Lucy Vickery

The pleasure and pain of staycations

The pleasure and pain of staycations
Credit: mrdoomits
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In Competition No. 3152 you were invited to supply a poem about the joys — or otherwise — of the staycation.

A poem that transports me back to childhood bucket-and-spade holidays — ‘Half an annual pleasure, half a rite…’ — is ‘To the Sea’ by Philip Larkin (not a fan of holidays abroad). But while lines such as ‘the small hushed waves’ repeated fresh collapse/ Up the warm yellow sand…’ make me long to head straight for the south coast, you lot, judging by the entry, are not relishing the prospect of holidaying at home this summer. Well, most of you. Bill Greenwell reminded me that foreign holidays, too, have their downsides:

No more crazy airport purchase

No all-nighters on Metaxa

No more quaintly foreign churches

No more brute bikini-waxer

The winners below take £30 each.

We must go down to the sea again,

To a sea as grey as the sky,

Where all we’ll get is an icy dip,

And nothing to warm us dry.

We must go down to the beach again

Where the jetsam’s swept in on the tide

And joins whatever’s been chucked down and left

To litter the landward side.

We must stroll down on the front again

And recall what it’s like to inhale

Not the sea-salty tang of fresh coastal air

But car fumes and chip fat gone stale.

We must go down to the sea again

Where the view is of turbines or mist

And the rain’s lurking ready to drizzle or drench

On the whim of the winds as they list.

W.J. Webster
How to spend our staycation? Well, I was ecstatic

When Marion suggested two weeks in the attic.

Soon, laden with parcels and rucksacks and cases

We mounted the ladder with joy on our faces.

Some dusting was needed, but when that was done,

We both settled in for a fortnight of fun.

There were issues, it’s true, with the chemical loo,

And the primus-cooked porridge was meths- flavoured glue —

But wow! the sheer joy of the night of the storm,

When we huddled so closely to try to keep warm

As rain hammered fiercely upon the cold slates

And the crash and the flash made us fear for our fates.

Oh what an adventure for us two old-timers!

Until the last day, when I misjudged the primus

And much of the house was destroyed in the fire.

Otherwise those two weeks were all we could desire.

George Simmers
Staycations suck. You’ll just be bored.

You need to act with guile

So that you seem to be abroad,

Not in this septic isle.

 

We decorate our dwelling here

With notices in Spanish,

Primarily Menú del Día.

Then inhibitions vanish.

Consumed with appetite anew

In this ideal locale,

We progress from entrantes to

Our plato principal.

 

Arroz con leche crowns the meal,

A culminant endeavour.

It’s pure repletion that we feel.

Melancolía? Never.

Basil Ransome-Davies
Today we have pacing the lawn. Last year

We had dolce far niente by the pool. And tomorrow

we shall have walking the hedge. Dark aglianico

sings in the heart where our dreams are.

And today we have pacing the lawn.

 

This is our boundary, socially fixed, and this

Is where we remain for the duration. We can explore

the remote pyrocanthus, suitably shrouded

in whatever protects us from invasive barbs, and from variety

Which in our case we have not got.

 

What we have not got is no longer easy. When

This began we sacrificed our sun-drenched futures, our Alban hills

Or northern road trips for the commonest of good,

While we yearned in our hearts for bluebells and riverbanks.

Now today we have pacing the lawn.

D.A. Prince
That afternoon we came upon a sleepy seaside town,

Where from a leaden sky the constant rain was pelting down,

Yet on the beach, defiant, all around the sodden bay

Stood people dreaming this was Juan-les-Pins, or Saint-Tropez.

With half-dropt eyelids, half-shut eyes and drowsy, slumberous swoons

They gathered outside Nando’s, KFC and Wetherspoons.

With mild-eyed melancholy, like those ancient Lotos-eaters,

They eyed each other warily, no closer than two metres;

And deep asleep they seemèd, standing rooted to the spot,

As though of Lethe they had drunk, and then had quite forgot

The arts of conversation, bonhomie, togetherness:

Instead they mumbled ‘Stay alert’, ‘Protect the NHS’;

‘Unprecedented’, ‘exponential’, ‘flattening the curve’;

‘New normal’, ‘clap for rainbows’ and ‘Ensure that we observe

Eternal social distancing, and thus reduce the R;

O rest ye, co-Covidians — we will not wander more.’

David Silverman

No. 3155: al fresco

You are invited to supply a poem entitled ‘The Picnic’. Please email up to 16 lines to lucy@spectator.co.uk by midday on 24 June. NB. We are unable to accept postal entries for the time being.