The fascination of this place
is not about what there is
but about what is missing.

This is not a cliché.

August 2012

01 August 2012

Holiday Matters

The inflatable matress glides gently across the water, the kids play happily on the beach, the turtle surveys all, a family nestles down in the tent in which they have decided to pass the night. It;s a special time indeed, isn’t it?……..barbecue, guitars at the ready, and a real sense of adventure. A small boy puts aside his i-pad for in a moment oscillating between hope and fear his gaze is fixed on the horizon for he does not wish to miss the sight of a dolphin jumping or the fin of a shark racing across the water.
Sudenly the silence is broken by the shrill whistle of an exotic bird. Two lovers toss and turn in the inviting and invigorating sea. The beach is spotless and is as if someone has passed over it with a coat of wax. Other tourists hang merrily on high in their hot-air ballooon and lap up all below them. Conditions are perfect – 26 degrees and a humidity of 45% -, and the occasional whispy cloud completes the scene you would expect to find on a perfect tropical holiday. Yes, all is perfect, or better to say all would be perfect if this was not an artificial creation. Yes, you heard right – an artificial creation! The scene I describe is an enclosed space, and the 600 metres of sand has been shipped in, and the sea is nothing but an extremely large pool with a non-stop general wave effect. Sure, the emotions associated with bungee jumping are real enough, as are the squeals of joy coming from the beach volley, but the starry sky is nothing but the creation and elaboration of a hangar roof! The meat on the grill is real enough but the grill itself is electrically run, and there are no wild animals nor water scooters to take you that little further out to sea. Where are we, you might ask? Well the answer is in the vicinity of Berlin, where the dream of a Singapore businessman has become reality and his self styled Truman show is attracting hundreds of happy tourists. Similar structures are shooting up all over and the owners are doing healthy business.
A friend just back from Dubai showed me the photos of the celebrated palm beach, sand having been transported there, and which also comprises hundreds of small holiday homes, accessible via a 4 lane motorway. Soon new archipelagos will be ready for use and they will be even larger than the existing complex. For the moment the tourists have to make do with Hotel Atlantis, radiant with its large seafish in tanks, the invented background sound of the sea, and a waterfall of glass pearls. The imaginations of the fairy wonderland have arrived big style.
Another friend has returned from Turkey where he had been in a hotel with thousands of rooms, entrance halls thousands of square metres in dimension, 5 elevators, numerous pools, shops, games rooms, entertainment possibilities, and cocktails and concerts galore. It was almost perfect in every sense he informed me, except that it was slightly too hot in the hotel interior. Do not worry my friend – the research analysists and engineers will solve that inconvenience very soon.
I myself remember a trip I made to Mexico many years ago. I had gone to Cancun and to tell the truth I got it all wrong. In hindsight I now realise that if I had been looking for a taste of the real Mexico then that was not the place to be. Likewise in the world of today, it is no good looking for India in Kerala or Thailand in one of the many scattered tourist villages. The latter choices are a scenario which we might term pseudo culture / winning business. As Emerson might say there is no escaping the simple truth of the matter.
In my writing I am not seeking to pass judgement on those who choose to ski in a hangar in Saudi Arabia. What I do permit myself to say though is those destinations which for some epitomize relaxation and enjoyment, for me are horrible places hardly worthy of mention. In this mood of mine I am drawn to reread one of my favourite poems, written by Blake, where he majestically states ‘to see a world in a grain of sand, and a heaven in a wild flower’.How wonderful to be able to feel and sense all that Nature has to offer. I, my dear friend William, prefer to see the future in your words! 

p.s. Encouraging news from Val di Fassa. Claus Soraperra and Manuel Riz, have put together an inventive and innovative exhibition entitled “Vaccanza” which is a play on words in Italian on ‘holidays’ and ‘cows’ The cows may be no longer present on the territory but the smells of farm animals, hay and the like certainly is. Wearing a “vaccapass” round your neck you can admire the barn ,now laid out with the coloured skulls and eyes of animals, sketches and designs of cows skiing and eating spaghetti and various other provocative images, among which the logo of Val di Fassa transformed and with the word “Vaccanza”. Manuel Riz says: “ We are well aware that we are a lot better off than our predecessors but this in itself is not a reason for us to forget our origins and therefore we think it best not to exaggerate in things – once we milked the cows and now we milk ... the tourists”
My congratulations to the two artists and here’s hoping that their work serves to open up a few minds.