Monthly Archives: August 2014


Robert Duncan reflects on a great part of his family holiday in Spain…

I don’t know about you, but I’m beginning to detest flying. From the moment you get to some far flung airport you are treated (and here’s a really original line) like cattle. Standing for ages in a queue, pushing your luggage forward with your foot, made to feel like a criminal when you actually get to the desk, and then waiting nervously to find out whether your case is too heavy, thereby starting an international incident.

Photo at the airport - Spain holiday 2014THE SORT OF SMILES YOU DON’T GET AT AIRPORTS…

After more queuing you go through security, removing your shoes and belt. Ignoring protestations that your trousers will probably fall down you eventually ‘get through’ and can commence the relentless business of visiting duty free, fighting for a seat at the coffee place, and staring sadly at the departure board. Once your magic number comes up you are off, walking the quarter of a mile to your gate, and another long wait, busting for a pee. And all this is even worse on the way back. You can actually feel your tan fading as you stand there.

And you’re not even on the plane yet. Don’t start me off…

Here, dear reader, is my answer. Go by ferry! It’s a cruise! It’s an extra part of the holiday! And, wait for it, it’s fun!

Our jolly little lot enjoy the far from tiresome drive to Portsmouth, with a sixpence for the first person to see the sea. The lady in the ferry operators booth smiles (imagine) and checks our passports in seconds. She then presents us with our tickets and cabin keys. All aboard, car stashed easily, and… Let the entertainment commence. Coo, it’s about wine time! We repair to the bar with its panoramic view of Portsmouth harbour, and libations are ordered as the boys zoom off to find out what super hero film is being shown in the cosy cinema. I am dispatched to book a table for dinner, and all is set. The ship takes off or whatever it’s called and we happily cheers each other as we watch Portsmouth fade away in a pretty mist. Ok, there’s a bloke whose job it is to keep us amused, but we accept this, knowing that no such person would turn up on a flight. We win the quiz, have one more glass of wine to celebrate, and take a walk round all the decks of the ship, buying daft things in the shop, and choosing platters of wonderful cheeses at the marché.

Dinner is great – much better than it need be – at a table with a great big window overlooking the sea. The boys eat enormously, and then we all try to build the puzzle that my little lad has been presented with as part of his kids present.

We go back to the bar for the merest snifter and the boys go off to the cabin. Bunks. Me and my ward on the top ones, Jamie and Cathy on the lower level.

Good sleep. Good breakfast. And back into the car as we drive off, with a merry wave from the customs man, to start our nine hour drive down to Murcia – and the joy of traversing gigantic and impressive landscapes with hardly another vehicle in sight.

Sod flying. I burst into Viva Espagna and am told to shut up, so I give them The Rain in Spain in my pleasing light baritone…


Reflecting on the subtle changes over forty years of baby bingeing…

Being of a certain age my role as father to a five year old doesn’t quite fit the demographic. Ok, the demographic would probably put me at somewhere between a third and a half of where I really am.


So attending kids parties isn’t quite what it used to be. When my sweet daughter was five we would have gone along to someone’s house, pinch a Hula Hoop or two, or a jam sandwich, and watch those little types playing pass the parcel to the strains of Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep. Rapidly followed by dead lions to shut them up for a while, and stop them picking their noses in public, and then musical chairs to broken up sections of Knock Three Times on a faded cassette machine – where every child was insulted by being disqualified, and burst into tears. Then tea – Swiss roll and more jam sandwiches, and sent home with a party bag containing a couple of flying saucers and an I-Spy book.

And the adults? We had to be satisfied with a cup of tea and a smile from that cute blonde you’d seen on the school run.

Not anymore. After my forty three year gap I am back on the circuit. Now it’s cool parents setting the bar pretty high with gourmet teas, magicians, super-heroes, balloon modellers, maybe Father Christmas if the season is approximately right, and goody bags that can equal the sort of stuff Madonna might come home with after an evening at the Oscars.

I was at one of these affairs on Saturday, under the kindly direction of a mum who happened to own a field. When we got there the place was rocking, with a bloke called Captain Fantastic (or Captain All Right as I would have placed him) keeping the kids to fever pitch for the whole duration of the party. And the adults? We all stood around pinching smoked salmon sandwiches, and drinking a delightful Prosecco. That beat the hell out of my seventies cup of tea I can tell you. So I had another. Conversation was brisk, settling mainly on the Western Barbecue we had all organised the week before, and knocked out by the whopping seventeen hundred quid we had raised for the PTA. Captain OK stamped all over our idyll by announcing that everybody had to join in the Hokey Cokey. Laugh? I thought I’d never start…

It was all great though, and bore very little resemblance to those halcyon days when my daughter thought she’d had a great time as I bundled her into the plastic seat of whatever hellish car I was driving at the time, preparing to play I-Spy at the Seaside as we drove through the quiet Pinner streets.

Aaaaaah… It’s better now, even though the cute blonde from the school run doesn’t seem to notice me any more…