WE ARE DRAWING ever closer to our two week holiday Cornwall and have spent a couple of nights in the van to make sure everything works and nothing has dropped off (the van, that is). 


The boys have already packed their Ben 10 rucksacks with an arsenal of plastic weaponry that would send a Gatwick Airport baggage scanner into meltdown, together with a forest’s-worth of colouring pencils (all blunt) and one pair of pants. 


If only my packing could be so easy. 


The first getaway of the summer is always a traumatic one. It starts with M having to ascend to the magical land of The Loft to get down The Summer Clothes, continues on to frantic searching through bin liners full of Christmas decorations while we panic that he may accidentally have given all our short-sleeved clothing to charity and finishes with my distraught cries as I realise that the clothes he has recovered are exactly the same ones we put up there six months ago and they haven’t metamorphosed into a designer wardrobe.


[tl:gallery size=300×297]

I can see myself now in a long, white halterneck dress dangling a pair of strappy sandals from one hand as I meander along the edge of the surf with a beatific smile and poker straight hair, watching my children do something clever on the beach. Not algebra or open-heart surgery but maybe a sand sculpture of The Last Supper. People are staring. In reality, I will be wearing something dark made of denim with so much food down me I may well have been dressed by Delia Smith. The strappy sandals have been replaced with wellies, my hair pushes the boundaries of the phrase “bedhead” and l am yelling at the boys to stop prodding the dead seagull with a chip fork. People are staring… 


Each year I promise to cut down on the amount of clothing I take away and to be more realistic with the type of clothing required but then the summer holiday equivalent of Christmas shopping kicks in and I panic-pack everything I’ve ever bought but never worn.


In my defence, I have seen other holidaymakers with an even less realistic approach to practical packing then mine. I was surprised, yet somewhat impressed last year with the lady that climbed the seven thousand treacherous, rough-hewn steps up to Tintagel castle in stilettos. She looked neither uncomfortable nor even disgruntled at the fact that no other family member had suggested that Tintagel was built thus because of its inaccessibility, and if and when the Saxons ever attacked its stronghold, they were probably wearing a stout pair of walking boots. Or at least a comfy pair of leather slippers.


The most practical item of clothing I take with me is a wetsuit, which, in my rosy vision of reality makes me look sleek and sporty whilst providing a welcome barrier against the glacial waters of The Atlantic. I may be required to revise this view following the startling revelation from last year’s photos that more accurately show me resemblent of an over-grown seal when in the water. 


Perhaps if I had a yacht moored in St Tropez, or a holiday home on a Caribbean island then I would have a genuine requirement for white halterneck dresses and strappy sandals. I have a sneaking suspicion however that ultimately I am just not that kind of girl and am far happier with a warm fleece and a cool breeze as we crab in vain off Smeaton’s Pier, or sit overlooking St Ives harbour spreading clotted cream onto a warm scone whilst fending off seagulls the size of albatrosses with a plastic spade.


Having said that, if anyone has a spare yacht or a villa somewhere tropical, I am more than willing to pop down to Matalan for an impractical dress and put my theory to the test.