Knickers to Normandy
Half term. Yes, you pay more to go away at half term, but it is better than the two alternatives; re-mortgaging the house for a week in August or being tossed into the fire-y pits of bad parenthood by taking your offspring on holiday during term time.
That is why I found myself this Whitsun attempting to slide, with all the grace of a hippo with hives, into the three centimetre gap between me and the neighbouring car on the packed ferry deck. When I booked the holiday I didn’t appreciate I would actually need the stuff those other channel-crossies in swimsuits use.
Of course all modes of transport seem to have their traditions associated with them. For example train travel involves the first person to their seat placing the newspaper, all the supplements from said newspaper, Notebook, sandwiches, mineral water, iPod, Blackberry and executive briefcase on the table and sighing loudly as later arrivals attempt to claim a two inch space for their coffee cup.
Air travel requires that you buy something from the Duty Free that changes from an elixir that can transform you into the glamorous, sexual predator featured on the advertising into something that reminds your partner that they haven’t checked the outside drain for a while.
And ferry travel means beating a hasty path to the top deck, where the men-folk hang over the edge trying to work out how a piece of rope the relative thickness of a cotton thread can hold a mega-tonne ferry to a quayside. Women, on the whole, are content to gaze at the lifeboats and dream of Leonardo, knowing that the real mystery is how, when they have spent the last seven days continuously washing and ironing they have packed themselves only one pair of pants.
But, of course, even the shortest jaunts can start to drag, so a visit to the ‘retail areas’ is a must. And during those boredom-filled sojourns it is amazing how certain items for sale can suddenly appear to be must-have buys: something green and viscous in a strangly-shaped bottle. Sides of salmon. The Daily Mail. Fudge you know is produced in only one factory in the world but is transformed into a ‘traditional product’ by the addition of a 4p postcard and the words ‘Greetings from.’
Soon you’re at the other side. And there is a warm welcome awaiting you in the form of two machine-gun toting French army personnel wearing stares that could shatter the glass on your freshly-purchased bottle of Sirop de Melon. And as you look around the queue at the women contemplating the forthcoming five-hour journey in the company of children who haven stopped arguing since Portsmouth, and husbands who are giving 'that bloke' who cut him up looks reminiscent of Denis Weaver in ‘Duel,’ you wonder just how many are tempted to make a run for it...