PC 295 ‘The Holiday Swap’

I must have read this little piece in some travel magazine in a dentist’s waiting room, so it was way before COVID and the associated suggestion that anything you touched might carry the virus!! It’s always amazing just how many copies of magazines are published weekly and monthly; in the UK it’s about 2800 magazines each year. The more upmarket the dentist’s Practice, the more up-to-date the reading material.

If you don’t buy magazines, then arriving slightly earlier than the appointed time will give you a chance to catch up; fortunately the days of year-old magazines seems to have disappeared! Some of you may remember I saw a photograph in one-such magazine of a chap doing yoga and sweating profusely; this led to me asking a friend what type of yoga made you sweat and off we went to the Bikram Yoga Studio in Balham one Wednesday evening. That class was on 11th March 2009; never looked back and now it’s a vital part of my life.

I digress; I think it best to simply reproduce the story entitled ‘The Holiday Swap’ verbatim:

“Annie and I had thought for some time about doing a house swap abroad for a couple of week’s holiday. We had read how people had become frequent ‘swappers’ and had loved the random nature of the places available to them. Not for them the standard Time Share in Torremolinos in Spain (Note 1) or the second home on the Falmouth Estuary in Cornwall. We had invested in neither but, knowing that we were swapping with someone who was going to live in our home, it felt like we could trust the arrangements. What could go wrong, I thought? (Note 2)  We would each treat the others’ house as our own. One advertisement stood out from hundreds of others on www.holidayswapsfunguaranteed.com , a beach house in the Bahamas.

“We’re open to swapping with a professional non-smoking couple for two weeks in May. No children. Go to www.seashorevilla.co.bs for photos etc.” Nice and simple; their website showed a beach house in Red Bay on the north of the largest island, one we could easily live in and Trip Advisor confirmed others had loved it.

Once we had established what would be included and what not, for instance car insurance, and would they look after our cats, eventually we decided this was ‘good to go’, as they say.

Tropical Storm Rupert has the potential to turn into a hurricane and may head towards the coast of Florida and further east”; the radio murmured in the background as I put the final items into the suitcase and I rue the day that that particular news item didn’t register, didn’t have me reaching for a map. Instead we simply locked the house front door and headed to the airport.

We flew into Nassau in the Bahamas a few hours late and found our little aeroplane that would take us out to the island. A friendly customs official informed us that, although Tropical Storm Rupert had not developed into a hurricane as forecast, the west coast had suffered a very small tidal surge 12 hours before; a certain amount of damage had occurred. We gulped as we recalled that our villa was on that side, but the sun was shining and we hoped our ‘seashore villa’ would be intact. On landing, a taxi took us on our way and we looked expectantly around every bend on the road, glancing down at a photograph of the villa and trying to identify it.

Oh! No!”

We both shrieked, for there it was ….. in a very sorry state …… a corner of the tiled roof had been torn off, the sea-side of the house was missing six feet, two of the supports for the decking had been washed away leaving it at a crazy angle and a palm tree lent drunkenly across the carport. Fortunately the taxi driver was able to suggest a couple of local hotels and, after a few telephone calls, we found a more suitable location for our two weeks in the tropical sun.

 “Oh well” we thought; at least David and Ted will have a great time in Clapham.

(Over in London )

Look! Here it is, No 11 Elms Road” exclaimed David to his husband Ted, as they peered out of the cab at the wide Victorian mid-terraced house. It sort-of looked like the photos Annie and Mike had sent us – but we glanced up and down the street and realised they all looked the same.

The keys are under the flower pot. We lifted the edge of the pot, found some house keys, and opened the front door. It was much as we expected although in our mind’s eye the decoration was a little different. And where were the cats, we thought? We had been there an hour when we were startled to hear a key being put in the front door lock ……

We had got confused between ‘Elms Road’ and ‘Elms Row”. Thirty minutes later, as we were unpacking in the right house, David’s mobile rang.

David. It’s Mike in The Bahamas. I am afraid I have some very bad news …..”

It was attributed to Mike Palette. Sort of puts you off doing something like this, doesn’t it?

Richard 12th August 2022


PS In this Tuesday’s Times a news story about The Bahamas and a shark attack!!

Note 1 My mother and step-father almost got sucked into investing in a Time Share apartment in the Algarve, such was their popularity in the 1980s; fortunately they decided against it. And then, a year after I moved to London in 1987 I spent an evening off Leicester Square in London, listening to a very polished ‘Time Share’ sale’s pitch. I had actually gone for the amusement and to take away the ‘Silver Tea Set’ – available with no commitment! It wouldn’t have lasted 2 days of use!

Note 2 Somehow reading this I know something bad’s going to happen!


PC 294 First week of School Holidays

In 2019 I managed to get my daughter and family to come out to Estoril for a week, staying in a small AirBnB within walking distance of where we were staying. You may recall from PC 158 that one of the issues with three small boys is the endless changes of clothing required – and the AirBnB had no washing machine. 

Theo and me 2019
Theo and me 2022

This year she managed to secure a little apartment with a washing machine, in the centre of Cascais, for herself and her boys, Jasper (10), Reuben (9) and Theo (5). Celina and I had gone ahead and passed through London Gatwick without any problems although simple observations included watching people drinking vodka at 0900 as if this was necessary to initiate the holiday mood, overdosing on breakfast and wandering through the Duty Free wondering whether it was indeed as it said on the tin! We have all got used to the security rigmarole involved in travelling these days, although we no longer have to remove our shoes, distanced in time from 2001 when Richard Reid attempted to detonate a bomb in his trainer on a transatlantic flight. So why are some people surprised by what they have to do? A little like watching people at a supermarket checkout and when the cashier says: “That’ll be £43” seem surprised that they have to pay and start searching for their credit card, cash or smart phone.

Some swimming pool accessories far outweigh their cost by their popularity and the endless fun they offer. Three blow-up plastic rings are a real hit: getting them inflated is hard work without a little pump and actually deflating them requires a similar effort, keeping that little valve open to let air out whilst sitting on the ring. Standing in the pool, holding the inflated ring aloft allowed a steady stream of children, around and around, diving through it like performing Dolphins!

Mummy! He said ….”

After supper in the AirBnB one evening, out came a pack of cards. I am not sure what the name of the game was, but it was fun, sitting on a little balcony with the sun setting over the rooftops.

One day we hired a boat to get out onto the sea. Being a sailor I’m always envious of those who have a yacht abroad; just climb aboard, set some sails, let go the mooring and …… bliss; Oh! That it would be that easy! Diniz’s boat was a little like a twin-hulled barge with a superstructure and a moveable table on the open deck. I wasn’t sure why this couldn’t have been clamped into place when at sea, as invariably those on board push against it when a wave stretches their ability to stay upright …. and the table moves! Instinctively I wanted to coil the warps left in a mess at the stern! Old, particularly good habits never leave one.

Motored out of the Cascais marina …..

…… past the largest yachts you see anywhere (no jealousy here!). The skipper Diniz is a Dragon sailor …..

……. and tells me he has ten stored in one of his warehouses. He’s 50, on his second marriage with a four year old daughter; out comes the iPhone – in the old days it would have been a crumpled photo stuck next to the money in his leather wallet – and he proudly shows his gorgeous daughter. Half an hour later we’re anchored in a little cove and paddle boards and one inflated plastic ring ensured a couple of hours of endless fun ….. in the cold but clear blue water.

It’s always important to get decent protection from a Summer’s sun, particularly at sea as there is added reflection from its surface. Reuben has my skin, ‘English Pale’, and turns to pink and a slightly darker shade over weeks, whereas Jasper and Theo inherited their maternal grandmother’s olive skin and just go brown …….. and then browner.

“Mummy! He said ….”

Theo has a nickname – Kitkat! Apparently one choice for his first name was Kit, but then Theo won. I had imagined the nickname had come about from the advertisement- you might say to your child who was being particularly obnoxious: “Oh! Give me a break?” And for me the immediate response would be: “Have a Kitkat!” so powerful are these adverting slogans. So Theo has become Kitkat! Our parents choose our ‘first’ name and sometimes it’s not popular for its recipient. Whether Theo stays KitKat will depend on lots of variables; my daughter changed her ‘given’ name many years ago.  

There’s a sea water pool in Estoril and, as the incoming tide gradually increased its depth last Wednesday, the boys played in the cold water. An empty Pringle’s tube was endlessly used, unsuccessfully, to catch little fish  ……

……. and the sea wall provided a perfect launching pad for jumping in.

Jasper leaping in

On their last evening we went to Capricciosa Cascais, a beach-side pizzeria in the centre of town. It was not a good experience! We stood around for five minutes waiting for someone to show us to our table and, despite offering Sangria on the menu, couldn’t do a glass of Prosecco. But the main issue was cold pizzas! The base was delightfully thin but this needed to go on a warm plate as it lost its heat quickly! This and a lack of generosity with the cheese and tomato sauce suggested over-the-top portion control! But we all enjoyed some good puds!

And then the week’s over and they are hugging us and saying ‘Best Holiday Ever!’ and all that sort of thing and then into Mario’s taxi for the 45 minute drive to Humberto Delgado Airport in Lisbon. One suitcase didn’t make it but, with over six flights between Lisbon and London Heathrow each day, it was promised in a couple of days. At the time of writing it was still adrift – somewhere!

Back in the UK, time for them to take a breath before heading off to France and a few more: “Mummy! He said ….”

Richard 5th August 2022