12 June 2013

I love reading Terry Wogan in The Sunday Lunch Club page in the Sunday Telegraph.  Here's this week's offering:

A week or so ago, as I sat in France watching the rain lash relentlessly down, and the euros rising as steam from the swimming pool, I think I could be forgiven for questioning the efficacy of holidays.  How exactly was sitting looking out  at the inclement elements, which I could have been just as easily doing at far less expense at home, be doing me the slightest bit of good?

I know that I'm leaning against an open door here with everybody who has sat glumly on holiday, looking out at the driving rain from tent caravan, bed and breakfast or hotel, even one with carpets in all main rooms, and free use of cruet.

I hate to sound like Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, but we must count our blessings.  It's not so long ago that there were no holidays, even rain-soaked ones.  Apart from the tavern and music hall, the working-man's rest and recreation were non-existent.

Only Sundays were free of the coal face, mill, factory and field.  It was a tedium changed only if you were hit on the back of the neck by a press gang, and suddenly it's a life on the ocean wave, dodging cannonballs, picking the weevils from the ship's biscuits and scurvy.  You could always take the King's shilling, of course, and try to stay alive under musket fire, bayonet charges and the sabres of the French cavalry.

Even if there had been holidays, there was nowhere to go.  Most people lived and died within a couple of hundred yards of their homes.  Unless you were Jane Austen, and the horse and cart took you to Bath, where you walked about in uncomfortable clothes, watched the elderly and infirm retching as they tried to drink the sulphuric waters, and took a calming dish of tea before retiring to bed, wondering if all the excitement was good for you.

Blackpool, Bridlington and Yarmouth were for fishermen only.  Greece and Italy belonged to history and myth, and as for sun-kissed costas ... nobody went to France, apart from the Scarlet Pimpernel, and a trip to the Med was only on the cards if you were kidnapped by Barbary pirates and sold into a Sultan't harem.  And only the reckless went to Florida, unless they wanted their scalp hanging from a Seminole tepee.

There were diversions: bare-knuckle fisticuffs that lasted 35 rounds, bear-baiting, cock-fighting and public executions that lifted the jaded spirit and provided a light in the gloom and tedium of relentless work.  Tyburn Hill was where Londoners went for a jolly holiday, eating and drinking as they watched unfortunates swing from the gibbet.

Every year, as I present the live musical extravaganza that marks the Last Night of the Proms for the BBC, Proms in the Park, I look a few hundred yards north to Tyburn Hill. 

... and rainy holidays, and 'dying' onstage, don't seem so bad.

From Sunday Times, 9 June 2013.

No comments:

Post a Comment