Good morning Britain. I am not in Surrey. I am on holiday. Somewhere Else.
Our holiday cottage is, for a moment, quiet. My wife and children are sleeping. I am downstairs watching dawn break with a cup of tea in one hand and the laptop on the breakfast table before me. Peace and happiness abounds.
It is, needless to say, raining.
A holiday with three young children is not really a holiday.
During the course of a normal week in Surrey, the kids have any number of distractions - school, nursery, friends, grandparents - to occupy them. On removing those distractions, by going on holiday, we have put the onus of childcare completely upon ourselves.
It’s fine, though. They’re having fun. Boat trips, train rides, usual stuff. On Monday we visited a castle. Yesterday we visited another castle. I couldn’t bring myself to go in. When I was a child I had a profound objection to traipsing round country houses/museums/galleries/gardens. Now I’m older, my profound objection has matured into a deep loathing. Of course, that hasn’t stopped me becoming a member of the National Trust. Darling, I live in Surrey.
Thankfully, yesterday, my son fell asleep in his pushchair just before we reached the castle gates. On enquiring at the ticket desk we were told this particular castle was not buggy-friendly (outrageous!), so I volunteered to stay outside in the rain, guarding my sleeping son.
I found some shelter near the castle entrance. A nice man in an English Heritage waterproof called over:
“You’re standing far too close to the English Heritage annual membership salesman for me not to ask if you’d consider joining.”
“I’d rather poke my own eyes out.” I cheerily replied.
“Is that why you’re not going in?” he asked.
“Sort of.” I said, pointing at the sleeping infant beneath his rain cover “Your castle was not apparently built to accommodate families with pushchairs.”
We got talking. I told him I held a family membership for the National Trust. He told me a lot of people play the National Trust off against English Heritage by taking advantage of a joining offer for one organisation, then letting it lapse to take advantage of a joining offer for the other organisation the following year. Then they pick up another joining offer to go back to the first organisation… and so on, year in, year out.
Until our conversation I thought English Heritage and National Trust memberships were complementary, something you accumulated like a set. Now I see them as two giant empires, locked in mortal combat, fighting an epic and perpetual battle for our cash.
“So you’re like the AA and RAC of middle class tourist attractions. ” I suggested.
The rain had turned to hail by this stage, so the man in the English Heritage coat decided to move inside. We parted agreeing that when my National Trust membership lapses, I’ll see what joining deals are on offer from English Heritage. Maybe I will.