Watch out: it's summer holiday time

Backpackers all go to the same place in Thailand, at the same time, meeting people just like themselves
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THAT'S IT, then. The holidays have started, so I shan't be going to Keswick, Ambleside, Grasmere or Windermere again, not this side of September. Well, I will go to Keswick - but just for the grand opening of the brand new Theatre by the Lake on 19 August. That's it.

Who wants to face all those families, six abreast on the pavements with their white knees and lurid cagoules, ugh, poor petals, who have to have their hols during the next six weeks because that's what the school system dictates?

And I won't be going to Gatwick, not ever again, in July or August. God, it was hell. All these years, dragging my family abroad for the summer hols. Fine when we got there, but oh the agony of the journey, the delays, dreading the thought of the return.

Two days at Faro Airport was our record, followed by a day in a bus going over the mountains to Lisbon, with a driver whose only experience was on the airport Tarmac. We cheered when we eventually got to Lisbon, even gave him a tip, but then we were all British, of course.

One of the joys of having your offspring grown-up, or pretending to be, is never having to holiday in school breaks. I longed for it to happen, knowing exactly how I was going to portion out the rest of my life. Now, we have our "summer holidays" in January, going to the West Indies, always after 7 January, when the schools go back.

In so-called summer, or summer proper, which is now, supposedly - though as it's pelting down I can't see Grasmere or Melbreck for the mist - we shall be staying here, heads down, eyes averted, as the glare from those cagoules can be lethal, till October.

This routine is unusual. Not many can have the sort of jobs that allow you to live and work anywhere, so I won't go on about it any more. But looking round my contemporaries, many of whom have been retired since their early fifties, especially those who were teachers, I have noticed something interesting. Holidays become their Life. And Life has become their holiday.

They don't have to go in the school hols, so they get off-season prices, but they are all so clued up on their computers (especially the ex-teachers), that they can track the planet on the Internet for amazing bargains in amazing places.

I don't know why we have to read these endless articles about back- packers in their gap year. Boring, boring, boring. All going to the same place in Thailand, at the same time, meeting people like themselves, many of whom they sat next to at primary school. Then they arrive at the same dump, carrying the same guidebook, and all get sick at the same time and e-mail the same message home. Usually "send more money". Boring.

Now your oldies, they're not sheeplike. They have much more interesting hols, though the very mention of the word "holiday" makes them scream. They are creating Adventures, going on Explorations, for and by themselves, hand-tooled and individual.

Just had a card from a local couple, from Tierra del Fuego. He's a retired Carlisle solicitor. They've climbed every peak in South America. Now about to swim home. OK, I made that bit up. But what they are doing is the tough stuff, now, when they are fighting fit at 59, knowing that at 79, that'll be the time to do soft stuff such as Thailand. When they are not on holiday, sorry, travelling, they are either planning the next one, or organising the full-length movie of their last one.

My generation didn't have a gap year; the notion did not exist. You went off to university at 18, some of us even shaving, but, of course, never sleeping together, I should think not; then into job, house, mortgage, pension, out of work.

As for hols, I never went anywhere as a child, except we had "Days," which meant Silloth on the train, or perhaps to relations. I used to be sent to my granny in Motherwell, which was like Dante's Inferno. The noise of the steel works, my dear, the grime and dust, you would be appalled. At the time, of course, I loved it.

Then, when I did take les enfants abroad, it was always Europe, and near Europe at that. OK then, it was always Portugal. We had a little house there for 20 years, which gave us 20 years of family fun. But not exactly Travelling. Not quite Adventure. Today, me and my contemporaries are making up for it. Let me see, at the last count I have done 27 different West Indian Islands, whizzing around in little planes, to untouched places.

Amateur stuff, though, really. Some of my over-fifties chums, since they retired, have done everything, been everywhere, except orbit Mars. But, of course, not during the next six weeks.

You must be joking.

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