Finding a suitable holiday home to satisfy everyone in my social group is virtually impossible. I have managed it somehow or other for several years in the past, but pleasing everyone has proved very difficult. Search criteria: 16 adults, 1 dog, coastal, 10 bedrooms, 8 bathrooms, parking. Every year I say “Never again!”
Our self catering holidays started many years ago, after several trips to Cornwall that I organised, staying in a hotel in Perranporth. Someone suggested that it would be fun to try self catering instead, and that person made enquiries at a holiday complex on the Norfolk coast where she had enjoyed a good group holiday many years ago. Eight of us and a dog stayed in the same chalets as she had done, but they had deteriorated badly over the years and were not very clean, nor properly functional, as we had to have the heating on to get hot water in our chalet, in a heatwave during July. The holiday was enjoyable, but suffice it to say that none of us would ever want to go back to that holiday home.
The following year I organised a holiday in Scotland for us, which had come about by accident when I put a deposit down on a holiday for two in a hotel on the bank of a Scottish Loch, which could be taken any time during the next eighteen months, and which could be expanded to include other members of our social group, at the same discount rates. This turned out to be the best ever holiday our social group would enjoy. There were twelve of us and a dog eventually. The weather was perfect, the accommodation was perfect in newly refurbished chalets attached to a hotel, and the company was almost perfect. We toured the local area, visited some fantastic gardens every day, went through Glen Coe, up Ben Nevis, had a boat trip up to the top of a loch and had another boat trip to the Isle of Mull. We had breakfast together every day in the adjacent hotel, eat out lunchtimes and some evenings, and took it in turns to cook for each other on other evenings. There was a bit of friction between a married couple, and another bit of friction between two of the cooks in our group, but it didn’t spoil our holiday. None of us will go back there again though. We don’t want to spoil our memory of our idyllic holiday.
After that thirteen of us and a dog stayed in a 16th century Scottish Manor which was supposedly haunted. We had fun trying to spot the ghost, and looking for secret passages. The accommodation was perfect, the location was perfect, the company was almost perfect and there was only one person who threw a wobbly to my knowledge.
The men drove the cars as we toured the borders of Scotland, went to Hadrian’s Wall, saw a lot of Roman remains, visited castles, or watched a gay wedding at Gretna Green. Every night we returned to base for a slap up meal which was cooked by two of our more culinary members, helped by the rest of the women. One night we had a posh nosh party cooked by a couple of local ladies. We would go back there again, but not during the summer. It would be a great venue for a Christmas to New Year gathering. I have been working on the Murder Mystery Party script that we could perform while we are there.
Another year I found a couple of linked adjacent cottages a couple of miles or so away from Dartmouth. We were lucky enough to have the use of an indoor heated swimming pool in a barn on the holiday complex. Eight of us and a dog enjoyed that holiday, although there was a slight hiccup when one of the ladies got left behind in Dartmouth when we went back to our car on the park and ride bus. She was Spanish and had no idea where she was staying. She was very frightened, but had the sense to get on the next bus back to the car park, where we were waiting anxiously. Apart from that, the holiday worked well with no friction between us.
The following year the decision was to go to Mevagissey. How lucky was I to find the perfect accommodation for the sixteen of us plus two dogs? That property had an outdoor pool, heated by solar panels. However, only two people were tempted to swim in it, one of them wearing a wet suit. I don’t remember any major friction on that holiday, except for the usual irritations caused by a couple of our group members. Unfortunately the weather was not as good as it could have been and three of our party went home early.
In 2011 I found a fantastic house in Saundersfoot, Pembrokeshire, overlooking Tenby Bay. This holiday turned out to be disastrous for some of us. There were eleven of us, with no dog this time, although another three and a dog found their own accommodation nearby. We had the most magnificent sea views, and a resident one-legged seagull called Heather who we were not supposed to feed, but some of us did. Unfortunately our otherwise idyllic holiday was horribly spoiled by one of the couples having a daily argument which we were all affected by, when eventually the male of the pair thankfully stormed off home, leaving his partner to beg a lift back from someone who had space in their car. Another couple were their usual irritating selves, but by this time we were getting used to their monopoly of the kitchen in the mornings and avoided the area. The final disaster was that one of our party was ill all through the holiday, she also had sciatica and had to use a wheelchair to get about. Finally she succumbed to her pain and she and her husband went home before the end of the week. She was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer later that month and sadly died the next February.
In 2014 I was commissioned to find another property again, in Devon this time. I had the worst time trying to find somewhere that satisfied a couple of our members and almost gave up the job.
Our party of pensioners are difficult to please, to say the least. Everyone wants their own en suite. One couple want to have both a shower and a bath, none of our singles want to share a twin room. Some want a bath, some want a shower. One wants to be near a town in case it is bad weather. Others want to be near a sandy beach. There must be good cooking facilities, a garden for the dogs and separate living areas where some can quietly watch TV while others play noisy games. There must be plenty of off road parking. Some won’t come if some others are going. Some say it depends on where it is. Some don’t drive so rely of others giving them a lift. How on earth am I supposed to find the ideal property? If and when I find a property, some people change their minds about going, or some others decide that they want to come. Some people don’t even look at their emails. By the time I have collected a deposit from everyone the numbers will have changed and the property might be booked, or too expensive for the remaining group to afford. I start looking for properties for ten, then others say they want to come, so I try to find bigger properties, then some drop out. Geez!
However, for September 2014, which was supposed to have been a June holiday, I eventually found a large “Gentleman’s Residence” in Ilfracombe which satisfied enough of the group members to make the holiday viable. Not my ideal place to stay, I have to say, but it satisfied most criteria, although I thought the property looked a bit run down. It had a large communal lounge and a snug, plus a games room on the ground floor. The kitchen, utility and dining areas were all down in the basement, opening to the back garden, as the house was on a slope. It supposedly slept 19 so there were enough rooms for most of the singles not to have to share. Some rooms were bigger and better than others. I knew we would have arguments about who inhabited the better rooms, and who would be left with the worst, and I wasn’t wrong. One couple even objected to the singles paying the same per person as the couples, because they would be getting a double or twin room to themselves! There were thirteen of us on this holiday plus two dogs, one being a chihuahua. I couldn’t take my own, as she was too young, so she had to go into kennels.
What could possibly go wrong? Plenty did.
One day out early in the week was my idea. My favourite walk from Lynmouth to Watersmeet and back. It is only 2 miles there and 2 miles back. I’ve done it many times years ago. This time though the usual gradually sloping gentle walk on the right side of the river was blocked off after about half a mile and we had to cross to the left bank. I didn’t want to do it because I knew that there was a steep and rugged walk on that side, but everyone insisted we continued. We did actually all manage to make it to Watersmeet, but the more physically challenged of us were not able to go any further, certainly not able to make the rocky descent back to the car park in Lynmouth. I was hoping that the local bus would pass Watersmeet, but it didn’t. We had no mobile reception. The men were toying with the idea of walking back to get their cars to transport the less able back, but the staff in the National Trust property there suggested we called a taxi from their landline which we did. Disaster was averted.
There was a bit of friction on some other days after that. No-one wanted to take charge of organising the next day before we went to bed. Some people, not liking the facilities in the kitchen walked into town for breakfast at Weatherspoons, and by the time they got back other people had gone out for the day, without saying where. Some people got the hump at being left out. The holiday was a little haphazard. However, it made for an interesting evening gathering when we all compared notes about where we had been.
Last year, 2015, someone else volunteered to organise our annual holiday to give me a break, but it never got off the ground. I had a go at trying to find somewhere for a September holiday, but got little response from our group members, so gave up looking. Likewise this year. I started looking directly after New Year. I found a property to tempt them and made a suggestion that we should go to Cornwall in May. Only five people bothered to respond that they were interested, two of whom were not sure that they would be able to afford it. I gave up.
This year I am going to Cornwall, come hell or high water. I miss it.
My daughter is coming over from Canada in mid June. I searched the internet for holiday properties suitable for two singles and a dog. Then I decided I would up the odds of finding somewhere suitable and asked my son if he would like to come with his partner as well. To my astonishment he agreed. So the search criteria became easier. Or so I thought. Search criteria: Cornwall, coastal, four adults, 1 dog, 3 bedrooms, enclosed garden, internet access, parking. Should be easy. Umpteen websites with umpteen properties to rent. Now put in the dates. Where have they all gone? Does everyone book a year in advance or something? It’s not as if I am choosing to go during the school holidays. I take away the coastal filter and get a few more to choose from, most of them in the wrong area. I want to be somewhere near Perranporth, preferably between Padstow and St Ives.
I have been searching for weeks and weeks, all day and every day. The results keep changing. I ended up with a list of properties, none of which were perfect for one reason or another.
So I had about thirty properties to choose from. I shortlisted it. Some were too far down into Cornwall, some were too far inland. I ended up with five properties that were possibilities, one of which had been rented out by this time.
My main concern had been finding a property suitable for my dog, that had an escape proof garden, not full of plants for her to dig up, and preferably with a tile floored utility area in the kitchen for her dog playpen, so she couldn’t damage the floor. It is surprising how many properties have wooden floors these days. Totally unsuitable for dogs. I could just see her skidding along and scratching the beautifully polished flooring!
The next priority was finding somewhere that was close enough to a dog friendly beach that we could walk to, rather than have to use the car and have to pay for car parking. That narrowed the results down a lot. Only two properties satisfied that criteria. One near Padstow, one near Marazion. No contest then!
Unfortunately, the property near Padstow had only two usable bedrooms, as the bunks in the third bedroom were only suitable for a child. Could we all manage? My daughter and I would have to share a twin room, but at least we could get some privacy by using the bunk room to dress in. Anyway I would probably spend half the night sleeping on the settee in the conservatory where I intended to put my dog’s playpen and basket. But the property is half a mile walk from the beach and just across a field is the South West Coastal Path. We can leave the car at home and walk to at least three beaches, maybe four if we catch a bus back. My daughter can be independent if she wants to be. My son and his partner will be on his motorbike and doing their own thing most of the time anyway. My young dog has a safe garden to play in, where she can’t cause any damage, and a huge doggy walking area around her, where we hopefully won’t run into too many canine distractions.
So on Saturday, after consultation with both my daughter and my son, I applied to rent the property near Padstow. I held my breath until Monday morning when I got an email in return to say that the property was still available. My cheque for the deposit went off last night, and I am hoping I will soon I hear back that it has definitely been booked in my name.
To members of my social group, those who said they still wanted to come down to Cornwall in June to join us on holiday, I emailed links to a few websites where there are still properties nearby available to rent, and invited them to a house party in our holiday property if we have a rainy day or a barbecue in the garden on a sunny evening after a day at the beaches nearby. They can now find their own properties if they so wish.
Now I can sit back and relax, study the area, plan our holiday activities, write poetry, get out in my garden maybe.
Phew! Never again!