As of this writing, I am on Hayling Island, on something the Government insists on erroneously referring to as a Staycation.
Staycation (stay ca’ shun): a holiday spent at home and involving day trips to local attractions.*
I am, however, on holiday (US: vacation) because I am not in my own home; I’m in someone else’s home.
As is my habit when I report on a holiday, I am going to provide a review of the holiday cottage we are staying in. This time, it’s going to take up more column inches than usual for one, simple reason: there isn’t a lot to do on Hayling Island, so it’s all I have to talk about.
As the name suggests, Hayling Island is an Island. It’s technically in Hampshire (that will narrow it down for my US readers) within spitting distance of Portsmouth and just off the coast of the Isle of Wight. The weather is beautiful and the sea soothingly calm but if you don’t own a sailboat and are not into water sports or don’t enjoy the custom of splashing around in the frigid water of the English Channel, then there is nothing else to do. There are no museums to trawl or National Trust manor houses with gardens to admire, and nary a tearoom to sit and converse in. There isn’t even a cinema, or a respectable shopping centre. So, mostly, we walked.
We walked the length of the island. Then we walked the width of the island. That took up two afternoons, leaving us little else to do but sit and read and listen to the surf.
I hasten to add, the above is not a complaint. Far from it. That is what we came for. And if you happen to be into water sports, or just like to sit on the beach and watch the waves, you could do much worse than a holiday on Hayling. There are beaches aplenty, and they are not as crowded as Brighton. Nor is there a lot of traffic. After crossing the one bridge that leads to the island, which is often bumper-to-bumper, the traffic melts away, leaving most of the island in peace. Despite being packed with residential housing, it is a quiet, friendly place, and very, very beach oriented. But, if that’s your thing, you need to visit.
I suspect one of the reasons for it being so quiet is that a fair few of these domestic dwellings are holiday homes, similar to the one we are currently inhabiting: a two-bedroom, ground floor flat named Steps From the Shore.
Oddly, the reality lives up to the hype: we can, literally, step out the sliding glass door, walk across the back lawn, climb over the sea wall, cross the pedestrian path, clamber up the shingle coastal defence barrier and be on the beach. (Again, this is not a complaint. It’s only 200 feet, and the obstacles are necessary: the sea is lovely and placid this morning, but I am assured there are times when it becomes rude and wishes to invade your living room.) With the sea so close, we can hear the surf and watch the ships and it is ever so peaceful.
And the flat itself is really very nice. The furnishings are what you would expect (solid, durable, easy to clean), the bedrooms large and accommodating (though poorly laid out, and I don’t feel like moving the furniture), and the décor just as naff as any other holiday let (though, to be honest, a bit more so). Normally, I would give the place a high rating, but it’s only getting an “adequate” because the owners committed what is, to me, the number one faux pas in the hospitality industry: not being hospitable.
Every holiday let we have ever been in has, without fail, provided a welcome basket, or at least left some coffee and tea and a pint of milk for us. Here, nothing. And I mean nothing.
No coffee or tea fixings, no condiments (not even those naff little sachets you can steal from low-end restaurants), no soap in the bathroom, and a conspicuous absence of extra toilet paper. This, of course, made me look for other failings, which were not hard to find.
While there are attempts at luxury, there is an air of chintz about the place. The toilet tank leaks, the place could do with a thorough dusting, the shower curtain is the cheapest money can buy and the towels were definitely bought from the back end of the bargain bin. The kitchen, though well-kitted, is tiny, the fridge-freezer is a joke, the oven a disappointment, the four-slice toaster a two-slicer and the washer/dryer just a washer. (Where you are supposed to dry your clothes, I can’t say, but then it’s a mystery to me why you would wash your clothes on holiday, anyway. Although, I’m here without kids, so what do I know?)
The crowning achievement, however, is the Guest Information Binder.
This handy document usually contains tips on local dining and attractions, but the one here includes nothing but out-dated instruction manuals for some of the appliances, and a seven-page, handwritten inventory of everything in the flat, including, but not limited to, wall-hangings, tables, chairs, curtain ties, an account of every teaspoon, cup, saucer, dish and plate in the kitchen, light fittings and carpets. This says, loud and clear, “We know what’s in here, so don’t even think about nicking anything!” I found it insulting. So, I nicked something.
I might have overlooked all that, but we paid far more for this holiday let than any other, and once the summer truly arrives, the price more than doubles. You could spend a week at Centre Parcs for less and have all the toilet paper you needed.
There’s more, but then I’d start to sound petty (or more petty than I already sound) and it’s time for another walk.
Maybe we’ll find a café where we can steal some condiment sachets.
* When I checked the definition of Staycation (and you thought I didn’t do any research) I found that “a holiday spent in one’s home country rather than abroad” was included as a secondary definition. In addition to being highly irritating, this serves as further proof of the worrying practice of governments repeating misinformation until it becomes accepted as fact.