The Ducks are currently on holiday (sorry, vacation) in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Not an obvious choice, I know, but it was the furthest place we could think of that would involve sunshine and beaches and balance maximum air mile usage (Drake has a bucket and spade load) with a survivable flight time (seven hours to Boston was only mildly hellish). Plus the US is really child friendly. As is advisable for any holiday with small children, we're staying in a rented house rather than a hotel. The house is great - traditional shingled exterior, a stone's throw from the beach with a creek out back and a canoe! However, as with every rented house / villa / apartment I've ever stayed in (and I'm going back to my own childhood here), the photos and descriptions on which you make your choice don't quite tell the whole story. Here follows a list of Duck Family holiday home certainties:
- You'll be slightly creeped out by the unfamiliar, mildly (sometimes very) shabby interior for the first day or two, and spend a lot of time with your feet tucked under you in case a hand reaches out from under the sofa and grabs your ankles or a bug runs up your trouser leg.
- The kitchen will be stocked to the gunnels with a hodge podge of gadgets and gizmos that you don't even recognise, let alone need, but it will be devoid of several essential bits of kit that most people use every day. Our house this year has a crab pot and crab claw crackers (to be fair, we are in Cape Cod, seafood capital of the US), a Nutribullet, a capsule coffee maker with no capsules and no indication of what capsules it takes, three Tupperware tub lids (no actual Tupperware) and six chip 'n' dip bowls. It entirely lacks wooden spoons, a functioning potato peeler, sharp knives, a salad bowl, a proper chopping board, egg cups or any form of spatula.
- At some stage, the house will be invaded by unwelcome wildlife. In the past we've shared our home with mice (twice actually), a swarm of harvest spiders, giant centipedes, ants, feral cats and, my favourite, a "ghost", which may or may not have actually been one of the rats that lived in the tree outside rummaging through our bins. My Dad took us to the best places when we were kids...
- There will come a point, usually three or four days in, where you sit out on a lounger at dusk, gin and tonic in hand, surrounded by chirping insects, and you'll say "why the hell do we live in the UK?" Then a moth the size of a sparrow will get stuck in your hair and you'll remember why.
- The house will contain at least one fundamental design flaw / oversight that will bug you all week. This year it's the lack of a full length mirror anywhere, and a parasol so small that only one person can sit in the shade at a time.
- Your welcome pack will contain local idioms or bad translations that make you laugh out loud. My all time favourite was in France, where the local restaurant guide suggested we eat somewhere with a speciality of "raw cow with truffle soil". I think they meant steak tartare with truffle oil, but we avoided that particular dish anyway, just in case.
- Something will break or go wrong at some stage, often following a thunder storm that trips all the fuses. This year, it was a smoke alarm which woke us all up at 6 am due to a flat backup battery, then proceeded to beep intermittently for most of the morning until Drake found a loose wire and plugged the battery back in to charge. What a man!
- However "child friendly" the blurb claims it to be, there will be at least one major hazard that you child will seek out within minutes of arrival. Like a sodding great river in the garden... Or the sharp, terracotta tiled steps my sister slipped on the first time she climbed them, necessitating a dash to a Spanish A&E for some chin stitches.
- The artwork / décor / furniture will sit somewhere on a scale of "not quite to my taste" to "were they on f**king acid?!". Best ever = the house in Provence with a giant mural of The Cat In The Hat on the bathroom wall. That cat was no prude about folks in the nude... (sorry).
- Whatever your initial misgivings, by the end of your stay you will have grown rather fond of the place and won't want to leave. I will almost certainly shed a little tear tomorrow when we go, though we do at least have a few more days in a hotel in Boston to round off the holiday nicely. Cue multiple accidental calls to reception, obsessive knocking on other people's doors and mini shampoo bottles emptied out on the carpet. Give me a rubbish potato peeler any day..
"I go boat in Mummy's doos? Yes?" (N.B. we did not allow him to go out in the canoe in my shoes. Or indeed at all...)