This ‘Confidential’ column usually contains whatever takes my fancy, or fills me with ire, regarding the delights of living in Majorca.
However as I am holidaying in the UK, I ask for your understanding as I point out one or two unexpected incidents that have afflicted me over the past week or so. I think the first thing you have to realise when you are holidaying in Blighty during the summer, is that - according to the news media your modest break will most probably be ruined in a number of ways.
After the record temperatures of a week or so ago, things have reverted to type and torrential rain, flooding and power cuts are the norm - well, according to the newspapers anyway, who during August have nothing else to report upon, apart from grossly exaggerating anything vaguely newsworthy.
For this ‘leg’ of our summer break I was promised nose-to-nose traffic down to Devon and could experience a complete lack of petrol at service stations thus facilitating me to die of drowning sat in my car in a 200 mile traffic jam because I had run out of petrol. As you are reading this tome - you will have to believe me that this, in fact, was not the case!
However, some media claims are not flights of fancy, but are real enough for those involved. Ladies and gentleman - may I re-introduce you to the joys of summer industrial action on Britain’s rail network? It seems that this action is being taken because of the threat to rail ‘guards’ jobs up and down the country.
You may well remember the rail guard - he’s the chap who strolls onto the platform at your local station with one hand in a scruffy uniform pocket, a fag in his mouth and a red flag grasped tightly in the other hand.
Sorry, I forgot to mention his whistle, as this is a vital part of his kit. As passengers climb aboard the train, he removes the fag from the corner of his mouth and replaces it with is whistle and when the train is ready to pull away - he waves the flag and blows a short sharp blast on his whistle.
Job done, he walks slowly back from whence he came for a fortifying cup of tea, whilst doubtlessly psyching himself up for the arrival of the next train when he will repeat this onerous task ad-nuseam. Made me feel proud to be…!
Mostly, summer holiday breaks in the United Kingdom differ quite starkly from those in Majorca - indeed, that’s why we choose to re-visit our roots at this time of year.
However, there is one area in which Majorca and the holiday counties of Devon and Cornwall are on equal terms and that is their insistence of carrying out so called ‘vital’ road works in the months of July and August, with all the subsequent delays and outbursts of bad temper from people like me.
However, this is where the similarities end - as, in Majorca a minimum ‘coned off’ section for workers safety will never be more than 25 metres at best - in South West England these cones can last for anything up to 5 miles. Oh the joy of it all!
Earlier in the week we visited the town of Totnes, which is situated up river from Dartmouth. It really is a lovely place, buzzing with activity and tourists at this time of year - and home, it seems, to a large Hippy community.
Mind you, we are not talking about the usual type of rather ‘Skanky’ Hippies who congregate in small pretty towns, but posh Hippies, with names like Giles and Miranda and a little kid in a papoose called Ephemeral!
Usually and perhaps unsurprisingly, I take an instant dislike to white chaps wearing dreadlocks - but, that seems a bit small minded in Totnes as so on one occasion I found myself ‘high fiving’ a bloke who wasn’t wearing any shoes - until, that is, she told me to stop making a total arse of myself. Hippyness, in all its guises could be a future lifestyle choice of mine I reckon. Hhhhuuuummmm!
A TREE-TOP WALKING DISASTER
I suppose I can’t delay it any longer, so I’d better describe to you my total humiliation when visiting the Welsh Folk Museum in St Fagan’s just outside of Cardiff earlier in our visit.
Last year when visiting this delightful and mercifully cheap homage to Welsh life over the ages, two of our grandkids who were desperate to have a climb on the ‘Tree Top’ walk, were deemed neither old enough, nor tall enough, to be able to go on it and would cost a small fortune - think £12 each!
Alas, this year they fitted the above requirements - just. However, to cover the Health & Safety regulations they had to be accompanied by an adult….Me. I have to say the pre-briefing was totally professional and each of us was fitted with a fail-safe safety harness of incredible complexity.
Every aspect of our safety was covered as we set out on the very high (very bloody high!) course. It covered about six different sections, each challenging in its own right, particularly for my 6 and almost 8 year old, who were easily the smallest of our group of ten climbers and it would take about 75 minutes to traverse we were told.
Well, what can I say? I first felt that I might faint, as I climbed the very first element.
But being a brave granddad I persevered, feeling more than a little nauseous and terrified all the time. Anyway, when it came to the second section with the kids forging on ahead - I’d had enough!
Catching a glimpse of Julie in the crowd hundreds of feet below I waved frantically at her. She in turn thought I was just waving - not drowning - and waved cheerfully back to me. Silly ***!
When she finally realised I was in peril, she strolled rather slowly, I thought, over to the butch blokes who got me up there in the first place and made a request to get me down as quickly as possible.
A huge ladder was quickly found and I was connected to yet another safety wire and slowly lowered to the ground - accompanied by loud ironic cheers from a crowd of parents and their children, who I rather gathered, wanted me to die a horrible death - or, that’s what it felt like anyway.
It got worse. When my two had finished the course, we had a picnic lunch and they decided to go into every embarrassing detail of my complete hopelessness, every five minutes for the rest of the day - even though I threatened to clout them both on a number of occasions.
So there you are dear reader - if you are not fond of heights, don’t think by ignoring that fact it will go away - trust me, it doesn’t.