Getting away - equipped

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One is often told by still recumbent convalescents that they are so rushed they simply do not know which way to turn. It is hard to discover what it is, exactly, that keeps them so busy, apart from taking the pips out of grapes and chasing crumbs, but that they are fully employed cannot be doubted. The complaint of being worn out from doing absolutely nothing is so universal there must be some truth in it.

And indeed it is possible faintly to understand this phenomenon when one takes what purports to be a completely restful holiday, a vacation that does not involve extensive travelling or sight-seeing, but merely consists of sitting in one spot doing, supposedly, nothing.

It is very difficult to do nothing. At least it is after the age of thirty. The young can spend whole golden mornings lying on their stomachs in a stuffy room listening to pop records, and whole equally golden afternoons fast asleep on sofas, but those of us who are becoming increasingly aware of the speed of time cannot prevent ourselves from thinking that undiluted inertia is somehow sinful.

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So before we embark on a 100 percent restful holiday we plan how best to fill the vacant hours before us. This, logically enough, is why they get so full.

In all lives there is a backlog of things that should have been done but have been left undone, and what better time to catch up on them than during this divinely empty, carefree, lying-back, staying-in-one-place fortnight.

Friends may later complain that they received no letters, or even postcards from your peaceful retreat, but they should have realized that there is literally no time for correspondence when you are idle. Rarely have you been so rushed. There is, after all, the whole of Dickens to reread, and a large woolly hearthrug to finish, and you have to have yet another go at Du Cote de chez Swann by Marcel Proust (a masterpiece started at the beginning of every holiday for the past two decades). Then there are all those lovely cassettes to listen to, and further attempts made on learning some of Shakespeare's Sonnets by heart , and a real effort to master Italian irregular verbs; also a tapestry cushion to finish, and little bootees to knit for Maggie's youngest. You have even brought along a violin and a book on Kierkegaard, not to mention a paintbox and a manual on English flowers. And then you have to eat, of course, and take little strolls to look at the view, so you are really pressed, definitely pressed for time and gradually become quite ragged through trying to get everything IN.

So it is my contention that when people tell you they had a marvellous holiday, didn't do a thing, they are not telling the truth. On both counts.

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