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Hoses of the Holy in the Parallel Universe

April 17, 2006

Smug Gites

Different people will have different things that remind them of holidays. For some it will be hotels, pools, late nights in clubs, sleeping all day on the beach.

Most of the holidays in my life have been cottage/gîte hires for a week, self-catering. Since having kids, we've tried to have a beach holiday every year, even if we do spend too much time hanging round at the in-law's in the East of France. "Self-catering" is a phrase which will send ice through the heart of anyone who thinks of it as having to do your own cooking and washing up when you're on holiday, especially if you are the person who ends up having to do it.

For me, it means choosing what you eat and when. It means toasted brioche for breakfast with melted Président butter, and it means eating out, a lot of the time - but not in the same place every day. And it means staying in a place that feels like home for a week, somewhere with a terrace or garden to enjoy in the evening, with a bit of privacy and the scent of honeysuckle.

And it means that other smell, that sort of seaside holiday seasalty seaweedy smell, the musty smell that infects an accommodation that isn't used all year round, that belongs to someone who only uses it for a few weeks in the year, and who rents it out the rest of the time. It means Super-U plates and bowls, cheap plastic drip coffee makers, budget cutlery, and someone's old saucepans. Sometimes, too, it means signs of Englishness imported into a sunnier clime - like a plastic tea strainer; and it means paperback books left by previous occupiers or an insight into what someone else thinks a holiday is all about: a scribbled recommendation for a local restaurant, or a nice bottle of wine.

Which is not to say you don't notice how horribly smug some English people are when they stick the label from a bottle of wine on a noticeboard. Or that the chip on your shoulder doesn't itch a little bit to be staying in someone else's second home in France (if the owners are British). Still, when that happens I just get another Bückler from the fridge. And chug it down.


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