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Thursday, June 13, 2024
Laterally SpeakingSummertime Queues

Summertime Queues

As the song says, “…there ain’t no cure for the summertime queues”. Queues for the sea side, the parking, the ice creams, the loos… yes, it’s that time again when we welcome the August flock of lovely visitors and their cars to the Southwest. It’s just like an annual migration of birds—in this case the urban puffin and the great northern driver—as they fly south to our summertime camping fields and beaches. And, after such a dismal year, we welcome them all with open arms and half-empty wallets because our local shops, B&Bs, caravan parks, pubs and hotels desperately need their business.
But I feel we could do more to encourage tourists to visit us. We should make better use of our southwestern creative hospitality to offer visitors a more complete experience. We’ve only got a few short weeks of summer holidays, so let’s make the most of it! Here are some entirely lateral (and not particularly recommended) ideas to help make tourists welcome and to perhaps make a bit of spare cash on the side…
Glamping: Owing to complete Covid confusion about overseas holidays and zero confidence at being able to return from Spain or France without spending a fortnight in purgatorial quarantine, it’s been a bumper season for us in the southwest. Most Brits very sensibly would rather ditch the risk of crowded airports and unplanned emergency flights home and prefer to spend their summer hols in the UK. If you own a B&B or hotel, you’re probably already doing well since every place to stay has been booked solid for the last 3 months. But there’s one category that’s proving very popular—‘Glamping’—and there simply isn’t enough available locally. Glamping is of course Camping with Glamour. No boring old camp sites with rows of rain sodden tents or attempting to heat instant Pot Noodles in a fine English drizzle. If you’ve got a garden with a small shed at the bottom of it, this is your opportunity! Clean it out a bit (leave the cobwebs—good for authenticity) and put a blow-up mattress on the floor (next to the lawn mower) and cook them a delightful local feast of Devon sausages and mash. Or choose a holiday theme… You could wear a grass skirt and make them frozen pizza with bits of pineapple on top for that “Romantic Hawaiian Glamping experience”. Or maybe stick-up posters of the Taj Mahal and pick up a meal from your local Indian takeaway for an “Exotic Bombay Night for Two”.
Use your imagination. Design special menus and distribute them around waiting cars on the A303. You would probably make a tidy profit given the desperation of tourists to avoid spending the night queuing in their car rather than spending a night in an authentic Southwestern garden environment. Well, mostly authentic…
In-Car Sales and Services: Backed-up traffic piled fifty deep near the A35 Bridport roundabout offers such a good commercial opportunity! You could walk up and down with a bucket full of soapy water and offer to mop up the pooped pigeon poo on their car windows. You could put a tray around your neck and sell ice creams and snacks (just like in cinemas in the olden days). You could even sell the contents of that old cardboard box in your attic… you know, the one with all that junk you once bought at a jumble sale ten years ago. Old holiday ashtrays from Paris, rude amorous plastic donkeys from Spain, a battered corkscrew from Inverness in the shape of the Loch Ness monster and a vase with hideous purple daisy design which you wanted to give to your sister but changed your mind when you looked at it properly in daylight. Call all this rubbish ‘East Devon Antiques’ and you should sell some of it. Or maybe not, but at least you’ve given the box contents a much-needed airing after a decade stuck in your attic.
Given that your target market is entirely captive, you could probably sell just about anything. They’re not going anywhere and it’s very boring sitting in a traffic jam. You could offer your services as a Southwestern tour guide, giving advice (for a small fee) on things to do in Lyme Regis or Honiton (if they ever get there). Offer jars of Aunt Ethel’s Dorset blackberry jam (great deal at £5 a jar etc). You may hate the stuff but this nice couple from Manchester sitting in their Mondeo will possibly love it. You may need to ham it up a bit. Talk with a fake West Country accent with lots of Zs and Rs. Wear a Worzel Gummidge hat and suck a straw for extra rural authenticity.
Children and Animals: Crying children are a nightmare when you’re stuck in a car, so be bold and offer your services as a children’s entertainer. Make silly faces and tell corny jokes or even dress as a clown and do handstands on the car bonnet. Don’t get too manic or you may get arrested. Quickly move on to the next car which has a dog barking in the back. Anyone travelling with a doggie may get worried after 3 hours stuck on the A37 near Yeovil. The dog is worried too as it desperately needs to do a wee. You can offer a dog walking service! Take the doggie round the stationary cars for a couple of minutes so it can do its business against someone else’s car tyres rather than all over the inside of their Fiat. Don’t forget to take dog poo bags—you don’t want to get caught out by getting more than you planned for…

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