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The things that matter in life – and other holiday delusions

It is that dangerous time of the year when people go on holiday, relax, lower their guards and, at the very moment when their brains are hardly functioning at all, make plans for the future. They talk about the need to take a step back, to look at the big picture. Disastrously, they might even start considering what really matters in life.

Holidays fantasies, in their place, are harmless, but that place is on holiday. It is when they are brought home and acted on that they cause problems. Sit by the pool. Dream of another life. Then have another drink and forget it. Do not, above all, introduce your fantasies into the world of reality.

“Next time I’ll leave my Black-Berry behind.”

You pretend to others, and even to yourself, that it is the bane of your life, that little box which you need to have within reach at all times, like a toddler with his blue blanket. In fact, it is your soul. Your past, present and future are singing around those tiny circuits. Deprive yourself of it and the next time you are on holiday you will be searching for an internet café like a frustrated dog in search of a bitch on heat. You are addicted, but sometimes addiction can bring peace of mind.

“I really must spend more time with the family when we get home.”

Don’t. Just because you have just about managed to spend two weeks in the company of your children without saying something hurtful doesn’t mean you will manage it when the peace which descends on family life in the early summer is shattered. The fact is, your children like having part-time parents. It keeps you special for them. They are often surprised how nice you can be, in small doses. In an odd way, that uneasiness you can sometimes sense over the breakfast table is what keeps the family together. Avoid the risk of squandering it with over-familiarity.

“No, I’m serious, why don’t we just leave grey old England behind and come and live here?”

Thousands have pursued this most seductive and ruinous of holiday fantasies. You can see them out there, a glass of wine in hand, slack and olive-skinned – ex-pats by name, cowpats by nature. They have quickly become bored with the English neighbours with whom they get sozzled every night, and tired of the locals who treat them with contempt. Now and then, they try to convince themselves that they have made the right decision by reading an out-of-date copy of the Daily Express, but not even the scare stories about hoodies, floods and traffic jams can bring relief. A combination of sun, alcohol and lack of conversation has caused a general closing down of the system, reducing what brains they had to the status of derelict factories.

“Spend a bit of time with foreigners and you discover that, basically, they are very similar to us.”

No one quite understands how attitudes to foreigners evolve, but they seem to follow a predictable pattern. For your first few days abroad, the locals seem utterly alien and consistently unfriendly. After a week or so, when now and they acknowledge your presence, a brief and entirely bogus sense of closeness emerges. In the event of the lucrative tourist returning as a tiresome new resident, the hostility will return.

“I really must work on my relationship with Mary/Mark and stop seeing Gemma/Jamie.”

Holidays are as much a rest from affairs as they are from work. For a couple of weeks, you are afforded a break from the complicated arrangements of your secret life, its interlocking network of lies and alibis, the nagging, ever-present ache of guilt. When you are abroad, that useful no-coverage excuse comes into its own and you no longer have to go for walks alone with your mobile. Your holiday sex with Mary/Mark is surprisingly good.

But it is all an illusion . Just as, for some people, holiday affairs don’t count, so the ending of affairs during holidays is quickly forgotten when you return home. You have remained faithful to infidelity.