Swanning Around

Given the way things have been going these last few weeks, I decided it was time to take a break and use up some of my holiday allowance. This means I will be spending the next 11 days swanning around Oxford, drinking lots of coffee from trendy cafés and generally being a bit of a git.

It’s been many years since I went on a proper, traditional holiday; the kind where you pack too much luggage, spend an obscene amount of money on air travel, spend an obscene amount of time stuck in a car on some motorway somewhere in Europe and then get ill from eating some dodgy prawns. However, with full-time employment comes holiday allowance that I’m obliged to take otherwise management at The Company get tetchy. I don’t know why they get tetchy about me not using up my holiday allowance — I would have thought they would have been pleased to have me at work more often — but there you go. Perhaps they just don’t like me, and who could blame them for that, eh?

I needed a break, though. Work had been unusually busy, and combined with various optician/monitor/ntl stresses it was all getting a bit much, so here I am, squatting beneath a tree in the Oxford University Parks trying to prevent greenfly from getting inside my laptop yet simultaneously trying to attract young student girls with that same laptop and the latest copy of Grafik; after all, who can resist the twin attractions of Apple hardware and a young designer complete with figure-hugging jeans and a bit of stubble? OK, so I’m a web designer, and I’m not that young, and the jeans aren’t so much figure-hugging as just too bloody tight and the stubble is only there because I need a new razor, so all in all perhaps my image doesn’t carry quite the same sort of weight but, you know, it’s a start. Oh, and regarding razors and stubble, I feel I should point out to those not in the know that for the first time in approximately four years I no longer have a goatee. It’s quite liberating, if a little chilly when the wind picks up.

Anyway, so far I’ve not had much luck, with either the greenfly or the girls. Perhaps they just can’t see the Apple logo (the girls, that is, not the greenfly). It’s only midday, though, so we’ll see how things go. I may have to whip out the iPod as well if things go badly; I had thought I was on to something earlier, sat in a cafĂ© with a pot of Old Government Java when someone commented on how smart my laptop looked, but the commentator turned out to be about 65 years old. Still, any port in a storm, eh?

Trying to find lots of things not to do.

I don’t know how usual it is for other people to have this sort of holiday — a simple break from everything, like a much-extended weekend. Some people expressed surprise that I wasn’t going anywhere or had any plans to do anything, and told me I would just get bored, or more usually that they would get bored if they tried to do this themselves, usually on the grounds that there wasn’t anything good on TV during the day. But I really like these sorts of breaks, particularly when the weather is good; I get to take a break from work and I don’t have to spend any money to do it, and more importantly I don’t have to travel anywhere; those who know me will know how much I hate travelling, especially if it’s in a car. Those long claustrophobic hours sat strapped to a chair, trapped on a motorway with the next service station always about 20 miles/20 minutes away no matter how long you travel for.

(As a dedicated non-driver, I’ve started to notice how language differs between us pedestrians and the car drivers. For instance, when a car driver says “It’ll only take about 20–30 minutes to get there” you should assume you’ll be in the car for at least 45 minutes, plus a further ten minutes of windy, bumpy country roads, no matter where you’re going or even if there are any windy, bumpy country roads on the way. If I’m in the car, the driver will always find the windy, bumpy country roads.)

Still no luck attracting any young student girls, though a group of young men did pass by and one of them muttered to the others that I was a ‘geeky twat’. I would have stopped them and made an issue of it, but really, it’s a fair comment.