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August 11th 2019
There are plenty of things in life that confuse me. Only the other day I bought a shower curtain, which comes in a little bag of the same material and pattern. Why is this? Am I supposed to be carrying my shower curtain around with me, in case I want to clean myself with minimal privacy while out and about? Or how about cauliflower rice - what is it? There's no way of knowing.
What has had me baffled for some time, though, is when people talk about going on holiday and "lying by the pool". For example, I mentioned to someone in conversation that I'm not a particular fan of the heat - give me a pleasantly sunny day with a light breeze and I'm happy as Larry - and they responded that, while they agreed with me in general, it was a different matter if they had a drink and were lying next to a pool. This is not the only time I've heard this, and I don't understand it in the slightest. What is it about proximity to water that people find enjoyable? And does it only hold for swimming pools? Is lying next to a reservoir equally pleasant, say? Or a particularly large puddle? I suspect not.
What I find particularly confusing is that there is no mention of actually going into the pool. If the idea is that you lie next to the pool for a bit, then take a dip, then come out again and read a book - then I get it. Not my ideal holiday, perhaps, but at least it's actually putting the pool to some kind of use, rather than just using it for its adjacency. Is that what people mean when they say "lying by the pool"? If so, why don't they say so? They're missing out the key feature of the pool, which is for people to, y'know, be in it. If I enjoyed going rock-climbing, I wouldn't describe it as "standing by a wall".
The other theory someone has furnished me with is that people enjoy lying by a pool because there are a lot of scantily clad people around. While this has some plausibility, it does rather dramatically change the context when people say they're off to lie by a pool. Announcing that you're going on holiday to ogle people is, well, a little off. Particularly (as in the example of the person I quoted in the heat conversation above) if you're going with your partner.
The other classic holiday-by-water, of course, is going to the seaside. Or, of course, a trip to the Lake District (which is indeed my kind of thing). In both cases, particularly the latter, actually entering the water is not a fundamental part of the excursion; however, I think they both have elements to recommend them that lying next to a swimming pool does not. In the case of the beach, there's the joy of sand in all its versatile goodness - sculpting with, bouncing a tennis ball on, doing a Rocky III run across - and in the case of lakes, well, they look nice. Even I, famously dead inside when it comes to views and what-not, can recognise this. But a swimming pool? Sure, there are some pleasant ones, I guess. Infinity pools are pretty neat. But you'd have to be some kind of aquatic architecture enthusiast to want to go and stare at one as a way to spend the summer. I get the feeling that this is not what people are driving at.
I have reached the age when I am unlikely to change my ways. At least, not in this respect. My holidays will continue to be driven by walking, exploring, going wherever it is that other people have already decided, and trying to persuade my brother not to spend all day reading a book. I am unlikely to become an enthusiast for lying near water. But if this is something that you particularly enjoy doing, I'd love you to get in touch and explain why. If you know.

August 26th 2019
For the first 30 or so years of my life I was a very infrequent flier, able to count the number of plane trips I'd taken on a few fingers of anyone's hand. Montenegro. Hamburg. Seattle. Edinburgh. That was about it. But over the last couple of years I've become something of a regular aeronaut, taking the hour-long flight to Edinburgh every month, plus trips to Toronto and Belfast thrown in for good measure.
All these flights to Scotland's capital are, alas, for work, but they have meant two things. Firstly, I am no longer anxious in an airport. They used to baffle me, if I'm honest, with their check-in desks and security lines and seemingly random requests for boarding passes at various times during proceedings, but not any more. I saunter through with the grumpiness of a pro. The second thing is that I have become very attuned to the importance of airport etiquette, to the point that almost everyone around me annoys me. Here are some simple rules for you to follow, next time you're catching a plane:

1. Put your tray in the stack
You've collected your belongings from the security scanner? Great. All those signs, in multiple languages, telling you to put your tray into the stack? Do what they say. Don't just leave your tray on the conveyor belt, taking up space and slowing everyone else down. How lazy are you?

2. Limit yourself to one bag of liquids
You know those signs telling you that you're limited to one bag of liquids when you're going through security? Those aren't jokes. So, I realise that you think it's important that you have your full range of make-up for your time away, even if I cannot quite grasp the astonishing extent of it, but that doesn't mean that there's an exception for you. And, when you're causing everyone to wait in line as you slowly decide whether concealer or moisturiser is more fundamental to the enjoyment of your holiday, please at least have the good grace to be apologetic. This is not a mistake that anyone could make. This is you thinking that you're above the rules. You're not.

3. Get out of the way.
Please get out of the way.

what was I listening to?
The Collection - Mott the Hoople
what was I reading?
Brown at 10 - Anthony Seldon
what was I watching?
Mindhorn
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