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The Visitors’ Book

I was trying to write a blog post yesterday, but after struggling through the first few paragraphs I realised I was hardly dashing away with the smoothing iron, so I stopped. I thought I might go back to it later, but I didn’t. Unusually, for me, I watched television until bedtime. This hardly ever happens and it felt like a great treat. Anyway, when I returned to this post today, I could see why it had felt laboured to write; when reading there was just no flow.

I had tried to give the reader some context to the post, but it felt a little offhand. I wanted you to know why I had come across a Visitors’ Book this weekend, but I wasn’t really committed to setting the scene properly. I wonder if I do that often. Anyway, that’s the context of the the context that follows. I’ve tried to tidy it up a bit but to be honest I think I am little bit blocked at the moment. Bear with me…

I have just stayed away for two nights in a nice little cottage (no open fire though). I had been co-opted onto the Wray Barton Wrecking Crew’s house hunting mission on Saturday although the first viewing was far too early for me and they went on their own with the two labradors, Jerry and Tramp, in the convertible Audi. The Audi is only relevant and name-checked because it was acting for a Land Rover and to stuff a Land Rover lifestyle into an Audi, even for a week, leaves some scars… They collected me at about ten for a round East Angular trip and it was only then that the whole endeavour started to remind me of a telly programme: think Location, Location, Location in a mash up with Two Fat Ladies (+1) and Blue Peter in the John Noakes and Shep era and you are partially there. There was also a Miranda moment too, namely when I shrieked like a fishwife ‘Big bend, big bend!’ I could go on, but to place a fig leaf over what remains of our anonymity I won’t. Suffice to say that, if you happened to see a black convertible with the roof down, containing the Mitchell Brothers of the Labrador frat, a jolly checked duvet and three unwashed women driving around Southwold at the weekend, that was us.

Anyway, after a day of all that wedged-in-a-convertible excitement, the required reading of an evening was the cottage’s Visitors’ Book. Sadly, because of the nature of our mission our doings were not things that we could usefully write about in The Book to aid future Visitors. We had discussed the true purpose of The Visitors’ Book at length. Is it, as the hosts seem to encourage, an opportunity to feedback on their performance – good or bad? Or is it more reasonable, as we finally decided, a place in which to record useful local information for other guests? After all, what use is it to know that the cottage is ‘Paradise’ itself when you are already in situ. Far better to be told where the best pub for lunch is, or the spot for a good walk, surely? We also decided that too many people confuse The Book with a metereological log, using its hallowed pages to record the state of the weather during their sojourn. Visitor Book contributors, please note: weather updates constitute entirely useless information for both future guests and the owners.

An example of this would be when we learned that three years ago, some visitors from the next county along, ‘arrived in fog…’ – gripping. We learned that many people had been there in rain. And that at least as many again had been there in sun. Marvellous. More entertaining were the repeat visitors: one couple had returned seven times (lack of imagination?), another couple drily remarked that on this, their ‘third visit,’ the grass remained uncut for the third time… Clearly, uncut grass, although worth remarking upon is not a deterrent to repeat bookings.

Then there were the remarks helpfully directed at the hosts. Most praised their hospitality and general fab ‘ness’ (we did not see them). No-one kvetched about the laminated sign in the conservatory asking guests to water the twenty-five ferns in individual pots with a cup of water every single day (we did not – kvetch or water). We noted that there were a number of sink leaks about the place, but this had been partially covered by a previous commenter who wrote, ‘The plug designer should be shot.’ There was also the guest who felt that the sensitive period conversion of the cottage had clearly been ‘done by a woman,’ because men ‘bang their head on the ceiling’ when they want to wee in one of the en-suites.

The best comment though was the person who wrote something along the lines that their stay had been generally wonderful, closing with the remark,

‘Us watching Bill the Cat. Bill the Cat watching us.’

Surreal. A period cottage can do that to you. Especially one with ferns that demand to be watered, central heating that carries a warning not to be tinkered with despite the screaming groans of the pipework all day long. We did not write anything about this. Neither did we mention the rough towels, the poor flush on the toilets, the leaking sinks, the counter-intuitively positioned cutlery drawers and the head fuck of a crockery cupboard. I didn’t comment that the vicious roses round the gate needed a trim and that the officious little note on the kitchen table carrying all kinds of commands about smoking and spot fines and taking out rubbish and stripping the beds and cleaning dog hair before departure made me feel quite surly about the whole paradise thing. I didn’t warn future guests that the local hostelry ‘The Cardinals Hat’ plays extremely loud music and has disease-ridden radiators, (not to mention the missing titular apostrophe which leaves one unsure if many cardinals are making do with the one mitre between them due to the triple-dip recession).

In short, we left The Visitors’ Book blank: its loss is your gain. Perhaps.

Tramp being asked to write in The Visitors' Book

Tramp being asked to write inThe Visitors’ Book

Jerry being asked... etc.

Jerry being asked… etc.

Free epamphlet for labrador lovers (and terrapins)

I have a free download this Grand National weekend for my latest bitesize memoir, about walking dogs in the East End of London.

This story includes my close encounter with terrapins in the ‘hood.

Click on the cover to download.

I’ll be back…

In the meantime I am leaving the blog being minded by these two lads. I like to call them the Mitchell Bruvvers.

Nobody make any sudden moves, alright?



One for the Labrador Massive

Not sure if they come round here much anymore, but if they do, they know who they are…

Chilling like villains

The worlds two shiniest Mitchell Brother dogs – on a chaise longue no less.

I wouldnt mind some of that myself right about now (the chaise longue, not Phil & Grant).

Another dog

I am holding onto today’s thoughts about the news that about 9% of children (the majority being boys) start secondary school with the reading age of an 7 year old. Don’t worry, I’ll let go of that particular volley in due course…

The reason for this is uncharacteristic circumspection is that there is a blog queue.

First up, and following on from the escaped Brazilian dog at the airport, this is a picture produced by the 6 year old for her esteemed and rather fun aunt, a recent visitor. We understand the masterpiece now decorates the walls of world domination at the epicentre of the universe that is Wray Barton.

This is Jerry

Jerry is the Senior Partner in the Wray Barton Wrecking Crew Labrador Division.

He has bragging and tennis ball rights which he exercises without  fear or favour.

He is so black and so labrador that he defies a quick snap in a rented kitchen – he demands a studio portrait.

Sorry mate.

He is actually awake, but is refusing to co-operate

This is Tramp

He is a black dog.  He is also a kneecapper if you are standing in his way in a doorway.  He is also a prodigious licker of plates and icing off cakes.  If you show him a sack of dog food he will jump into it up to his hairy elbows.  If you leave him with a sack of food he will eat himself to the very point of death.  If you don’t leave him with a sack of food I strongly suspect he will plot how to get hold of one anyway.

Anyway, as I said, this is Tramp: look into his eyes.

(Tomorrow, meet Jerry.  Jerry is a black dog…)

A Lady and Tramp

Sport, that thing I usually find most diverting and uplifting in life (well one of the things) just seems deeply disappointing to me at the moment. Is it just me? Am I viewing everything through the prism labelled “back to school”? It seems I cannot go a day without hearing some new depressing corruption or malign behaviour in so many sports. This is the evidence that suggests I am not entirely made of Eeyorish tendencies in this respect:-

# Harlequins has turned into a club for mutants
# Chelsea are still Chelsea but they have been exposed
# Millwall have reverted to their mad, bad ways
# Renault stands accused of ordering Nelson Piquet Jr to crash in Singapore to benefit the boy prince Alonso
# Caster Semenya’s gender trial has been conducted in the most cruel Roman way
# Arsenal are already driving me to distraction
# Man City are accused of tapping up too (whatever that is (I know, but it’s an odd term)).
# We have to endure another season of Sir Alex’s posturing
# As above except it’s Rafa’s bleating about the above
# Less than 24 hours after Usain Bolt’s historic 200m victory the pundits were saying he would make the  sport “boring”
# We have diving, butting, stamping, shirt-pulling, elbows and teeth and great quantities of Colombia’s national crop going up hooters
# In fact, the only thing I can see that one might be uplifted by, is Andy Murray’s rampant tennis progress, but even as a half Scot, I cannot get at all excited by his dismal countenance (and after I drafted this he got beat in the US Open)

Oh and what I would look forward to, The Arc, I can’t because we don’t know what the great Sea the Stars is doing that day and if he runs I will be too anxious about him suffering a defeat to enjoy a thing. I am so hoping he will be washing his mane on October the 4th, but I know A GREAT cannot shirk the big question for the sake of vanity.

So I have looked outside the box for a sporting hero to admire and I have found one – our youngest daughter’s lovely Godmother who went in for an exciting event last weekend. Known as CaniX, this is cross-country running for woman or man and beast. Last Saturday she powered round Exeter racecourse tied to the lab formerly known as Tramp. I don’t know what they are calling him after this amazing feat but I proffer “Super Tramp”.

As they were at Exeter racecourse my race report reads (this garnered entirely from an eye-witness account and stills):-

 “Punters never had a moment’s doubt as the Lady skipped clear at the furlong pole (notwithstanding the Tramp who we suspect of not putting it all in at times…) and passed the post in glorious isolation to the roar of the crowd.” Ok, I made the last bit up, but they do it for me 🙂

Noble contenders in a dirty world!

Noble contenders in a dirty world!