August is the cruellest month for the holiday-deprived

In my head I am reclining on a striped deckchair somewhere yellow, wearing a seashell-patterned dress and unbreakable sunglasses

Beach chic: Jessica Paré as Megan Draper, with Jon Hamm as Don Draper, in Mad Men

Beach chic: Jessica Paré as Megan Draper, with Jon Hamm as Don Draper, in Mad Men


There is an unpleasant smell on the streets, and it is a mix of envy and feet. August is a stinker of a month and always has been. Workplaces go feral as the grown-ups head to France, there is nothing on TV except the smeared aprons and crushed dreams of amateur bakers, and amid the boredom I find myself actively looking forward to going to see The Inbetweeners 2.

Except it turns out that even Will, Simon, Jay and Neil are on holiday, enjoying a spot of irritable-bowel syndrome at a water park in New South Wales. I long for the day when I too get to enjoy a spot of irritable-bowel syndrome at a water park in New South Wales. But that day is not today, obviously – it’s winter in Australia.

In my head I am reclining on a striped deckchair somewhere yellow, wearing a seashell-patterned dress and unbreakable sunglasses, like a cross between Megan Mad Men Draper and Lana Del Rey.

It will transpire that being in close proximity to sand has unparalleled brain-soothing properties, and I will pity my sand-resistant beach neighbour who is forced to flip through the pages of The Little Book of Mindfulness in a bid to replicate my calm.

I will be reading a summer “must-read” paperback that doesn’t turn out to be about a much-loved chimpanzee.

I’m not saying I didn’t very much like the recently published, critically acclaimed novel that turned out to be about a much-loved chimpanzee. I’m just saying that, on balance, I prefer my holiday fiction to be ape-free.

In these last-ditch days of summer it might seem as if anything would be better than being at home at back-to-school o’clock, but never forget that bad holiday options abound like spiders in a caravan.

Take this offer of a “free holiday” from Coco Television. For the purposes of the RTÉ series Whose Holiday Is It Anyway? Coco went on the prowl last month for parents willing to “allow” their teenage kids to choose the location and itinerary of their expenses-paid holiday.

I’d been under the impression that teenage kids already dictated terms for family holidays and that if they didn’t secure adult co-operation they stayed at home alone and used their parents’ kitchen as the base for the invention of a whole new youth subculture.

So the catch with the Coco/RTÉ offer was not the indulgence of teenage power trips but the contractual necessity of ever-present TV cameras.

You might well fancy the chance to externalise your familial bickering on screen so that others might learn, but let’s just agree that this is less of a holiday and more of a noble contribution to the life-advice industry.

Speaking of the life-advice industry, avoid it. Indeed, avoid anything that is marketed using the word “farm” but is not actually a farm. The other day I read that the future of pleasure itself lies in “bubble” buildings that are billed as “wellness retreats” and look as if they’re designed for Teletubbies. Being human, this does not appeal.

In The Inbetweeners 2 the generally gormless Neil has a rare flash of sense: “If anyone starts playing the bongos, I’m leaving.” It’s a motto to live by.

Still, it’s important to also remember that although bongo-free debauchery is brilliant, it’s best not to do anything on holiday that might later involve imploring Google to uphold your right to be forgotten.

Airbnb is very popular these days, and the home- and room-rental giant seems unlikely to be held back by criticism that its new corporate logo looks like a vagina.

In any case, the company should be used to the principle of feedback, as Airbnb not only allows you to review your host but also allows your host to review you: “Lana stayed in our apartment in July and we’re still mopping up. We would also like to point out that our policy on pets clearly did not cover chimpanzees.”

It just leaves a sour taste.

But it was watching the Commonwealth Games closing ceremony that reminded me of a more personal holiday mantra: never go back to Glasgow.

My first and only trip to the city took place on a searingly hot Saturday exactly three years ago. I stepped off the train, dehydrated and confused. None of the street names matched the ones on my maps, the traffic signs instructed Walk or Don’t Walk and hordes of teenagers were piled up against metal fences, screaming.

It was a bewildering hour before I realised Glasgow was in the middle of filming the zombie pandemic epic World War Z.

The encounter cemented two firm beliefs: that it is now impossible to distinguish between the average sci-fi movie set and real life; and that when the apocalypse finally happens, it will be August.

Shane Hegarty is away

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