by Jack Whitehall with Hilary and Michael Whitehall (Sphere £18.99, 288 pp)

Winter is coming, nights are drawing in, celebrity autobiographies have started to pile up in bookshops. Most will have been written during lockdown, when there wasn’t anything else to do. Many will be terrible.

Jack Whitehall’s disguised autobiography is, I’m relieved to say, rather better than that.

It’s a book about gruesome family holidays, of which he appears to have experienced more than his fair share. He is still fair-minded and will reply to his father Michael and mother Hilary, who were there in the familiar role of parents.

Jack Whitehall reveals a selection of gruesome family holidays in a new book, which comes after five series of Netflix¿s Travels With My Father (pictured)

Jack Whitehall reveals a selection of gruesome family holidays in a new book, which comes after five series of Netflix’s Travels With My Father (pictured)

If the book reads like an incredibly long stand-up routine, that’s probably to be expected. But the surprise is that Jack’s parents give as good as they get, and given just how much they get, for the sin of embarrassing Jack serially over several decades, that’s pretty good. It’s at times a screamingly funny book.

Michael is, of course, best known as Jack’s travelling companion on five series of Netflix’s Travels With My Father. He’s grumpy, he hates foreigners (and foreign food) and wears a suit and a tie even when it’s 90 degrees in the shade. He was a theatre agent for many years and later a producer. His clients included Edward Fox, Judi dench, Colin Firth, and Daniel Day-Lewis.

On the surface, father and child are very different types. You can start packing your suitcases in advance. Jack says he has ‘always packed with the haste of an adulterer who’s heard the crunch of a husband’s footsteps on the gravel drive’, whereas his father ‘packs like a 19th-century viceroy heading off to the Raj for a couple of years’.

When his mother packs for them, when they are heading off to make one of their travel films, she packs ‘medicines for every eventuality, including bug repellents, painkillers, indigestion remedies for when I force my father off-piste menu-wise and anti-chafing cream.

‘I don’t care how desperate Daddy gets, I’m not applying that!’ says Jack.

But it’s not just far-flung lands you need to be medically prepared for. Even a short hop across the channel can pose danger. ‘My father’s stomach kicking off in the Cote d’Azur was no laughing matter. It was great to see a French doctor try to explain to my father in broken English what suppository medication meant.

Jack characterises his dad (pictured) as an old moaner and humbug, while his mother Hilary is a less dominant presence in his book

Jack describes his father (pictured) as a moaner and humbug while his mother Hilary is a less prominent presence in his book

‘He then spent the rest of the trip pondering out loud why the French were so obsessed with putting medicine up their bottoms, concluding that it was probably to keep their mouths free for smoking.’

Jack describes his dad as a poor moaner and humbug and launches into a Michael-like rant about the bum bag or fanny pack as the Americans somewhat disconcertingly call them. ‘Not only is it visually offensive, it is also an excuse for parents to say the word “fanny” in front of their children with a wanton disregard for how traumatising that might be . . .’

Mother Hilary is a less prominent presence in the book, however she has some important contributions to make.

Towards the end of the book she offers her ‘Top Ten Mothers’ Travel Dos and Don’ts’, with, at number four, do take carrier bags everywhere.

HOW TO SURVIVE FAMILY HOLIDAYS by Jack Whitehall with Hilary and Michael Whitehall (Sphere £18.99, 288 pp)

HOW TO SURVIVE FAMILY HOLIDAYS by Jack Whitehall with Hilary and Michael Whitehall (Sphere £18.99, 288 pp)

‘Never embark on any motorway trip without being fully prepared for a child acquainting you with the contents of their guts. They use long-distance driving as a natural emetic, similar to the way cats eat grass.’

She explained that her daughter had lost her plastic bag one time and that the only thing she could use to help her daughter spit up was her hands. ‘I had the unenviable task of cradling her vomit, while trying to prevent the dog from eating it.’

It is hard to believe that they can keep this going for nearly 300 pages. However, they do it without hesitation.

I have read a few so-called books of ‘funny anecdotage’ which have felt as though lilies of all types were being gilded, so that in the end, you didn’t believe a word. This one is different.

Photos of family holidays are a great help, with many photos featuring father Michael in some of his unusual shorts.

Jack believes that after a certain age men shouldn’t be allowed to wear shorts by law, and having seen these, I would be inclined to agree. It’s a spendidly effervescent and enjoyable book.