Elizabeth Day: Who wants to come on holiday with me?

In my early 20s, a friend and I developed an inexplicable habit of communicating through acronyms. We were in our first office jobs with a work email address and would while away afternoon hours when we had not much to do by sending each other catchphrases. For our first holiday as adults, a group of us decided to fly to Goa and spend a week lazing on the beach. As the departure date approached, my friend and I would email frantically: ‘WNAH’ – We Need A Holiday.

Dan Kennedy

Little did I know that foreign holidays were destined to become cherished memories. We went to Goa without much thought about our good fortune and we returned, with deep tans and a new-found appreciation for brinjal bhaji.

Now, as we live through a pandemic that pitches us into daily uncertainty, it seems unlikely we’ll be able to go abroad for a stress-free summer holiday. And yet the one thing we could all really, really do with is a break. As a nation, WNAH like never before.

So I wanted to use this column to take us there, if only in our minds. Consider it a guided meditation through all the best bits of a holiday, and come with me to the airport. It’s an early morning flight, because we saved money by booking an antisocial time. We’ve hardly slept for fear of missing our alarm. The airport is busy with other travellers who’ve had the same idea. We queue. Our tempers are frayed, but finally we check in and ditch our bags and then head to duty free to buy make-up we don’t need and a bottle of vodka for the self-catering villa we’ve booked.

On the plane, we sleep soundly, waking only for the drinks and snacks service. We buy an overpriced breakfast focaccia to quell the rumbling of our stomachs. It is full of melted cheese and tastes delicious.

At the other side, we queue again to get our hire car. The heat is stifling and we are still wearing the jeans of an overcast British day. We turn the key of our Ford Fiesta, and there is utter liberation as we indicate into unfamiliar roads where we drive on the right. One of us opens the window. The other tunes the radio to a station that plays undemanding pop.

The villa, when we get there, is painted white and has sprigs of bougainvillea hanging over the open terrace. Inside, it is cool because of the thick stone walls. There is a ring-binder containing the details of local restaurants and a selection of paperback books with broken spines left by previous guests. The beds are covered by sheets not duvets. There are individual miniature bars of wrapped soap in the spotless, tiny bathroom.

We shed ourselves of our at-home skin, flinging our too-hot jeans aside and scampering into swimsuits. We run out to the back of the house, where there’s a pool the blue of a David Hockney painting. We jump into the cool but not cold water, which water splashes over the side, darkening the ochre patio tiles. The tiles smell of baked heat.

We spend the day on loungers, waiting for the water to dry off on our skin before applying suntan lotion scented with coconuts. We read, repositioning our books and bodies as the sun moves from east to west across the wide horizon. At about 5pm, the heat drops and we decide to go inside to shower. We re-emerge, our skin tingling, our hair tousled, wearing floaty linen and we sit at the table on the terrace with ice-cold beers and salty foreign crisps. We watch the sunset and we know we have nothing to do tomorrow other than the same thing over again.

This week I’m…

Watching

Bling Empire on Netflix: sumptuous reality TV about wealthy Asians living in LA.

Smoothing

My hair with It’s A 10 Miracle Leave In. Spritz on damp hair and blow-dry – nothing more to be done.

Wearing

Faux leather leggings from Marks & Spencer: comfy, sleek and an absolute steal at under £20.