The miserly French villa owners made me do it

Call me petty, but the microfibre dishcloths, tea towels, dishwasher tablets, undrunk wine and Twinings tea were mine

Fri, Aug 1, 2014, 01:00

Do we have to leave all that toilet paper, I said, looking at the pyramid of the stuff still standing in the bathroom at the end of our holiday in the rented French villa. It wasn’t a nice thought – it wasn’t even particularly nice toilet paper – but as far as I was concerned, they had started it. “They” being the owners of the villa, or more precisely their letting agents.

Or maybe we had started it, by arriving with a suitcase full of sheets and towels to avoid the €100 linen charge, though it cost €50 for the extra bag with Ryanair. Petty? Yes, but then you can buy a lot of ice cream with €50. Smug? Certainly, until we discovered that when they had said “bed linen”, what they had meant was “all linen”. There wasn’t a hand towel, tea towel, rag or dishcloth in sight, although no washing-up was necessary, since the makings of tea or coffee were missing too.

The fridge yawned emptily, except for a strong smell of fish. You couldn’t call it a warm welcome, but never mind, we were on holidays, and everything about this villa said so. Seashells marched along the window sills – glued down, it must be said; a straw shopping basket swung from a hook; there were curly metal cafe chairs under a tree in the garden. It was gorgeous. What did the lack of a dishcloth matter, with a supermarket nearby and, next to it, a traiteur – one of those fabulous French delis selling everything from boiled pig’s snout in aspic to a tray of crème caramel so smooth and silky that you can suck it in between your teeth.

 

Not a lot happens

The beach was close by and we had made an exciting discovery in the shed – a pair of those low-to-the-sand, stripy deckchairs that made us feel quite like locals on the beach, except that we didn’t smoke like chimneys while doing sudoku puzzles, or tweeze small hairs from our inner thighs for hours on end.

The beach stretched away in either direction, mostly empty. Not a lot happens in this part of the world, which suited some of us more than others. “Everyone on this island is either under six or over 56,” said my youngest, who had taken along a friend as a precaution. They scoured the village and campsites in search of other teenagers, but could find only one, a sullen fellow selling waffles in a nearby town. They ate there every day.

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