Charlotte Philby's Parental Leave: He failed to mention that the journey would be eight hours

A mother's weekly dispatch from the pre-school frontline

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The Independent Online

We're off on our first family holiday with friends, to France – by train! A delightful plan, first mooted over a gallon of wine in our local pub garden. The South of France, we roar over the rumble of passing traffic, our mouths stained a reddish-blue.

Already I can see us all lounging by the pool; Édith Piaf drifting out from the open window of the local boulangerie accompanied by wafts of freshly-baked croissants. "I know, let's take the train," my husband cries out, enthusiastically. Yes, we grin. "Great," he says. "I'll book."

And so it is that I find myself at midnight maniacally sweeping clothes into a series of enormous suitcases in preparation for a week in a gîte somewhere vaguely near Toulouse. Downstairs, I hear my husband ordering the taxi for 5.30am – I know this is what he is doing because he has adopted his Dick Van Dyke voice solely reserved for conversing with the man in our local minicab office, and any builder.

Suddenly I'm swept by a sense of shame, because the truth is I didn't trust him to book the tickets, or the cab. He may have failed to mention that the journey would amount to eight hours, and would involve a frenzied taxi-ride from one Paris train station to another. But as he said, we don't have to pay for the kids.

"That's funny," the other husband says as we settle into our seats, before realising we don't have any (because not paying for kids means no seats for the kids, which in reality means seats for the kids but none for us. For eight hours). "It says here we're returning on the 31st?" No, I say, we're definitely booked to leave on the 30th. My husband mumbles as I'm thrown across the carriage, "Hmm, yes, about that...".