Perils of staying in a stranger's house on holiday

Posted Friday 13th November 2015   By Ericka Waller

Staying at home is far easier than going away. So last weekend I thought I'd try one of those 'airbnb' accommodations. They are the 'in thing' right now apparently. I got quite excited when I looked at the website. Castles, igloos, villas.. each destination a 'unique travel experience'. We decided to go to the Cotswolds. Idyllic, picturesque, cobbled-streets. Beautiful countryside. The location I found promised peaceful leafy streets and luxury accommodation. Imagine my surprise when my Sat-Nav directed me through the overcrowded streets of Cheltenham, down the most complicated one-way system ever (I'm talking Monaco Grand Prix street circuit) before finally declaring 'You have reached your destination' outside a terraced townhouse with 'parking permit' only signs all over the place.

Oh, and we were three hours late as the M25 was so hideous. The children had crammed a whole night's sleep into one power-nap en-route, so were wide awake and raring to go, and it was piddling with rain. 

The autumnal leaves were like banana skins underfoot as we skidded up and down the steps to the front door, where I spent a good ten minutes trying to work out how to get the key out it's bomb-proof box.  

When we finally got inside, an overwhelming smell of curry hit us. It was freezing cold and the light switches were no in obvious places.

Desperate to explore, the children took the stairs two at a time, until they realised that the carpet tacks had not been hammered down and all started crying.

I had one thought going through my mind, dinner. We had our Ocado bag of goodies packed and ready to go. The kitchen (when we found it) boasted every mod-con you could wish for, it was just a shame that none of them worked.

After watching our vegan nut roast do naff all for half an hour, while our veg refused to roast, we caved in and ordered a cheeky nandos. The cheeky bit being the whole order was wrong. 

I gave up and went to bed, for warmth as much as anything. The children could not commit to a bedroom, so I spent the night staggering up and down the stairs stubbing my toe on nails (like that bit in Home Alone on the staircase)

The weekend went downhill from there. There was a small courtyard, which contained most of the leaves in the world. When the children wrenched the door open, the kitchen became like a scene from the Crystal Maze, with us all jumping about to gather them up.

The hot tap was cold. We were on the outskirts of a town. Instead of the long country walks I had planned for us, we ended up wandering round Wilko's to try and find things that might entertain children stuck indoors on a rainy day. Not just any house either. A house with nothing for children to do, and most alarmingly no Wifi.

Most of Sunday was spent looking out of the front, cracked window, trying to plot the quickest way to the car to outwit the incoming traffic wardens, who kindly offered advice on the 5000 places that you weren't able to park.

The closest I got to the countryside was when the kids kicked a dog poo hidden in the leaves.

I spent two days shouting at them for being noisy and disturbing the neighbours, touching other people's things, emptying wardrobes to make dens, locking themselves in the toilet and crayoning on the walls.

Staying in other people's houses is rubbish. It's like being a guest in someone else's home without them there tell you where anything is, or look after you, and you have to pay for it.

I have never been happier to be home.  

Interestingly, Airbnb, and nandos are on the shortlist for the marketing societies brand of the year 2015.

My money is on Lego. I could build a proper house.

 

And finally

I was worried the children were going to let me down during the two-minute silence. We were in a cafe and I felt like everyone was looking at us. I am pleased to report they picked up on the sombreness of the situation and sat silently. 

Initially I focussed my thoughts on family members who served in the the forces, but then my attention drifted. I noticed the dust, falling like specs of gold onto the table in front of me, the quiet hum of the coffee machine, the fizz of my sparkling water. My breathing slowed, my shoulders relaxed. 

When the two minutes were over, I came to. I felt like I had just woken up. Without knowing it, I had practised being mindful, present, aware of my surroundings.

Perhaps taking two-minutes out of every day to sit and reflect, to notice which way the wind is blowing, could have huge benefits to all. 

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