Holidays: Where Did They Go?

For those inclined to visit here, you will well know my ingrained incompetence with preparing for and organising family holidays. So much so that, in so far as is possible, I am banned from such chores these days. Today we are off on another such adventure, this time to Iceland to celebrate one of our number reaching a nice round figure. In honour of that event and the fact that blogging may become a touch sporadic for the next week – who knows – here is my introduction to the Wondrously and Egregiously Awful Holiday Company, Dickhead Tours from 2016. I hope it never happens to you…

Back in the mid 1990s, when the Lawyer and the Vet were small we regularly holidayed in Devon. Soon enough this became a tradition – the early start, the Little Chef breakfast and the difficult choice of Butterfly farm/Otter sanctuary/model railway at Buckfast or the caves and model village at Torbay before checking into our cottage for the week.

97300008

Happy days. We loved it. So much so that when one of the cottages we stayed in, in Kingston, near Buckfast, came to be offered on a  timeshare basis we decided to buy a week – the first week of the school holidays in July. This cottage was one of about ten that had been developed out of old farm buildings and which surrounded a rather magnificent old manor house.

We had been going for three or four years when we decided to invite my Mum and Dad to join us. The children could share a room and show the petting farm and the lanes around the complex to their grandparents. That year we also decided that, loving Devon as we did, we would take a second cottage in the north near Barnstaple and move on there after our timeshare week.

All they way down to Devon the children competed over who would show which grandparent what favourite thing. We took our time, having agreed to meet Mum and Dad by the manor house at 5pm – they were coming straight from their house in the New Forest.

The day was balmy, the mood upbeat and as we pulled in front of the big house, Dad climbed out of his battered old rover with a large grin on his face.

96930021

‘Not bad, boy.’ He always called me ‘boy’. By my late 30s I’d got used to it. I could afford to be magnanimous and indulge his irritating little ways. After all we were to be the gracious hosts for the week. The Lawyer and the Vet grabbed their grandma’s hands and pulled her to see the rabbits and goat. The Textiliste went in search of the milk and bread we had pre-ordered and I led Dad to meet the owner, a delightful man of military bearing and a somewhat careworn disposition, though always friendly.

Mr Wotsit (I’ve let his name slip away over time) opened the door and I re-introduced myself (assuming he wouldn’t remember me from a year before) and my father. ‘Mr Le Pard. Er, well, welcome. I’m er, why don’t you come into the office?’

He wasn’t his usual avuncular self. Oh well, I thought, it must be trying for him, the change-over day.

‘Now, where are we?’ Mr Wotsit pushed his glasses up his nose and fiddled with the papers on his desk. No computers back then, of course.

Meanwhile the Textiliste appeared. She raised an eyebrow. ‘No milk or bread.’

Mr Wotsit looked perturbed. “Really? I’m so sorry. Look, let’s get you booked in and I’m sure we can sort that out.’

‘There’s another car in front of our cottage.’ She said this just stating the fact but Mr Wotsit grimaced like he was having appendix problems. ‘Oh dear.’

Time for Mum and the children to join us. ‘When can we show granny her room?’ The Lawyer was bouncing with excitement, mostly because he had been freed from the tyranny of the car seat restraint.

Mrs Wotsit joined us. Somehow, when bad news is imminent there’s a magnetism that draws people in, like to a public hanging. I think I knew something was up when I heard the milk and bread weren’t ready.

‘I’m sorry Mr Le Pard….’

If I could I would have stopped him there. Just let me ease everyone away, like rubber-neckers passing an accident, I silently begged; I didn’t need them all gawping at my inevitable loss of face.

‘What’s up?’ Dad was always a great person to have on your side in an argument. The bellicose side of his nature was building up a head of steam. In a way, I should have been grateful that he was making an assumption in my favour. If there’s an error, so his tone indicated, it’s not my son’s. He’s a partner in a  firm of solicitors. He’s a big cheese, the grandest of fromages. It can’t be his error, whatever it is.

Instead of gratitude, I just wished he wasn’t there.

‘It seems there’s been a mistake with the dates,’ said Mr Wotsit.

‘Well,’ said the old man, growing into his self-appointed role as defender of his son’s honour, ‘what are you going to do about it?’

97300016

‘I’m sure we can sort something out,’ Mr Wotsit whispered to his wife who nodded, like this wasn’t the first time such an error had occurred.

I glanced at the Textiliste who smiled in sympathy. ‘Can you explain, Mr Wotsit, what the problem is?’

‘I’m afraid, Mrs Le Pard, that you are due next week. You are a week early. And,’ he didn’t need to add this but he was determined there was no misunderstanding, ‘ your cottage is let to someone else this week.’ That would have done but on he went. ‘And we have no spare accommodation.’

Dad looked around at the assembled multitude. At least the presence of his grandchildren excised the expletives from the next sentence. ‘He’, everyone knew who ‘he’ was, ‘He got the week wrong? How on earth do you get the week wrong?’

‘Oh it’s easy,’ said Mr Wotsit. He really wasn’t helping. He held up a chart with each week colour coded. ‘The school holidays are shown in red, representing the high season, but these are the state school holidays. If your children are at a private school with different term dates…’ For once he left it hanging. ‘I’m sure we can find a solution.’ Even to me, now desperate for some sort of reprieve, it sounded lame.

By now Dad had shifted allegiance. ‘Let me get this right. It is Saturday evening at 5.30. In the holiday season. We don’t have any accommodation for the night let alone for the week….’

‘… next week, you have the cottage here and you are, of course, welcome…’

Dad held up a hand, ‘…next week he,’ the ‘hes’ were being increasingly emphasised, but not in a good way – he hadn’t started the finger jab yet but the jaw jut was in overdrive, ‘he has two cottages, one here and one in Barnstaple. Well bully for him. What about tonight?’

‘Shall we have some tea?’ Mrs Wotsit looked at Mum.

Mum nodded. ‘Can I help?’

‘I need something a f…’ Dad wasn’t to be mollified by tea.

‘Desmond!’

‘… damn sight stronger than tea.’

‘Scotch?’ Mr Wotsit was a shrewd judge of character.

‘Best thing you’ve said since we arrived. He…’ me again, ‘doesn’t drink.’ This was said as if it partly explained the catastrophe that confronted us.

The Textiliste put a hand on the heads to the Lawyer and the Vet. ‘Why don’t you show me the goat? I think Daddy and Grandpa want to have a little chat with nice Mr Wotsit.’

I understood her motives; shelter the children from acts of violence however justified; hide them from examples of family breakdown. But it felt like desertion.

Dad waited until he heard the front door shut behind his grandchildren.

‘How effing incompetent are you? You tell me you hold down a job? No one, surely, no one in their right mind..’ He lost thread and started again, ‘A lawyer, are you? People pay you to help them make complex decisions and here you are as useless as a chocolate teapot, as an ashtray on a motorcycle. I knew lawyers were full of bullshit but you take the biscuit,’ my dad could be extraordinarily eloquent when on a roll. ‘You know you should set up a holiday company as a side line. You could call it Dickhead Tours and plan to take people away when they don’t want to go. That’d be your USP. Pillock.’

I’ve been the subject of many of dad’s exponential rants but, fortunately, Mr Wotsit was a man with both an admirably equitable temperament and a neat line in damping down incendiary guests. ‘Mr Le Pard?’ We both turned to look. He was holding a phone to his ear. ‘I’m calling my sister-in-law. She runs English Country Cottages. Maybe something is available.’

‘Don’t be bloody ridiculous, man. It’s Saturday, it’s nearly 6 and…’

‘Could you pour us a drink Mr Le Pard? I’ll have a Laphroaig.’ Malt whiskey was probably the only thing that, right then, could have distracted Dad.

By the time he had served two generous measures, Mr Wotsit was talking to someone. Dad whispered to me, calmer now he had a medicinal glass in his hand. ‘God knows why your darling wife is so calm. If I were her, I’d have …’ Even he couldn’t decide on the punishment but his expression suggested I’d not be siring further children.

‘I think she realised you’d do it for her.’

‘Hmm. Wise woman.’ Dad slumped in a chair, nursing the amber liquid and awaited confirmation that I was irredeemably hopeless. We didn’t have to wait long.

‘Good news. There’s a cottage – about ten miles away, near Bantham – that is due to be made available next week but it is all set now. It doesn’t have the English Country Cottages’ welcome box but I agreed we would provide that. It has three rooms, a bit smaller than here and of course it doesn’t have all the amenities but it is…’

‘We’ll take it.’ I didn’t want to seem too keen.

Mr Wotsit beamed, luxuriating in his role as hero. ‘Shall we tell your wife?’ He picked up his scotch and led us to the hall. Mum and Mrs Wotsit appeared with the tea-things and we went outside to meet the children and the Textiliste. She has one very expressive eyebrow, her left. Just then it rose in the obvious question and I gave a small if rather vigorous thumbs up. Tea was laid on a small table, scones offered to the children and Mum poured.

‘Now Mr Le Pard.’ Mr Wotsit was back in business mode. ‘Next week. Do you want to keep your cottage here, or go to Barnstaple?’ The Lawyer led the chant of ‘here, here’ followed by the Vet and, laughing, the Textiliste. Mr Wotsit’s smile reached his ears. ‘Marvellous. I will speak to my sister-in-law and see if we cannot sell the Barnstaple week for you. No promises.’

My father had been somewhat deflated by my stroke of luck and was only just joining us at this point. ‘Sell the week? He’s not going to get money back, is he?’

‘Oh I should have thought so. Cottages are like gold dust and…’ Even Mr Wotsit was shrewd enough to realise this wasn’t good news for everyone. ‘There will of course be an administrative deduction and it may not be possible to get the full rate.’

‘Harrumph.’

We found the new cottage easily enough. The ECC rep was helpfulness personified. I filled in the forms, wrote a cheque for the week and we moved in. The Vet’s antennae has always been acute. ‘Grandpa, will you read to me tonight?’ Dad loved reading to the children.

And so we enjoyed the week; it wasn’t as good as our timeshare, but the cottage had a swimming pool and it was only about three miles for the enormous sandy beaches at Bantham and Bigbury. Everyone had a splendid time.

The rep appeared on the Tuesday, to check everything was ok. When we assured him it was, he asked me if we could have a quick word. ‘Mr Wotsit suggested I speak to you in private,’ he glanced nervously at my dad who was feeding eggy soldiers to his grand-daughter. ‘Just to let you know we’ve managed to sell the Barnstaple Cottage for you. I have a cheque here.’ He handed it to me, folded. I opened it and slipped it in my wallet. We said no more, nodded our farewells and went our separate ways.

Half an hour later, as Mum and Dad were making ready to go out, the Textiliste sidled up to me. ‘Well, why the cloak and dagger?’

‘They sold Barnstaple.’

‘Great.’ When I didn’t volunteer  any more, she said, ‘And?’

‘We made a profit. I’ve got back more than this cottage cost.’

We both looked at my father, coming downstairs with a big smile on his face as he swung the Vet off her feet. It seemed a shame to ruin the rest of his holiday.

97280020

and finally, the two men are reconcilled in sleep…

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published four books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars, Salisbury Square and Buster & Moo. In addition I have published two anthologies of short stories, Life, in a Grain of Sand and Life in a Flash. More will appear soon, including a memoir of my mother's last years. I will try and continue to blog regularly at geofflepard.com about whatever takes my fancy. I hope it does yours too. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
This entry was posted in holidays, humour and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

39 Responses to Holidays: Where Did They Go?

  1. Oh, to have the upper hand!. Love it. Hey, enjoy Iceland and I am pleased that you made it there and I am sure the Textiliste will proclaim it to be her best holiday 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. willowdot21 says:

    I cannot tell you how often I have enjoyed this post …Dick Head holidays…Love it, I see another book.💜
    Have a great holiday, I think you will all love Iceland, if you’ve not already been. My eldest though it was amazing. 💜💜

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Norah says:

    This is priceless, Geoff. I love it. I agree with Willow. There must be a book of Dick Head holidays. You must be such a patient man to have suffered your father’s dissertations. I laughed all the way through your story, but I’m sure it wasn’t all that pleasant at the time. You did well; and just right to make a tiny profit. It wouldn’t have done to have told your father and spoiled his holiday. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Aw, more like a misunderstanding really. Hope Iceland is fun and celebratory!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Ritu says:

    Oh what a pallaver!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Mary Smith says:

    I remember reading this, Geoff, and it was just as funny reading it again. I hope you enjoy the trip to Iceland – and hope you didn’t ‘organise’ it!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. It is really great to read a story where everything worked out so well.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. barbtaub says:

    I loved every word—even your (totally undeserved) good luck at the end.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. What a wonderful story–and that last pic is so great! Hope we’ll see pics of Iceland. Enjoy!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. All’s well that ends well, and a little profit to boot. Can’t be bad. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      I hope he’s not reading this because if so I can just imagine him shaking the paper (he’d only read this blog if it was in print but I assume the hereafter will cater for all reading predilections), while sunk into his cloud and saying, ‘Barbara, have you read this? Tell me you didn’t know Barbara. Barbara where have you gone…?’

      Liked by 2 people

  11. Darlene says:

    I absolutely love your family stories. This one was precious! My dad always said, “If things didn’t go wrong on holidays, we wouldn’t have anything to talk about.” (or write about in this case).

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Eliz~ says:

    Your family is a treasure. You are so blessed.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. What a super story. I loved your dad’s choice of words. I thin single malt might be a good luck charm.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. You wore a tie on holiday? Oh so English 😀 Wonderful story. I hope you make a profit on Iceland too. It’s very popular it seems as if everyone is going there in recent months…… And happy nice round birthday to you or the Textiliste. (I’m sure it’s not Mylo’s)

    Liked by 1 person

  15. JT Twissel says:

    I believe I’ve read a similar story – if not this one – on your blog before. In my family it was my father who couldn’t be trusted to get the week’s right. He was the original absent minded professor. We often ended up sleeping on beaches!

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      Yep 2016 was the original post. I used to argue that my life was so busy that these things were inevitable only that never really washed with equally bust yet competent people.

      Like

  16. Mick Canning says:

    So, Geoff, who organised the Iceland holiday?

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Long before I came to it, I was thinking ‘Dickhead Tours’ 🙂 Great story

    Liked by 1 person

If you would like to reply please do so here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.