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This is a time of year when people are suffering from PHT (Post Holiday Tension). This is a sort of tension caused by just having come back from holiday, and, well... Look, I’ve only just come back from my holidays and I’m suffering from it too, so if you don’t mind I’ll hand over the column today to someone who specialises in the condition, Dr Monica Furlough, and we can all benefit from her advice, and her response to your queries and problems, and I can come back refreshed tomorrow. All yours, Mon!

This PHT thing - how do I know if I’ve got it?

Dr Monica Furlough writes: If you have just come back from holiday, you’ll know if you’ve got it all right. The symptoms are; disorientatedness, bad temper, inability to remember your pets’ names, disbelief that your house hasn’t burnt down, forgetfulness (as to where the butter is kept etc), regret that you aren’t still on holiday, regret that you didn’t go somewhere else, regret that you didn’t go to the place you went the year before, tendency to find stubs of airline boarding cards in odd pockets, tendency to find house smaller than you remembered, tendency of the plants in your garden that you didn’t like to have grown three feet in your absence, inability to remember why you have come back, inability to remember which day you go back to work, or if you have a job, or what it involved....

Hold on, hold on - I thought holidays were supposed to get you relaxed and bring you back rested!

Dr Monica Furlough writes: Oh, come on! That may be the intention, but the reality is quite otherwise. Holidays are one of the major causes of stress in our modern life. Someone once said that the amount of organisation and planning that goes into a perfect holiday is the same amount as needed for a small Gulf War. Indeed, a holiday and a military operation are very similar exercises.

Very true. Who was it?

Dr Monica Furlough writes: Me.

And is the cure for PHT the same as for a small military operation?

Dr Monica Furlough writes: You mean, should you have church services and war crime tribunals and parades of thanksgiving when you come back from holiday? Well, holidays aren’t quite that serious, although it would certainly be tempting to place certain hotel proprietors on trial for their life after certain holiday experiences.

Why don’t we?

Dr Monica Furlough writes: Because then we would have to allow hotel proprietors to put certain hotel guests on trial for their life, and I don’t think we could sell that to the voters.

So what should we do about PHT?

Dr Monica Furlough writes: The most important thing is not to snap back straightaway into everyday life. You know, athletes always warm up before a race, but afterwards they always warm down again. They have to make a gradual transition from physical exertion, otherwise their muscles will suffer. Same with holidays. Come down slowly.

What does that mean in practice?

Dr Monica Furlough writes: It means you should wear holiday clothes for a day or two. Keep to shorts, if you were wearing shorts. Ski clothes, if it was a skiing holiday. Talk about your holiday a lot. Tell people where you have been and how great it was...

What if it were terrible? What if the only good bit was relaxing at Heathrow and buying duty free?

Dr Monica Furlough writes: Talk about that a lot. Say, “We had a really good time at Heathrow, though...” Tell people all about your experiences...

You’re joking, surely?

Dr Monica Furlough writes: ...Keep telling people how much better things were in the country you’ve been to. Show them your pictures. Ask them over and over again if they got your postcard…

But what if you didn’t send them a postcard?

Dr Monica Furlough writes: All the more necessary. If you DIDN”T send someone a postcard, you must make them believe that you did. Tell them about the food, the hotel, the trip, the nice people you met from Staffordshire, the car you hired... Just pretend the holiday has never quite finished ... Keep looking at your suntan in the mirror... drop phrases in French...

But you’ll lose all your friends if you do that! Nobody will talk to you for a week!

Dr Monica Furlough writes: That’s the whole idea! What I didn’t mention was that the people who suffer most from Post-Holiday Tension are not those who come back from holiday - it’s the people who haven’t gone away and have to put up with the return of the holidaymakers! My treatment guarantees that you will be ostracised, which will give the sufferers at home a chance of quarantine from you!

And Miles Kington writes: I’ll be back tomorrow with my holiday snaps, an account of my best meals in France, and a story about a really funny couple from Norfolk we met on the boat!


The Independent Tuesday Sep 1st 1988