Since I began renovating my house, I haven’t been able to afford to go anywhere, exotic or otherwise. “Holidays? Oh, I remember those,” I say to friends when they tell me which luxury resort they will soon fly off to.
Thankfully, the heatwave here means I can enjoy a staycation, something widely publicised by the former Prime Minister David Cameron as he tried to convince the great unwashed that he was just like us.
Sadly, he rather neutered the potency of his staycations in Cornwall by slotting them in around trips to the most fashionable and expensive parts of the Mediterranean. But I guess he made his point.
There is no shame in holidaying at home. The true staycation is the one millions of Brits take every year, facilitated by lack of income. But what I find really impressive is when people have money and still choose to avoid the flashy destinations.
One of the reasons I have come to admire Theresa May is that she takes what I can only describe as boring holidays.
No suave Sardinian villas built into cliff faces with Bond-style secret entrances, like Berlusconi. No yacht with personal chef in the Turkish Riviera, like Cameron. No hobnobbing with Russian oligarchs in Corfu, like George Osborne. No thousand-acre estate in Tuscany borrowed from a rich mate, like Tony Blair.
Walking in the mountains with her hubby, that’s her thing, and I like her for it.
When I see pictures of the pair in their sensible shirts, boots and trekking trousers, walking with poles outstretched and rucksacks fixed snugly to their backs, I feel a warm glow of reassurance.
I had the opposite feeling when I saw pictures of Blair sunning himself in Chiantishire, or Cameron diving into the Med in Vilebrequin swimming shorts.
A picture says more than a thousand words, and those images didn’t inspire me with confidence. Whereas a picture of Mr and Mrs May trekking uphill on their holiday, while not exactly proof that they understand hard-pressed Brits, is at least testimony to the fact that they don’t mind struggling.
All the great leaders have been ill-suited to lounging around on holiday. Margaret Thatcher was famously tiresome when she went to Switzerland. In 1984, during a two-and-a-half week stay she visited a chipboard factory, met Helmut Kohl, the German chancellor, and Kurt Waldheim, the UN Secretary general, and had dinner with several ambassadors.
Winston Churchill loved Marrakesh, Madeira and Monte Carlo. But all the pictures of him on holiday show him sitting at his easel painting the scenery. In the Dolomites, he made his party stop the car so he could get out and paint a view of Lake Carezza which later hung in the Royal Academy. If he wasn’t painting, he was indoors writing.
Even on vacation, he displayed a work ethic. And I think that’s the point. There is something about the sight of someone forcing themselves to walk uphill for miles in their spare time that says this person doesn’t take anything for granted. May knows she has to try. She wants to make an effort. She understands that a quick fix isn’t what life is about. The real pleasure and achievement is to be found in the longer game.
Holidays show our moral character, just as surely as our work time endeavours do. Some gravitate to places where they can feed their ego. Even when they are off-duty, they cannot live without the fix of being in the place to see and be seen.
And then there are those who seek out situations where they can find solace doing what feeds their soul.
As for me, I’m not in a position to be tempted by a flashy resort. Luckily for my soul, I can only enjoy the simple things this summer: opening my new bi-fold door on to the decking I’ve just laid myself with a friend’s help, walking barefoot up the garden to my giant B&Q paddling pool for a dip, then putting on a pair of old shorts to paint the skirting boards. What bliss.
Melissa Kite is a journalist and author
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