Shazia Mirza’s Weekend Column

The concept of holidays is relatively new to me. My dad always used to say, “You can have a holiday when you’re dead. And anyway, we didn’t come to this country to go on holiday, we came here to work.” When I was a child, we went away once to stay in a caravan in Wales, which I loved, but we had to come home after a few days – my dad didn’t like using a toilet that wasn’t his own.

I’m currently in northern Sardinia. We are staying in a villa which, once we’d taken a bread knife to the shrubbery, revealed a sea view. The bathroom is chocolate brown. I haven’t seen a chocolate brown sink since I stayed at a B&B in Bradford in 1982. It makes me feel at home, though, as if I’m at my mum’s house.

Doing nothing takes a lot of effort. I have had to get used to not sleeping with my BlackBerry, not setting my alarm and not organising tomorrow’s underwear.

One concept I don’t understand fully is the beach. I have never had any need to lie on one. I don’t require a tan, I’m not a fan of skin cancer, and I have no interest in sand castles. Beaches frighten me, actually. Some people have been in the sun so long they look like a sofa from World Of Leather. Given that I’ve had a head start, I worry I might end up looking like Clint Eastwood’s saddle bags.

I spent my first day observing beach behaviour. There are things that people do on the beach that they would never do anywhere else. All of a sudden it’s OK to whip off your bra and go topless in front of your dad and 1,000 other strange men. You wouldn’t do that at a bus stop, however hot you were.

Others lie back in public with their legs apart while reading Jeffrey Archer, and a grown man seems quite comfortable floating on a child’s Hello Kitty Lilo.

My only contact with the outside world is a stray copy of the Daily Mail. Just as I had bought nine different bikinis and psyched myself up to actually wear the BoDerek one, the Mail brings news that women in France are wearing bhurkinis. But it’s too late for me. Once you’ve had the courage to get out the cellulite and display your rolling hills of flab, there is no going back.

From a distance, lying in my hammock, I look like a sack of large potatoes. There is no need for me to wear a bhurkini – no one’s looking at me anyway. I have tried to attract attention by all means, including jumping on the children’s bouncy castle and attempting to drown myself, but the men are more interested in the lean, topless variety of woman.

Where I am, no one speaks English, but everyone thinks I’m Italian. They look very confused when I reply to their Italian overtures in Brummie English. Ihaven’t seen or heard any English people for over a week now. It’s anice feeling of isolation. Yesterday I heard some people in the villa next door speaking English, and I immediately thought, “What are you doing here? Where are you from? Can’t you go back? Coming over here, stealing my isolation.”

Even without a common language, the locals and I somehow manage to communicate. A man comes to the crossroads every day to sell vegetables from the back ofhis van,but always at different times. Ihave tried to find out when he isarriving so I can buy myself a couple of courgettes, but no one can understand me. I remembered the word for vegetable in every language I knew,from French to Urdu, but it didn’t work. As a last resort, Ipretended to be a van. Rolling down the hill, in my Bo Derek bikini, one man finally understood. He then pretended to be a broken down van, to indicate that the vegetable man would not be coming this week. My courgette craving must wait.