It’s all in the mind
“I’m not going to get upset about this. I’m fine. I’m PATCHy,” I say to Stuart as we spend fifteen minutes queuing for our chalet keys.
In front of us is a large man, gaily painted with football tattoes, shouting unintelligibly at a woman in a sunshine yellow T shirt.
“Honestly, it’s ok, I really am feeling PATCHy ” I say, as we take our key, and weave our way through what looks like an urban council estate. It’s early evening and there are dozens of kids knocking footballs around on the communal grass. Those that don’t have footballs kick empty polystyrene fish and chip trays to each other. The goal seems to be a selection of parents getting drunk on the grass. In our block of chalets there must be fifty doors, spread across two levels, all uniformly decorated in greyish peeling paint. We are on the ground floor, just ripe for burglary.
“In fact, I’m so PATCHy that I quite feel at home here. It reminds me of The Baltics.”
We sit on grey plastic garden chairs in the main room of the chalet. There are six of these around a formica table. There is a tiny TV with no remote. There is a light. The sofa sinks towards the floor at one end. That is to be our bed for three days. We have been checked into a ‘classic’ chalet at this traditional British holiday camp, a claim authenticated by the 1970’s woodchip wallpaper. On the way we passed the ‘club class’ versions. Not that much better but at least the rooms had pictures hung on the walls.
“I’m really ok with this chalet,” I say. OK, it doesn’t have a microwave. Or a toaster. Or cushions on the chairs. And there’s no patio door. Or patio. Just a kind of Gaza strip of grass,” I say cheerfully. “Anyway, being in a PATCHy frame of mind, you don’t really need a microwave or toaster, or indeed a bottle opener,” I say.
“We need the bottle opener,” says Stuart, a hint of desperation in his voice as he scrapes his plastic chair across the floor.
“It’s kind of nice to have garden chairs in the chalet. Makes it feel more al fresco,” I say.
“Ok, that’s enough. No more. No more PATCH!” he says, banging his hand onto the table making it wobble dangerously. “Stop it. I can’t listen to any more of you being ‘Positive About The Holiday Camp.’
I hadn’t always been PATCHy. The day I found out we were going to spend three days at a beleaguered resort in Wales, I was furious. But Centerparcs was full. And Stuart figured we could use the camp as a base to explore some of our old haunts. We met at University in North Wales so it has positive associations for us.
“I’m not going there,” I told Stuart. I pointed out the disastrous review on Trip Advisor.
I am told to stop the moaning
I moaned and moaned until Stuart flipped, informing me that my negativity was starting to get on his nerves. But that evening I overheard the children talking about the camp.
“What is it? Is it a country?” Hannah asked her brother.
“No, it’s a holiday place. Like Butlins.”
“Is it as good as Butlins? Butlins was well good.”
“Really? In real life? Is it going to be as good as Butlins in real life? I want to go there. I want to go there now.”
I listened to their excited talk and felt ashamed. I was going to stop all the negativity and be PATCHy instead.
A more positive me
And thanks to my new positive outlook, after one full night on camp, I have concluded the beds are only a bit wobbly, and the TV is definitely working. The dancing girls in the showbar may have looked like ladies of the night but at least they threw themselves into it. And no one has broken in and stolen our possessions. I wake up tired but inexplicably happy. We dodge the footballs to get to breakfast, getting ourselves some fun soccer practice on the way. I say nothing about the mountains of plastic waste and abandoned food at breakfast. I embrace the queue as a chance to talk to people. I eat the scrambled egg that’s formed itself into strange geometrical shapes. I’m PATCHy and proud of it.
And I’m finding it curious. What if I employed this state of mind in every grimy place we stay in on our trip? Would we ever experience the temptation of checking into an upmarket hotel again? What if I set out to befriend the beggars, to see litter as a challenge to clean up the environment, to regard feral kids as an extension of my own family? To find the fun in every situation and to treat the problems as though they don’t exist?
And outside our travelling life, what if I was PATCHy all the time. (Positive About The Crumbling Home.) The peeling paper on Matthew’s wall might start to feel like art. The full washing basket could be a testament to my laundry management skills. A spoiled dinner might be a culinary adventure. What if I set out to find the positive in everything? Is enjoying yourself really just a mindset?
We go to Llandudno for the day. I sit on a beach in a gale, looking back at the delightful Victorian architecture as my overpriced chips blow away. A monster gull snaps them up and I feel glad to have fed the birds. We head to the ski slope to spin down the hill on rubber tyres but it’s closed. That’s ok. Tobogganning is more fun anyway. I’m getting good at this.
I am having a good time
At dinner, Stuart has a row with the man at the counter about the vegetarian option. He then has a row with management because they’ve sealed off the fire escapes and invited about a thousand young footballers into the auditorium. I sit happily, eating pork that looks like chicken. I am PATCHy. Even the prospect of a Welsh entertainer doing a whole evening of Lady Gaga in an outfit bought from Rhyl can’t dampen my spirits. I’m happy. I am having a good time.