My Dream Holiday by Dave Cousins
In 15 Days Without a Head, Laurence attempts to win an all-expenses-paid holiday of a lifetime courtesy of local travel company, Hardacre Holidaze. Readers sometimes ask what my dream holiday would be like …
The Hardacre Holidaze brochure arrived on a wet Wednesday morning. It slipped through the letterbox like a glossy paving slab and slammed onto the mat. Fortunately the cat wasn’t occupying the spot at the time, but the sound woke me up.
Not just a holiday, the best daze of your life, read the slogan above the photo of the beautifully bronzed family on a golden beach – so far removed from my icy attic, they might as well have been on the moon. I didn’t remember ordering the brochure; I wasn’t sure I had time for a holiday. But I opened it anyway – it couldn’t hurt to dream.
It might have been my imagination, but I was sure I could smell something wafting up from the pages; had the printer imbued the ink with the essence of holiday perhaps? The way fashion magazines offer tear-off perfume samples, or supermarkets pump out the smell of baked bread to make you hungry.
I flicked through the slick pages of silver sand and azure seas, and felt vaguely nauseas. I’m not a huge fan of the heat – my Celtic blood is better suited to cooler climates, I suspect. A beach holiday wasn’t what I wanted – somewhere in the mountains maybe, or a city. I’d always liked the idea of New York in Winter, when it snows … And then I saw it: a black and white half-page advert towards the back of the brochure. It looked out of place – squeezed in as an after-thought.
Your Dream Holiday! I read. Dream it and you’re there! No early check-in queues; no rough sea-crossing; no sweaty hours in the car – you won’t even need to leave your bed. Just take our special pill and close your eyes. Anywhere, anytime, anyplace. If you can dream it – you can go!
Two days later the sunburst yellow tablet rested in my palm. I hadn’t really expected it to arrive; hadn’t thought I’d actually take it. But then it seemed a waste not to. New York in the snow – if you can dream it, you can go!
It should have occurred to me that I might just as easily end up in a nightmare. The dream holiday equivalent of arriving to find that your hotel is a building site, or that enjoying your sea view requires binoculars and an intricate arrangement of mirrors. The big difference was – I couldn’t just get the next plane home. My luggage, along with my RETURN pill, was on its way to New York. All I had were the pyjamas I was wearing, the Hardacre Holidaze brochure and the cat – who must have sneaked onto the bed as I fell asleep and found himself on holiday, by mistake.
In hindsight, the bedtime snack of cheese on toast probably hadn’t been a good idea. I remembered something in the instructions that arrived with the tablet, about foods best avoided. It must have been the cheese. What other explanation was there for the fact that I was now walking along a seafront made entirely of Camembert? The cat didn’t seem to mind, and was quite happily sniffing and licking his way along the promenade. But as the twin suns climbed higher in the purple polka dot sky, the cheese began to melt and I was soon up to my knees, the cat beside me, riding the Hardacre Holidaze brochure like a surfboard. We had to find a way home before we were both turned into fondue.
The cheese was up to my waist when I glimpsed salvation – a red post box, rising up out of the yellow sea like a lighthouse perched on a rocky outcrop of Wensleydale. By the time I hauled us from the cheesy slop, the cat was hallucinating from an overdose of lactose. I extracted the holiday brochure from his claws and wiped the cheese from its glossy laminated cover. It was a relief to see our address still legible on the label. A plan was forming in the back of my mind, a plan that unfortunately involved climbing all the way to the mail slot, high above our heads.
Luckily the post box was made from bricks, the gaps between providing hand and foot holds, but it was a slow and dangerous climb, particularly with a twitching cat tucked inside my pyjama top. It was the longest night of my life. With the darkness came a storm, an angry sea clawing at us from below while grated cheddar rained down from the sky. We finally reached our destination as dawn broke above the distant Edam mountains, and with my last gasp of strength, I dropped the brochure into the slot and fell … backwards into space.
The snap of the letterbox and the sound of something heavy landing on the mat woke me. I sat up, surprised to find the cat inside my pyjama top and grated cheese in my pocket. Then I remembered the cheese on toast I’d eaten late the previous evening. That might explain the strange dream I’d been having – though the moment I tried to recall any details, it vanished. I removed the cat from my nightwear and went downstairs to see what the post had brought.
I didn’t remember ordering the Hardacre Holidaze brochure; I wasn’t sure I had time for a holiday. But I opened it anyway – it couldn’t hurt to dream …
My huge thanks to Dave for taking the time to write this brilliant piece for The Book Zone. Watch this space for my review of 15 Days Without A Head coming soon.