It used to be the weather. Now it’s whether or not you’ve had your vaccination.

But now there is a third favourite topic of conversation when people meet: when they last had a proper holiday.

For those of us who take special pleasure from getting away from it all, there is only one thing worse than still not having a holiday booked - and that’s not knowing when we will ever get a fortnight break away again. But if you thought it is only in modern times that we have come to cherish our holidays, think again.

A couple of years ago I co-wrote a book (with my friend, Noel Ponting) about a man called George Hobbs, who despite being an important and busy Swindon railwayman, was also a prolific writer.

Indeed, not unlike yours truly, for years he wrote a weekly column for this very paper.

The book was called A Swindon Wordsmith, and although we never really intended it, the surprise discovery of a whole new vein of his writing means we are working on a sequel, called A Swindon Radical.

It will include a charming article from 1936 about holidays, which reveals how important they were to hardworking Swindon folk.

He wrote it on the eve of Trip Week, the annual holiday that saw local railwaymen and their families leave the town en masse.

George’s other writings reveal that although ‘Trip’ holds a romantic and sentimental place in Swindon’s history, it had its drawbacks - partly because many came home from it with debts that took months to pay off.

And just as stressful was the fact that many of the men were unaccustomed to (or simply just not very keen on) spending their spare time with women and children.

Anyway, although it is 85 years since George wrote the following, it could be about us: "To-night and early to-morrow morning, thousands will be speeding away from Swindon to various parts of the British Isles - perhaps some even to the nearer seaside resorts of the Continent.

"All are on holiday bent, and, even now, are happy in the thought that for a time the hooter will not be heard, and the clang of industry will be silent.

"The holiday-makers will be able to relax and enjoy rest and a complete change of scenery. Like every other community, Swindon folk are as complex in their ideas of an ideal holiday as they are in their daily hours of rest and relaxation.

"Some will find their ideal in the gaiety and fun of Blackpool and similar places. Others will find their ideal in the quietude of some seaside nook, or in the healthful charm of the countryside.

"It is strange, but true, that some seek rest in restlessness. Others are content with the peace of a serene relaxation. Wherever the destination, whatever the ideals, if the essence of holidays is realised - that of regeneration or recuperation - then the holiday will have been well spent."

And - by George - isn’t he right?