we let ourselves in through a window that we had left unlatched for the purpose. Frank Castle had stayed behind as he was trying to chat up a pretty WRAC (Women’s Royal Army Corps). Naturally we were jealous and so once we were all in, we decided to latch the window. That’ll teach him. Frank turned up later and soon realised that he had to find another way in. Seeing a balcony with a pine tree close to it he took the opportunity. After swarming up the pine and stepping onto the balcony he gingerly tried the doors. They were unlocked so he let himself in only to find his foot on something rather squashy. Suddenly there was the glare of a bedside lamp illuminating the terrible scene. Frank’s foot was on the landlady in her bed who at that very moment screamed loudly! He quickly retreated and did a clumsy somersault over the balcony into the thick snow below then ran for his life. He mooched about in the village until daybreak and then made a cautious return avoiding the poor landlady at all times. It’s a wonder any of us made it to retirement.

Coals to Newcastle

Once I went to Benidorm with a friend (never ever again, as long as I have breath in my body).  I soon tired of the place and asked my friend Steve if he fancied a drive into the interior to see the olive groves. Off we went up the snaking road, the air becoming cooler as we gained height. The groves were lovely and I remember being amazed that anything could grow in such an arid place. We began to feel peckish. Suddenly, on the side of the road, there appeared a tiny handwritten sign saying ‘café’ and an arrow to the left. The establishment hove into view. ‘Bill and Sandy’s Tavern’. Steve was delighted and, as it was a Sunday, ordered a roast dinner. I asked for tapas, ‘sorry mate, don’t do it’. To add insult to injury there was premiership football on the telly with the volume nice and loud. Steve, an avid supporter, was in his element. I smiled through gritted teeth.

Benidorm redeemed itself with its fiesta. The Spanish adore their music and at fiesta time they love to show off. There were bands and choirs of all ages and you could wander about between the different stages. I was captivated and there wasn’t a string vest in sight. This happened at the other end of the bay to the concrete jungle. My friend Steve was distinctly unimpressed but I was intoxicated by the sheer enthusiasm of Spaniards. It was a massive event which must have taken a lot of organising.

Never in England

Just before leaving Spain I found myself walking down a very narrow street with tall buildings either side. There was room for just one car and the pavements were only just wide enough for one person. I passed an unmarked open doorway and heard music so I stopped, back tracked and looked inside. It was actually a bar and there were two men, both playing guitar, sat on bar stools facing one another as they sang softly. I went in and ordered a glass of red. It was at that moment that I fell in love with the Spanish people. It seemed as if time had stopped and nothing mattered. There was a large green parrot in a cage to my right which I admired as I rested my left elbow on the dark polished wood. The tiny bar was softly lit by the sunlight from the doorway and I remember that outside it looked impossibly bright, hot and harsh but that the inside was cool, muted and inviting. For me the essence of a holiday is discovering the unusual and unexpected. I mused to myself ‘would I ever experience this in England?’. Somehow, I doubted it.

I’ve got a debit card and I’m not afraid to use it

Many of us have been forced into saving money. Personally, it saddens me that I have been unable to make regular deposits into the till at my local pub. Subsequently my bank balance is unusually healthy and this simply won’t do. I feel sure that most of us are in the same boat, once we’re allowed to, we shall charge, en-masse into our nearest travel agent.

It can’t be much longer can it?

skiers in snowy hamlet

 

More tales and cartoons for Lymington and the New Forest from Mark and Hugh

If you'd like to read previous articles on diverse subjects written by Mark and illustrated by Hugh's cartoons here they are, click the links embedded in the titles:


RNLI and Lymington Lifeboat

Happy New Year Resolutions and Revolutions
Merry Christmas 2020
What our cars say about us
The litter pickers of the New Forest

A roof over your New Forest head

Richard St Barbe Baker

Our star, our sun, our salt!
To Lymington or Cuba
The Auld Mug

Seeds of success

Moonlit meeting with cetaceans 

Trees and what they tell us
Cartography and trig pillars

Pony drifts and pannage in the New Forest
A journey from the New Forest via Lymington
The brilliance - and persistence - of Marconi

Equality in the skies
Bees pollinators par excellence 
Cordless home entertainment

The joy of sheds

When the Isle of Wight was just Wight
Bucklers Hard

Salisbury Cathedral 
Pond Life in our Forests 
Bombs Away 
Baileys Hard 
Rufus Stone and Sir Walter Tyrrell
Graffiti through the ages
Freedom of the roads
Heath fires
Lymington Lido
Watch the birdie
Unstoppable momentum of nature
Socially distanced socialising
Calshot Spit, a curse for mariners...

 

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