The Canavan family were on holiday in France last week, staying in a tiny village called Couseme. We got lost on the way and spent a good hour asking various startled locals for directions – “Ooo ey Coozem, siv oo play” – only to be met with blank expressions.
We later discovered the reason for the lack of help – the village is pronounced nothing like that. They must have thought – quite rightly – they were speaking to idiots.
The holiday was very pleasant – lots of chateaux visiting, supping wine, eating crusty bread, and marvelling at the ability of French drivers to overtake at 80mph on the bend of a single-track road.
There were also several entertaining moments, not least because my mother – who has a habit of causing a scene wherever she goes – came with us.
On the first night, walking out of a restaurant, she turned to look at a waiter who had just spoken to her and fell down a step, sprawling on to the floor. It turned out the waiter had been saying mind the step.
Remarkably, she managed to top this in the embarrassment stakes, when, on a day trip to a neighbouring village, she emerged from the unisex toilets complaining about the sink.
‘There are no taps and the water’s filthy’, she said, gesturing for me to look inside. ‘Mum,’ I replied, horrified, ‘that’s the men’s urinal’.
My personal highlight of the week, however, was meeting the vice-president of one of the Caravan Club’s south of England branches (I won’t name the exact branch, for obvious reasons, but the encounter felt very exciting, like meeting Royalty). I know he was vice-president of the Caravan Club because he had a sticker on both his car and caravan telling everyone he was vice-president of the Caravan Club.
He was exactly as I would picture such a figure to be – small, glasses wearer, wearing a blazer in 80 degrees heat, large collection of fluffy toys on his dashboard.
On his passenger seat – just in case anyone had any doubt what his interests in life were – was a copy of the magazine ‘Caravan’.
I was genuinely pleased to chat with him, not least because every single one of my childhood summer holidays consisted of going to various caravan sites, always picked out of the Manchester Evening News by my dad and never costing more than a hundred quid for the week. (“It’s on the edge of a cliff in Devon. No windows and the toilet’s out of order, but at that price you can’t quibble – I’m booking it”).
The vice-president chap was very pleasant and told me, among many things, that he’d started caravanning in 1973 when his then wife got an outbreak of eczema on her legs (this was possibly more information than I required but I admired his honesty).
Alas, just as he was midway through telling me his favourite caravan was the Telford Gold TX251 because it’s a two-berth with polyester shell and triple burner hob (or something like that), my phone rang and I had to depart the conversation.
He looked genuinely sad as I walked away, probably, I realised, because he was in the middle of France on his own with nothing other than a triple burner hob and a copy of Caravan magazine for company.
Still, whatever floats your boat – or van, in this case.
One downside to the holiday was the journey home – a 15-hour trip from the middle of France to Blackpool, via the Channel Tunnel and a huge tailback on Britain’s worst motorway, the good old M25.
Pity we weren’t towing a caravan.
We could have pulled off the road and nipped in the back for a kip.
Oyston to shoulder blame for farcical carry on
People who aren’t interested in football probably won’t care a jot that Blackpool Football Club has turned into somewhat of a national embarrassment in recent weeks.
But those who follow the team, especially the core support who live and breathe it, can’t believe what is going on.
The summer was a disaster zone, chairman Karl Oyston hiring a new manager and then immediately falling out with him about transfer policy.
It meant it wasn’t until last week – when presumably it suddenly dawned on both parties the start of the season was only a few days away and being able to field a team in the first match would be handy – that the club started to sign players.
There were hardly any pre-season friendlies to sharpen the players up, which means, given all the above chaos, narrow defeats in the opening two games at Nottingham Forest and Shrewsbury are actually pretty respectable results.
Karl Oyston has always divided opinion. The fans accuse him of pocketing money from the club, Oyston refutes that and points to the fact he took Blackpool to the Premier League.
The chairman has pros and cons but one thing he can’t do is suggest it is perfectly acceptable to leave it so late in signing players. It isn’t. Whatever he might say publicly, Oyston knows it has been an utterly shambolic last couple of months and the club is hopelessly under-prepared for the campaign ahead.
Hopefully now players are belatedly arriving, and relationship between chairman and manager appears to have improved (slightly), things will improve. But Oyston has to take the blame for what has happened. It has been farcical – and if the club get relegated, the summer just gone will be the reason why.