Thursday, 31 May 2007


This time of year most of us look forward to a holiday away from the usual routine and we are no different. We have some friends and relations coming to stay over the next few weeks so we thought it would be good to get a few days holiday in ourselves before the rooms start to fill up with people. As we haven’t been organised like most families and booked in advance we were reduced to skimming through the classified sections of magazines to find somewhere to stay, after a few false starts we found a small house that sounded very pleasant only about a two hour drive from home. The house accepted dogs, which meant that Max could come with us as well.

After no time at all we arrived at the little village where we were to spend the next three days only to find that the house we rented had no garden and the front door opened out onto a busy main road with lorries and cars rushing by. Not very safe for two kids and a dog! We made our apologies to the owner and set off to look for somewhere more suited to our needs. We raided the newsagents’ shelves for more magazines to look through and found places very hard to come by that accepted our furry friend. Eventually we found somewhere advertised as a very quiet and relaxing cottage that wasn’t too far away from where we were. We arrived at a house in the early evening, and as the cottage was hard to find, a woman was to drive us in her car with us following, into the wilderness to our three-day hideaway. This was the first instance that alarm bells should have been ringing. The woman went on about how she likes to be paid in cash as some “undesirables” had stayed a night or two in the house and done a runner without paying and some had even stopped cheques….

We drove over a mountain road and the woman took us to a cottage in the hills, all looked OK until we opened to door to the kitchen. The smell of old grease and damp tunnelled into our pores and even the dog was reluctant to go inside. We had paid cash for three days so I was determined to have a good time and was going to work hard at making the place habitable for our stay, after all who likes to come home and admit to people that you have had a grim time away on holiday. The first thing I did was to boil a kettle full of brown, rusty water in the kettle. The glass chopping board was so greasy that the kettle moved across the work surface as it boiled. The cups were greasy and had to be washed. I opened the cupboards and saw that the plates and bowls were mouldy where the food hadn’t been washed off properly. You couldn’t see through the glasses for dirt and grease was covering the cooker. Things got worse when Julie came from the other rooms. The three beds were covered with plastic sheets to stop the damp killing us in the night and even the settee was damp. I got to work and lit a fire using wet, three month old papers from the coffee table and wet turf that was stacked where a washing machine should have been. It was warm outside but the house was freezing. Alarm bells should have rung when a house is still for rent at the height of the season!

No matter how big I got the fire it didn’t help the feeling of damp. We sat there in front of the fire and played some games with the kids, determined to have a good time. We put on music and danced (to keep warm as well as for fun)! We went for a walk up the hill and found a scenic dump full of old cars and fridges. When it came to bedtime we put the lads into the driest of the beds and then Julie and I sat in front of the ashes next to the fire until seven thirty in the morning, unable to sleep, shivering under a damp duvet. We had to do something so I phoned the woman who owned the house and told her that I had been called back home for work and would have to leave straight away. I hear you ask if I said anything to the lady about the state of her holiday home, well I didn’t I’m afraid. Mainly because I negotiated to get half of our money back and I wasn’t going to jeopardise that by upsetting the woman. I can see now why she doesn’t like people paying by cheque. As honest as I like to think I am, I would probably have cancelled my cheque too if that were how I would have paid.

What have we learned from our rather uncomfortable outing? For a start it’s a good idea to do a bit of research into a place if you are parting with your hard earned cash. Booking by a referral from a friend is a good idea and certainly it is advisable to plan these things in advance, well in advance! Next holiday I will enrol in some assertiveness classes!


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