What Are These Damn Patronising English County Types Doing in France? (Now What)
Booth, Lauren, New Statesman (1996)
The old monastery outside the village in the Charente rose up ahead: a dream to behold. Red shutters, gravel drive and hectares of sun-shimmering forest promised a week of long, peaceful, even romantic, walks. We had been travelling for more than six hours, excitement about our holiday a dim memory as we quarrelled: "If I could hold the map and drive, I would!" "If you could remember to drive on the right, then I could look at the map instead of checking to see if we're about to die."
Jane and Richard, our middle-aged, Middle English hosts, walked us around their property. The three huge dogs jumped, licked, slobbered, barked and generally terrified us. Then the lists began. The Do's and Don'ts.
"Don't let the children out of your sight, please. We don't feel it's right... with the dogs around," Jane said.
Richard helpfully showed us the unfinished pool: "Best stay away from here for your own safety, and don't let the children near it, will you?"
We were back in the beautiful courtyard. We'll sit out here for a drink and a fag when the babies are asleep, I thought.
But Jane had read my mind: "Best not to spend time out here because of the dogs. They are friendly but, just for your own sake, I feel you'd be happier if you didn't, erm, upset them."
Finally, we were in our room. There was just enough time to sigh at the stunning green acres from our window when Jane returned. "Don't put baby, erm, things down the toilet, will you? Do remember to put the fan on in the bathroom. Don't wash baby bottles in the sink, it's unhygienic. Don't tamper with the heating controls..." She paused for breath, looking around for something else that needed protecting from our tribe of oiks. "That's it. Enjoy your stay."
The next day, we left our room looking like the Marie Celeste after a chimpanzees' tea party had been interrupted by the England football team on a binge with Chris Evans. …