With the last of the summer days long gone, I found an article I’d written before our annual August family holiday in Tuscany – thought I would share happy memories.
“And so the summer holiday looms. A week at the end of August, the annual jaunt to the South of France or Tuscany, this year the latter, with our favourite family – let’s just call them the Fields. The Fields and the Alliotts have been at this for twenty-seven years now, the age of the eldest Field child, although in those early years, it was very definitely Cornwall and a rented cottage with a paddling pool in the back garden. These days it’s a villa, booked on the internet by my son, because apparently two years ago the pool was ridiculously small and the house shabby, so someone had to take control.
In those early Cornish days, the treats involved a crab sandwich and a pasty in the pub: these days it’s suppers in hilltop villages in the dusky evening light, with the children pretending they don’t know what à la carte means and drinking and smoking more than their parents. Thus, as the day of departure approaches Mrs Field and I affect to roll our eyes and mutter about how funny it is that we don’t see them for dust the rest of the year but at the mention of free flights and a week at their parents’ expense they all line up tout suite avec boyfriends and girlfriends, but secretly, we love it. We pretend not to, but we do. The little darlings.
However, as a couple of old bags with years of experience under our belts, I thought it worth outlining one or two ground rules, with which I’m sure Mrs. Field would concur.
1) Always go with a family who drinks at least somewhere approaching as much as you do. I’m talking quantity, not quality here. You don’t want to be pretending to pass out in a Michelin Star restaurant after much eye-rolling from your husband so that dinner can be averted before the other husband orders Chateau Talbot. As long as everyone knows that en route from airport to villa the supermarché will be swung into and vast quantities of rosé hustled into the boots of both hire cars, you’re laughing.
2) A word about cooking. This will be most nights – with a cast of zillions those hilltop restaurants will be occasional – so go with the flow. If you’d put way more garlic and wine in your Spaghetti Bolognese, resist the temptation to say so and be thankful someone else is cooking. The same goes for children offering to cook. You’ll be amazed a)how well they do it and b)how staggeringly different it is to your own food, indeed you’ll wonder if they’ve secretly grown up in a Lebanese family? On no account let your husband peer in the pans and say – what is that stuff? Any meat?
3) Suntan lotion. Since your holiday is right at the end of the season the younger children will all be nut brown courtesy of countless festivals in Croatia – why so many in Croatia? – so the factor 30 you bought specially in Boots will be ignored. Suntan lotion like adaptors and shampoo is assumed to come down with the rations, so grit your teeth and buy factor 10. At least they’re wearing something. Meanwhile, the more savvy elder girls who’ve burnt too much over the years will be quietly tucking into your Clarins.