Colin Drury: Nothing to see here, says Visit England

Crowds at the grand reopening of the Crucible Theatre after its two year closure.
Crowds at the grand reopening of the Crucible Theatre after its two year closure.
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Me, personally, I’m all for staycations. Holidaying abroad is over-rated.

As far as I’m concerned taking your annual leave here in God’s great England means you win on two fronts: it’s cheaper and you don’t have to meet any of them foreign types. Unless you go to London, which these days is basically a gap-year camp for Australians.

This view doesn’t always sit well with her.

She likes holidays where the weather is warm and the waiters aren’t civilised enough to speak English as a first language. She likes European capitals and Asian adventures. She has a burning desire to see the Grand Canyon – despite my insistence that, sure, it’s impressive enough, but you can’t ride it like you can the big dipper at Great Yarmouth.

Give me England. Give me my sceptered isle. Give me a week in Bognor Regis.

Turns out, though, she wears the shorts. We’re train-ing round Spain next month. Coast and plains. City and village. Nou Camp and Bernabeu. Sort of like Laurie Lee, although, obviously, we’ve got our fingers crossed a civil war doesn’t go and break out. Nowt to ruin a dish of paella like an enemy army advancing, one imagines (“Do I still have time for pudding before they arrive, garcon?” etc etc).

And I’ve been told I’m not once allowed to mention Clacton or Cleethorpes.

Which may be appropriate, actually, because Visit England hasn’t mentioned them either. See this? Our tourist board’s latest attempt to sell staycations is called 101 Things To Do Before You Go Abroad – and it doesn’t mean turn off the taps and check your passport. It means places worth seeing, things worth doing and culture worth experiencing, right here.

And despite wanting to love the idea, it’s fair annoyed me. Because, according to these London-based clowns, not only are seaside towns largely off the list, there’s also not a single thing in our region worth coming for. Aye. not even The Devonshire Chippy.

Visit England have included drinking gin (which is a Dutch tipple), a night in Newcastle (which is a health risk) and an art tour of Margate (which is a bore).

But they haven’t bothered to suggest staycationers sample anything in South Yorkshire. The birthplace of football, Sheffield FC, doesn’t get a mention. Neither does the world’s finest real ale square mile, Kelham Island. Nor does The Crucible, officially the country’s best regional theatre. All overlooked in favour of attractions pretty much everywhere else – including (now this takes the biscuit) the Black Country.

And so, when your own tourist board does your own region up like a best-avoided kipper, what else can you do? Turn off the taps, check your passport and sod off to Spain, I reckon.