Saturday, 16 August 2008
All the discomfort of camping without the tent?
Home from Corbridge and very happy to be back blogging again. It was largely a very good week ( can you hear the but?) with a few challenges. The main challenge was the self - catering cottage we had booked. When I understand how to load photos I will publish a few examples of what it was like ( this will entail me understanding how to bluetooth photos from my phone to the lap top so no breath holding please). My charm and tact prevents me from saying exactly who and exactly where the cottage is ( and in case the owners are of a litigious nature) but I will describe some of the low- lights for you now. First of all, it was horribly dark inside. This wasn't helped by the persistent black clouds and rain which pretty well dominated the whole week ( don't get me started on the weather again!) but even when the sun was shining, it was gloomy. There had clearly been no investment and no redecoration done on the place since the middle ages( earlier?) and it looked as if the whole thing had been furnished on the cheap out of the auction rooms. Nothing matched and nothing was comfortable. All the appliances were cheap and noisey. In fact, it was the noisiest cottage we had ever stayed in. Going to the loo or to the shower over the bathroom floorboards ( bathroom upstairs) set off a series of noises which was reminiscent of the final scenes of Riverdance, accompanied by the shrill screams of the hot tap. I felt guilty about the nocturnal loo visits: the whole house was awake in seconds despite the best efforts of tip-toe-ing. There was nowhere to put towels or dressing gowns, no hooks, no surfaces-zilch. The shower reminded me of something out of a local authority swimming pool changing room, with accompanying verrucas perhaps? It was not an incentive to keep clean. The place was advertised as three bedrooms, but the spec should have said ' two bedrooms and a cell'. Bedroom three, positioned off the dining room, was a tiny room ( with a minute window near the ceiling looking over the ....kitchen) with the bottom part of a sofa covered with a mattress in it for a bed. Bizarre and lopsided. Teenage son, who drew the short straw for sleeping in it ( by making the foolish mistake of saying he ' doesn't use a wardrobe on holiday) said " I feel as if I am in prison for having done nothing wrong'. Poor kid. He was really good natured about it, especially since he is heading for five foot eight and is a flanker in the local rugby team). Thankfully kids can sleep on a washing line, and he seemed fairly happy. There was a washing machine but no drier, and with large loads of rugby kit to wash every night this became a real issue. Nothing would dry in the gloom and dank. We found a little electric fire in the dining room that helped ( the drying rail fell to bits ) but I eventually I had to enquire about the heating ( and yes, I know it is August). The owner ( pleasant and well intentioned but rather mean I suspect) came over and assured me that the heating had been put on, twenty four hours if we wanted it. As you may now expect: nothing happened. Since the little blowheater was making a small difference, I did not have the strength to query it again. However, later in the early hours I was awoken by a large crash and roaring noises. I thought a plane had crashed into the roof. As I struggled to regain a state of wakefulness I struggled out of my yellow and pink bedding ( no- it wasn't designer bedding, just a terrible colour clash in the linen which was from the sixties) and realised that the noise was coming from the boiler downstairs. The heating had come on ( at three in the morning). I tramped downstairs to turn it off and it never bothered us again. Luckily we spent very little time in the cottage. I had every positive intention of cooking every other night in the cottage kitchen to save money, but this vanished when faced with the prospect of the horrible oven, and a night sitting on the leaden sofa. We headed out every night except the first one, and I feel no remorse ( expect about the waist line). On the last night, my mum ( who came on tour with us) decided to use the vacuum cleaner to clean up the sitting room floor. Teenager and I begged and pleaded for clemency, but she went ahead. We fled to our bedrooms. Seconds later a noise of what sounded like a chainsaw massacre erupted throughout the house: the world's loudest vacuum cleaner had been switched on. I have never laughed so much in months: I sat on the staircase and had hysterics. Teenager was nearly crying with mirth, and my mum was similarly smitten with hilarity. It made every single minute spent there worthwhile. Needless to say, we didn't finish the job in case we woke the people in the next village. If laughter really does add minutes onto your lifespan, we all clocked up a couple of years last night.