I'm a lousy tourist. I like to nap in the bread basket

Hilary Fannin: I no longer gaze, slack-jawed and pinched with envy, at beautiful young couples entwined on matching beach towels

I was tired; my left shoulder groaned like an old door and then locked – tight. Deadlines came and went. Every time my phone rang or bleeped, I felt rattled and anxious. My shoulder got worse. I could barely work the gear-stick.

I sat in the car in the hospital car park one evening during my mother’s last illness, closed my eyes and felt I just didn’t have the energy to turn the key in the shagging ignition. I fantasised about sitting, corpse still, in the cold, cavernous structure and sleeping, just sleeping – I would have, if I could’ve afforded the parking ticket.

And then my mother was discharged back to the residential home she’d lived in for a little more than a year, and simultaneously my brother came home to stay for a week and politely suggested that I bugger off and get some rest. I did. I went on holiday with my husband.

Our sons had their own plans, so we took his vertigo instead. Apologies to sufferers from the condition, but I should admit that there are times when I find his predicament divertingly amusing. There’s nothing like being on a bus that’s reversing around a bend on a corkscrew mountain, with your normally saturnine partner now a whiter shade of pale, his knuckles clenched, his lips dry and chalky, to make you truly appreciate your own stoical and balanced inner ear. And, let’s face it, vertigo is so much more fun than lurking death.


We disembarked from the nimble bus and bought minty home-made lemonade from a serene young woman who traded under a parasol, then sat on a wall to better appreciate the dizzying vista. Well, that’s not quite true – I sat on the wall, he lay on the pavement.

Later, we tried to have an authentic Majorcan experience by walking through a pine forest to a secluded cove. The secluded cove, when we reached it, was akin to Christmas Eve in the sausage-meat aisle, such was the heft of holidaying humanity perched like tattooed walruses on every calloused rock and sea-smoothed stone the location had to offer.

I’m a lousy tourist. I’m a guilty tourist desperately trying to get some sleep and pretend I’m not a tourist. I’m the kind of person who thinks that if I eschew the cafe with the luminous paella and walk halfway up a mountain to eat homespun goat giblets marinated in flowers of the forest and a sprinkling of powdered conquistador, my environmental footstep will magically cancel itself out and the proprietor will let me lie down and have a nap in the bread basket.

Having turned my sunburnt nose up at resort life and any possibility of poolside slumber, I’d hastily booked accommodation for us in the quietest town on the island, a place where the bars were all shuttered by 11pm and no amount of pidgin Spanish or prancing around in our organic cotton T-shirts could persuade anyone to serve us another glass of their finest Rioja. We went back to our lodgings, cracked open the minibar, and the next day, instead of traipsing around in the mad heat trying to avoid sheer drops and selfie sticks, we went to the beach, the big bog-standard beach where you get to sit around in sunglasses and observe other people while your tired body pinkens and puckers under the midday sun. It was glorious.

I no longer gaze, slack-jawed and pinched with envy, at beautiful young couples entwined on matching beach towels. I’ve somehow lost interest in humans without wrinkles or pores or visible follicles, people who look like they have no pasts, who look like they ironed themselves along with their flowing sarongs before they left their holiday apartments. Instead, I watched a solidly robust child, improbably called Willow, dive-bomb her weepy little brother’s Lilo until he’d swallowed so much sea water that he gave up and ran howling along the beach. I remembered when we too holidayed with inflatable sharks and sibling rage, and I thought, they weren’t joking when they said life is short.

I watched an older couple, doughy and liver-spotted, who stood together, graciously still and companionably silent, waist-deep in the limpid water, looking at the horizon.

We gathered up our belongings to go – something told me it was time to phone home.

I waved goodbye to Willow, afloat and victorious in her raft, to the couple gazing into the fading light. Endings and beginnings: somehow, in the dusky blue shallows, they become one.