Songs from the inner child

11th August 2000 at 01:00
A CHARACTER in David Lean's epic, Ryan's Daughter remarked of Bob Mitchum as the village teacher: "It's working with children - makes a man childlike."

There is no doubt that many teachers are hit by the urge to find what therapists would, expensively, refer to as the "inner child" when we are released from adult professionalism and embark on the family holiday.

This year found us again in French Catalonia, where family games of Monopoly and Scrabble were played out with the intensity that only comes in childhood or in the complete absence of any other distraction, while my son had to ask me to cease embarrassing him when I loudly announced each time I hit 20 in our table tennis duels: "World Championship point!"

Travelling on the open-topped "Petit Train Jaune" through the peaks of the Pyrenees, we waved at everyone, shrieked like weans on a roller-coaster each time we entered a tunnel and blasted the driver with unhelpful remarks when it inevitably broke down.

Best of all, we discovered the French radio station named Nostalgie. For 700 miles, in each direction, we sang along to classic hits.

According to national policy, every third song has to be French-produced, which gave us the joy of the complete back catalogue of Johnny Halliday and Plastic ertrand. No matter - we sang along anyway. It was the adults' revenge on our son's burgeoning dedication to the booming bass anthems of Dance Hits 2000.

Mile after mile, as a landscape of sunflowers, vineyards and Cathar castles whizzed past, he cringed in the back at the embarrassment of the wrinklies in the front. His mood was scarcely improved by the discovery that his old fellow was a dab hand at the she wop bops, and no mean shakes at the ramma lamma ding dongs.

Justification for all this arrived towards the end of our stay. Down on the beach, underneath the twilight blue of the Pyrenees, were the lighting rigs, sound systems and stage accoutrements of a major rock event.

The backing band cooked up a storm and on strode the star - Yannick Noah! Clearly, when not starring at Wimbledon he had been using his racquet, like the rest of us, to strum as a guitar while miming along to Shadows hits. He even had the walk right.

We've returned home confirmed in the recreative properties of our holiday childishness. Now, before term starts, I just have time to disappear into the bathroom with my otherwise redundant hairbrush, and sing along in front of the mirror to Gene Pitney's Greatest Hits. Bliss!

Sean McPartlin is aged, temporarily, 12 12.


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