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Neil Adams

T.S. Eliot Takes the Family on Holiday

A rough fortnight I had of it,
Just the busiest time of year
For a holiday, and such a frightful holiday;
The roads packed and the weather wet,
The dread month of August,
And the car not serviced, windscreen wipers squeaking,
Obscuring the view in the pelting rain.
There were times I regretted
The routine work in the office, the phone calls,
And a trim girl bringing the biscuits.
Then the tired kids whining and grumbling
and wanting their crisps and peanuts
Or being sick in the back,
And the traffic jams frequent and the lack of toilets,
Drivers hostile and traffic lights unfriendly
And service stations littered and charging high prices:
A hard time I had of it.
At the end I drove by way of the side roads,
Crawling at thirty,
With a fractious wife beside me, saying
This was all folly.

Then at length we came down to a farmyard,
There, in the middle of nowhere, smelling of pig sties,
with rainwater flooding the ditches and a ruined barn
by the hedgeside
And three cows lowing,
and a tractor and trailer blocking the roadway.
Then we came to a tavern with Marstons over the lintel,
Six jobs in the public playing the jukebox,
and feet kicking empty beercans.
But there were no directions, and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place: it was (I may say) unsatisfactory.

All this was some time ago, I remember,
And I may have to do it again, but set down
This, set down
This: were we led all that way for
Holiday and pleasure? There was a holiday certainly,
We had the caravan and beach no doubt. I had had
Holidays and pleasure
And thought they were the same; this holiday was
wet and gloomy misery for us, like hell, our hell.
We returned to our semi, haven of normality,
Once again at ease in the old dispensation
With room to move and a comforting screen to watch.
I should be glad of no more holidays.

Neil Adams, 2005