Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

If the PM wants to take his bucket and spade to Spain, let him do so

The holiday season is nearly over and, with it, goes the annual whinge about political leaders taking time off. Bertie Obama and Derek Cameron, if I have the names right, have been criticised for relaxing. They should relax more. I'm not being ironic. I don't know how to do that, ironically enough.

Politicians need time off, and the annual howls for them to cut short their hols to deal with some crisis or another are based on an oafish contempt for all politicians and, indeed, for anyone performing public service who isn't a nurse or fireman.

Politicians of the world unite: don't come back for a crisis. There's always a crisis. Ever since modern media appeared, with their endless headlines about 'rage' and also 'fury', there's never been a day without a crisis. The day we don't have a crisis, they'll say: "Fury at no-crisis crisis!"

What does bother me about Obama and Cameron's holidays is the price. They reckon Bertie's 10 days in Martha's Vineyard cost $50,000. Once again, we're into Nutty World. They still have the electric chair in Americashire, don't they? Well, get whoever's charging that strapped into it immediately. Dennis Cameron also pays humungous amounts for his hols, and already had to cut short one to Tuscany just because the police had lost control of the streets of England (also known as the UK) and anarchy was breaking out all over.

So then he went to Cornwall, and caused outrage after pictures were published of him glugging a pint like a normal person. He cut short that holiday too, just because folk were overthrowing some deranged clot in the desert.

I speak as a man who's had one week's holiday in two years - to Kirkcudbright, in south-west Scotland. And I'd to work all through it. Certainly, I'd never go abroad, not just because of the cost - I know it's often cheaper than at home though not in the places I want to go - but because of the difficulty adapting to other cultures, not least the local walking styles, which are often slovenly, particularly in hotter climates.

None of that bothers the bovine hobbledehoys that make up my fellow citizens. Research this week shows that more than 75% of people over 65 had never been abroad before they were 16. Those were the days. But they are the days no longer. Shockingly, the same research shows that 80% of those aged 18 to 24 had been abroad before their 16th birthday. Then they wonder why there's rioting.

It's not even as if it's just Benidorm and Torremolinos that young people are visiting. Many have been to Latin America, Australia and Africa, taking it all in their stride as if that were a normal thing to do.

Last night, a middling travel expert told a large, volatile crowd: "So many of us now take holidays abroad for granted. It's hard to remember just how exotic the simplest trip to Spain was for the post-war generation." Exotic? Spain? Post? What can it all mean? I've never been to Spain and have no desire to go. I'm a man of narrow horizons, but I accept that political leaders must broaden theirs. If they wish to take a bucket and spade to Barcelona or Milan, then for goodness' sake let them do it in peace.

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