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Graceland

Holidays should be all about sun, sea and solitude, says Grace Dent, not befriending random strangers

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’m in the middle of packing for my holiday. Andalucia, two weeks, me and my husband, a villa in the middle of nowhere for the majority of it. Heaven. I can frolic and jiggle unselfconsciously in a string bikini. I can read Katie Price autobiographies without faking irony, eat chocolate-dipped doughnuts for breakfast and there’ll be no one to monitor my midday mouth-open siestas. I love holidays where we don’t have to chat to anyone. Call me anti-social: I call it recharging my batteries. ‘Your fear of making holiday friends is hilarious,’ my husband said after rebelling against my rule and tagging two days of walking and horse-riding onto the start of our trip, where we shall stay in a ‘luxury yurt’ and eat locally sourced meals ‘communally’ around a farmhouse table. ‘By communally,’ I said, ‘do you mean with other holidaymakers?’ ‘Yes,’ he said. I thought for a bit. ‘How big is the table?’ I asked. ‘Is it long enough to not speak to anyone?’ ‘I’ve not seen the bloody table, it’s in Spain,’ he said, looking a lot like he needed a holiday from being married to me. My anxiety isn’t about speaking to people, but getting them to shut up at an appropriate point. I appear to have been born with a face that says: ‘You’ve only known me for five minutes, Leona from Livingston, but you’ve had two glasses of sangria; therefore, I would love to know about your ectopic pregnancy and worries that your husband might be gay.’ Actually, my mind is shouting: ‘Please don’t tell me this. I’ll just spend all night trying to give you advice and that’s not relaxing at all.’ Plus, I’m always on my guard for busybodies. I did yoga

in Grenada alongside a woman who appeared to know every other lady in the resort’s bra size, pillow preference and food allergy. She would recount them as we did the Downward Dog pose. I enjoy American resorts. They’ve got the routine of eye contact and a polite ‘hello’ with fellow holidaymakers down to a fine art. I can be sociable Grace all day long in Acapulco with Americans, and no one forces me to join in a sudden-death pool tournament. It’s just a bit of pleasant chat about the weather, then I’m gloriously left alone. My fear of the whole ‘holiday buddy’ issue dates back to childhood getaways spent with my younger brother David, who was, and still is, the don of such friendships. When the Dent family pulled up in the Austin Maxi at whichever rain-battered, 80s British resort we’d chosen, David would be rattling the child locks frantically before the car stopped to get out and make friends with other kids. Even as a ten-year-old girl, I found this behaviour

‘My anxiety isn’t about speaking to people, but getting them to shut up at an appropriate point’ foolhardy. In under an hour, he’d be running amok, high on Fanta and Cola Cubes with a gang of like-minded scamps. I watched dismissively from behind my copy of Smash Hits. ‘But I don’t want to talk to people,’ I’d say. ‘They live far away, and I don’t need another pen pal. I’ve already got Françoise in La Rochelle and I owe her two letters.’ While David had pure carefree fun, I was overthinking holiday friendships even then. So I shall try my best at the yurt ‘communal dining experience’, but I do think my husband has a very selective memory. ‘Look at all these people swapping phone numbers and email addresses,’ he tutted last year at Gatwick baggage reclaim. ‘There’s that couple who fight all the time!’ I replied. ‘He wanted to go into business with you, and she has a laugh that sounds like a fork in a lawnmower. Quick let’s give them your email!’ Then he stopped, reality finally sinking in. ‘Actually,’ he said, grabbing our cases and loading the trolley. ‘Scrap that. Let’s make a run for it.’


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