Last Monday morning my family and I set off for a short holiday to Menton, a delightful seaside resort (patronised by Queen Victoria herself) nestled in between Monaco and Italy on the French Riviera. I ought to have spent the preceding weekend organising and packing for our trip, but packing is one of life’s more soul-destroying occupations, and one which I generally put off for as long as possible (especially now that the separate list of toddler requirements makes the ordeal doubly tortuous). If some other ‘essential’ task can be found to perform instead I will generally be found seeking it out.
My husband and I have actually become quite blasé about packing over the last couple of years, not only because we regularly travel abroad to see my family, but also because of one fateful weekend in June when we travelled to the UK for a wedding, but accidentally left the suitcase (containing all of our clothes except for a few emergency items for our then seven-month-old Chou) outside our front door. The blunder was only discovered on our arrival at the airport, when it was too late to turn back. How we weren’t burgled during our absence I’ll never know, as it was manifestly obvious that we were not at home. What made a stressful situation worse was the fact that this trip was for business, not pleasure. My opinion of both bride and groom was, and remains, equally low (at least I was able to agree with well-wishers, with perfect truth, that I thought them perfect for each other), but I had had the misfortune, three years earlier, of acquiring a mother-in-law who likes to pretend to herself and the world at large that she and her family are perfect. My absence from this wedding would, therefore, not have been tolerated. Early on in our acquaintance I had been judged and found wanting – an imperfect specimen of humanity, unworthy of joining her happy band. Stealthy attempts were subsequently made to discourage my inclusion and my husband was counselled on the eve of our wedding, but, sadly for my new family, it was in vain – my husband never listens to a word anyone says.
Still, to the wedding we went (as proof that we were all one big, happy family), without party clothes or spare underwear, and the world did not end. An emergency raid on Tesco was performed by my parents and I am fortunate to be the same size as my sister, whose dress and shoes I borrowed. My husband looked dashing in my Dad’s slightly roomy suit. The moral of the story is that, provided travel documents and passports are accounted for, everything else can be acquired on arrival if necessary (although I would not recommend making a habit of it). If we could survive a worst case travel scenario without any luggage then packing for three days on the beach was going to be a comparative breeze.
So instead of spending the weekend packing, I found a multitude of other (genuinely more important) tasks to complete. In addition to playing extensively with my son, and the more usual chores of washing up and pottering, I:
- ‘Xylophène-d’ three beams twice, four hours apart;
- Gave my reluctant and squirming toddler a haircut;
- Moved my egg cup pumpkins (idea courtesy of You Can Always Start Now) to their new compost heap home;
- Prepared an ‘Anti Coo’ parameter around all vegetable plants, to prevent their otherwise inevitable destruction by chicken;
- Covered the vegetable garden (which I only finished digging the previous evening) with wood chip;
- Helped my husband to erect a huge wooden frame (glazed mainly with plastic sheeting designed to protect tomato seedlings from the elements) to close up the enormous hole in the side of our house.
All while my husband additionally:
- Staked a newly bought cognassier;
- Scythed the chicken run (avoiding Poldark’s inefficient, however lust-inducing, technique);
- Boarded up as many holes in the chicken coop as could be found – we have an escapologist in the family.
After finishing the list late in the evening and sitting down to dine at ten pm, we unanimously agreed that we had neither energy nor inclination to contemplate packing that night. At six o’clock on the morning of our departure the onerous business was finally started. We still left, as planned, before nine, even managing to burglar-proof the house on our way out – my abysmal house-keeping skills finally got their chance to shine, as, by failing (once again) to complete the endless washing up and tidying before we left we would undoubtedly have tricked any passing cambrioleur that our home had already ‘been done’.
We reached Menton at half past five that evening. By half past six our son had fallen face-first into the sea, one glorious, albeit soggy, bundle of toddling joy.
Mots du jour:
pour les vacances – for the holiday xylophène – wood treatment, encouraging the eviction of squatting wood worm and wood-eating beetles cognassier – quince tree cambrioleur – burglar