DERNIER MOT - WHERE'S MY SUITCASE?
The house is in uproar. "Don't forget to phone home. Don't forget the mustard powder..."
"Custard not mustard, darling..."
"And the mint jelly. And don't walk around talking to everyone on the tube, Mummy!"
Anyone would think I've never been to London before. "You'll get mugged..."
"No flirting with strangers!" said the Senior Partner with a smirk.
All this just because I'm off to Vive La France at Olympia.
"Don't worry. I'll stock the freezer," I said. "There's plenty of cat food, I've already de-wormed the dogs, you'll have to pick the last of the leeks..."
"What are you going to wear?"
That stopped me in my tracks. Wear? Er, clothes? I looked at the assembled faces. No, my muddy jeans wouldn't do. Baggy jumper? No, perhaps not. My neat pleated skirt has been relegated to the cat basket, and London in January demands more than a light cotton skirt and a pair of flip-flops.
"Perhaps I'll have to go shopping," I said, unravelling an antique pair of tights. "I'm sure I remember the way to Bond Street."
The Senior Partner paled satisfactorily.
"Can't we come too?" said the Junior Members.
"Nope. I'm not going for fun. It's work. And anyway, you'll be at school."
By this time Bad Boy Tommy had climbed into my dusty suitcase and settled down for a nap.
"And you're not coming either!" I snapped, dragging him out. "Off you go, I'm to hoover this case out, so you'd better go and catch a mouse or something. And as for you, Sooty-cat, you can stop sulking right now!"
All this fuss just for three days away. But we're so used to living in this forgotten little village that a trip down the mountain into the real world seems bizarre, especially the idea of volunteering to visit the Big City. There are no shops here, no bars, no cinemas, nothing, and hardly any cars either because there's no-one here in the winter.
Also of course, I don't often go anywhere on my own. There's usually someone tagging along. So the prospect of flying solo without even Bella panting gently at my side, does feel similar to being asked to shop in my pjs.
But I can't wait. I'm going to meet Living France readers and drink gallons of free champagne with the editor. Oops, did I say free champagne? I don't know where I got that idea. It'll be coffee, and dry biscuits only. Serious hard work. Yes. Dearo dear. Tut, tut. What was I think of? I'm not going there to enjoy myself.
"Please can we come?" whined the JMs.
"It won't be fun," I told them. "There won't be anything to do or see and the stories about me having a whale of a time last year are pure invention. You won't be missing out on anything," I lied. "Honestly. You'll be far better off staying here and going to school."
"Poor Mummy," said the Senior Partner, earning himself a year's worth of Gold Stars, "she's got to go London all on her own and work all weekend instead of having a lie-in with the dogs."
The Junior Members looked at me. Work all weekend? No lie-in? No dogs? Quel horreur.
I bent my head meekly over the ironing board and nodded bravely. "It'll only be a few days of really exhausting hard work," I said hiding my grinning face. "It won't be too bad."
So that's it. I'm off to spend three days wandering around chatting with people, tasting the most scrummy food on the planet, and watching French fashion models strut their stuff on the cat-walk. Cooking demonstrations, free samples, brilliant ideas about life in France... collapsing in giggles... Vive La France.
See you there.
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