There's a bullin our pool

Sean McPartlin

WE return to the same spot near the French-Spanish border for our summer holiday each year. Mum tries to relax, Dad attempts the world record for continuous reading and junior member looks cool on his bike and hot on the football pitch.

Near the campsite is a field which hosts a succession of travelling mini-circuses. These are small affairs, and invariably feature a llama, a goat and a camel of dubious origin.

However, in mid-July the "Toros Piscine" arrives. Even my fading linguistic skills can work out that this has something to do with bulls and swimming pools. We wondered for some time what form this entertainment would take. Eventually we spotted a half dozen juvenile bulls, and, surrounded by temporary seating, a large canvas pool.

It seemed that, in the great tradition of Jeux sans Frontieres, the impetuous, the young and the mad would be chased by these mildly interested bullocks until forced to dive into the pool to escape. You could almost hear a French equivalent of Stuart Hall chortling away into the microphone.

Well we could hear him, at least if the wind was in the right direction. Each year we've sat listening while the amplified "March of the Toreadors" and the sounds of hysterical laughter were conveyed to us on the night breeze. It became part of our holiday traditions.

This year, however, was different. The familiar posters appeared with an extra word. They now blazed "Toros-Piscine-Sumo!" Intrigued, we drove past the site, almost expecting to see oversized men in large underpants grazing next to the bulls. There was no sign of them - and no clue as to how "Sumo!" added to the evening's fun.

We spent much time agonising on how they would have fitted into the picture and came up with several unlikely, unrepeatable, but nevertheless, highly entertaining options.

But then, that's the point of a holiday: it gives you space to fret about the totally inconsequential (what was the name of the Applejacks' female bass player in 1964?) which you have neither the time nor energy to do while at work.

However, as teachers, we all know the propensity of teenagers for pricking such comfort bubbles. Towards the end of our stay, my son showed unusual willing to fetch his old fellow a can of his favourite French beer.

Though it was slow in coming, I was delighted to receive such service, until I looked at the can. Reflecting much of his parents' conversation over the past term, he had etched an extra couple of letters in front of the beer's brand name, so that it now read: "McKrone-nbourg".

Welcome back to reality.

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Sean McPartlin

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