OUR summer holiday was meant to be an idyllic train journey through the Swiss Alps, but Covid-19 sent my wife and me in the direction of the Isle of Wight instead.

Sail over a stretch of water in a boat and it almost feels like going abroad – well, that was the rationale – and it was blissful to be away for a week after so long in lockdown.

That said, the Isle of Wight trip of 2021, with stop-offs to visit family in London and Bournemouth along the way, will be remembered for three very disturbing reasons.

The first came near the start of the holiday when we stopped for fish and chips on the balcony of a harbour-side café at Poole Quay. Up to now, our marriage has been built on the important premise that I always get half of my wife’s fish and chips because she can never manage a full portion. For more than three decades, I’ve taken comfort in knowing that even when I’ve finished my own fish and chips, there’s always more to come from the other side of the table.

But with my wife now a seasoned Grandma, she broke with this time-honoured tradition by telling the waiter to my horror: “I think I’ll just have the ‘Seniors’ fish and chips.”

WHAT? SENIORS? I nearly choked when I heard the word. It may be half the price but it’s half the size too – and she scoffed the lot. A couple of scraps were all that was left on her plate, and I couldn’t hide my disappointment.

To make matters worse, I was also left feeding off scraps when it came to the crazy golf. Mrs B and I have enjoyed games of crazy golf throughout our time together, and I’ve usually emerged triumphant.

Not this time. We played five times, on different courses during the holiday, and she won four games to one. As if to rub it in, on the last course at Shanklin, she finished off with a hole in one that sparked a klaxon with the prize of a free game.

Given that a round of crazy golf at Shanklin these days costs £7 each (compared to the 10 pence my brother and I paid during our family holidays on the island half a century ago) that’s a prize worth having, but I’d been battered into submission and couldn’t be bothered playing again.

Losing out on the extra fish and chips, and then the crazy golf, is bad enough, but the most disturbing episode of the holiday came in the bedroom on our last night on the island.

I’d had a restless night and must have had a bad dream. I woke myself up having reached onto the bedside table and squirted a mouthful of hand sanitiser into my mouth.

Don’t ask me why. Maybe I was thirsty and I thought it was a bottle of water. Maybe this pandemic, with all the confusing public safety messages, has got under my skin. All I know for certain is that hand sanitiser tastes bloody awful.

Realising what I’d done, I raced to the bathroom in the dark, retching as I went, then spitting the remnants of the hand sanister into the sink, and spending the next hour trying to stop my tonsils from stinging with glass after glass of cold water.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the holiday, but parts of it have left a very bad taste.


A couple from the archives…

JOYCE Elliot, chair of Durham Ladies’Club, remembered when her son, Graeme – six at the time – came home from school and announced: “We’ve got lots of spellings to learn and, if we get them right, Mrs Evans is going to give us a sweet.”

Then his tone lowered as he added: “But, Mam, how do you spell woebetideya?”

DAMIAN, aged eight, was being driven home from school in Middleham with his friend, Peter, in the seat beside him.

“Mum, what exactly does a condom look like? Damian asked.

Embarrassed though she was, his mum thought she’d better tell the truth and launched into a matter-of-fact explanation.

After she’d finished, there was a silent pause and the mum glanced in her rear-view mirror to see a puzzled look on the boys’ faces.

“Oh,” said Damian. “Peter thought it was a kind of big bird.”