1970s holidays – the virtues of inactivity??

From the 1960s, Dad took holidays on canal boats, but these slowed after 1973, and became shorter and less ambitious. He also took very short holidays in hotels, mostly on the North Wales coast. I recall Christmas in Rhyl (the Westminster Hotel) in the early 1960s, and then the (not very) Grand Hotel in Llandudno in 1964. From around 1972 he frequented the Marine Hotel in Llandudno, and I accompanied him perhaps twice.

Oddly, it is only really in the last month that I have appreciated why he seemed to relish inactivity on these holidays. For various reasons, I had been under fairly extreme stress, and to come to a familiar place (in this case, a very cheap place on the Costa del Sol) that has been visited before, without ambitions to do very much, proved valuable.

My idea of a holiday has always been to use this to explore as much as possible, making the best use of each day in a distant location. Dad’s idea seem to be to drive to Llandudno, 55/60 miles away, to park up, and to spend most of his time in the hotel. At the time, I found this quite bizarre and challenging. It seemed odd that he would book lunch and dinner at a hotel, and just to wander out to buy a newspaper, or visit Woolworths in Mostyn Street, and spend the rest of the time sitting on the front or in the bar (where he would drink very little). The oddest time was in the summer of 1975, when he spent a few days in the late unlamented Rhos Abbey Hotel at Rhos-on-Sea, wandering to look at the site of the pier at Rhos Point, or to the adjacent shopping street, or to look at, not play on, the crazy golf course at Rhos Fynach; all places within sight of, or easy walking distance of, the hotel. On one occasion on that short holiday we drove to and onto the Lleyn peninsula, and then simply turned round and went back, with no sense that anywhere had been worth visiting.

Dad was then in his early 50s, but not in good health, and he just seemed, in some way, defeated. Having experienced it myself this year, I realise now that he was under severe stress. I think that various matters in his social life, the organisations that sustained him, were troubling him; and (again experiencing this recently), I suspect that his parents’ health was worrying him. But, above all, he had taken on too many responsibilities at work, and it seemed impossible to get away from these. At all times the telephone had to be answered, and people – his business partner, and staff at that unpleasant man’s bidding, would ring him if they knew where he was. Falling ill made it worse, because, I suspect, he could not trust that man – indeed, if later conduct is any guide, he could trust only that he would be undermined in his absence. So, he was caught in a double bind, and was the victim, unwitting and unrecognised, of bullying. (Happily, since retirement, I have got away from bullying, and that would have been the only way that he could have escaped, if only he had survived to take his retirement.)

Only very recently have I realised the virtues of holiday inactivity, and I wish I could tell him that, now, finally, I understand, whereas then I just found his inertness puzzling and an irritation. A holiday need not be a challenge, and there is much to be said for simply resting. I wish, greatly, that he could have enjoyed his leisure time more, and managed to get away from work in his head as well as get away from the workplace. Many complications lie in that wish, and a lot of regrets.

December 2014

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