The Alternative Holiday

When I was but a nipper, we couldn’t really afford holidays in the sun, so desperate measures had to be taken. A friend of my grandma’s had an old “caravan,” must’ve been one of the first ever invented. I’d say it was about 12 foot LONG with no room to move and it slept FOUR. Fold out bunk beds made that impossible possible.

I remember having many an argument with my sister about who was going “up top.” It wasn’t just about seniority, it was about not being smothered if you drew the short straw. The top bunk was made of fabric and over the years must’ve stretched, hence the person up top hung precariously above the short straw’s nose.

It had no toilet either, so facilities were always required. I remember we once booked into a field by mistake, and facilities were only available about a mile down the road. That was the time my dad debated buying a bucket, except there was nowhere to buy one from…

The only good thing about the ‘van was the fold out table, it was just about big enough for a Monopoly board. Had to keep the money tucked away though.

Think “Carry On Camping” for this next bit:

Yes, “Carry On” films were very popular back then. I was too young to understand, but in hindsight they were all about dirty old men exploiting young naive women. People didn’t seem to understand that at the time. Strange men could pinch women’s bottoms or squeeze women’s boobs and nobody batted an eyelid. (Or pretended not to).

So “Uncle Fred” used to drive us to our destination in his Morris Minor, tow the box caravan to wherever that may be, plonk it down for us, and drive back home. But not before the “bear hug” thing with my mum, except it looked more like a big grope. I could see she didn’t like it, but guessed she “put up with it” for the sake of a holiday. Tell you what, he’d have gotten a stiletto heel up his crotch from me. But that was then, and this is now…


I think it was on one of those holidays that we met the vicar with the dancing eyebrows. There we were, sat in church on Sunday morning (with about 3 other people) awaiting the boring sermon…

The vicar’s eyebrows sat neatly in place till he started talking, then they developed a life of their own. Each eyebrow took turns moving up and down in total harmony with the words. Sometimes both eyebrows would rise to the heavens at the same time. Sometimes one eyebrow would dictate for a full sentence. It was impossible to predict when it was going to happen, because not every word came with an eyebrow attached to it.

OH NO, it was one of those situations when you’re NOT SUPPOSED TO LAUGH.

Especially so because we were sat in the front pew, facing him, facing us, not 5 feet away…

After the initial shock, I couldn’t hold it in any longer, tried my best not to laugh too loudly and failed with spectacular style. My sister also caved. Which left my mum and dad, when I looked at them they both wore “fake” cheesy grins, with eyes fixed on the wall up above the eyebrows. The dead giveaway was that their shoulders were going up and down with stifled laughter. (Mildly in tune with the vicar’s facial appendages).

Then my dad looked at me, and whilst waiting to be told to keep quiet, the opposite happened. He’d lost all control of his cheesy grin and whilst tittering away raised his eyebrows… That was the point at which I said a little prayer and asked the Lord to stop me laughing. He didn’t, and I couldn’t.

Turned out later on, we’d all noticed that when the vicar sang a hymn, his face stayed put. It was like he’d gone into the vestry and super glued his roots together in an effort to shut us up.

The other 3 members of the congregation didn’t seem to be affected by the high brow situation at all. If they were regulars, perhaps they were immune, or should’ve gone to Specsavers…

Just think, if You Tube was around in those days and Mr Vicar wanted to increase the size of the congregation. He’d only need to upload a video of himself doing a sermon and the pews would be full. As would the road outside. As would the graveyard – there’d be more living than dead packed into it.

Those “alternative holidays” were always cheap and cheerful, dancing eyebrows or not…! A few years later we got a car and South Wales became the new “hot spot,” we were posh at last, and the laughter went with us…

No I’m not going all sentimental here, it’s just that a lot of people have been talking about holidays recently, and I remembered where mine started. How very basic they were compared to todays sophisticated, exotic getaways.

Yet over the years, the same kind of laughter always accompanies Heth and Dave. Wherever we may wander, and whoever we may wander with…

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