Packing the ideal holiday capsule wardrobe for a 28 day tour of France in our camper van, I am torn between taking old clothes that I can jettison en route after wearing and aspiring to the well-groomed appearance of the average French woman.
I don’t want to clutter up the van with dirty laundry as space is at such a premium, nor do I want to use precious time and water (our tank is a small one) washing clothes. This is a holiday, after all.
I compromise and take smart casual dresses and separates, but ageing underwear that I can bin with a clear conscience. I’m gratified to discover that I have sufficient for the whole month and am bemused by the notion of leaving a Hansel-and-Gretel-like trail of discarded knickers across the country.
I’ve bought three dresses expressly for the holiday, floaty linen and cotton frocks that are easily rinsed and dried overnight in Provencal sun. I abate any feelings of extravagance by remembering the experiences of a former colleague on her very first holiday abroad.
Margaret was about 22 and had never travelled far from her native Bristol. In anticipation of a week-long package trip to Spain, she invested in seven outfits from her catalogue, so that she’d have something new and special to wear every single day. The whole office was regaled with a detailed description of each outfit as the catalogue delivered it, and after waving her goodbye on the Friday, we looked forward all the following week to an account of her adventures on her return.
Sadly her investment did not pay great dividends. Pressed for a description, she just shook her head.
“I think abroad’s very over-rated,” she said sadly and would not be drawn any further.
I have higher hopes for my holiday in France.
My packing strategy for my small daughter Laura is similar to my own and I look forward to a month without laundry. Until Day 5 of our trip, when my husband announces, to my surprise, “Oh no, I’m down to my last t-shirt.”
Terse questioning reveals that he has brought with him just 5 t-shirts, 5 pairs of pants and 5 pairs of socks. Considering he has approximately 40 t-shirts in his wardrobe at home and more underwear than Laura and I combined, I am not sympathetic.
The situation is partly remedied by persuading him to throw caution to the winds and wear his sandals without socks. But I cannot extend the same philosophy to the other items of clothing in question.
And so for the rest of the holiday, the interior of the camper van is adorned at every stop with a varying array of his drying laundry, like a Tibetan prayer flag offered up to the god of hygiene.
So at least he can be considered hygienic. Not so, it seems, his swimming trunks – but that’s another story…
The next post will reveal all – well, nearly all.