I almost got my face smashed in at a children’s attraction this week.
Mrs Canavan, myself and the small child we have to take around with us – aka our daughter Mary – were on holiday in a caravan.
It rained non-stop and in a bid to break up the monotonous days we went on as many trips out as possible.
One of these was to a farm that contained the usual assortment of animals we could stand Mary in front of and shout ‘look Mary, a chicken, say cluck cluck’ and she’d shoot us a withering look and reply ‘you’ve bought me out in the pouring rain and now you want me to make a chicken sound? Sod off’.
The farm was very muddy and visitors were advised to wear wellies, which fortunately we had in the back of the car (that’s one advantage of regularly holidaying in the UK, you are fully prepared for crap weather).
So we stuck on our Wellingtons and duly plodded around, looking at animals, taking a tractor ride with a dozen or so other glum-looking parents, expressing surprise at just how pungent a cow pat is … that kind of thing.
At the end of all this fun (I use fun in the loosest sense of the word), we headed to an area called Welly Wash, which, as the sharper ones among you may be able to deduce, is where you use a hosepipe and a brush to remove dirt from your footwear.
Mrs Canavan went first and when she’d finished washing and scraping, for reasons unknown - and despite the fact she knew I was next in the queue - handed the hose to a middle-aged bloke from down South (he didn’t tell me where he was from, I just knew – he pronounced his Hs and had a child called Jemima).
To be fair to Mrs Canavan she did this because the bloke had barged past me and stood right next to her in slightly intimidating fashion.
He was clearly not aware of the etiquette of waiting one’s turn, another clue he was a southerner.
This chap grabbed the hose and spent around 12 minutes cleaning every last atom’s worth of dirt from his boots before his wife, who could see me looking at him as I though I wanted to if not kill him then at least heavily maim him, said, ‘there is a queue Toby, this gentleman’s been waiting a while now. In fact I think he may have been here before you’.
Toby turned his gormless-looking face towards mine, pretended to see me for the first time, and said ‘ah well, good things come to those who wait’ and then – and this, I believe, is the worst trait anyone can ever have in life – laughed manically at his own remark.
Another four or five minutes passed, by which time his boots were cleaner than when he’d first purchased them, before he finally handed me the hose.
What happened next was, I absolutely swear, a complete accident but in the circumstances I can see why it might not have looked like it.
I bent down to pick up the brush he’d left on the floor but forgot the hose was in my other hand and in the act of moving, sent a jet of water looping into the air which hit Toby square in the face.
If he hadn’t been 6ft 2ins and built like a Slovenian cage fighter I’d have taken great pleasure from it, but as it was I was suddenly fearful for my own life.
He stopped, stiffened, and turned to glare at me. I apologised profusely (and genuinely – I didn’t mean to do it) while his wife said, ‘oh, no harm done’ in an attempt to diffuse the situation.
Noting the way he had clenched his suddenly massive-looking fists, I said weakly “I’m so so sorry” four or five times.
Thankfully at that very moment Jemima – always said that was a lovely name – piped up, ‘daddy, can I have an ice-cream?’ and he suddenly realised, though somewhat reluctantly, that it wouldn’t be the done thing to start beating another man to a pulp in front of his own child.
If I could have picked Jemima up and kissed her I would have – though as she was aged seven and not my child, this too might not have been a good idea.
Toby marched off chunnering a word which sounded like ‘tickhead’ and I continued washing my wellies, though taking a little more care about where I directed the hose.
A close shave, but with a bit of luck Toby had a wet face all day and was in a bad mood for the remainder of the week.
Exotic holiday in wet caravan
The caravan we stayed at was in the middle of nowhere and had no TV. The latter was at my request. I had a father who detested mod cons and always scoffed at people who went on holiday and watched television.
‘May as well have stayed at home,’ he’d say derisively, tutting, then pulling out a pack of playing cards and saying cheerily ‘anyone for crib?’
Annoyingly, I’ve turned out just like him. I never book accommodation with a television, and asked for the one in the van we stayed at to be removed.
However, I must admit this policy may have backfired slightly last week, for I don’t know if you’ve ever stayed in a caravan in the middle of nowhere when it’s raining relentlessly but the options of things to do are limited. After we’d exhausted every board game we could find – Monopoly, Scrabble, Strip Poker (it felt a bit inappropriate playing the latter as a family but we were desperate) – and spent several hours staring out of the window wondering if that was a speck of blue sky we could see in the distance (it wasn’t), things got so desperate that we began trying origami with sheets of toilet roll (Mrs Canavan made a smashing elephant).
I’d like to say Mrs C was understanding about the whole situation and remained upbeat and positive. However, I’d be lying.
She reminded me around 27 times each day that she had begged to go abroad but that I’d over-ruled her with the words, ‘who needs to leave this country? There’s so much to do here’.
I blame my father.
His idea of an exotic holiday was a weekend in Whitby. They say the apple never falls far from the tree…