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Sunday, May 25, 2014

You know you're on holiday when you start dressing like a deckchair...

Yes, I'm typing this with a knotted handkerchief on my head and my trousers rolled up, from the luxury and comfort of Big Sis's house in Devizes. We've only been here since yesterday and I've already strained a thigh muscle going up and down her stairs.

Due to the financial pressures of raising two children and a tadpole, I didn't think we could afford a holiday this year, but that was before I came up with the idea of inviting ourselves down to Wiltshire, and suggesting that Big Sis gives up her bed for a few days. We're currently living off the fat of the land by helping ourselves to her butter.

As it happens, I've got more money than I expected, as I successfully managed to save this family a hundred pounds on Friday. I'm like Martin Lewis, although in my case, the term 'consumer champion' refers to my success in competitive eating. I received a letter this week from the Automobile Association (they're the 4th emergency service, after the police, my parents, and Asda home delivery) which began like this:

"Dear Mr Gardner,
I'd like to thank you for choosing the AA for 7 years. You really are one of our most valued members."

Obviously alarm bells were ringing at that point. No one's that flattering unless they want something. And sure enough, the letter went on to inform me that they were rewarding me for my loyal and valued custom by putting up my annual breakdown cover to a whopping £219.77. Which is about two hundred quid more than I have in my bank account.

Lisa helpfully suggested that I call them and tell them I'm going with Red Flag instead, but I felt that might be counter-productive. If they saw through my elaborate (and well-researched) lies, it could be like a green rag to a bull.

But I checked the AA website, and the exact same cover for a new (and slightly less valued) member is £124.95. So I phoned them. The nice chap I spoke to pointed out that the £125 is an introductory offer, available to people who aren't currently members. So I asked if I could cancel, and rejoin at that rate. He said I could, but I'd have to wait six weeks before I could rejoin. So I pointed out that in that case, they're effectively charging me £95 for six weeks membership, and I'd be better off having no cover for a month and a half, taking my chances, and saving that money.

He responded by putting me on hold for thirty seconds, speaking to his manager, and then coming back to say that actually they could match that price for me after all. I don't know whether to be pleased that I saved myself ninety-five quid with a five minute phone call, or annoyed that they're clearly just pushing their luck by trying to charge me a fortune. If I'd done nothing, they'd have automatically renewed my cover and taken almost twice as much from my bank account in a couple of weeks time.

But with my money saved, we packed our bags on Friday night, and first thing yesterday morning (it was before lunch, anyway) we hit the road for our holiday. Unfortunately, so did everyone else. The M25 was essentially just a car park for most of the day. You could get onto it and off it, but you could barely move around it. Brighton to Devizes took us almost five hours, although that did include an hour at a service station, eating McDonalds and having a go on those coin-operated massage chairs.

Big Sis welcomed us to Devizes by making us a cup of tea with milk that was five days out of date, and was sitting in the door of the fridge next to a cholera vaccine. That's Wiltshire for you. Apparently it's easier to immunise than to sort out the sanitation.

We spent the evening eating an unwise number of chocolate chip cookies, muffins and brioche, but by breakfast time this morning, the kids were fighting over some healthy wholemeal bread...

The main argument being over who has to eat it, and who gets the pain au chocolat instead. We'll get some protein into them at some point. But possibly not today. We're just heading out for lunch at Pizza Express...


Phil's Mum said...

After last week, your holiday can only get better! Have a great few days. xxx

David East said...

It's a shame both of Big Sis's chair backs are broken. If she'd like me to come down and screw a bit of wood across the top for her, I need a holiday.

Phil's Mum said...

I thought it was a fence, to keep the children in.