You know when you read a book and think, I wish I’d written that? This is such a book. Damn you, Ben Hatch.
Ben and his wife Dinah accept the formidable task of travelling round Britain in a battered Vauxhall Astra to write a family guide book. They take off for five months with their two young children and pack in nearly as many family-friendly attractions as Dinah tries to secrete extra pairs of shoes in their luggage. They discover there are only so many ruined abbeys a family can ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ at and that hotels can be judged on the quality of their complimentary biscuits and whether or not you can get CBeebies on the TV.
The 8,000 mile adventure, seeking out a poo museum in Leicester (a big hit with the children, naturally) and a pencil museum in the Lake District (including possibly not the world’s largest pencil) is punctuated by family squabbles, toddler tantrums and the odd spot of danger. However, as the trip unfortunately coincides with the failing health of the author’s father, it becomes a voyage of self discovery as Ben Hatch reminisces about his own childhood and tries to make sense of the relationship he has had with his dad.
Most parents will read the book, laugh frequently and nod sagely, empathising with the joys and frustrations of travelling with kids. They should also jot down some of the fascinating places to visit. I, for one, am going to add Liverpool to my list, not least for the discovery that people in authority there have a healthy attitude towards ignoring petty rules.
Ben Hatch is a very talented writer; he has a natural gift for humour, dialogue and pace so the story rattles along with ease. The pockets of sadness in the narrative are all the more poignant because of the comedy in the rest of the book.
I bought Are We Nearly There Yet? just before Christmas in paperback (Amazon £5.03) but it’s also available in Kindle format at only 99p. Highly recommended.