What is it with this sudden obsession to get away?
Ah! The sun on your face, the sand between your toes, the scent of sea air in your nostrils and a cool drink beside you as bronzed bodies wander past. It can only be somewhere to dream of.
Yeah okay, it could also be Rhyl, if the sun on your face happens to be pages of a daily newspaper wrapped around your hooter in the wind, and the cool drink is a can of Stella from Bargain Booze… and the bronzed bodies are customers waddling home from the local tanning parlour. But on the whole, I think the picture many of us would conjure from my worthy attempt at imagery would be of lying on a beach somewhere abroad, enjoying a summer holiday.
Because that’s what we all desperately need right now, isn’t it. Isn’t it? What, even with all the hassle that goes with international travel right now?
Well according to Matt Hancock it is. “I entirely understand people's yearning to get away and have a summer holiday,” said Hanky the other day.
As in: noun, a feeling of intense longing for something.
Maybe I’m alone on this, but right now my bar is set a little lower. As I write, driving up to Rhyl and sinking a can of lager on the sea front has only just become a thing again. And even then I’m going to have to wait a little longer before I can ogle the newly Kardashianed clientele of Talk Of The Tan whilst supping up. It’s haircuts only for the time being, girls.
So right now, what I yearn for - what I have an intense longing for - is to be able to wake up in the morning and think to myself, ooh look, the world’s not lost its collective mind after all. It was all a dream. Either that, or to be able to walk into a non-essential shop and buy a pair of socks. That would be nice.
What I can’t really say I’m yearning for is shelling out hundreds, if not thousands of pounds for the privilege of being treated like a piece of radioactive waste by mask-wearing Nazis from the moment I wander into an airport and hand over my passport (the real one), my Covid passport (the ‘up yours EU’ one), proof that I don’t intend to go anywhere near Brazil, or South Africa or (insert name of latest variant here), a receipt for a biohazard suit from PPE-R-US and a signed disclaimer agreeing that if I die of a coughing fit my holiday rep can sell my house to pay for repatriating my body in an airtight body bag filled with liquid AstraZeneca gas.
I know it sounds daft, but I’ve had better holidays at Butlins, back in the days when the chalet walls were made of cardboard and if you wanted to feel any semblance of warmth you had to open the oven door and stick your feet inside.
And yet, you know what? Hanky and his mates in the Government might just be right. For reasons unbeknownst to me, many of us do seem to be clamouring for a holiday abroad, judging by comments right across social media, and on the news in those cringingly bad vox pops, when some hapless trainee reporter is sent out on a thankless mission to find the next Brenda from Bristol to back up a news editor’s angle.
“Madam, are you looking to get away from this hell hole of misery, to be whisked away by a knight in shining armour and fed sliced lychee from a silver platter by waiters called Giovanni or Demetri, on a deserted island where it never rains and the sand is white and the water is so crystal clear you can even see the sea urchins’ feet let alone your own?”
(You never get to hear the question by the way.)
“Oh, god. Yes. I can’t wait. Why can’t they just open up the borders now? That Mancock bloke is ruining all my dreams,” says Beryl from Burnley.
But why? (Okay, Beryl’s got a good reason. I’m talking the rest of us here.) I mean, what’s wrong with where we live? Surely we can’t be bored of Britain. We’ve hardly seen any of it for the best part of a year. And God knows our leisure and hospitality industry could do with seeing us again. They're on their knees right now, so to desert them and spend your money abroad would be a real kick in the teeth.
Here in Llanyllanllan, Aberdyfi is my nearest beach, yet at times it's felt as remote as the Bay of Islands in New Zealand. So now that Drakeford has said we can be trusted to go out again as long as we don’t touch anything, I intend to go there this week. And when I arrive, I’m going to get down on my knees and kiss the tarmac of the car park just like that Pope used to every time he got off Air Pope One or whatever it was he flew around in. And for that priceless gift of liberty, I don’t need to go abroad.
Quite what is it about abroad that we yearn for I really can't fathom, anyway. Because I certainly don’t need a beach bar selling over-priced weak lager, or a sunbed I have to claim before 6am, or a balcony overlooking a pool filled with screaming German kids, or the sight of their parents’ wobbly arses on the clothes-optional beach, or the anxiety you get every time a cloud appears in the sky because you were promised unbroken sunshine, or those burning, blistered lobster legs you get after falling asleep on your sunbed because you daren’t let it out of your sight, or a nightclub in the local town where you turn your back for five seconds and your wife has been propositioned by half the male population of Spain.
I don’t need any of that. All I want is my freedom back. Freedom to wander lonely as a rain cloud within these shores of ours, wherever the river may take me. Freedom to eat an ice cream without being fined £200. Freedom to rediscover my country again. And to realise how lucky we all are to live in such a wonderful part of the world.
Now that, I yearn for.
A mutton for punishment, Black Sheep welcomes all comments. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to air your points of view. You can also read Black Sheep in Welsh Border Life every month. When it's back. Or follow him on Twitter @onemanandhispen