My friend Lucy still remembers with a shudder the day her then-boyfriend’s father came to stay for the night after spending three weeks holidaying in China.
He started talking about his holiday at 12.45pm and he continued for 12 hours, pausing only to go to the bathroom and to chew his food, briefly. Lunch was eaten and washed up, afternoon tea was served and soon it was time for the evening meal. And throughout it all, the venerable parent talked of China. Lucy and her bf had the Great Wall, they had the Terracotta Army, they had Beijing, they had Shanghai, they had Hong Kong, they had Guangdong. Long after the sites of special historical and geographical interest had been dealt with, they had descriptions of everyone on the coach tour, what they’d worn, what they’d said about the Terracotta Army, what they’d said when called upon to eat chicken’s feet, what they said to the tour rep about the damp sheets – even what they’d done in the War. And there were, of course, photos – hundreds of them – to illustrate every moment of the holiday.
Finally, at 1am, jet-lag kicked in and the old fella pottered off to bed, tut-tutting at Lucy and her bf for keeping him up chatting so late.
All too often the content of the holiday reminiscences is not the problem – the issue is the delivery. There are some orators who don’t care whether anyone is listening – or interested – they just want to talk. In the process they make white-water rafting through crocodile-infested rainforest – while escaping from cannibals – sound pretty damn dull.
My friends and I have an unwritten rule that the only holiday photos shown in public should be those illustrating the principals in bars baring their arses or standing next to attractive strangers. If we want to show anyone a picture of the Gaudi Cathedral in Barcelona, we send a postcard. More typically, if we were in Barcelona, we would send a postcard of the Eiffel Tower or the Empire State Building, or a Weston-super-Mare donkey, just to be funny.
I’ve always felt faintly embarrassed about talking about my holidays because the things that stick in my mind aren’t those likely to thrill anyone else. When I was in Hong Kong, it was buying fake Rolexes that was most interesting to me; when I was in Spain, it was seeing wild pigs and lighting the fire in the rustic guest house; in Thailand it was sitting at a beach bar with some doped-up Americans while listening to Kula Shaker and watching the full moon come up.
Basically, holidays are a private experience that benefit only you – the memories will warm your winter evenings but shouldn’t be inflicted on anyone else.