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An essay by A. A. Milne

The Holiday Problem

Title:     The Holiday Problem
Author: A. A. Milne [More Titles by Milne]

The time for a summer holiday is May, June. July, August, and September--with, perhaps a fortnight in October if the weather holds up. But it is difficult to cram all this into the few short weeks allowed to most of us. We are faced accordingly with the business of singling out one month from the others--a business invidious enough to a lover of the country, but still more so to one who loves London as well. The question for him is not only which month is most wonderful by the sea, but also which month is most tolerable out of town.

I would wash my hands of London in May and come back brown from cricket and golf and sailing in September with willingness. Alas I it is impossible. But if I pick out July as the month for the open-air life, I begin immediately to think of the superiority of July over June as a month to spend in London. Not but what June is a delightful month in town, and May and August for that matter. In May, for instance----

Let us go into this question. May, of course, is hopeless for a holiday. One must be near one's tailor in May to see about one's summer clothes. Choosing a flannel suit in May is one of the moments of one's life--only equalled by certain other great moments at the hosier's and hatter's. "Ne'er cast a clout till May be out" says a particularly idiotic saw, but as you have already disregarded it by casting your fur coat, you may as well go through with the business now. Socks; I ask you to think of summer socks. Have you ordered your half-hose yet? No. Then how can you go away for your holiday?

Again, taxicabs pull down their shutters in May, and you are able to see and be seen as you drive through London. Never forget when you drive in a taxi that you own the car absolutely as long as the clock is ticking; that you are a motorist, a fit member for the Royal Automobile Club; that the driver is your chauffeur to obey your orders; and, best of all, that, May being here, you can put your feet upon the seat opposite in the sight of everybody. Will you miss the glory? In June and July it will have lost something. Pay your five shillings in May and expand, live; pay your five pounds if you like and drive all down the Cromwell Road. Don't bury yourself in Devonshire.

The long light evenings of June in London! The dances, the dinners in the warm nights of June! The window-boxes in the squares, the pretty people in the parks; are we going to leave them? There is so much going on. We may not be in it, but we must be in London to feel that we are helping. They also serve who only stand and stare. Besides--I put it to you--strawberries are ripe in June. You will never get enough in Cumberland or wherever you are. Not good ones; not the shilling-a-seed kind.

Is it wise to go away in July? What about the Varsity match and Gentlemen _v._ Players? You must be at Lord's for those. Yes; July is the month for Lord's. Drive there, I beg you, in a hansom, if indeed there is still one left. A taxi by all means in May or when you are in a hurry, but a day at Lord's must be taken deliberately. Drive there at your leisure; breathe deeply. Do not he afraid of taking your seat before play begins--you can buy a _Sportsman_ on the ground and read how Vallingwick nearly beat Upper Finchley. It is all part of the great game, and if you are to enjoy your day truly, then you must go with this feeling in the back of your mind--that you ought really to be working. That is the right condiment for a cricket match.

Yes; we must be near St. John's Wood in July, but what about August? Everybody, you say, goes away in August; but is not that rather a reason for staying? I don't bother to point out that the country will be crowded, only that London will be so pleasantly empty. In August and September you can wander about in your oldest clothes and nobody will mind. You can get a seat for any play without difficulty--indeed, without paying, if you know the way. It is a rare time for seeing the old churches of the City or for exploring the South Kensington Museum. London is not London in August and September; it is a jolly old town that you have never seen before. You can dine at the Savoy in your shirt sleeves--well, nearly. I mean, that gives you the idea. And, best of all, your friends will all be enjoying themselves in the country, and they will ask you down for week-ends. Robinson, who is having a cricket week for his schoolboy sons, and Smith, who has hired a yacht, will be glad to see you from Friday to Tuesday. If you had gone to Switzerland for the month, you couldn't have accepted their kind invitations. "How I wish," you would have said as you paid the extra centimes on their letters, "how I wish I had taken my holiday in June." On the other hand, in June----

Well, you see how difficult it is for you. Of course, I don't really mind what you do. For myself I have almost decided to have a week in each month. The advantage of this is that I shall go away four times instead of once. There is no joy in the world to equal that of strolling after a London porter who is looking for an empty smoker in which to put your golf clubs. To do it four times, each time with the knowledge of a week's holiday ahead, is almost more than man deserves. True that by this means I shall also come back four times instead of once, but to a lover of London that is no great matter. Indeed, I like it so.

And another advantage is that I can take five weeks in this way while deluding my conscience into thinking that I am only taking four. A holiday taken in a lump is taken and over. Taken in weeks, with odd days at each end of the weeks, it always leaves a margin for error. I shall take care that the error is on the right side. And if anybody grumbles, "Why, you're always going away," I shall answer with dignity, "Confound it! I'm always coming back."

[The end]
A. A. Milne's essay: Holiday Problem