My daughter and I are in Gran Canaria at the moment for a girls only holiday. I was quite looking forward to the novelty of a non-windy location, which is a rarity, given my usual holidays with Andy and his kite boards.
Relaxing, and enjoying a spot of people watching, I started thinking about those experiences that only happen on holiday, and how we British change our behaviour when away from home.
For example, the bizarre world of sun bed reservation. Normally sane people when at home, hotel guests suddenly turn into fierce warriors as they beat off any and all competition to secure the best spot. In some hotels you may get away with wandering down to the pool at 10am and still get a sun bed of your choosing. In others it’s highly competitive, and rising at 5am and trudging down to the pool in darkness is necessary to get a bed worth having.
However early you plan to get up, there are ALWAYS those who are down before you. Do these people actually go to bed at all? You can tell they are experts in the reservation stakes, as they even bring little pegs to attach the towels to their beds. Andy and I used to deride this practice… until our towels blew off into the pool one year.
I’ve also experienced those hotels that don’t allow ANY sun bed reservations and feature signs that ominously warn that items will be “removed”’ if left for more than half an hour. At one hotel in Spain a few years ago, the sunbed area was cordoned off until 7am every day and guests lined up and literally raced to get the bed of their choice. If you were slow, unwell or in any way lacking the necessary speed, you were consigned to a less than perfect spot. Groups and couples could be overheard in the evenings earnestly discussing who was the fastest in their group. A sort of sun bed olympics.
In some hotels the sun beds are nicely spaced, in others you are located less than 5 inches away from the next couple. These are the worst kind in my view, due to the resulting lack of privacy, and only recently on this holiday, I was forced to listen to one couple discussing their family problems in vivid and graphic detail. Later, I was also treated to a blow by blow account of a hospital procedure, that will probably stay with me for years.
I’ve noticed that most hotels have a smaller ‘adults only’ pool area, and two or three ‘family’ swimming pools, often the size of small airfields. Whatever time of year we go on holiday, there are always thousands of children in the family pools. I worry about this. Don’t these children go to school? Are the parents being fined? If so, some local authorities are obviously making an absolute packet.
Of course, occasionally someone breaks the pool rules and everyone looks around bewildered, unsure of how to cope. This morning for example, a lone child was spotted in the adult pool! Shock! Horror! Said child was splashing around screaming and laughing and generally being child like. The adult people in the adult pool stopped swimming and stood around the sides, eyeing this alien in their midst. There was lots of muttering and whispers behind hands, and everyone looked expectantly at the lifeguard. There was a collective hush as we all watched the lifeguard approach the child, and then, on spotting her 6’5” muscle-bound father, decided against any action, and seemed to have a pressing commitment somewhere else.
One chap in particular looked very upset at this turn of events and made a lot of angry huffing noises as he watched the back of the lifeguard stride off into the distance. For a moment or two, it looked as if he was going to take on what the lifeguard had so obviously shrugged off. He walked over to Mr Muscles and stood precariously near him, evenly eyeing the child (still screeching and splashing away in the pool) and Mr Muscles himself, as if looks alone could force Mr M to see the error of his ways. Mr M steadfastly ignored Mr Angry, who eventually stalked away towards the bar sighing and tutting loudly. Said child was still happily splashing away noisily in the adults pool an hour later. Mr Angry was still at the bar, voicing his outrage to a rather timid looking couple, who probably wished they were somewhere else.
Speaking of bars, the drinking prowess of some of my fellow holiday makers never fails to amaze me. People seem to start drinking after breakfast and continue all day. I don’t know how they do it. I would be unconscious by lunchtime. Alcohol doesn’t hold much appeal for me until at least 3pm, but it’s easy to get into the habit of a mid afternoon cocktail, which is probably not all that healthy. I did however smile to myself when I heard one man telling his friend about the amount of alcohol that he had imbibed the day AND night before. In the next sentence he complained of being ill and having to stay in his room the following day. “They put something in the alcohol here” he said warningly. Yes, they do. It’s called alcohol.
Food wise, it’s suddenly perfectly acceptable to have a chocolate donut with breakfast. Whilst I eat the donut, I watch the joggers as they healthily tread along the prom. I don’t feel in the least bit guilty. In fact, I look at the pastry selection again and wonder if a pain au chocolate would be a step too far.
All meals seem to become 3 course affairs and even though I try and tell myself that I won’t need anything else till evening as I have had such a big breakfast, by 12:30 I’m first in the queue for lunch.
I admire the British dogged determination when it comes to getting a tan and staying out in the sun, even when they look as if they have been par boiled. I also note the gleeful following of the weather back home, and if it’s raining or cold, there will be unmitigated joy. If the weather at home is great, (as it is this week), all sorts of misery, sighing and general angst. I overheard one woman say yesterday, “Not much point being here when it’s so nice at home.” Oh dear. I also heard a young woman tell her boyfriend to complain at the bar as her ice had melted in her drink too fast. “I don’t think they are using proper ice” she said knowingly.
So if you are off on holiday soon, have a lovely time. Just remember to pack your alarm clock in order to bag yourself a decent sun bed, avoid alcohol until 3pm, and most important of all… do not allow your child anywhere near the adult pool. ☀️