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Writings of Albert Morris
Article 65 - Travellers doomed to roam the earth in bug-filled cruise ships


EVEN now, deep and crisp and even, holiday brochures drop through my letter-box with a premonitory thud, bringing me a feeling of leaden dread and, causing me to reach for my passport, sometimes to compare its photograph with earlier ones

Look upon this picture (circa 1963). See what a grace was seated on this brow - Hyperionís curls, an eye like Mars undimmed by high-ranking officers at a cruise captainís cocktail party and a determined chin like the prow of a Victorian gunboat ready to resist blandishments from bogus guides and gypsy beggars and set to bargain brusquely with money-grubbing twisters in bazaars.

Look at me now - travel-blasted features resembling a weather-eroded sundial with pale, staring eyes that have visit-ed scores of native village workshops turning out typical tourist tripe, uncounted, gloomy, Gothic cathedrals and a plethora of Byzantine frescoes, watched, in time-dragging torpor, African fertility dances that resembled spastic shuffles and have seen myself, obviously in a sun-baked stupor, buy souvenirs that in-cluded a 15-inch plastic statue of Zeus for the mantelpiece and a wooden head of Tutankhamen with attached egg-timer.

I undergo holidays. I believe we are not here for pleasure alone and that I and millions of others are doomed for a certain term to roam the earth in bug-filled cruise ships, crammed aircraft in which we sit with our knees up to our chin and suffer torments including mosquitoes and Montezumaís Revenge until the sins of our non-holidaying life are purged away.

On the other hand, there are people who, perversely, not only like holidays but also regard them as indicators of social status and believe that a high TQ (travel quotient) - indicating the exotic quality of their holidays, such as, perhaps, locust counting in Liberia, vampire bat watching in Venezuela, cruising on an ice floe propelled by the Gulf Stream or bungee-jumping from rope bridges in Bolivia rather than tonic-wine-tasting in Totnes or getting legless in Lanzarote - could secure them good jobs and enhance their conversational prestige in pubs and at dinner parties.

Research commissioned by the travel company, Expedia, revealed that as many as 15 per cent of Scots found being well-travelled a more attractive quality than usual indicators of success - luxurious home, large income, trendy car and design-er clothes. With more Britons spending increasing amounts of cash to holiday in countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Japan, with activities including white-water rafting and caring for orphaned chimpanzees, some vacations could assume Indiana Jonesí film aspects with tourists subjected to program-med pursuits by colourfully-hostile natives or, in some Live With the Locals leisure break, finding themselves the centre of attraction among women-ogling tribal chiefs, insolent mendicants and foaming and snarling pariah dogs - good grist for conversational mills back home.

All that could result in growing numbers of people flaunting their one-up holiday adventures at social functions, thus making people who merely partied all night and flung furniture into their hotel swimming pool at Magaluf feel socially inferior and in need of a prestige-boosting spell such as surfing Pacific breakers pursued by heel-snapping sharks.

I plan to start a counter school of post-holiday conversation called the Vacation Veteransí Voice. It will be open to all tourists who have endured rather than enjoyed holidays, who have doggedly chalked up at least six Romanesque churches before lunch, eight local museums before dinner, tried to sleep in hotels where the room-above occupants persistently shifted furniture around 3.15am and who climbed 400-odd steps for the view at the top of some church spire that they wouldnít have taken a lift to see back home.

VVV will comprise old holiday hands who have legged it through a wilderness of folklore centres and bought leather wallets into which no bank-notes would fit except Albanian leks, trekked miles, carrying picnic baskets and Lilos, along precipitous, crumbling cliff paths to reach the absolutely unspoiled beach only to find it filled with hornets, razor-like rocks and nude Germans occupying the shady spots. The motto of our holiday-hardened group will be, "We came, we saw, we suffered."

Like 12th century flagellants, we will continue to subject ourselves to punishment - in holiday shape. Our greatest joy will be returning home and discussing our expensive torments with horror-struck friends. Itís a tough life; see you at the airport check-in desk.


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