I had to scream, shout, swear - in English and in French - and slam a few doors in the Frenchman's face, but we are finally going on holiday. This, believe me, is a result.
The Great Vacances Saga started last July when we decided we would not take the whole of August off like almost everyone else in France, precisely because almost everyone else was doing so and the prices are crazy. Instead, we decided we would go away in September when nobody else would be on holiday because they had all gone back to work and school. So we ended up Family-No-Mates spending August in Paris alone. Then September came and the Frenchman said: "But it's La Rentrée and everyone is going back to work. I can't possibly take time off. We'll go in October." Then October came and he needed dental treatment that dragged on into November. Then it was Christmas followed by the February school holidays and before you could utter: "Show me sunshine or I'm going to bite your head off", it was March and I was biting heads off. I had asked the Frenchman numerous times after the New Year about booking something but each time he said: "Oh, I left my diary in the office". His best friend's wife asked why we never went on holiday. They have managed a trip to America, visits to Malta and Belgium, several stays in Normandy and have just booked another fortnight in the States and four weeks in the south of France this summer in the time we have dithered and gone nowhere. "Why doesn't he want to go away? she asked. I had never looked at it like that; I had blamed laziness rather than a positive decision not to make a decision. But after she said this I was ready to believe anything, including that he had a secret girlfriend demanding his attention in Paris. When I suggested this loudly late one evening, the diary came home the next day. I am not sure what this proves, but I got a date. Unfortunately that date was roughly five days ago, giving me less than a week to arrange something. The days ticked away and I spent fruitless hours on the internet trying to find a holiday that did not involve dragging La Fille to the airport at 5am and taking out another mortgage to pay for it. It was at this point the Frenchman suggested going to Brittany. Cue more shouting, screaming, swearing and slamming doors. "I live in France, I have spent the last three summers in France. It was cold, wet and miserable. What makes you think I want another holiday in France?" I raged. I stomped out and he went off to work, leaving a note saying "not everything is always entirely my fault". It went to the wire; he was on the point of postponing his week off for another month when, in absolute desperation, I found something.
We are going skiing, which, incidentally, is what I wanted to do in the first place (the Frenchman had ruled it out because La Fille was too young). I have checked out the ski school/nursery and it looks good. We will leave it to them to teach La Fille to snow-plough and will stick to pulling her around on a sledge. We are all very excited, though I keep catching sideways glances from the Frenchman. He knows, the shouting, screaming and swearing are not all over just yet. Some time on the first morning he will take me up a baby slope that to me, at first glance, looks Olympic standard neck-breakingly steep. I will accuse him of trying to kill me and with a childish mix of fear and fury will take off my skis and stomp down in a huff (unfortunately, this is actually harder than skiing down). A couple of hours later I will have gained confidence and be tackling the same slope with ease. The Frenchman knows this will happen and takes it all with remarkable Gallic stoicism.