Home or away?

OPINION: JAMES WILKINSON

As winter gives rise to thoughts of summer holidays ahead, Q&C Editor-in-chief James Wilkinson ponders on whether he should book the instagram-friendly exotic foreign jaunt or consider the benefits of a staycation instead. What’s a gay to do?

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It’s around this time of year, in the bleak British mid-winter, when ones social media news feeds are awash with pal’s enviable exotic holiday photos. With just a brief glance yesterday, there were pictures of a group of shirtless boys on a yacht in the shallows of Sydney, others enjoying pool parties in Vegas, a loved-up pair in a magical snowy Manhattan, while another acquaintance wobbled precariously on a pink inflatable in a sun-kissed pool somewhere in the southern hemisphere.

It’s enough to bring on a serious dose of FOMO - the dreaded Fear of Missing Out disease. Foreign holidays for me have been somewhat lacking recently for reasons too banal to enter into here. Born and bred in Manchester I am well-versed in a gloomy day, but I still hanker after a week or two soaking up the rays on a beach, or a swanky roof terrace from time to time.

However, the sun doesn't shine much in deepest darkest Wiltshire, where I now reside. And when my Spotify playlist shuffled onto Wham’s Club Tropicana over Christmas, my thoughts inevitably turned to those holidays as a child and the associated feelings of pure, unadulterated joy. In lieu of being able to fly to paradise any time soon (Q&C commitments and all) I’m reconciling my FOMO by considering more alternative holiday options closer to home.

What are the requirements of a good holiday? Time to switch off? Exploring unchartered territory with a significant other? A bit of fun with a cute guy in an infinity pool? But do we really have to travel halfway around the world, and break the bank, to achieve this?  Personally, I think this year a UK holiday is on the cards for me. The relief at avoiding those possible flight delays and tedious waits at airport security is only the start.

Having recently spent a few fabulous, soul-feeding weekends at the wonderful Cwmmau Farmhouse, a National Trust property near Hay-on-Wye, I’m definitely more inclined these days to favour a ‘staycation’.

What could be better for a country lover like myself; period properties, cream teas, endless walks in verdant forests and good old-fashioned country pubs to take refuge in. Throw in a few friends, some sequins and champagne for a party or two, and who needs the baking-hot sun?

As these breaks closer to home take flight and the parties get underway, one finds themselves less bothered if the weather outside is questionable. Why not shake it up a bit and inject a bit of creativity even. Host a Shakespearean-themed knees-up, a murder mystery weekend, or a movie-styled shindig.

Some of the fun I’ve had at parties in a 300 year old manor house in the English countryside in the dead of winter has remained on a par with that of the best club nights in London or on board a gay cruise ship, when it wouldn’t be unusual to find myself being fired out of a glitter canon come 2am. I’ll elucidate in another column!

A friend recently asked why not just book a budget flight and head to Knickers Off (Mykonos, I think he meant). But then begins the anxiety-inducing dilemma of choosing the right swimming trunks to meet the exacting sartorial standards of the international urban A-gay jet-set, not to mention the sweat brought on by all those necessary workouts in order to fit in on the crowded beach. And that’s even before stepping inside a gym.

This year I turn 30 - yes, I know, hard to believe. You all thought I was on the right side of 25 right? To celebrate, I’m erring towards taking a gamble and heading to the coast with a small group of friends, perhaps Cornwall. There is a fantastic hotel at Fistral Bay in Newquay called the Headland Hotel, in which the movie the Witches was filmed, and where I stayed last September - and would head back to in a shot.

I hear that in the summer it could be mistaken for Miami, with a beach jam-packed with hot surfer dudes, funky cafes and bars, fresh fish restaurants on the pier, a Rick Stein’s on the beach, and non-pretentious friendly people to meet. You can also book one of the picturesque cottages directly next door to the hotel.

Vivienne Westwood, who we recently featured as a Q&C Icon and is known for her advocacy around climate change, has extolled the benefits of reigning back on the trips abroad and to consider instead eco-friendly travel solutions - unless of course a longer haul is of absolute necessity.

It's something David Attenborough speaks passionately of too. I’m loving the programme Blue Planet at the moment, and the awe it generates reminds us of our responsibility in protecting our glorious earth. We all have a sense of how our carbon footprint manifests - particularly when globe-trotting to and from beach party to ski resort. Is it time for change? To stay, or not to stay? That is the question. Or at least stay-cay more often and limit the endless far-flung trips.

Could 2018 be the summer I choose to holiday in dear old Blighty and put the sun-drenched pool-side Margaritas on the back burner? Forget the airport and travelling misery, dodgy foreign food, and time spent translating menus and learning new customs in strange countries. I could even save money, as well as making a positive impact on the environment along the way.  Boys, I’m staying here. Get the beers in, Cornwall here I come!

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