Finance: The Trader - No chance of a Flaming Ferrari where my folks come from

EVEN TRADERS have families, though if they live anywhere but London, there's rarely time to visit them. My mother thinks London is a frightful place, even for a visit, with a population that consists entirely of muggers and people in a hurry. "And everyone's so rude," she says, wide-eyed, as if 30 Women's Institute members waiting right in front of the ticket barriers at Tottenham Court Road Underground station while one of their number buys peppermints doesn't count as provocation.

Consequently, she and my father have chosen to bury themselves in a tiny village about a hundred miles from the capital where the quality of life is apparently far superior to city existence. "Just smell that air," my father says every time he drags me out for a walk along the local lanes (obviously we can't walk across the fields, because the footpaths are planted over). "You don't get air like that in London." No, I think; we don't have all those pesticides and herbicides in ours.

The other aspect of rural life that I find hard to appreciate is the fact that you have to drive everywhere, even to buy a pint of milk or a loaf of bread. Not surprisingly, my parents spend many of their waking hours in edge-of-town supermarkets. In fact, I think they may regard a visit there as a bit of a treat. I can't think of any other explanation for the fact that they always drag me off to one the minute I arrive at their place. "Don't take your coat off, darling," my mother says breezily as I stagger in after battling the motorway traffic. "We can have coffee there. It's rather good, you know."

Mind you, one look at the local town centre and you understand why the supermarket counts as an entertaining landmark. It's the sort of place that was innocently minding its own business for years until it had a terrible attack of the town planners in the Fifties, from which it has never quite recovered.

The local tourist office - an act of faith if ever I saw one - has optimistically created a leaflet on historical walking tours, with lines such as "turn left at the multi-storey car-park. The house that used to stand on this spot..."

There's one each of all the usual high-street shops, as well as a few dingy jewellers, a florist that sells only carnations and, naturally, half-a-dozen dreary tea shops that close at 4pm. There's nowhere else to eat unless you want burgers or take-away Chinese (with chips). You have to head out to some village or other for a proper, grown-up meal with condescending waiters and cream with everything. Not that we ever do; as my mother says, it seems rude to disturb the hush in these places by actually eating in one of them.

So for this weekend, it'll be meals at home in front of the telly, and all the better for it. After all, I'm here to relax, although it's also a pre-emptive strike in case I forget Mother's Day. As far as my parents are concerned, it's their chance to make sure I'm not up to anything potentially embarrassing at work.

"Look at all this business with the Flaming Ferraris," my father says. "More like the flambed Ferraris now," I reply. "Well and truly burnt."

I look across at my mother. "Isn't this when you usually say, `It's the parents I feel sorry for'?" I ask, but she just blushes and mumbles, "Oh, well... not always".

I smile, and tell them that they have nothing to worry about. After all, thanks to the way they've raised me - to be good and kind and honest - I'm probably never going to earn that sort of money in the first place.

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