When the history of the Great Covid Outbreak of 2020-2035 is written (I’m nothing if not a pessimist) it will probably concentrate on the socio-economic and scientific aspects of life. What it won’t reveal is what a colossal pain in the arse the whole thing was to live through.
In a recent Pulitzer Prize-winning article for this website, I wrote about the horror of home schooling. (The article hasn’t yet won the Pulitzer, but I have to chuck in a bit of optimism for the sake of balance). Parents up and down the land will have been desperately clinging on to the idea of the school holidays as an opportunity to restore some semblance of sanity to their fractured and frazzled lives.
And then the holidays arrived.
Traditionally, we brits like to celebrate the summer months by getting on a plane and travelling to Spain or Italy, so that we can lie on a beach or by a pool, drink copiously, and forget to apply sun cream. Take that away from us, and what do we have?
Here’s what we have. Pretty much the sum total of bugger all.
So here we are, trapped in 2020 staycation hell (speaking of ‘hell’ and ‘staycation’, there is a special place in the former for the person who invented the latter word). So what are we to do?
Well, there’s the British hotel. The British Hotel is much like the continental hotel, except with worse weather, no pool, inferior food, damper bedrooms, and higher prices. You won’t have a balcony, the children’s entertainment will be a half-complete set of Buckaroo, and if you have a sea view, it will be semi-obscured by the multi-storey car park that services ASDA. Also, you’re likely to be served either by a hungover teen who hates you and is counting down the seconds until they can throw themselves into an evening of alcopops and enthusiastic snogging, or a fully grown adult whose dreams have been crushed and who has probably spat in your food. And if you thought British hotels were depressing, socially-distanced British hotels, with their pungent aroma of fear, disinfectant and desperation, are truly one of nature’s marvels to behold.
Ah well, there’s always hiring your own accommodation. Renting a holiday cottage, or getting a place via Air BnB. I mean, that has to be a genuinely good idea, right? Well… up to a point. But that point was reached several weeks ago. If you are looking for a rental for the summer holidays, you’ve missed that boat by a huge chunk of time. Anything that isn’t actually made out of papier mache and soaked in piss was rented out months ago.
And so we come to the very worst option of all, my friends. Camping. Apparently, Covid-19 has turned us into a nation of enthusiastic tent-dwellers. Which is slightly odd, as camping is quite literally the single worst experience known to man.
Here’s how it goes. You spend two days getting together and packing the vast mountains of crap you have to take with you. You squeeze it all into the car, then drive to whichever godforsaken wind-blasted field you are to call home, where you disgorge everything from your car into a vast mountain of human detritus. Then you have to put up the tent, which involves two hours of hard graft, interspersed with three hours of furious arguments with your partner. When your tent is finally up, you have to get all your stuff into it, and order it with the precision of a forensic surgeon, on the basis that you will, later on, be looking for your toothbrush in the dark when you are exceptionally drunk.
Finally, everything is unpacked, the mattresses have been inflated (thanks to the loan of someone’s air pump, because you forgot yours, causing your partner to threaten divorce) and it’s time go and sit with your friends and start drinking. Except that now you’ve got to sort food. That means trying to cook the rampant botulism out of a bunch of sausages over a disposable barbecue that gives out as much heat as a medium-sized snowball, and desperately searching for the bread rolls you’re almost certain you packed.
At last, everyone has eaten, and you can sink into an uncomfortable camping chair and neck seven cans of warm lager and a sleeping tablet before turning in. You’ll probably go to sleep okay, but you’ll wake up two hours later, desperate for the loo. You’ll lie there, trying to tough it out, for an agonising hour, before the need becomes too great, whereupon you’ll stumble outside (after five minutes looking for a torch and fiddling with the tent zip), where you’ll empty your bladder while also noticing that the temperature has fallen a quite extraordinary 200˚C since you turned in. You will stumble back into your sleeping back, suffering from exposure and semi-covered in urine, convinced you will die of cold. You will then wake up three hours later to discover that, once again, the meteorological gods are enjoying some hilarity at your expense, and have managed to send the temperature in your tent rocketing to sauna-like proportions.
And so it will continue, for the entire duration of your camping holiday which, if you have any sense about you at all, you will curtail on the first morning and head for home. In a car where everything smells of bonfire, lager, piss and damp. Scarred by the memory of having to poo through a hole in a plank, onto a mountain of other people’s poo, which is fine, because you’re going to pop a handful of sawdust on it.
And I haven’t even mentioned what happens when it rains. Or – dear God – when some humungous twat produces a guitar.