When I was a kid, I had a friend who went on holiday to the same place every year and I never understood why. My ten-year-old eyes always wanted new things to look at – new branches of WH Smiths to look for Sweet Valley High books in, and different campsites or self-catering cottages to explore. My friend must have had such a boring time knowing where everything was, knowing that there was a hairdryer where they were staying so they didn’t have to take one, knowing the way to the chip shop and what time it shut. Awful. Hmm.
Now, that’s all I need. We’ve been to Paris three times. Not because Paris is wonderful and romantic and I just hadn’t seen enough the first time. I happen to think Paris is just OK. I had definitely seen enough the first time (walked up the Triumphant Arc then spotted the lift, saw the skellingtons at the catacombs and was given a rose by a stranger under the Eiffel Tower, who then ran after my fella for 15 euros). No, we’ve been to Paris three times because we knew a nice hotel, how to get to the Eiffel Tower from there and also one good restaurant. Basically, we went the second and third time because we’d been the first time.
I love familiarity. A place I’ve been a fair few times is the Lake District. It has the edge on Paris in that it’s ace. It’s the sort of place I show off to my Aussie mates like I made it or own it or something. I love that I know where to park, where there’s a choice of 30 ice cream flavours, where you can fall asleep on the grass while your friends go for a walk. The first time my friends and I went, we discovered that food is only served between 12 and 2 and then 6 and 8. If you walk into a pub at 9:10pm, like we did, asking if they are serving food, you might as well be wearing a badge saying “City Mouse”. These places are wonderful, but they are small. Everyone knows everyone else and they all laugh at the middle-aged women who are hungry when the cookers are turned off. Idiots.
The small town-ness of the Lake District is part of the problem in Sky’s forthcoming sitcom Trying Again, from the tappy keyboard of ace writer Simon Blackwell and starring Chris Addison and Jo Joyner. They play Matt and Meg, who are giving their relationship another go after she has had an affair. I am intolerant of infidelity, so the storyline is testing me, but I’m fascinated to see where it goes. The writing is lovely and it made me laugh loudly on a train in the quiet coach. Luckily, the lady who barked a “Shut up!” at a man on his phone is more lenient with laughers.
How do you start again when everyone knows your past? I’d hate to live where people knew my history. I love familiarity on holiday but not at home, as I’m sure my neighbours would testify – if I’d ever met them.