the visitors’ book

Just before she left for New Zealand, my elder daughter gave me a copy of Simon Hoggart’s Don’t Tell Mum: Hair-raising Messages Home from Gap Year Travellers, a collection of funny, surreal and frankly terrifying extracts from emails between travelling teens and their long-suffering parents. It was a follow-up to his collection of excerpts from Christmas round robins – a few examples here http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2004/jan/03/christmas.comment

After about 20 years of spending our holidays in rented cottages, I have decided that Hoggart should do something about the visitors’ book. I do not think we have stayed in a property that did not have one, and they provide a wealth of tantalising glimpses into the kind of holiday enjoyed (or not) by the people who came before you.

Unfortunately, the two properties we rented this year were relative newcomers to the holiday scene, so the visitors’ books were short. But to give you a taste, I’ve jotted down a few of my favourite entries.

Unsurprisingly – this is the UK – the weather is the main topic. Anyone who enjoys a lot of sunshine mentions it with surprise. However, few are quite as unfortunate as the family  who wrote of their week on Skye: ‘On the last day the rain finally fell vertically.’

As with so many family activities, a note of competition is always present, and on Skye that seems to centre on wildlife spotting. ‘On the way back we saw ravens mobbing a golden eagle,’ is bound to inspire jealousy, but I remain unconvinced by the family who claimed to have seen sea lions.

The best entries, though are the ones that give insights into family life, intentional or otherwise. ‘We took a trip on Loch Lomond but would recommend the one hour trip as opposed to two’ reminded me of some rather tense and tight-lipped times we have had when confined in a small space with difficult relatives. Finally, I rather like the sound of the ‘large and boysterous family’ who stayed in our property near Helensburgh. Given that they consisted of Mum, Dad, four sons and a lone daughter, perhaps the mis-spelling was deliberate.

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2 comments

  1. I’m not very familiar with these kinds of visitor books, as they are not really a custom here (not such that I’ve ever encountered anyway), though your post makes me wish they were! I’ve seen visitor books in bed & breakfast type inns, but most people just sign their names, where they’re from, and a quick “we had a great stay!” I’ve never read anything worth repeating, and certainly nothing nearly as entertaining as “on the last day the rain finally fell vertically.” Thanks for the laugh!

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