|Photo by Freeimages.com/Marcos Santos|
by Anthony Peregrine, The Daily Telegraph, June 08, 2016
Last summer I enjoyed a short break with good friends, a break devoted mainly to winery visits, bottle opening and what most people call “drinking” but which we termed “tasting”. (As in, “I tasted a bottle-and-a-half last night.”) It was a most jolly time, foul weather putting long walks and other diversionary tactics out of the question. Food, wine and conviviality remained. I mention this so that you might share my happiness, and also to point out that joint holidays, even mini ones, don’t always go so well.
You will probably have noticed already. You arrange a trip with your best mates. You book. You leave together. Before long it becomes resoundingly clear that dinner parties and evenings in the pub are one thing, an entire week (an entire fortnight!) bound to them on the road or in a Greek villa is something quite different. Things jar. One of them is always 15 minutes late. The other – as you haven’t noticed before – is astonishingly absorbed with herself. Neither has money to hand when it’s time to pay for the petrol. You always end up doing what they want to do. Deep down, they are astonishingly selfish. They haven’t done the breakfast washing up by 2pm, and it’s their day of duties. His breath smells.
And so to conversations which start: “I hope you won’t mind my mentioning…”, “No offence, but, if you’d like to borrow some toothpaste” or “We’re not leaving this forecourt till you defrost your effing wallet, Rupert.” Any of these is the death knell of a holiday. The trip is irrecoverably lost. You might as well go your separate ways at once. And don’t make plans to meet up back home. You know them too well now. You can never truly be at ease with people who don’t do the housework when it’s their turn.
A week on the road will test the strongest friendships - especially if one person never has money to hand when it's time to pay for the petrol
There are, then, serious matters to consider before clearing off on hols with another couple, other friends or anyone else who isn’t linked to you by the bonds of blood, marriage or at least two decades of life in common. And the greatest of these is:
You must all have exactly the same approach to cash. Otherwise, travel alone. If Rupert and Penelope are the sorts to note down all spending in pencil in a little notebook, tot up total expenditure every evening and compare coffee prices to the nearest centime, then you must be of that ilk, too. Thus will you have a cracking time tracking down the cheapest aubergines and laughing at the poor saps paying €2.40 for coffee on the prom. It is, though, highly unlikely that you will be with me – or, if you are, that you will find me a satisfactory holiday companion.
Do you tot up total expenditure every evening and compare coffee prices to the nearest centime?
I am also averse to holiday kitties (cash kitties, I mean; I’ve nothing against cats on holiday). Kitties sound a decent idea, but they’re too clinical for a carefree fortnight. And they give rise to endless problems of what is and what isn’t off-kitty. The third beer when everyone else has had only two? Cereals, which only Hermione eats? Lap-dancers? I prefer that my holiday companions have a sort of careful insouciance, which doesn’t worry to the nearest €25. These are the people who will always compete to buy the first round in a pub, or first meal on a holiday. They do not say: “But Ingrid only had a salad” when you’re splitting a restaurant bill. They know things will work out – and that Ingrid will later be having a mojito while you have a small beer. There’s an unstated mutual understanding that no one wants to be considered a tight-fisted saddo but that no one’s going to be taken for a ride, either.
So you pay when it seems about right and, if you’re with the correct companions, it will be about right. There are, of course, people who seem to understand this but don’t. One was among a group of us who went on holiday to Italy. “Gosh,” he said, as, days into the break, we arrived in Naples. He was genuinely surprised. “I seem to have almost as much money as I started out with!” “No b----- wonder!” we cried, as we buried his body parts at various points round the Sorrento peninsula.
You must all get on
And I mean all. It’s no good going away with your best friend if her husband is loathsome. Or even mildly annoying. Husbands have many ways of being both on holiday, usually by talking ceaselessly about themselves and their prospects in the finance department, but also by being tight (both senses), idle, overzealous or simply way too keen to go deep-sea fishing. In such circumstances, your friend will end up as go-between, with the choice of destroying either her marriage of her friendship with you. Give her a break. Don’t invite her.
"If all participants in the joint holiday have children, abandon the project at once"Children
Cardinal rule here is: if all participants in the joint holiday have children, abandon the project at once. Do something else. Go en famille – just your family – to Center Parcs: it’s great there. A holiday of two or more families, all with children, is Chernobyl. Once away, it is quite hard enough getting on with your own kids. Add to the mix others who you cannot realistically shout at, slap or deprive of pizza and it’s a meltdown. Nor is there any guarantee that even very good friends have the same attitude to parenting as you do.
We shared a house in Portugal with a terrific couple, chums we’d known since the palaeolithic era. They had, though, acquired children whose presence seemed a constant surprise to them. The kids were out of control, breaking garden furniture, smearing pasta on white villa walls and terrorising chickens in next door’s coop. The father was unable to cope. “What can you do?” he asked.
Neither he nor my wife thought my suggestion helpful. In truth, you can’t have a proper bust-up about kids, as you can about money. It would be indelicate to tell a friend: “Your son is a child of the devil.” So, once in their own quarters, each couple is reduced to bad-tempered muttering about the other, and, yet again, the holiday is a goner.
If children are unavoidable – can’t be left with grandparents or in kennels – then it’s vital to spend time together pre-hols to ensure that, as regards expectations, discipline and bedtimes, you’re all on the same wavelength.
Eating and drinking
Surprisingly, it’s possible to have great holidays with people with different interests: they like Gothic cathedrals, you collect shell ornaments. But you do need to agree on the importance (or not) of food and drink. It may be possible to have a lovely holiday with teetotallers – those who get a natural high from life, sunsets and skipping along the shoreline at dawn. Of course, it may be possible. I’ll have to meet some sometime.
This article was written by Anthony Peregrine from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.