Stick

Travel Talk

A new travelling companion has entered my life. His name is Stick, because – well, not to put too fine a point on it – he is a stick.  

I’ve recruited him to help manage a right knee which has stiffened up over the last few months. Age and general decrepitude are the main reasons for this, but smashing it when playing rugby at school, and having my wife whack it with a cheeseboard in the course of a minor domestic dispute several decades later did not, probably, improve matters.

Stick Stick’s a fine, upstanding chap, a little short of a yard high, with a bright brass collar where shaft meets handle and a stout rubber ferrule where aforementioned staff meets pavement. He makes himself useful, as well as being sociable with the other occupants of the umbrella stand in the hall.

They are a pair of hefty golf umbrellas (courtesy of the Irish and the North Devon tourist boards) and a slim red umbrella (Cunard in origin).   

Before Stick’s arrival the two golfers spent all their time yarning about the conditions they had endured on gale-battered Scottish links, the manicured elegance of courses in the Caribbean, or the quality of the lunches available at Royal Lytham & St. Annes or Wentworth. And, recently, whether the influence of Mr. Trump will make any lasting difference to Turnberry.

Mrs Cunard could rarely get a word in edgewise, though, given an opening, she would seize it and chatter on at great length about her own experiences – dining at the Captain’s table, exciting ports of call, shipboard romances and the hazards of “tendering ashore”, despite the manly assistance of handsome sailors.      

However, I know she felt quite dominated by her two companions.

Stick’s arrival has changed all that. I am not sure if he is of Beech extraction, or something a little more exotic, but he has a fund of stories about the forest of his youth (or saplinghood, as it is called in arboreal circles). He gets on tremendously well with the old golfers and flirts outrageously with Mrs. Cunard, to her great delight.

Indeed, their evening conversations occasionally rise to such a pitch that I have to close the door in order to concentrate on re-runs of “NCIS”, to which I am in danger of becoming addicted.

Now I’m sure you see nothing unusual in the situation I describe, as some of you may possess umbrellas and sticks of your own. However, I have a problem, which I had not anticipated when I brought Stick into my life.

The problem is that he is changing me – or, rather, my character.

It started when Carole and I took him to Dubrovnik. The moment we (Stick and I) found ourselves in that wonderful but overcrowded old city, we became eager to cut a path through the aimless throng, like some short-tempered squire from a Thomas Hardy novel. Indeed, Stick did manage to poke the calves of several obese Americans and quite a number of Frenchmen (who are disinclined to queue), before I managed to get him under control.   

Stick When I wore my Panama Hat, all hell broke loose. Stick transformed me into a retired Indian Army colonel, beating off the natives as he strode purposefully through the bazaar. With or without the Panama, Stick insisted on being used to point to things or wave in the direction we were to walk (that last “we”, incidentally, includes the ever-patient, ever-understanding Carole).

Back in London, I have managed to get Stick under some kind of control, but am aware of the changes he has wrought upon me.

Before his arrival, when travelling on crowded trains and buses and the London Underground, I would sometimes (but not very often) be offered a seat. Following the long-established London etiquette of non-verbal communication, I would either accept with no more than a grateful smile and a nod of the head, or refuse politely, explaining as briefly as possible that I would be leaving at the next stop.

Stick has changed all that. Travelling with him, I get many more offers of a seat, and respond with phrases like: “Thank you very much, young man”, or “That’s quite all right, my dear, I’m getting off at the next stop.” The latter is aimed at ladies of all ages, and delivered in what I hope is an endearing and avuncular manner, but I find myself pronouncing “my dear” as “mi-deer” (As in “Have Some Madeira M’dear”). Even worse, “off” comes out as “orrff”.

Yesterday evening, at London’s Victoria Station, I approached a uniformed chap on the platform, asking if the train stopped at Bromley South. At the sight of me, and Stick, he drew himself up to attention and replied “Yes, sir”. And he really meant the “Sir” part. Without Stick I would have been lucky to have received a cursory nod or a grudging “Yuss mate”.

So, on the whole, I think Stick has brought about some lifestyle improvements. He has managed to bring harmony and a new lease of life to the occupants of the umbrella stand. And has persuaded me to consider buying a cravat to wear with the Panama hat on holiday next summer. (Particularly appropriate if we return to Dubrovnik.)

However, I am running the risk of morphing into a chubby version of Wilfred Hyde White.   

Though perhaps that’s no bad thing, as he was a proper gent.

429 people found this helpful
18475

Share Article:

John Carter

Long-time presenter of TV’s ‘Wish You Were Here’ and BBC holiday programmes

Leave a comment

*

Sign up to our newsletter to receive the latest travel tips on top destinations.

Join the club

Become a member to receive exclusive benefits

Our community is the heart of Silver Travel Advisor, we love nothing more than sharing ideas, inspiration, hints and tips between us.

Most Recent Articles

With over 7,000 years of history, Malta is the ultimate holiday destination for any history buff!…

Come feel the love on a Princess cruise. You’ll enjoy the MedallionClass experience others simply can’t, and it’s exclusively for everyone. Visit incredible destinations and be involved in the best experiences around each one of them.

Experience more with Princess and connect effortlessly with the world around you, spend time away with loved ones, take a moment for yourself, and fall in love with your holiday of a lifetime, every time.

With over 20 years of experience, Wendy Wu Tours has mastered the art of creating exceptional, fully inclusive tours which showcase the very best of each destination.

Each tour is led by a world-class guide, who will highlight the very best of their homeland, and includes authentic cultural experiences so you are not just seeing the sights, but truly immersing yourself in local life.

Say hello to ease at sea. Ambassador’s purpose is simple: they want to inspire every guest to experience authentic cruising, effortlessly and sustainably. Passionate about protecting our oceans and destinations, their ships comply with the highest industry emission standards and there is no single-use plastic on board.

On your voyage, you will receive the warmest of welcomes from the Ambassador community as you sail upon the friendliest ships afloat.

This is a global co-operative co-owned by local partners using real local experts and guides, which supports local communities, environments and wildlife. It offers travellers quirky places to stay, activity holidays and learning experiences. Not In The Guidebooks gets travellers off the beaten track into local culture with day experiences and longer, immersive adventures.

From wild wellness breaks in Wales to painting in Portugal, sustainable adventures in Mauritius to food safaris in Brazil, this is immersive, exciting travel.

Seabourn’s five intimate ships carry guests to the heart of great cities, exclusive yacht harbours and secluded coves around the world, while two new purpose-built expedition ships will combine exhilarating adventures in remote destinations with the sophisticated amenities of the world’s finest resorts at sea.

From the luxury of all suite accommodations to complimentary fine wines and spirits, and a no tipping policy, Seabourn exemplifies the definition of travelling well.