Malta holiday 1999

The other members of my family were really looking forward to this holiday. Who wouldn't thoroughly enjoy staying in a luxury hotel in Malta with all inclusive food and drink and more than half a dozen pools? Me, that's who. Actually I did enjoy it in parts, but the overall holiday experience is more stress than relaxation for me.

Not many people can understand my dislike of holidays, not least my family. It's difficult to explain. ME doesn't just make you feel tired, or even just make you feel a bit "fluey" in that way you remember with nostalgia from when you used to get to stay home from school, watching Look & Read and reading Famous Five books. It feels horrible. In some sufferers it stirs up the "fight or flight" response, and this is especially severe for me. Any extra stressors or activities that would seem trivial to others make me almost unable to function, so I try very hard to avoid them, and I'm very prone to anxiety.

As is common, my sleeping pattern is deranged. Staying in bed until midday is not laziness, I need at least 10 hours' bed rest. I prefer to go to bed late and get up late, because late night is when I get to watch good films on TV. The alternative is a longer day on my own while everybody's at work. But it can make it very awkward fitting in with things that have to be done in the morning.

Anyway, the fateful day in June came round and things started badly. My mother was all hyped up and got up early, making lots of noise, including hoovering. Having got only about 3 hours sleep I thought I'd never survive all the travelling and would have to stay home, but when I was up I decided perhaps I could cope. Trying to stop everyone forcing me to go would be harder anyway!

The weather had suddenly changed to being very hot after a cold spell, and I was on the sunny side of the car. There were five of us - my parents, my sister, my grandmother and myself - so by the time we reached the airport I was very uncomfortable and hot. The checking-in hall had no seats, so I had to make do with sitting on a luggage trolley; either that or collapse.

After checking in we had lunch at McDonalds. I had to force mine down, because I was almost too nervous to eat, but I knew I'd need some carbohydrates to get through the rest of the day. Just after this our flight was called.

On board the plane I was faced with the next bit of torture. The auxiliary power unit was broken so there was no air-conditioning until we took off. As everybody boarded and the doors were sealed it got hotter and hotter. Finally, it started to cool down after take-off, but by that time I was fairly frazzled. I was still too knotted up to eat the meal, but I managed to get the ice-cream down to help my blood-sugar levels.

Another problem the ME seems to have caused me is that I'm very sensitive to motion. Luckily, either my stomach is strong, or I've never been in motion-sickness type situations long enough to affect my stomach, but I do get very dizzy for short spells, and banking in a plane is a good way to induce it. Luckily there isn't much of that on a normal flight, and there was hardly any turbulence. I was very relieved to disembark though; economy class seats get rather uncomfortable after 3 hours.

At the airport we discovered that the hotel had forgotten to send cars to pick us up, but we didn't have too much difficulty getting taxis. You pay in advance at the booking office, which I thought was a good scheme. Unusually, they drive on the left in Malta (most of the time). Other first impressions about Maltese motoring were that the roads are worn very smooth and shiny, so they look wet:- when it rains they must be treacherous. The speed limit is whatever your car can manage, and you use the horn a lot, which is probably unnecessary. You can hear most cars coming anyway, because there seems to be a lack of Kwik Fit exhaust centres.

By the time we reached the hotel I was pretty hungry now that most of the stress of getting there was over, and not having been able to eat much earlier. There was supposed to be food available all night, and eventually we found some heated tubs containing a fairly decent rice and meat meal, so I tucked in.

The rest of the meals there were even better, with a choice of barbecues or luxury restaurants for each meal. I even enjoyed some raw tuna marinated in garlic one evening, and the cooked tuna I had in a sandwich one evening was pretty good too. I'd only had tinned tuna before.

Having my meals out of sync with the norm, and being a minimal drinker (I don't remember having a single beer there, only a little wine with meals, and the occasional spirit in the evenings) I couldn't make the most of the all-inclusive deal, but it was still very nice being able to go up to the bar for as many Sprites as I liked without having to bother with cash.

I was a bit disappointed with the room. I had to share with my dad who sometimes snored a bit, and the air conditioner was also quite noisy, so I slept badly. I had to try and catch up in the mornings when everyone else was out, otherwise I might have made an effort to get in sync. I got up for breakfast a couple of times when I couldn't sleep, but only temporarily, then went back to bed. There's something really pleasant about being up in the early morning sun if you don't do it very often though.

The range of TV channels wasn't much good either, but there was a good video library, so that passed some of the time. I also read a lot while lounging by the pools etc.

Speaking of the pools, I think there were 7 in the hotel altogether, although that included a jaccuzzi and a children's paddling pool. I do like swimming, or rather floating and bobbing around, as long as it isn't cold or full of shrieking kids, so it was nice to have a chance to do that.

The rest of the family hired a Maruti Jeep and also went on a couple of boat trips. I nearly went on one of the shorter boat trips, but it was cancelled because it was windy. I went out with them in the Jeep a couple of times, but I couldn't stand it in the back, and I felt a bit guilty sitting in the front and making my gran go in the back.

I slept very badly on the last night and morning again, and there was a bit of a scare later on, because my dad got the jeep stuck on some track in the middle of nowhere - the 4WD was permanently disabled, to stop silly tourists using it all the time on ordinary roads and wearing the tyres and transmission out I suppose. He had to walk miles to get help, but they made it back in time to have a last meal then pile aboard with our luggage to go to the airport, where we had arranged to leave the jeep. Looking around the hotel for the last time, I realised I was going to miss it.

The flight back was fairly uneventful; this time there were no cooling problems. I even had a seat next to an emergency exit, giving me more leg-room, which seemed to make enough difference to stop me aching by the end of the flight. I was next to a young couple too, who were quite good fun, especially when the bloke discovered I knew who the Bush Tucker Man was. I even managed to enjoy the landing!

Then of course came the long trek from the arrivals terminal to the baggage claim at Gatwick; it seems like miles! The last little adventure came in having to buy a ticket to get out of the expensive short stay car park where the long term car park staff had left our car for rather a longer time than necessary. Finally we drove home, by which time I was very worn out.