Last summer, four of my best friends and I went to the seaside town of Paignton for our summer holiday, hoping it would be the perfect way to recover from the stress of our recent A Levels. Organising it all months in advance meant we had nothing to think about; we were renting a beautiful self-catered apartment within walking distance of the beach, and the weather forecast predicted sun. Unfortunately, there are some things you can’t plan for, as we found out…
Our journey there went smoothly- a direct train ride with no delays (believe it or not) along the scenic Devon coastline reassured us that we’d chosen a great destination, and we were all excited to begin our holiday. Summer warmth greeted us as soon as we got off the train and we decided to pick up some snacks before starting what Google Maps assured us was a short walk to our apartment. The following hike destroyed my trust in the app: we followed a route that took us up slopes steeper and longer than Cardiac Hill and had sapped all our enthusiasm by the time we reached our destination. The beautiful view from what seemed to be a peak as high as Everest was immediately tarnished by the fact that the entry code we’d received for our apartment did not gain us entry, despite a phone call with a landlord convinced it would get us in. After a tense wait where we all began to wonder how to tell our parents we’d been scammed, the landlord called us back with a new code. Thankfully, this one worked and we could finally recover from the exertion of getting there.
We were relieved to find that the apartment was just as nice as it had looked online: spacious and airy with plenty of nautical decoration, it seemed the perfect place to spend the week. However, this pretty theme did not continue into the bathroom, where we were horrified to find the most bizarre and, quite frankly, disturbing ornament I have ever seen. Staring at us from a stand on the windowsill was a plate painted with a menacing child clown- an odd thing to find anywhere. We made a hasty decision to hide it in the airing cupboard to prevent it from watching us for any longer (although based on the events that followed, I can only assume it decided to seek revenge).
Given that we cooked for ourselves all week, I don’t think our meals could be described as overwhelmingly disastrous, although there were certainly less-than-ideal incidents during our stay. A particular highlight was the accidental spillage of tomato sauce all over the pristine white wall of the kitchen- luckily, we did manage to shift the stain and avoid a fine. Another meal’s preparation resulted in one of my friends needing an emergency break from sandwich-making as she cut her hand slicing bread, although a potential crisis was averted when we realised it was about as serious as a paper-cut and she was unlikely to die from it.
Unfortunately, the stress of potential physical harm did not end there: I was woken the same night by another friend, who had just been sick (thankfully in the clown-free bathroom rather than the room we were sharing). I am no medical expert, so we decided the best course of action was to wake the others, one of whom has now gone on to study medicine. However, none of us felt assured enough to realise that our friend just happened to be ill- why be rational when you can have a 3 am panic and call the NHS hotline, whilst under the impression your friend is about to die from serious heatstroke?! The man on the end of the line seemed disappointed when we explained that our trek to the apartment had exhausted our friend to the point of serious illness, as he irately claimed it was not ‘real exercise’ (it was). The curse of the clown did eventually spare our friend, and the rest of the holiday passed without any major disasters, until we got home and realised that we’d forgotten to remove the clown plate from the cupboard, from where we are sure it continues to plot against us…
– Amy Bond
*Image from https://www.devonguide.com/paignton