Far From The Maddening Crowd

Picture the scene. We’ve just arrived in the beautiful hills of the Algarve for a much-longed for mini-break, settled down with a book in a secluded grassy spot away from the hustle and bustle of the pool area, perhaps looking forward to a quiet snooze… when all of a sudden a bunch of raucous Essex folk descend.

‘Babe, babe,’ shouts the korma-coloured woman in the bejewelled bikini, wheeling a pram. ‘There a good spot here. Get Dave.’

‘Daaasvvvvve,’ yells Babe. ‘Get Filipo to bring us four sun beds. And get the beers in!’

Larger-than-life Dave, who looks and sounds just like James Corden but with none of his affability and a belly the size of Mount Vesuvius, bellows for Filipo.

Filipo dutifully trots off and returns, trundling the loungers behind him. Despite being twice his size, larger-than-life Dave doesn’t offer to help but merely jabs a chubby finger to where he’d like his loungers – namely within 30cm from us.

We are surrounded.

‘Oh no,’ grumbles the husband, whose tolerance levels for loud people are generally much higher than mine. ‘TOWIE have arrived!’

We thought we were safe here. It wasn’t by accident that we ended up relaxing on this grassy knoll. After a tour of the available sunbathing spots at the hotel, this particular location was carefully chosen for its quiet ambience: a safe haven from the highly-populated pool area – a mass of reddening flesh and squawking pool splashers – yet with views of the surrounding hills and a soothing babble of water in the background. How wrong we were.


This year has turned out less about The Battle of the Sunbeds (previously documented here and also here… oh, and here too – I’m clearly OBSESSED!) and more about The Battle to Eschew the Essex Crew.

‘Wouldn’t they be better in one of those cabanas down by the pool?’ I whisper. ‘They’d love it down there. Tell Dave!’

‘I’d even buy them a round,’ says the husband, as Filipo meekly scurries over with a tray of beers. ‘Just to get them out of earshot.’

‘Come this way, Dave,’ mimics the husband, in a soothing tone. ‘I’ve found you a lovely spot down by the lower pool, quite some way from here. I’ve even thrown in a bucket of Coronas!’

Larger-than-life Dave obliviously takes one sip of his beer and curls his lip.

‘Filipo,’ he booms. ‘Can I have another one of these but this time make it a cold one, would ya?’

Babe 1 appears to be grappling with a baby. ‘Babe,’ he says to Babe 2, holding up the baby and sniffing at its nappy. ‘Chantelle’s got a full package ‘ere.’

The husband lets out a long sigh.

That night, we decide to venture out of the Conrad compound and head to a restaurant recommended by a friend.

We ask the concierge for a taxi and – bizarrely – he offers to drive us himself. Before we know it, we are ushered into a luxury saloon and are soon purring down the immaculate driveway of the hotel, listening to the croon of Chris Martin.

‘The concierge certainly goes the extra mile – literally!’ I whispered to the husband. ‘Is this normal taxi rates or are we now paying for a private chauffeur?!’

‘No idea,’ says the husband. ‘But I like it!’

Quinta do Lago, famed for its golf courses, is like a colonised version of the Truman show: palatial homes peek from behind perfectly-pruned palm trees, while pearly-toothed families pound down pristine pavements. If it’s culture you’re after, you won’t find it here.

It’s very hot in Portugal and the husband appears to have a shortage of shorts: dressy shorts, that is – the kind of shorts you might wear to visit a restaurant of an evening, perhaps teamed with a pair of… (ultimate middle class horror)… loafers.

The husband has one pair of such dressy shorts; they are a light blue Reiss number and could stain easily, if he is not careful. He is under strict instruction to cover them with a napkin at all times.


We arrive at the restaurant. It’s terribly refined and overlooks a picturesque lake. King of the pearly teeth Philip Schofield is on the table next to us, holding court with a group of TV exec types  – and a gaggle of girls straight out of Chelsea clink glasses opposite. Ex-footballer Graham Souness is apparently at the bar.

The husband orders a black cod broth. He takes one mouthful and somehow manages to douse his shorts in splodges of soy sauce.

‘Something bad has happened,’ grimaces the husband, peering down at his lap, the protective layer of his napkin nowhere to be seen.

‘How bad?’ I ask, craning my neck. ‘It it salvageable?!’

‘Really, really bad,’ says the husband, sliding his lower half further under the table. ‘It’s too distressing for you to even see.’

I throw my hands up in a signal of mock despair and as I do so, I somehow manage to knock a whole glass of wine straight into the husband’s lap, dousing his ill-fated shorts even further.

The husband gasps; waiters rush over… even Schofield stops his patter and turns to stare.

But it’s too late to save them.

I think the husband will be wearing trousers from here on.

The next day, I peer out of the window to check out the state of play on the grassy knoll. The Essex crew’s loungers from the previous day are still there, dominating our quiet spot. Those loungers had never been there previously, I note, but overnight Filipo has failed to move them back to wherever they had came from. This was troubling; Dave and co. had effectively SEEDED the area.


‘I’m going to go down and bagsy our loungers,’ I tell the husband. ‘But I’m also going to move the additional loungers out of the way to discourage any further TOWIE invasion.’

‘Fine with me,’ says the husband. ‘But please let it be noted that this is not the behaviour of a sane person.’

I furtively scamper down to the pool area. By the time I have carted off six loungers (some double ones- who knew?!) and restored the grassy knoll to its original half crescent sunbed formation, I have worked up quite the sweat.


‘All done,’ I say to the husband, who is patiently sitting at the breakfast table, engrossed in his book (Wonder by R.J Palacio).

I turn back just in time to see feeble Filipo wheeling the sun loungers BACK to where I had moved them from, with larger-than-life Dave swaggering brashly behind him.

‘There. Is. No. Escape,’ says the husband.

In Da Club

Playground of the rich, metropolis of the future, and home – it seems – to half the population of Essex… Welcome to Dubai.

Where there’s sun and money, the C-list schlebs will follow. Fame-hungry Abbey Clancy’s on the beach over yonder straddling a camel and posing for the paps, and pearly-toothed Mark Wright (whoever he is) is busy filling his boots at the free hotel buffet.

Basically, our hotel has become the setting for an entire episode of TOWIE.


Getting some winter sun comes at a high price. Surrounded by cranes, skyscrapers and garish opulence, the husband put it like this: ‘It’s basically Disneyland in the desert. But instead of Mickey Mouse on the prowl you’ve got fake sheikhs on the take.’

Seriously though, we are very happy here sipping ruinously-expensive cocktails, lapping up the rays and reading our books, save for an annoying man next to us whose mobile appears to be surgically attached to his ear. His latest call was to Carl Cox.

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‘Alright Coxy,’ he bleated in a Jonathan Ross voice. I was surprised he could speak at all given the mouthfuls of food he was shovelling in in a most slovenly manner. (Seriously, eating lunch on your sunbed – is there no decorum left?) ‘I’ve told them it’s £150,000 for a four-hour set. They’re getting back to me.’

Hot on the heels of bumping into some parents from school (‘What are the chances?’), the husband then decided that there might be someone he knows reclining on the sun lounger behind us.

‘Take a long look at him and report back,’ said the husband, in hushed tones.

‘Thinning grey hair, rather challenged around the waistline, looks just like the old dude off Ray Donovan,’ I said, covertly peering from behind my shades.

‘Thats him!’ said the husband. ‘Let’s hide.’

There’s been a lot of talk from the husband of what to do on New Year’s Eve.

If it was up to me, I’d be tucked up watching the final episode of Homeland in my new cashmere bed socks, perhaps taking an occasional glance at the fireworks through the window.

This option, however, has been vetoed by the husband, who appears to have succumbed to the age-old pressure of What To Do On New Year’s Eve.

This might mean we are forced to spend an obscene amount of money on a set menu in one of Dubai’s fine eateries. Naturally, I’m doing everything in my power to stop this.

Our hotel, which lurks in the shadow of the Dubai Mall – a great sprawling behemoth of consumerism – has published a handy guide on what to do for New Year’s Eve.


Every restaurant in the vicinity has a minimum entry fee and, worse still, you have to be there by 4pm at the latest! That’s eight hours of wining and dining before the chords of Auld Lang Syne even strike up. I was having palpatations just thinking about it.

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I idly flicked through the booklet. Carluccios had a set menu for AED 625 (about £125), TGI Fridays were charging a staggering £300, Fortnum and Mason were a snip at around £200, and Starbucks were charging £100.

Wait… Starbucks?! Home to overpriced wishy-washy coffee. What could possibly be on this £100 set menu? Stale blueberry muffin for starters, anaemic mozzarella panini for the main, and one of those sickly caramel waffles for dessert – all washed down with a tepid milky latte?

Luckily, fate has intervened… in the form of The Club. The Club is a newly-discovered lounge in our hotel which serves up FREE afternoon tea, FREE snacks 24-7, and FREE food and drinks by night.

Note the emphasis on free. In a city where you have to sell a kidney to buy a gin and tonic, this is quite remarkable.

The husband and I made our first trip to The Club last night and enjoyed champagne cocktails and chilled glasses of Sauvignon – all on the house.


All around us people were hungrily slurping their free drinks and tucking into the rather sizeable buffet. A man in scruffy tracksuit bottoms and a t-shirt shuffled past, plate piled high.

‘Look at that,’ I whispered. ‘These people aren’t even bothering to change out of their slobs. They’re just here for the free food and drink!’

‘That’s Mark Wright from TOWIE,’ said the husband, who to my knowledge has never watched an episode of reality TV in his life.

‘He’s really big news’.

As if on cue, a gaggle of tipsy women raised their Cosmpolitons and chorused, ‘Hi Mark’ in unison as he passed.

‘Never heard of him,’ I said.

‘Here’s the plan,’ I told the sceptical husband. ‘We come to The Club for New Year’s Eve. We’ll gorge on the buffet, quaff the champers and watch the fireworks from the balcony. And best of all, it won’t cost us a penny!’

‘There’s just one problem,’ said the husband.

‘I’ve already booked Starbucks.’

Sardines On A Sunbed

‘I just want to walk into a hotel lobby and be anonymous,’ grumbled the husband.

We are on the penultimate day of our holiday in Sóller, Majorca. And the owner of the little boutique hotel where we are staying seems to be taking an overly-keen interest in our movements.

Everytime we walk past reception, he collars the husband to rhapsodize about the weather, England, the weather again, the restaurant we are planning on going to, even the clothes he is wearing.

The owner – Matthew – is actually a very nice man. But his very hands-on approach to hoteliering is making the husband on edge.

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Despite the beautiful room here, we have begun to long for the relative relaxation and anonymity of the finca in the hills, where we resided for the first part of our stay.

The owner Marc might have had a fixation with serving gallons of coffee at breakfast and an over-inflated sense of what his bottles of diminutive water were worth, but because he was slightly autistic he left us largely to our own devices.

Before we left the finca, we also developed a mild obsession with a gravelly-voiced waiter there, who we fondly named Barry White. Barry had a most intriguing, soothing croon, as he cleared the table and served our food. I tried to get a bit of video footage of his strange baritone rumble but I’m not sure it does him justice.

Back in Sóller, I have developed hives. My skin has a tendency to go berserk when faced with too much sun, stress, the wrong food, wrong washing powder – or over-earnest hoteliers. I spent three days itching myself to madness before seeking help.

Luckily, there is a little old lady up the road who may or may not be masquerading as a pharmacist. To attract her attention, you need to ring a bell and she appears from behind a grill to deal with one’s ailments.

We asked for some anti-histamines; she disappeared for a while and then a little hand shot out to hand over the medication and take our money. It was ace.

We became so taken with the little old lady that we have been trying to think up new illnesses – just so we can visit her again. Here I am next to her metal grill and buzzer. When passing tourists saw me having my picture taken, they started snapping away too, convinced the hidden pharmacy was some sort of historic attraction.


Over in Puerto de Sóller, we attempted to dine at one of the restaurants my coffee shop friend Malcolm recommended. It was full.

I don’t have the heart to tell Malcolm we didn’t end up eating there so I have memorised the menu (‘the rabbit and onions was sublime!’) and snapped the husband posing outside, as photographic proof of our visit.

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The sunbed situation at the current hotel isn’t quite the all-out battle to bag the best bed of previous years. Instead, there’s more underground tactics at work.

Put simply, the pool area is quite small and only about four sunbeds get the sun past 4pm. This means that there’s a secret bed-hopping war at play, in an attempt to secure the best beds at different stages of the day. As a seasoned sunbed bagger, I’m on it.

But at 4pm, people all begin to drag their sunbeds towards the dying rays, creating a sardine-like squash in one corner of the pool (spot the lonesome husband!).

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Owner Matthew prides himself on setting out purple towels throughout the whole pool area (he told us this in great detail) so it’s difficult to ascertain which beds are in use or have been used, having to rely a rudimentary towel ‘crumple test’.

It did make me wonder how Matthew knew which towels to change at the end of the day.

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It was only on Day 2 of our stay here that I uncovered a startling revelation: Matthew DOESN’T change the towels!

Unbeknown to him, I was stealthily spying on Matthew from the behind my copy of Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, as the last vestiges of the vermillion sun dipped behind the mountains. Rather than whipping the used towels off the loungers, he merely smoothed them out with a deft flick of the hand.

This means that right now, I am probably lying in the sweat of that meaty man from Room 3.

When we returned from lunch today, chomping on ice creams, jittery Matthew was grinning expectantly from behind his reception desk.

‘Ice-cream!’ he exclaimed, a little too enthusiastically. ‘May I ask where you pur-chase-d your gelato?’

‘I just want to eat my ice-cream in peace,’ muttered the husband, as we returned to our squashed and sweaty sunbeds.

‘Get me back to Barry White… Get me back to the finca!’

The Water In Majorca Don’t Cost Like It Oughta

After a very cool pool party for my friend’s 40th, which involved plenty of poolside posturing, a private pirate ship and unprecedented amounts of Prosecco in Palma, we are now holed up at a ‘relaxing’ finca in the Majorcan hills.


It’s very quiet here and there’s not much people-watching to be had.  I’m a little bored. The pool is deathly empty and the air almost still, save for the annoying growl of a nearby generator, which rumbles noisily every 10 minutes – and the occasional buzz of a large and terrifying black bumble bee, which has me leaping dramatically from my lounger every time it buzzes too near.


Luckily, there’s a slightly eccentric owner to keep us entertained. I think his name is Marc and he has a peculiar English accent – very much Manuel from Fawlty Towers. He answers ‘yayssss’ to everything you ask him.


His day seems to revolve around two obsessions: the first being where his guests have had enough coffee. This morning, he circled the tables in the quaint courtyard like a persistent pigeon, clutching his large jug of coffee, and calling, ‘Coffee? coffee?’ on repeat. He asked me whether I wanted coffee at least three times this morning and each time I answered ‘no, thank you’. I suspect it’s going to become the soundtrack to our mornings here.

Manuel’s other preoccupation is whether we have set the alarm in our room for ‘security purposes’. Apparently, whenever we leave the room, we should input a convoluted series of letters and numbers (which he proudly presented to us at check-in in a sealed envelope).

He even advised us to set the alarm while we were sleeping! Presumably, this is in case a band of robbers feel the urge to drive miles into the Majorcan hills, smash down our patio doors and steal our suncream. Still, his preoccupation with ‘zee alarm’ is making me feel slightly anxious.

The small smattering of other guests all seem a little bit dull. I think I spotted a Panama hat earlier but it didn’t amount to much. Many of the guests come here to hike the hills, apparently. It’s chill out at it most chilled but I’m beginning to feel quite restless. The husband, on the other hand, seems quite content, immersing himself in a political thriller amid bouts of languid snoozing.


The downside to staying several miles away from civilisation (apart from obvious first world problems like weak wifi and lukewarm lattes) is that I begin to worry about my water consumption. When we drove up here last night, we foolishly failed to stop at the local Lidl and stock up on several gallons of water.

This means that we are now forced to sip on tiny bottles of water from our minibar at €2.50 a pop. For someone who consumes more water than your average camel, this is proving to be a very expensive basic human need indeed.

Having to dip into any minibar goes against everything I’ve been taught about staying at hotels, rule no 1 being: NEVER touch the minibar, so it is with a certain degree of reluctance that I’ve been forced to hydrate myself this way.


Scanning the pool for potential characters, my eyes fell upon a fridge in the corner. I ambled over and whipped out two of their meagre 33cl bottles of water, handing one to the husband. A couple of gulps later and it was gone.

‘There’s no way I’m paying €2.50 for that,’ I said, already starting to panic about where my next source of water was coming from.

‘But it’s an honesty bar,’ said the husband, looking askance. ‘And stealing water from it is the height of dishonesty.’

‘Okay,’ I said. ‘I’m willing to negotiate on a ‘buy one, get one free’ deal; I’ll write down that we had one bottle of water. And that’s being generous!’


‘How about a 3 for 2 deal, like Boots?’ said the husband.

‘Fair enough,’ I said.

I pottered back over but I couldn’t find a pen. I gave up and headed back to the lounger.

‘I’ve been giving it some more thought,’ said the husband, clearly warming to this new life of criminality. ‘Those overpriced bottles of water are actually comically small; they wouldn’t hydrate a mouse.

‘Let’s come back in the dead of night and grab as many bottles as we can.’

Great Uncle Keith… and the Scotland Road Trip

I’m not sure quite how it happened but I found myself on a 600-mile road trip to the far recesses of Scotland with a toothless 85-year-old in my passenger seat.

We hadn’t seen my Great Uncle Keith for 25 years so it was a bit of shock when the phone rang at my parents’ house and a feeble voice rattled down the line, saying, ‘Hello, It’s Keithhhh.’

Great Uncle Keith, my father’s uncle, had slipped off the radar some time in the early 90s. He met a ‘lady friend’ called Valerie, who had seemingly wanted him all to himself and as a result, he had severed ties with the family.

A quarter of a century on, and with grasping Valerie having passed away, Great Uncle Keith had decided to re-connect with my father, his long-forgotten nephew – from all of 25 miles away in Manchester.

My father is an only child but his father George (now dead) had two other brothers – the aforementioned Keith, and Jack, who married Jill (!) and moved away to Scotland to lead a hardy life of hiking and extreme outdoor pursuits.

We hadn’t seen Jack and Jill for years either but would occasionally receive a postcard from them, usually from far-flung places like the Himalayas, accompanied by messages such as, ‘Did a steady 30-mile hike yesterday; tomorrow tackling Everest…’ or, ‘On the Inca Trail. 40 degrees. Terrain easy.’

Given that Keith hadn’t seen his brother Jack for many years either, I rather generously offered to drive him up there for a Scotland for a family reunion. My parents, never ones to miss out on an adventure, were to accompany us on the trip also, in order the provide some light relief or drive me to despair, depending on how you looked at it.

The first shock was the kind of surprise that you can only get when you haven’t seen someone for 25 years. Far from being the sprightly piano-playing uncle that my father fondly remembered, Keith was now a dithery old man, with only a few silver wisps of hair and, more worryingly, a distinct lack of teeth. He was to stay at my parents for the night before we embarked on the Great Road Trip to Garelochhead.

Somehow, at 2am in the morning, he managed to bring a whole glass shelf crashing down in the bathroom, causing my father to nearly have a heart attack and my mother to get terribly flustered indeed and make statements such as, ‘What on earth was he doing, CLATTERING around in the dead of night?!”

Morning came and the great road trip had begun. I was behind the wheel, with toothless Great Uncle Keith safely ensconced in the passenger seat. My mother was giving a running commentary of the scenery, while my father sat studying one of his Ordnance Survey maps. Four hours later, with a short lunch break (in which gummy Keith attempted to eat a sandwich like a gurning Les Dawson), we arrived at Jack and Jill’s little house on the edge of Loch Lomond.

I vaguely recall Jill from my childhood. She was rail thin, terribly fit and as sharp as glass. A retired headmistress through and through, she didn’t suffer fools gladly.

Jack was much more affable, very quiet and extremely fit also. Now 89, he was – unbelievably – still running up the fells and back before breakfast.

As the car pulled up, Jill waved a spindly arm. And the first thing she said as she greeted her long-lost brother-in-law was, ‘My goodness Keith, where on earth are your TEETH?’

It was a question that all of us were itching to know the answer to. We never did really get to the bottom of it.

She cast a shrewd eye over all of us and turned her attention to my father, who was visibly attempting to hold his stomach in.

‘And Michael,’ she went on. ‘Haven’t you put on weight?!’

Somewhat ironically, given her obsession with how porky we’d all become, she emerged from the kitchen with a mountain of cheese scones and insisted that we all tuck in immediately.

Jack, who had been out doing a spot of windsurfing on the loch and also appeared to have grown a handle bar moustache, arrived shortly after, and they both proceeded to regale us with tales of Pensioners Do Extreme Pursuits.


Two hours later and having been force-fed several more cheese scones, the parents and I began to make noises about leaving for Glasgow – thankful that we’d had the foresight to book into our own hotel – and telling Great Uncle Keith that we would return to collect him in 48 hours. He looked petrified.

Driving back two days later, Keith was already waiting on the path with his battered suitcase. He had never looked so pleased to see us. As we bundled him into the car, Jill peered in and said, ‘Now Keith, remember what I said. Straight to the dentist as soon as you get back. And then you must consult a dietician immediately.’

Privately, I thought the chances of Keith, who only ever ventured as far as the corner shop, consulting a dietician were extremely slim (excuse the pun) but I didn’t dare voice this under Jill’s steely gaze.

‘No Teeth’ Keith just smiled compliantly, showing his gums.

On the journey back, Keith told us that Jack and Jill had marched him several miles up a hill – not to fetch a pail of water – but to explore the former residence of Glasgow-born designer Charles Macintosh (famed for those silly chairs with an elongated back). Reaching the summit, they found that the house had yet to open for the day.

‘Never mind,’ they said. ‘We’ll just walk several miles into town for lunch and come back in a couple of hours.’

On the verge of collapse, puffing Keith had to plead not to be taken back up the hill, at which point Jill expressed her horror at how unfit he had become.

Overall, he’d enjoyed his mini-break, Keith concluded. But he was glad to be getting home.

‘Perhaps you’re getting a bit long in the tooth for these trips away,’ my father quipped.

The Ghost of Holidays Past

The annual Great Summer Holiday Hunt began in earnest about two months ago. First, there was the decision of where to go (France/ Italy/ Greece/ Bognor Regis…).

Next, was choosing a hotel (not too big, not too small, sizeable pool area, walking distance of a restaurants, preferably nestling alongside a picturesque harbour with postcard-perfect houses in pastel colours artfully positioned on the hillside – I don’t ask for much) and thirdly: Can it live up to our favourite hotel?

The problem with finding a hotel that you love is that you start comparing all other hotels to it – and sometimes they just don’t live up to the benchmark.

Last year, we went to Lindos Blu in Rhodes. In my mind it was the perfect hotel, pitching itself somewhere between boutique and medium-sized, offering a relaxing adults-only pool area gazing onto the Aegean sea, with plenty of scope for people-watching; attentive staff with just the right level of fuss; and a large, modern room with all the extras you’d hope for – such as a hot tub and a sunken bath. Lindos Blu was going to be a hard act to follow.


And when it came to booking this year’s hotel, I couldn’t find anywhere that looked quite as good as Lindos Blu. After many hours trawling Tripadvisor (no matter how many excellent reviews there are, I always seem to home in on the negatives: ‘there was a pungent odour emanating from the bathroom… the food was barely edible’), I delivered the news to the husband that we might be heading back to our old friend Lindos Blu.

‘So you’re telling me that out of all the hotels in Europe, you can’t find a single suitable hotel?’ said the husband, with an air of weariness.

‘That’s about the size of it,’ I said. ‘It’s going to have to be Lindos Blu Part 2. We’ll be one of those strange couples who go to the same hotel and ask for the same room every year.

‘Unless…’ I added. ‘We play the wild card.’

‘Let’s play the wild card,’ said the husband. He thinks people who visit the same place year after year are a bit strange.

The wild card was a little-known hotel called Monte Mulini, perched atop a quaint harbour town called Rovinj in northern Croatia. It looked lovely.

So here we are, gazing out at the Istrian sea, lying on one of our hard-won sun-loungers, cheek to jowl with an uber-boobed Russian nuzzling her catalogue boy lover.


It turns out that Rovinj isn’t so ‘little-known’ after all. In fact, half of Europe appears to have descended on the place. When we landed at the hotel yesterday afternoon, it was a beautiful sight… with just one problem: there wasn’t a single sun-lounger free – just scores of bare-breasted women and splashing children as far as the eye could see (okay, so the photo paints a serene scene but on ground level, it was a different story).


‘This would never happen at Lindos Blu,’ I thought.

This morning, we rose and headed down for breakfast, passing the pool en route. Already, the hordes had descended, reserving nearly every sun lounger with a carefully-placed magazine or sunhat.

‘This is ridiculous,’ I thought. On principal, I don’t believe in reserving sun loungers pre-breakfast. I blame the Germans. They started this.

‘If you can beat ’em, join ’em,’ said the husband, throwing down his towel on one of the last remaining loungers and placing his Kindle on it territorially.

We headed up for breakfast; there wasn’t a single table free.

‘We would never had to queue at Lindos Blu,’ I grumbled.

He husband rolled his eyes.

‘And what’s more… I MISS NIGEL!’ I added, dramatically.

Nigel was a fellow holiday maker at Lindos Blu last year: a big-bellied booming man with an ego the size of France. He was the very dictionary definition of a ‘bon viveur’, greeting the staff by their first names and regaling his captive audience with tales of far-flung travel destinations.


Occasionally, he would dive noisily into the pool and embark on a couple of lengths of butterfly – limbs akimbo – emerging to bellow down the phone at his harassed PA, before continuing his convivial chat with other poolside posers.

Basically, he provided hours of entertainment. We pretended that he was the most irritating guest imaginable but when he departed mid-way through the week, he left a big hole in our holiday.

‘We all miss Nigel,’ said the husband wistfully, as he gazed down the snaking line of people awaiting a table for breakfast.

And then he uttered the words that neither of us had dared to voice.

‘Get me back to Lindos Blu’.

My Family… and the Dawn French fixation

We are in the middle of the annual family sojourn to Cornwall, where my father has taken up residence on his favourite seat in the garden to study the passing ships with his binoculars (no doubt contemplating his own imminent foray out to sea in his beloved dinghy ‘Chrismick‘).


This was, until his binoculars fell upon a particular palatial home, built into the cliff directly opposite. My father sat studying the house for quite a long time and pondered who might live in such an opulent mansion.


That afternoon, my sister visited the cove below and reported that she saw a girl ‘fitting the description’ of Dawn French’s daughter Billie, padding from the beach and into the mouth of its imposing gates.

A lengthy discussion was then held by the whole family (along with lots of Googling) at the end of which it was decided that all the evidence pointed to a firm conclusion that this was in fact the residence of non other than Dawn French.

The next morning, my father rose early, filled his flask with coffee, took up position in his chair and trained his binoculars on the house, looking for any sign of movement.

‘Dawn Watch’ continued that evening, followed by another discussion about the rotund comedienne. My sister had been following her on Twitter and discovered she had been at a book signing in nearby Falmouth. There was every chance that Dawn might be at her Cornish home, fuelled by my father’s report of a light going on in the house at approximately 9pm.


And then, finally… a firm sighting! At 2.09pm yesterday afternoon, my father excitedly summoned us all to the garden and one by one we peered through the binoculars. Before our eyes was the unmistakable silhouette of Dawn French, on the balcony of her 40-room mansion enjoying the afternoon sun in a billowing kaftan.


Swept along by the excitement of the celebrity spot, the family began a running dialogue of her movements, with even my mother getting in on the act: Dawn’s looking out to sea; Dawn’s now leaning on the balustrade; Dawn’s now going inside the house; Dawn’s just scratched her bottom…

Dawn French is beginning to take over our holiday: my sister has been googling all about her divorce from Lenny Henry and recent marriage to a man called Mark Bignell (after a 16-month romance!); my father has been on Google Earth investigating the layout of her gothic-style house (it can’t possibly have 40 rooms!); my mother has become something of an expert in Dawn’s weight loss and then subsequent gain (it must be all those Cornish cream teas and pasties!).

Gripped by ‘French fever’, my father was last seen roaring off to Fowey in Chrismick to get a closer look at Dawn’s house from the sea.


I’m not sure where this obsession will end. Camping outside her house until she invites us all in for a traditional cream tea?


Watch this space…