Taste of holiday sour grapes;Opinion

5th February 1999 at 00:00
Dear Mr Blunkett, I know you are having problems with that awful Woodworm chap so I thought I'd write and tell you about the whole-hearted support you are getting from one member of the public round here.

The man I have in mind is called Gus O'Grady. Gus runs our local independent travel agency and - unusually for a man of his calling - he is both a confirmed Blunkite and a pillar of the utmost rectitude.

When I wandered into Travelling Hopefully last October, in search of some cheap skiing, Gus was very sniffy about my decision to book the girls on a package that flew out on December 18. "You do realise that's three days before terms ends," Gus pointed out in the heavy brown tones of a barman who is suggesting, Sir, that maybe we shouldn't be thinking of driving home tonight, hmm?

Travelling Hopefully is very militant in its support of the Government's new line on parents who sneak their children out of school for a low season cheapo. Try to convince Gus that your two weeks in the Algarve has some sort of educational value and his upper lip has been known to curl.

I know of one mother who came out in tears after she'd tried to book a spot of Winter Sun in the Seychelles. Two minutes with Gus had persuaded poor Molly that not only was she endangering her children's education but also the very fabric of western society.

I have to admit that there was a time when I used to be a little sceptical about Gus. Ungenerously it had occurred to me that Travelling Hopefully might make a smaller profit on these cheapo packages but, no, my contacts in the industry tell me his margins are constant.

Your supporter is a man of singular principle, Mr Blunkett. Even though Gus always gets to see the best of the low season deals first he has never to my knowledge taken one for himself and his family.

"My kids' education is more important to me than saving a few hundred pounds," says Gus with a snarl. And his wife, Ellen, agrees - but then she has to really.

Mrs O'Grady is Ginny's science teacher and a member of that noble profession who never get to take their holidays in term-time.

It must be nice to know, Mr Blunkett, that here is one issue where the teachers are right behind you.

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