I remember one summer in the early 90s, we moved house for a few weeks so Mum and Dad could make money renting out our beachside dwelling to city slickers. We moved out to my Nan and Papa’s farm and my parents made more money in rent that month than they would for the next half a year. We paid the price of having complete strangers sleep on our mattresses and carpets, but in return made more than the entire GDP of Papua New Guinea.
Whether by the beach or up in the mountains, the holiday house is always a great way to go. I have recently returned from my latest stay in such a house, and it left me with a strong sense of what the authentic holiday house experience should be.
I prefer to use these houses rather than hotels. With kids, you need the extra space that comes with a house. I also like the tension that comes from wondering if this is the house where I finally work up the courage to test the State’s squatting laws. Plus I tend to buy a lot of carton custard on holidays and find hotel bar fridges not that accommodating.
We had booked a house in the beachside town of Lorne; a majestic place where the bush scrub bleeds into the beach and ocean like a bad oil paintings you often see in Doctors waiting rooms. The house was up in the hills with views that glimpsed the ocean. It was a 1960s beach shack that had been semi-renovated, but was comfy enough to suit our needs for a few days.
We acquired the keys from a local real estate agent. This was a disappointing transaction, as most holiday houses will have a secret code box to access the key. The code is usually given to you after booking and it always makes you feel like you are in some sort of spy thriller, accessing a safe house. But when you pick up a single key on a plastic red tag from a receptionist name Laura, it feels more like you are trying to use the toilets at a petrol station.
Upon opening the door to a holiday house, I need to be hit by a strong musk. Nothing less will do. This scent tells me at once that the place has had more people sleep in it than a screening of “The Tree of Life” but is still without a soul. Once inside I like to head to the bookcase and check for the following holiday house must-haves: a copy of ‘Shantaram’ and anything by Jeffery Archer, DVD’s of a John Grisham adaptation like ‘The Firm’ or any of the ‘Sister Act’ films, a tattered board-game of either Pictionary or Trivial Pursuit and a few New Weekly magazines with photos of Ricky Martin from back when he was straight.
Next I’ll make my way to the cupboard and take note of the variety of mismatched novelty mugs I’ll be forced to drink from during my stay. Maybe there’ll be an amusing printed one with “Local Area’s 75th Annual Seagull Catching Regatta’ or similar that I can claim as my own.
Any good holiday house should have a room full of bunk beds. The more bunks the better, as the place needs to look more like a submarine when it comes to bunks to maximise its commercial potential.Most houses will also give you the option of bringing your own linen or using their provided stuff. Wherever possible, try to bring your own. The ones they provide tends to look like they come straight from a nursing home for cats. Also avoid using the electric blankets provided unless you need electrotherapy.
Cooking options will vary depending on your budget. If you go cheap, you’ll be lucky to get a few pans, some plastic utensils and half a packet of matches but the better places will have a full European kitchen (or at least an Eastern European one). All holiday houses must provide a BBQ (it's in the constitution) and also must ensure that any knives found in the kitchen are'nt sharp, just in case you cut yourself or some food.
Finally, any holiday house worth its stay will have a visitors book. These floral gems are little micro-histories of all the people who have slept, farted and shed skin upon the same bed in which you will be sleeping. Make sure to leave a comment yourself. You can always go with old standards such as “will be back for sure” or “the kids just loved it” or “waking up every morning to the view/animals made us never want to leave”. However I always like to go with something left-field, that will leave those that come after me pondering.
My standard entry goes like this… “What a unique place. At first we thought the noise was just the wind and trees, but once we encountered Anton hovering above the kitchen late one night, we couldn’t have been more surprised. I am not one to believe in ghosts, but listening to his story of how he slaughtered those twin brothers from next door, after catching them with his wife, gave you an appreciation for the history of the house. Maybe it was the sea/mountain air, or Anton’ s story, but I too killed in this house. I’ll leave you to guess who…. but let’s just say I’ll be back next year for sure, but cant say the same thing about my wife!”