Ages ago, we went to Majorca for a family holiday. We hired a car, toured the island, and one of the places I wanted to visit was Magaluf, the popular package holiday destination.
“Why on earth do you want to go to Magaluf?” I was asked.
“I want to see what it’s like” I replied.
“It’s awful!” was the response.
“Well, in that case I’d like to see how awful it is.” I continued. This cut no ice, and we didn’t go there.
At a party we went to whilst on the island I brought up the topic with some friends.
“Magaluf is awful!” Was the general opinion of all present.
“In what way is it awful?” I asked, but no-one had been there. They hadn’t been there because they knew it was awful, but no-one could explain why it was awful, apart from the fact that it was particularly full of people enjoying themselves.
I wanted to see thousands of people enjoying themselves, and thereby understand more fully what was so dreadful about this, but didn’t get the chance, either on that holiday or another break we had, more recently, on the same island.
For another holiday a few years later three of us went to Marbella. I wanted to see how the rich lived. I discovered that they live well, in Marbella. I spent the mornings jogging around town, not being able to see over high whitewashed walls into the luxurious villas inhabited by people like Sean Connery, and the evenings at restaurants where the cost of even the cheapest items made me weep for my wallet.
One day, I insisted we drive to Torremolinas.
“Why on earth do you want to go to Torremolinas?” Was the question I had to answer from my family.
“I believe that it’s one of those places where thousands of people go to, to enjoy themselves, and I want to see what it’s like.”
“Well…it will be horrible. It’s an awful place.”
“Have you been there?” I enquired.
“No. It’s awful.”
But anyway, we went there. Apart from being really difficult to park within a mile of the beach, Torremolinas didn’t actually seem much different from other places along the coast, apart from being much busier.
“I bet it’s awful in the evening.” My family said.
“Can we stay until the evening, then?” I asked.
“Certainly not. That would be awful.”
So we left, and I had to cash in a further travel cheque in order to eat at the local restaurant back in Marbella that evening.
Visiting places that other folk think are awful has always fascinated me, but as is becoming obvious, I’ve had very little opportunity over the years to get to them.
One place that some people would probably think was awful is Haggerston Castle. It’s an extremely large caravan park and leisure centre, usually totally mobbed, and we visited it several times when the kids were younger. They loved it! They loved the swimming pool, which in those days had so many people in it, even first thing in the morning, that actually swimming was completely impossible. In any case, there was so much chlorine in the water that the last thing you’d want to do would be to submerge your eyes. Even after paddling, the chlorine oozed out of you for the rest of the day.
The entertainment, put on in the main hall each evening, was brilliant, I discovered, after drinking six pints of the local beer. I wouldn’t want to guess what it was like if you were sober. The kids loved the early evening games, organised by some very good kiddy entertainers, which kept them busy whilst I was up at the bar.
The kids also loved the swing park, riding on horses round a small paddock, and the very tacky games arcade.
Jamie came back to the caravan one afternoon really pleased with himself. What was that in his hand?
“Dad…it’s tickets!” He replied, proudly holding up a two-foot long string of coupons he’d got out of one of the arcade games. “If you get enough tickets, you can get a prize!”
“Let me see them. Hmm. You’ve got twenty there. If you get another three thousand, you can get a plastic duck.” I told him, confident that he was too young to understand the sarcasm inherent in my estimate.
“Dad! Can I get some more money so I can win more tickets?”
“Listen, Jamie, if you really want a plastic duck, I can buy you one. It will be much cheaper”
“But Dad…you don’t understand…the ducks are FREE when you win the tickets.”
Well – all I can say is that I bet he doesn’t bring up that incident when he goes for his interview for a place at Oxford University to do an MSc in Economics, next month.
Tim Moore is another person who’s fascinated by awful places, and he’s written a book about them, called You Are Awful (But I Like You).
As soon as I read the review in The Sunday Times, I downloaded it onto my Kindle. Here is a whole book about going to awful places.
I’m really enjoying it, several LOLs even in the first 3%, and I’m figuring out how on earth to get to some of the places featured.
It is a very funny book indeed.