While Louis, the dogs and I would like to remain in remote, rural, and this year lush green paradise forever, Matthew makes his way to the Devon holiday cottage under separate cover because he likes to know that he has his own personal getaway vehicle. He rarely stays anywhere for more than 36 hours that does not have Sky TV, an internet connection or a betting shop within walking distance.
He arrives later than us, usually at 7.30pm, stopping on the way for a takeaway fish-and-chip supper from Jack 'n' Jill's in Tavistock, (Rick Stein down the road in Padstow should do himself a favour and pay a visit.)
So at around 7 o'clock, demonstrating remarkable intuition, the dogs, knowing that they will be receiving their fair share of the haddock, chips and mushy peas, start showing signs of impatience. Steptoe, the Westie, a canine embodiment of Captain Mainwaring, paces up and down, while the Labrador, a female, canine Private Pike, stares implacably at the parking area, waiting.
Louis and I, meanwhile, prepare as if for a state visit. If the Queen believes that every municipal building and barracks in the world smells permanently of fresh paint, Matthew is equally convinced that this cottage always smells of Pledge and Vim. While organ-ising everything to his highly specified tastes (the armchair must in the sitting room must be at an angle of precisely 45 degrees to the fireplace, the bubble bath must be placed on the left/back side of the bath) we have our obligatory [pound]1 bet on his first utterance.
Louis' money is usually on something to the effect of: "Those arsing caravanners on the A30. I'd give one of my legs for a shoulder-held missile launcher." While I go for: "Unbelievable, 25 minutes in Jack 'n' Jill's. It would be quicker to build a boat and catch the bloody haddock myself."
He arrives and we watch from the door as he makes his way over the bridge carrying the fish and chips. He is shaking his head, his lips are pursed, he is sighing sighs that are audible even over the sound of the swollen river. "Unbelievable," he shouts, as he approaches. "Absolutely unbelievable. Twenty-nine minutes I stood there waiting. Still it's worth it. There's nowhere like Jack 'n' Jill's."
"There certainly isn't," I say putting out a hand to receive my [pound]1 from Louis, "Rick Stein should do himself a favour..."
"I'd have been here an hour ago if it hadn't been for the arsing caravans on the A30," he continues. "I tell you something, I would give both arms for a shoulder-held missile launcher."
"How would you fire the missiles without arms?" asks Louis. …