The English ritual of relaxing

IT’S the August Bank Holiday weekend in England.

This is a traditional ritual in which everyone and anyone who drives a vehicle takes it onto the road and heads for the coast. They take their children and they queue nose to tail on the motorway in cars, utes, trucks, buses and ride-on mowers until the engines overheat and the kids cry and divorce papers are flying across the country faster than confetti.

This is the way the English relax. I wish I was home.

It’s hard to imagine. You need to experience it. Sixty million people crammed into a space the size of Cape York all Having Fun at the Seaside. Well… on the motorways, actually; because it’s physically impossible for everyone to fit on the beaches, which are mostly made up of stones loosely glued together into a kind of mat by oil from the various supertankers that ply up and down the English Channel.

All kinds of problems arise when populations get this big. In England the biggest of these is not environmental pollution (not from petrol fumes anyway) or acid rain. It’s going to the lavatory.

We don’t appreciate what we’ve got in Australia. In Australia there are only 20 million people. This means we have dunnies to spare; and if there’s no dunny there’s always a handy bush.

But in England the public lavatories are more lethal than the gas chambers of Auschwitz. They can dissolve your bottom in the time it takes to wash your hands, except that you can’t wash your hands because the taps have been ripped off and the wash basin has been smashed into small pieces and stuffed down the lavatory pan.

You can always dash behind a handy bush in England, too; but if you do you’ll find it’s already been taken by a family of six.

You can stop at an official motorway service station of course, but the experience is likely to be terminally depressing: people who are tired, irritable, hungry and impatient being served by people who are tired, irritable, hungry and impatient.

I feel like this and I’ve only been here two days! How will I survive two weeks! I used to live here for heaven’s sake!

I am not a yo-yo. That is, I am not one of those ex-Poms who can’t make up their mind where they want to be. I am here only to see my new grandson. I know where I want to be. I want to be in Townsville, but I can’t change the flight home because those people who lent the car to the kids for the weekend are all trying to fly out of England (well, you would, wouldn’t you?) to find somewhere else to relax. It’s all a hopeless exercise because there isn’t anywhere overseas either, except Australia, and that’s too far for the weekend. And everywhere in Europe is already full.

It beats me why England has so many migrants. It is not the land of milk and honey. It’s the land of traffic and bad lavatories. This must be why so many climb on board ships with more holes than a colander and try to reach Australia – it’s a much more attractive proposition than one room in a terraced house in Willesden.

I count my blessings.

Townsville. Thuringowa. Magnetic Island. The Strand.

See you soon, with luck.