It’s that time of year again when I start using up my annual leave allowance, which is almost always spent lounging around in Oxford parks and cafés because I lack imagination, money, and sufficient gumption to get out and do something less boring instead. This year, my first five days of leave coincided with the wettest May since 1983.
Now, I’m not quite the social butterfly that I used to be, so this shouldn’t have presented much of a problem, but when monsoon season hits on the very first day of your holiday and continues until the very end, it’s difficult to not be a bit peeved about the whole situation and a bit suspicious that God hasn’t simply tired of all my atheistic tosh and is getting his own back.
After the first three days, my annoyance was so high that I was actually looking at lastminute.com and plotting a spontaneous jaunt to Barcelona. Seemingly the only place in Europe where it wasn’t raining, I could look forward to a few days in a four-star hotel in the centre of the city with an average temperature of 30°.
What stopped me? Well, I don’t have any money, don’t speak Spanish, had various extra-curricular activities that I needed to be getting on with and found my passport was about to expire. That’s the problem with being spontaneous — it doesn’t leave you any time to plan.
It would probably have rained there anyway
So I stayed put, and regretfully the week soon turned into a check list of annoyances. Torrential rain? Check. Arctic winds? Yep. Hail? A little bit, yes. Building work in the house next door? Of course. Guardian writer repeatedly blowing his nose in the attic? Check! A baby downstairs? A landlady drilling holes in the wall? The common cold? Check, check and check again.
I don’t think there’s been another holiday in recent memory that’s left me feeling so much like I need a holiday. I mean, it’s been nice to not have to go to the office, but when you’re sat in front of a computer, with rain hammering against your window and no enthusiasm to do anything other than mindlessly browse the internet, it’s hard not to start wondering if it’s time to abandon what you’re doing and go back to work, where you can sit in front of a computer, with rain hammering against the window and no enthusiasm to do anything other than mindlessly browse the internet. At least in the office, you have the advantage of some similarly-irritated colleagues to moan at.
But, I may be nothing more than a whinging geek but I am at least moderately resourceful, and with an air of grim determination I have managed to largely avoid shutting myself in my room and playing endless hours of Mr. Driller all week. As mentioned previously, there’s no shortage of cafés in Oxford and I’ve holed myself up for several days in The Grand Café, apparently one of the few places where you can buy coffee by the cafetière rather than the mug, and where the coffee comes with a wide range of attractive waitresses in leather. Also, biscotti.
In fact, I’m writing this in The Grand Café right now — it’s not my preferred holiday of writing in the park while teenage hoodlums wearing hoodies branded with slogans such as ‘Oxford University Rowing Club’ pass me by, but it’s tolerable, not least for the view of the girl sat at the table opposite me, dressed in that nice boho way with long strings of pearls and all, and giving me that look, the one can be interepreted as both “come and get me, tiger” and as “stop staring at me, you disgraceful little deviant”, depending on how good you’re feeling about yourself. And, having just filled up on a terrine of wild mushroom and chicken liver with shallot jam and now armed with a giant pot of coffee and a single chocolate on a plate, I’m feeling pretty damn good, let me tell you.