Phil: While Candice is hanging out in the US of A, I’ve been spending the weekend in the slightly less glamorous setting of the Holiday Inn Express at the edge of the East of England Showground at Peterborough.
You might think this doesn’t sound like much of a break. During the day I was working at an exhibition, spending time demonstrating projects I’m producing to magazine readers with occasional excursions into the lecture theatre to entertain the crowd. Also the edge of a desolate showground in East Anglia is hardly a match for the delights of a capital city. As it turned out though, it wasn’t as bad as you might think.
The best thing about an anonymous chain hotel room is that it isn’t where I live. I work from home and so I can’t ever escape my job. Much as I love what I do, I hadn’t realised just how much I needed to get away from it. Fortunately you don’t have to go far to do this. In fact, being stuck with nothing to do was incredibly refreshing. I could check e-mail via my phone but nothing else and since it was a weekend, there wasn’t even much of this to read.
What I did have to read was a book passed on from the Nolan.
Wish You Were Here by Mike Gayle is (apparently) a male confessional novel. The story revolves around Charlie, recently dumped by his long-term girlfriend, he is taken on holiday by his best mate Andy who also brings along other friend Tom. They head off to Malia, party-capital of the 18-30 club crowd, the place Charlie met his girlfriend originally. Despite being in their mid-thirties they, or at least Andy, want to grab another dose of the hedonism they enjoyed a decade earlier. Each has a story to tell, with Charlie it’s the ex-girlfriend, Tom is awaiting a cancer diagnosis and Andy is heading for the altar but wants to grab a bit more life.
The story takes place over a week and in the time, they meet girls, Charlie falls for two women, Tom does some hiking, they drink a lot and lie in the sun.
I’m not best placed to tell you how realistic or otherwise it is having never been any of the characters in the book. That and the idea of an 18-30 holiday would have terrified me even when I was young enough to go on one. Despite this, I read the book in a couple of days, pertly because it was easy brian-off reading and partly because I had nothing better to do. My downtime consisted of iPod on, book out, lounge on the sofa in my room. To be honest, I was too knackered to do anything else but even if I hadn’t been, I was a happy Phil.
A couple of things struck me as I read. The first was how chaste it all was. Here were are in a world where both sexes seem to be “up for it” and yet there is no on-page shagging. Were it chick-lit the text would get pretty explicit and startlingly anatomical within the first few pages.
Second, there is some interesting morality going on. Andy’s fiance turns up half way through the book (she’s the “one girl” in the teaser text, the other 2 important female characters not meriting a mention) and (spoiler alert) Charlie has a one-off fling with her. When this is revealed, Andy blames Charlie entirely as though is fiance had no say in the matter. Presumably the author believes that as a woman, she will be so grateful that any man would point his todger in her direction she’ll be unable to resist his charms…
Despite all this, it’s good thinking free reading, the perfect holiday novel I suppose. Our book is more exciting though.
Anyway, Peterborough is a lovely holiday spot. Simply getting away from it all for a couple of evenings was very refreshing. It also turns out that I’m not the only one who gets this. In conversation with some caravan club members during the day, it turns out that heading off to rallies a few miles down the road is quite a common thing for shed-towing enthusiasts. I even know a couple who run a shop that they man 7 days a week who do this, commuting from the site to the job and back again. It just goes to show, you don’t need to travel half way around the world to get a break!