Everybody needs a summer holiday . . .

Of course, they don’t.  Summer holidays are not a necessity. Most of the world’s population could never to aspire to going away for a week or two. Holidays are a first world experience and a lack of an opportunity to go on holiday is a first world complaint.

Anyone who has lived in a farming community or worked among self-employed or small business people will know that even in affluent times there are many people who never take a holiday.Nevertheless, holidays have a firm place in our national psyche. As Sir Cliff sang, “no more working for a week or two.”

Watching the M5 motorway on a Friday evening in June, it is odd to see only lorries rolling southward toward Devon. By this point in the year, there should be three lanes filled with cars, caravans and campers passing Junction 23, making their slow way to destinations at seaside resorts and rural retreats. Stand on a motorway bridge now, and the holiday makers can only be imagined.

The absence of visitors will deprive many people of their entire year’s income. Anyone who has visited inland areas of Cornwall will know how poor much of the county is, how much it lacks industry and employment opportunities. The missing millions of tourists will take  hundred of millions of pounds out of the local economy. The Devon economy may be stronger, but the seaside towns are all places that have seen better times, and without the crowds along the beaches and promenades the places will become more desolate in appearance.

What cannot be measured in cash terms is the effect on people’s emotional health of there being no opportunity to spend their week or fortnight away. It may be a time spent in traffic jams. It may be time spending money on overpriced accommodation and poor food. It may be time spent shuffling around places no-one in the family really wanted to go, but there was a need felt to go somewhere on a wet day. No matter how many negative points there may be, the following year, people will want to return. Holidays are important, were they not, people would not spend so much money on them.

People count down to the day of their departure. They save up for the meals and the drinks and the attractions. The annual holiday gives purpose and meaning to those of us who live ordinary lives in ordinary times. In extraordinary times, the chance to go away seems even more important.

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