I should have been on holiday, this week – in Austria, in our all-time favourite hotel to be specific, in St. Wolfgang in the beautiful Austrian Alps. We’ve been going to the same hotel (Vitalhotel Wolfgangsee) for about 15 years now and the mere thought of it usually makes me feel relaxed – stunning scenery, fabulous food, tennis, walking, luxurious spa and pools… It was to be my granddaughter’s first visit and my younger son and daughter-in-law were coming over from the US too. So when the hotel posted the above shot on Instagram on Sunday, it really felt like a double blow below the belt.
Not to be this year, sadly, for obvious reasons. Yet, after all the stresses of the past few months, with my Dad’s spell in hospital in February, and then the arrival of you-know-what and the attendant lockdown, I really could do with a break. Work is still very busy, as it has been throughout, and although travel, to Europe at least, looks set to become more likely in July, my flights have already been cancelled and the hotel released us from our booking a month or so ago. I’m also still disinclined to travel far, I must admit. Then again, it seems perverse to turn work down when the global situation is still so uncertain. I’m well aware that I’ve been very lucky to be so busy, and long may it continue. While I could still have taken the week off, one particular project I’m working on is coming to a crescendo, so I’m reluctant to disappear from the scene if I’m not actually going anywhere – chances are they’ll be quieter later in the year in the main French holiday season – if anything can be relied on to take place normally this year, that is!
I also find it very difficult to take time off and stay at home: of course, you can notify your clients and switch on your out-of-office message, but I find it hard to switch off and relax completely if I’m at home, much as I love my house and garden. There’s the allotment to tend, for one, fruit to harvest, and my garden to deadhead, hedges and fruit trees to be trimmed… Dog still to be walked (no hardship, either), meals to be cooked (enjoyable though that is) and the house still gets dirty. And if the weather takes a turn for the worse (as it has this week), the temptation is always there to think you could just get ahead with other projects – not quite the relaxing holiday you’d intended… I can’t be the only person who feels slightly guilty if I just sit and read in the garden at home instead of actually doing something useful?! On holiday, on the other hand, I can quite happily sit by the pool all day with a succession of books, go for a stroll up a mountain or wander down into the village for Kaffee und Kuchen. The food is to die for. I was even hoping to get my tennis shoes back on this year and try out my knee… Sigh.
The compromise? I’ve outsourced some of the jobs I had on for this week, referred others on to trusted colleagues and am turning down any new short-term requests this week other than for this one client, and I’m hoping to go for days out with the family instead. A change is as good as a rest, or so they say. With mobile phones and e-mail on the go, we can still keep in touch without being tied to the keyboard – and no-one needs to know where you are when you answer the ‘phone or why you are turning something down. But at least you are still communicating – and you can always suggest a longer deadline. I also find you can be much more efficient when you’re concentrating your work into a shorter time as there’s less temptation to get side-tracked by social media or interesting, but non-essential research if your working hours are limited. Outsourcing still involves proof-reading and project management, admittedly, but nowhere near as much time as if you’d translated them yourself.
Drusilla’s Zoo yesterday afternoon was charming, especially seen through the eyes of a one-year-old who’d never seen anything more exotic than a dog or cat at close quarters before. Social distancing was eminently possible on a blustery Monday afternoon and hand sanitiser was abundant. Even the cafés were open for takeaway, but we’d taken our own flask of tea and homemade cake to eat at the deserted picnic tables near the car park. Next up, all that fruit to process this wet Tuesday morning: strawberry & redcurrant jam, a gooseberry fool and my first attempt at cassis – watch this space. Followed by a not-so-enjoyable emergency dental appointment this afternoon to sort out a tooth cracked on an olive stone last week (!) – needs must… And then we have a trip to the beautiful gardens at Great Dixter planned for later in the week – if it’s anything like our timed tickets to Sissinghurst the other weekend, we’re in for a treat: the joy of seeing these special places without the crowds is a special bonus of these peculiar circumstances.
So what about you? How are your holiday plans panning out in this strangest of strange years? We all need to take a break, after all, whether it’s from a hectic work schedule, or months of being stuck inside staring at the same four walls. Sometimes, just making an effort to do something a little bit different can be just what we need. It doesn’t need to cost a lot either: as a National Trust member, I can visit many of our local gardens for free and taking a picnic is fun and probably much nicer than what you could buy out. While I’m avoiding the south coast beaches for now, we live in a spectacularly scenic part of the country and not going away is a great excuse to explore local beauty spots. Enjoy the summer, whatever form it takes. Austria and its charms will still be there next year. I’m still hoping to get out to the States in the autumn for a longer get-away to see my son, but that’s a whole other story…