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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.