Magazine article The Spectator

Living the High Life

Magazine article The Spectator

Living the High Life

Article excerpt

Mrs Ray and the boys -- Ferdy, six, and Ludo, four -- were desperate to go camping in Cornwall. I was equally desperate not to. Camping ain't my thing (I can't really speak for Cornwall, never having been there). I get cold and grumpy, and as well as imagining snakes and spiders behind every tent peg, I really can't cope without all the basic essentials such as fluffy white towels, hot running water, cold white wine and internet access.

I told Marina and the boys that I was far too old for such nonsense. The weather will be vile, I said, and we'll all hate it.

Trust me. Let's play safe and go to France for a long weekend, stay somewhere comfy and eat and drink like kings.

I admit to a slight twinge of paternal guilt on seeing the little chaps' crestfallen faces, but once a father has spoken he has to remain firm.

'Don't worry, Ludo, ' Ferdy muttered as the boys shuffled miserably out of the room. 'We all know who wears the trousers in this house. Mummy will sort it out.' Marina accepted my decision gracefully and agreed to cancel the campsite and book something more appropriate. 'Leave it to me, it'll be a surprise, ' she said.

A couple of weeks later and it was off to France on the Newhaven-Dieppe ferry.

The four-hour crossing passed in a flash.

Ferdy and Ludo raced round the deck with hordes of other children, watched cartoons and exhausted themselves on some vital secret agent mission. Marina and I booked a cabin and took it in turns to snooze. She wouldn't tell us where we were off to, simply tapping her nose and winking.

We had moules et frites in Dieppe and were in high good humour by the time we arrived in Chartres and checked into the local Novotel (for one night only, Marina assured me). It wasn't half bad, since you ask. The food was good, the family room comfortable and the boys thrilled with their complimentary cuddly toys.

The next morning we wandered the cobbled streets of Chartres, visiting its striking gothic cathedral (the boys much taken by its marble labyrinth) and stuffing our faces in a wonderful family-owned créperie (Marina much taken by the local cider).

We then made for our secret destination, picking up supplies at a supermarket en route (don't you just love French supermarkets? …

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