fear of frying

So we’re back, with a confession. (Might as well out yourself, before the hellhounds of the press do it for you). We have not been Glamping or Staycationing We have not lolled in hammocks in a Cornish buttercup meadow, rented a Swarovski-studded tepee in Derbyshire, wandered the byways of Suffolk in a gipsy caravan or leapt aboard the Fort William sleeper to gaze at misty islands through a midge-repelling haze of Jungle Formula and single malt.

We have been on a plane. To Greece.

In the happy green family as popularly conceived, when holiday plans change at the last minute and the parent who doesn’t speak any foreign languages is landed with the children for two weeks, they chorus in perfect unison: ‘So who needs the Eurostar to Biarritz? What a great excuse to rediscover the joys of the English Seaside, just like our role models the Camerons 

In the real world, they leap on a heaven-sent opportunity to point out that as I took the job that prevents us from going to France en famille, I have forfeited all choice in the matter, and can I please find them a nice Greek island where everybody speaks English and there’s calamari, a pool and Magnums on tap?

Which, too busy and beaten down to resist, I do, hoping to manage a modest holiday myself, afterwards. Maybe learning to make a greenhouse out of plastic bottles, against the happy day when my number finally comes up on the Camden allotments list.

But inevitably, as I paged through the seductions of the web, with the rain once again haemorrhaging outside, an evil sprite exhaled a little puff of carbon into my ear and whispered, ‘But if the others are already out there, and you just join them for a bit at the end – what’s wrong with that?’

And it is so hard, this no flying thing. Carrots every week of the year, I can stand. Biking everywhere I actually enjoy, except when it’s really wet and cold and dark. Even having to pay so much for the aforementioned carrots that new clothes have become a distant memory doesn’t bother me that much, especially as all ethical clothes appear to have been designed for people who spill things quite a lot, and can’t keep their hands out of the flapjack tin. And who wants to shop anyway, now we know it is not, in fact, the creative expression of human individualism but a tragic displacement activity for empty, meaningless lives?

I can deal with all of that. But I really miss hot sun and big landscapes. So the sprite barely needed to feed me the lines…

1  How dare I sacrifice my children’s little window of happiness to my own, almost certainly futile, principles? (this one comes up a lot). It has to be said that less sacrificed children would be hard to find. But still. All children know things could always be better.

2  Conversely, my own emotional equilibrium, fragile at best, would not survive their smug, honey-brown bounciness, especially after eight weeks locked in a video editing suite 

3  And finally, how could I possibly be expected to shoulder the immense burden of saving the planet almost unassisted, without even a few days of recuperation in a place warm enough to be outdoors without yomping up cliffs or building bonfires? (I think this must have been the argument that sent the Camerons off to Turkey after Cornwall. What with them having to toil so hard the rest of the year, in such gruelling conditions.

Or maybe they thought Cornwall cancelled out Turkey. Now there’s a policy that might catch on).

So that’s how it happened. Mr Fixit took them for two weeks, then he came home to work, and I went out, and the minibeasts had a whole three weeks jumping in and out of a swimming pool as blue as Miley Cyrus eyes.

And it was nice, it was fine – it was certainly wonderful not doing housework for a week – and the little ferry across the bay was charming.


The last time I was on a Greek island, a decade ago, the calamari were fresh, and there were people around whose lives didn’t dependent on mass tourism. The time before that – several decades back – the sea everywhere teemed with fish nobody spoke English, and even the jam and butter were exotic, utterly unlike anything back home.

This time, children from three continents watched the Olympics on the hotel’s giant screen, kept up with the football scores in its internet room, foraged in its freezer chest for Walls ice creams by different names and warbled pop songs they’d all watched on YouTube. They didn’t like the beach, because it was packed and blaring with hip-hop, and there was no point snorkelling out to the rocks, because the rocks were pretty much empty of marine life.

I felt like Little Kay in The Snow Queen when the chips of the devil’s mirror lodge in his eye and his heart. This green awareness has a knack of sucking the joy out of life (as Mr Fixit points out, rather volubly, several times a week).

You can’t see things the way you used to. You no longer look at quad bikes and jetskis as a fun way to get around. You just see a carbon footprint the size of Shrek’s You can’t just enjoy the calamari, you need to know where they’re from, and whether they’re frozen. Frozen are bad because of the energy cost, and fresh are worse, because they’re overfished already, and we shouldn’t be eating them.

More and more, we rush round the world, making it like home, and then complaining about everybody else doing the same. The greedier we are for calamari in London, the fewer there are in Greece.

I think it must be a vocation Guilt on this scale can’t be just a random accident. And like all vocations, it chooses you. Bye bye, blue skies. I won’t be seeing you any time soon. It’s such a relief to be home…