How I know that travel writing competitions prefer pieces about people who move

Hey, guys, I wrote this account of a recent holiday for a travel writing competition and got zilch, nowhere, nada, no response, not a dicky bird, absolute silence ... not that I'm bitter or anything. I guess one reason it may not have impressed them is that it's really not about travelling at all. Next time I enter a travel writing competition, I must remember that.

You might enjoy it, though. And if you were at the Caerleon writing holiday, too, I'm sure you worked harder than this ...

Googling ‘Holidays for those who prefer to sit still’ gets me nowhere, as it were. There’s no justice. Even the slothful need to sloth elsewhere occasionally. I find ‘Holidays for the adventurous’ and ‘Holidays for the wannabe naked abseiler’ but there’s zilch for the indolent. Unless … unless …

I google ‘Holidays for Writers’. Up comes a Writers’ Holiday held annually at Caerleon College, the University of Wales, run by Anne and Gerry Hobbs. A good omen: the website is reluctant to appear and arrives bit by bit. I like its reticent, no-hurry approach already. Phrases like ‘everything takes place within 100 yards’ and ‘totally informal and relaxed’ nudge onto the screen. These people speak my language. I’d have to pay £399, but if no one’s going to hassle me to hike or push me to pedal, it’s cheap at the price.

The necessary train journey is a hiccup, admittedly. But a taxi to the station and providential seats on benches at Warwick and Birmingham New Street mean any inconvenient straying into vertical positions is minimised. There’s a problem on the train to Newport when an eight-strong hen party lurches on, clutching a Lidl’s worth of cheap plonk and more pink bags than a fat flamingo who’s had unsuccessful liposuction. Their drunkenly energetic forays up and down the aisle give me vertigo. I move, resentfully, into the next carriage.

Ah. That’s better. I sleep.

My room at Caerleon is in a flat in the student halls. It’s ‘en suite’: so ‘en’, in fact, that the bathroom is a Tardis-like pod in the corner, and barely a metre from the edge of my bed. It’s almost worth a pee in the night for the thrill of it. Four careful strides find me in the flat’s kitchen where there’s tea and coffee. This leaves me with the energy to grapple with a mini-carton of UHT milk which refuses to yield. But only for a few seconds. I drink the coffee black.

This is the life: still. I shuffle languidly from workshop to coffee to workshop to lunch to lecture to coffee to dinner to the bar without wearing out a smidgeon of shoe leather. I sit. I listen. I make notes. I sit. I eat. I drink. I sit. Mostly it rains; I sit in the bar or the lounge. If the sun shines, I sit on the terrace, the green Welsh hills looking all the more beautiful for being Over There and not Under My Feet. I toy with a notebook and briefly consider putting into practice what I’m learning. Instead, I browse the papers and make noncommittal entries in a crossword puzzle until an eleven-letter word saps my strength and I lay the pen down and snooze over a Bacardi.

In the taxi on the way back to the station, I gaze out of the window. Caerleon crawls with people holidaying in Peter Storm, in hiking boots, and in the rain.



  1. Anonymous29/9/09 15:01

    It was a journey of the mind... :-)

  2. Well technically it is a travel piece because you did travel someplace...

    Tell me more about these "flats in the student halls." It all sounds so exotic and intriguing to me. I imagine the walls painted a lovely flesh color and the air smelling like pine scented cleaner...

  3. This is a funny post. Some of the idioms and words are unfamiliar to us colonists, but we muddle through and laugh with you. I think this probably means that competition has no place in the arts or travel writing is a waste of good travel.I don't think Daphne Du Maurier(What a wonderful name for a writer)would have made a good travel writer. My best Count Sneaky

  4. Battypip - you're right. I knew my mind had gone off somewhere! That explains a lot!

  5. No, Amanda, they smelled of flesh and I pined for cleaner surroundings.

  6. Thank you, Count. Actually, I think Daphne would have been pretty good, although she was more inclined to write about going back to places she'd been before (like Manderley).

  7. For the life of me I cannot see why you didn't win. All that pondering, wrestling with milk cartons, all that twomfing (taking weight off my feet-ing) isn't that active enough for anyone on holiday?
    What do they want, blood?

    ha-ha-ha: the verification is 'diess'

  8. Friko, I love that word, twomfing. To twomf. To have twomfed. To become a twomfer. To feel twomfish. To be pro-twomf. This is definitely going into one of my grammar lessons.

  9. Too funny Fran!

    I have one of those flesh scented air fresheners hanging from my rear view mirror. Heavenly.


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