Friday 6 April 2012

TRAVEL MONTH REVIEW - 'Are We Nearly There Yet?', Ben Hatch (Summersdale, 2011)

The story of a madcap five-month family trip to write a travel guide—embracing the freedom of the open road with a spirit of discovery and an industrial supply of baby wipes (Synopsis from Goodreads)

A bit of a departure from my current reading habits, this one. I'd noted a fair amount of Twitter buzz surrounding this book, and I'm a sucker for a bit of Twitter buzz (because most of the time, it turns out to be justified). Plus, having two kids that are on the minuscule side myself, I was pretty intrigued by the motivation of a couple who would willingly travel the length and breath of the UK with their offspring over an extended period. I figured a full-frontal lobotomy might occur at some point in the narrative, either that or some bouts of hysteria.

Ok, ok, I exaggerate (slightly). Travelling with kids can, on occasion, be, er, quite pleasant with occasional glimpses of gushing pride at cuteness of offspring, but on the whole, one gargantuan headache.

Are We Nearly There Yet?Ben Hatch and his wife, Dinah, are commisioned to write a guidebook assessing family friendly-hotels and attractions across the country.  Swiftly moving on from each spot, Hatch documents the inevitable disasters, arguments, accidents and humour that you can imagine would stem from the scenario.

This book is EXTREMELY funny. I had preconcieved notion of it being a bit twee but it was anything but. I nearly wet myself twice in mild hysterics (the good kind) - never will I be able to recall my own fond memories of Liverpool without thinking about the 'submarine' in the Albert Dock. Trust me, you will have to be a very cold-hearted curmudgeon not to giggle at this. Kudos to Hatch for his frankness and honesty - nothing, and I repeat NOTHING is glossed over. I'm not quite sure I would like so much graphic detail on the author's bowel movements for every book I pick up, but I can forgive it here, because, again, it made me laugh like a mad-woman.

What is surprising is that the day-to-day goings on are accompanied by a very personal account of Hatch's attempts to come to terms with his father's serious illness. His accounts of his trip are interdispersed with tales of his short visits to  his dad. One side is steeped in humour, the other in sadness but the two never jar and both strands compliment each other perfectly.

Biographies can be a bit hit-and-miss for me. They can often end up being self-indulgent ramblings that mean very little to anyone but the subject. I always like them with a healthy dose of humour and a brisk pace, and this works on both these points.

Even if you don't usually go for travel biographies, I really recommend this one, especially if you have kids. It definitely served to remind me why we only attempt a family holiday, once a year, if that. 


Well, the main here one is never, I repeat, NEVER leave to go on the open road without a mammouth supply of chocolate buttons to use for bribery etc.
Also, another thing I loved about this was that it reminded me how little I have seen of the UK and the colossal amount of cool stuff on my my own doorstep. On the other side of the coin, it did flag up the sheer amount of boring crap to avoid, which is just as useful. And put me off going to the Lake District any time soon.

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