The ‘It’s beef, not chicken’ scandal and others

If I say the words family holiday what thoughts immediately strike you? Fear? Embarrassment? The worry that you’ll have slightly overdone it with the packing and as a result your suitcase is just swimming with socks? I myself have just returned from a family holiday away to Cyprus, an island so British and yet so distinctly foreign - “LOOK THEY HAVE A PUB CALLED THE ENGLISH ROSE!” – it seems like the most perfect destination for any family of jet-setters.  It attracts over 2 million tourists a year, a number which seems to be growing more dominantly, and offers everything (and anything) you can possibly think of. Fine dining, nights out, cheap tat buying, climbing, foot eating fish, cat watching, you name it. It’s an island of wonder and awe at most, an island who’s beauty is somewhat concealed by the artificial – and dare I say commercialised – value of businesses and exploitation of its loyal visitors. I mean, 4 euros for a soft drink??? I think Kim Jong-Un could launch his own brand of flavoured water and sell it to me for less. But this is not about me ranting; this is to tell you of some of my time away in Cyprus.

I don’t tend to go abroad much, but when I do there is a flurry of excitement within my belly. When abroad, I’m one of those get-out-and-go type of people. I wander, I explore, I dig deep at what I can find. The world is there to be discovered and to be admired, so I figure holidays abroad are perfect examples of finding my inner Bear Grylls. So, from this I concur that holidays are for ‘firsts’.  You know what I'm talking about, like when you’re a child and you ride that bike for the first time, the first time you eat chocolate cake and demand “MORE!” whilst you cram every crumb into your crevice and all that lark. Holidays are no different. One of my particular ‘firsts’ of said holiday  included a strange incident at a restaurant where I, very politely, asked the lovely waitress if I could ever so kindly have the chicken burger to eat. She smiled, and it was a smile that lasted too long. The kind that the doctor has before he jams the needle into your arm saying prior “This won’t hurt at all!”, so naturally I’m left a little confused and terrified at what potentially could be on my plate. Said meal eventually arrives and what greets me? Not a chicken burger but as luck would have it a lovely beef burger. Anyone who knows me will tell you that the only meat I enjoy and will eat is that of chicken; beef for me is too chewy, bloody and damn it just not enjoyable. So do I complain about this scandal before my eyes? Do I stand up and roar at the waitress like the T-Rex in Jurassic Park? Me being the awkward boy and representing every Briton in the country, does nothing. I sit quietly and stare at this burger, like how Sherlock stares at Moriarty with an intense look of disgust and hatred but yet with a soft inkling of mystery and curiosity. By this point I was beyond the point of starvation so I just ate the damn thing. Okay so maybe I did look I was having an excessive bush tucker trial but I finished it! Me finishing a beef burger eh? Pigs will fly next. Or Ant and Dec will quit ITV and finally revive a singing career.

10 days away meant an excessive amount of money being spent right? Wrong. Being a very very poor student I was limited to 300, 30 a day. Scary isn’t it? Cyprus; the land of expense and wealth, how would I do it? Surely I couldn’t. Well here’s the funny thing, I managed it pretty easily. Our overall cost of the holiday included breakfast, everything else we would have to sort out ourselves. I heard this and immediately concocted a plan which follows thus: Stage 1 = Eat my own body weight in cereal and fry-ups. Stage 2 = If I get peckish around lunchtime I limit myself to a packet of crisps or a doughnut from the shops. Not both. (Sometimes both) Stage 3 = Dinner time, water to drink and a fairly cheap meal (pizza for 7.50? BEAUTIFUL). Following this plan I could have some money left over to enjoy the odd cocktail here or there, but as nothing is mixed properly on this island you would only need the one before you’re getting your hair pulled back and you’re vomiting into the toilet at 10pm. Better still, the hotel gave us a complimentary bottle of wine on arrival to our room. Isn’t that a lovely thought? Wine as a welcome gift! WINE! Thus, day one of drinking is already checked off without having to leave the room, HOORAY! Another handy tip is just save the gift buying until the last few days, otherwise you end up with a bottle of vodka you’re half tempted to down to keep you going and a toy dog that flips because when you saw it last night whilst still slurping the wine, you thought it’d be a great idea.

But I look back on my 10 days and I reflect. Did I have a favourite memory? Did it go too quickly to remember anything? Yes and no. Days in and days out of lying aimlessly by the pool tend to blur into one consecutive day, however walking up paths and climbing rocks to watch the sunset is a different matter entirely. As I climbed I had no fear, the probability of falling was high but I chose to ignore it and go as high as I could. I picked myself up and over the ledge and was overcome with a mixture of oranges and reds at war with each other in the sky as the sun grew small and shrivelled. I looked out into the light, with a hopeless gaze and a small sigh. I had discovered it. I had discovered beauty. It gave me comfort and hope, as clichéd as that sounds, and I don’t think I’ll see anything as beautiful again. Unless I look on my iPhone and see the pictures again. And again. And again.  


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