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Bestworst holiday

BEST

I wasn't initially keen on the idea of a canal boat holiday through Stoke-on Trent. It had all the allure of last night's chip wrappings. As a southerner I had an image of the Midlands as uniformly grey, visually uninspiring and wet.

So as soon as I'd let myself be talked into going on such a trip with a couple of colleagues who taught history and geography, I had a vision of anorak overload, and grim, rain-soaked evenings in West Bromwich. I reluctantly dragged myself to our starting venue, dreaming of Spanish beaches.

How wrong I was. This was absolutely brilliant, and opened my eyes to all sorts of things: the complexities of British industrial archaeology; the stunning countryside of places such as Staffordshire; the stimulation of people who could bring things to life (they are called teachers, and they are very good company); and the fact that beer prices were about a third less than in the south.

What's more there were splendid pub lunches, the physical challenges of lock gates and the canal-camaraderie of our fellow floating travellers, which all combined to make this one of my best holidays ever.

We ended the trip better mates than ever, bonded by a collective passion for what we'd seen. As for me, never had a narrow boat so broadened a mind.

And it didn't rain once.

WORST

I'd normally go for the sort of holiday involving "chilling out", funny how this is best achieved under a hot sun. Lazy, yes, but after a difficult year I thought it was the least I deserved.

My partner had different priorities and his mission in life was to get me as fit as he was. He lobbied long and hard and, against my better judgment, I caved in and agreed to an "activity holiday" in deepest Wales.

As far as I was concerned it had the merit of at least being different from my usual slob-out choice of break with the bonus that I might for once return from a holiday slimmer and fitter than I'd started it.

On the first day mountain biking I damaged my knee by falling off. Things rapidly got worse after this. Rather than resting up, my macho partner suggested that I keep mobile and we signed up for a 30km hike into the hills.

The good news was that the knee held up. The bad news was that my boots gave me the most enormous blisters. But this at least got me out of the rest of the activities, allowing me to catch up on some reading (mainly books about long distance canoeing, as that's about all they had) and snack more or less continuously through the day.

By the time I returned home I'd put on half a stone through the combination of enforced inactivity and comfort eating after being effectively abandoned by my adrenalin-junkie bloke.

My jaw, at least, had enjoyed a lot of activity on this holiday

Linda Bateman teaches in West Sussex

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