This is what M looks like when she travels. The reason you can’t see her arms is because they are full of all of the rest of the stuff that she can’t either fit into or hang off of her bag. If you’ve been reading this blog a while, you will remember M’s penchant for near-chaos, her particular brand of nesting.

So anyway. It is the morning after our first night away. We’re gathering our things for the descent to check out of the Novotel.

We like Novotels. They are dependable, anonymous, and often cheap (two children free for accommodation and breakfast — woo hoo!). 

The children like Novotels too. They are recognisable, comfortable, and say holiday. So, it is with some wistfulness that we open the door from our room in Lyons. 

Wait, says M. Can we take this? She holds up one of those complimentary shampoo bottles, full of admittedly attractive, jewel-like liquid.

No, I say. We really don’t need it, and we’re all packed. Let’s go.

So out we go. We pile into the elevator, wheelie luggage and bags for each, except M, whose arms are, as ever, full of what won’t fit into her bag. 

The doors close. Then, as the elevator starts to move, we all hear a soft clunk. Three of us look down: the blue shampoo bottle is lying on the floor, right under M. She, on the other hand, stares straight ahead at the silver doors, absolutely deadpan.

Only when the game is completely up, and we all know without saying what has happened — that she took it, hid it among her things, then accidently dropped it — does she turn to us, still unsmiling, pretend to be cross: What, she says, what?!

We all burst out laughing then, M included. And of course, I pick up the bottle, put it in my bag. And we’ve brought it all the way home.


M has always been charmingly determined to get what she wants. When she was tiny, this usually involved quietly helping herself to something she wasn’t exactly allowed: fistfuls of Daddy’s chocolate, licks of butter, or yummy salt from the bottom of the grinder. When she became properly mobile, this dogged tendency to acquire things of interest progressed to emptying out rubbish bins and pilfering ‘useful’ things like cardboard, molded plastic, broken utensils, old shoes and threadbare clothing. Even today it’s not unusual for me to find things in her room I swear I’ve thrown away.

Other things we’ve brought back from holiday this time courtesy of M: three rocks from the beach at Nice, and a plastic bag half full of chipped-off-the-ground citronella candle wax. She’s going to paint the rocks, she says, and devise a way to make her own candles that look like cup cakes. Apparently. 

Things make quite a lot more sense in her world I think than they do in mine. Long may it last.