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Book One: Chapter 35

Saturday 24th September

Today is my first trip to Italy (well, apart from forty minutes spent in Trieste on the way to a wedding in Slovenia, but that does not count.) Tomoko has been packing with military precision, her garments neatly folded origami-like into appropriately sized bags, whilst I just fling a few socks and pants in the suitcase. In fact, most of my luggage is taken up by Lily's sterilizing kit and romper suits. I just hope customs don't inspect my suitcase.

I am always tense when travelling abroad because something inevitably goes awry. In particular I try to avoid BA at all costs, since they seem to have some covert mandate to thwart any journey of mine abroad. Today is no exception, for the check-in assistant queries Tomoko's passport and for a short while we are facing a week spent in sunny West Norwood instead of Tuscany. We finally sort out the imbroglio and head through customs, buy a few last minute accessories and then watch our flight dither about whether it is in the mood to fly or not. It does. One hour 30 minutes later than scheduled.

This is Lily's first flight in an aeroplane. She is lucky. I had to wait until I was 18 and then I had to fly the damn Cessna myself. We have an armament of musical toys to amuse en route, although she is far more engrossed in chewing the in-flight guide. As long as it keeps her quiet, I don't care. I just hope she does not chew a vital part of the evacuation procedure.

We arrive at Pisa Airport and I pick up the car, which takes longer than I thought as no-one tells me how to fit in the baby car-seat, whose jigsaw-like safety belt defeats me the whole week.
We turn off at a supermarket to stock up on victuals. Great, my first visit to Italy, the home of da Vinci and Michelangelo and I'm shopping in the equivalent of Asda. I pick up a spare trolley in the foyer, only to have an irate woman run after and snatch it back, muttering what I assume was "You thief" in Italiano. The combination of flight delay, supermarket sweep and nappy change on the back seat of the rental car in complete darkness means that we do not actually set off for Tuscany until 9pm and through some navigational miracle, we manage to weave our way through the country lanes without a single wrong turning.

Unfortunately it is 11.30pm by the time I am pressing the intercom at Castello di Querceto and finally an irritated, slightly reluctant proprietor Signor Francois opens the gate, his only words being "I've been waiting for you". We apologize profusely and it is midnight before we are able to unpack the suitcases and the three million implements for Lily's immutable feeding routine. We open a bottle of complementary wine but it's volatile, plus Lily finds it difficult to settle down in her new cot, devoid of Peter Rabbit and mum's knitted animal of indeterminate taxonomic origin.

But finally she is asleep and we can retire exhausted to bed.

Sunday 25th September

Wake up at 7.30am and inspect the vines outside our front door. They are in urgent need of pruning and I resist lopping off a few wayward tendrils during the week (to be fair, the south-facing vineyard is in much trimmer shape.) Our apartment is perfectly fine although Tomoko's life comes to a premature end once she discovers the absence of washing machine, though I find this a blessing since she has become obsessed with washing clothes in recent weeks (I am not allowed with three metres of the kitchen appliance.)

We take it easy, accustom ourselves to our new enviroment and drive into Greve during the afternoon via a tortuous winding road through the stunning Tuscan scenery. When people referred to the "Tuscan Hills" I envisaged gentle undulating scenery, perhaps reminiscent of Burgundy, instead of vertiginous 600 metres craggy mountains.

I am anticipating everything to be closed, this being the day of rest in a Catholic country, but to our pleasant surprise the fourth Sunday of each month (i.e. today) the organic market comes to town. It is a gastronmic smorgasbord of homegrown veg and pommodoro sauces, although it is the black truffle stand that stimulates the olfactory senses, its pungent smell detectable a good 20m away. Who needs pigs to find them? I could do the job just as well.

It soon becomes obvious that Greve is a gourmand's nirvana surfeit with vanilla-scented ice-cream parlors, artisan bakeries and pasta-makers, plus the renowned Falorni butchers with a stuffed wild boar standing guard outside. I consider how supermarkets have gastronomically shafted my native country, with their Frankenstein vegetables and ubiquitous ready-cook meals (indeed my complementary Daily Mail on the return journey has a two-page spread upon Spanish tomatoes cultivated without soil or sunlight, all destined for our profit-hungry supermarkets.)

The simple pasta dish we throw together in the evening is absolutely delicious. No luminous red pepper that can be seen two miles away at night, but a naturally grown yellow/green/hint of red pepper; no E's plaguing the tomato sauce, just the pure squashed vegetable. It just tastes so divine. If a British supermarket opened in Greve, everyone would just laugh. We commence our bottle bank in the kitchen and donate two empties to the cause.

Monday 26th September

We take in our surroundings: stunning vistas of endless valleys, ancient Medieval villages, lines of sculpted Cypress trees, puffballs of olive trees and of course, row upon row of Sangiovese; distant vineyards forming a corduroy veil over the mountains.

Lily and I venture into our own neighbouring vineyard for an impromptu inspection. I lecture her on vine diseases, simple-Guyot pruning and cover crops, though she seems more intent on ripping off the leaves, her infant attempt at effeuillage. In the evening we check out the local family restaurant, a pizza parlour just off Greve town square, or more accurately isosceles triangle, though I guess that sounds less romantic. Lily has her own high chair and sets about digesting the menu (I refer to the physical act.) Naturally, I am comparing their pizzas against our indigenous variety, Pizza Express. The Italian wins easily, although Express is not embarrassed, plus the Italian eaterie is bereft of smokey jazz bar and calorific dough balls.

Tuesday 27th September

Lily at Fontodi

An idyllic afternoon with a sun-tanned, congenial Georgio Manetti of Tenuta Fontodi, one of the best Tuscan producers. We wait 20 minutes for the proprietor to make his way from the vineyard, during which time I inspect the tasting room. Amongst the piles of Wine Spectator and wine journals I notice a DVD of Terminator 3 and sentimental Italian tear-jerker, Cinema Paradiso. I speculate how these two films inspire their winemaking?

Georgio generously spends the entire afternoon with myself, Tomoko and a supremely well-behaved Lily, who takes her inaugural trip around a winery. All those sounds and smells stimulate her senses: the gleam of metallic stainless steel and yeasty ether of the vatroom segues into the tenebrous coolness of the barrel cellar. We have a wonderful tasting of wines back to 1992, during which Lily sits on the floor underneath the table saying "dadadadadadada" ad nauseum.

The fascinating tasting takes longer than I anticipated and after bidding farewell to Georgio, he closes the door of the tasting room so that Tomoko can breast-feed Lily in privacy. Alas, the tot sees this as an opportune moment to have a wailing fit, much to the surprise of the American party tasting in a nearby annexe, who I am sure expected an ecclesiastical tranquility to accompany their tasting.

We head off for Castello dei Rampolla, but yet again we lose our way and by the time I locate the estate, nobody appears at home. The house is empty, save for a man on his knees struggling with a faulty radiator who I presume is not the proprietor. I make a reckie around a couple of rooms, but being aware of the belligerent dog barking furiously outside, I leave without tasting their wine nor using their desperately needed lavatory. The dog escorts our car up to the exit before sauntering back home: job done.

Wednesday 28th September

Today is our urban interlude during a week of rustic revelry. We drive down through Chiantishire towards Siena, the clement weather making way for a rather oppressive, overcast sky. I endure the usual stress of driving into a city, attempting to find tarmac that resembles a car-park and it takes several attempts before we finally locate one on the perimeter of a sport stadium.

We walk into the city centre, down narrow pedestrianized streets that weave their way through ancient buildings, vestiges of a time when Siena was one of the most affluent townships in Europe. Florence won the battle for supremacy and it seems that Siena never fully recovered from its downfall: a town frayed at the edges, the buildings in desperate need of a clean, a malodorous scent of wee in the air. The grand Piazza del Campo, the scallop-shell epicentre of the town could be impressive if it were not for the bangin' techno music blaring out of a bar that has lost its way from Ibiza, notwithstanding an incongruous tennis court blighting the middle of piazza. Even the main attraction, the grand Duomo is covered in scaffolding and resembles a building site, which it ostensibly is.

We pause for tea and cake at Nanninis, the famous cake shop. I mistakenly order a latte instead of a cafe latte and end up feigning enjoyment of a mug of warm milk. But the bressaola is delicious. Lily needs a nappy change and as usual the establishment is bereft of any changing facility, so I am forced to take the baby in a grubby public lavatory. Somehow I manage to dextrously refresh her underwear without lying her on the floor in a makeshift cubicle for invalids (sorry if you're eating lunch, but that's the reality of life.) Holidays used to be so much more simple.

No, Siena leaves us cold and as we drive north back to our beloved Greve, the sun burns away the cumulo-nimbus and service resumes as normal. In fact, we stop in Greve to buy some pasta, having stumbled upon a wonderful artisan pasta maker called Pasta d'Autor. The shop consists of one pasta machine, one two-metre long counter and a dozen wicker baskets of the most delicious handmade pasta you could imagine.

Pasta d'Autor

The avuncular proprietor is introvert, refrains from making eye contact, the language barrier making our purchase problematic (he is probably thinking about pasta 24-hours a day and does not like to be disturbed.) So I engage him in French and suddenly that broody persona falls away to reveal a jocular man with a serious penchant for fine wine, the international language that every country understands. In fact, he spends ten minutes flicking through a book of fine wines he has tasted and bids us a kind farewell. I make a mental note that Lily must speak a third European language in addition to English and Japanese. Of course, when we cook the pasta at home, it the by far the greatest pasta will ever eat.

Thursday 29th September

Castello di Ama - Revolution

Another day devoted to winery visits (I have to be careful this does not turn into a business trip.) Today we venture to one of the renowned Tuscan producers, the quixotic Castello di Ama. We are given a tour by proprietor Marco Pellenti, which includes not only the vatroom, but the olive oil room and some stunning art deftly integrated into the rustic architecture: neon lights spelling the word "Revolution" in the barrel cellar, a garden encompassed by full-length mirrors. The most arresting is located in a small out-house with pitch black interior, save for an aesthetically arresting, incandescent red hole by the celebrated Anish Kapoor, that plummets towards Hades and beyond. Now you don't that in too many wineries.

Baby Lily is dutifully inspired by the artwork and creates her own artistic sculpture in her nappy (Gilbert and George did it, why not Lily?.) We are given leave to change her in the office lavatory and yet despite the winery being furnished with conceptual art, there is no facility to dispose of nappies. I am brandishing the disposable bag when Marco comes in to check everything is O.K. and seeing my awkward disposition, takes Lily's gift away. That is the last I see of him. My abiding image of Castello di Ama will be saying farewell to Marco holding a bag of my daughter's number two. Are other wine writers humiliated similarly?

After the delights of Castello di Ama I have short visit to Castello di Volpaia, undoubtedly one of the most fascinating wineries I have visited, a labrynth of steel squashed into the shell of a Medieval building. With the harvest in full-flow I clamber up Escher-like steps, ducking under hazardous, vein-like tubes of pumping must and being careful not to slip on the olieaginous flagstones. I wish I had more time to look around, it is certainly a place I would recommend any wine-lover to visit, if only to taste their marvellous wines.

We drive back to Greve via some forgotten dirt track of a road that seems to traverse the "roof" of Chianti Classico, through a dense plantation of firs towards Panzanno. Despite the flumes of dust and the bumpy ride, Lily snoozes in the back, lost in some infantile dream, ignorant of the twat behind trying to overtake me and putting all our lives at risk. For such a young child she is getting an excellent education in wine and I make a mental note to find a kindergarten that runs a wine appreciation course.

Friday 30th September

Our final day in Tuscany. After a week at Castello di Quercetto it is appropriate that we actually tour the winery, after all, we did wake its proprietor in the middle of the night. Tomoko, Lily and I drive down to the fortified castello with its crenellated rampart over which lies a stunning vista of olive groves, vineyards and somnolent distant mountains.

We are given a brief tour, badger the guide to open a couple of super-Tuscans before he realises that I am not just another tourist but a wine-critic of international renown (well, in Essex anyway.) So he summons the congenial marketing manager who offers a mini-vertical back to 1985, which I reluctantly turn down since our final day is reserved for leisure. But we join him for a rustic lunch in the local village of Dudda, a modest looking lay-by eaterie frequented by lorry-drivers and famished locals. Of course, the food is out of this world, including a sensational paté of raw pork that reminds me of Japanese cuisine and mashed up pigs head (the Italian description would sound more attractive.)

In the afternoon we venture back to Greve for our final, tearful walk around the square, loading up on pasta and salami for tonight's valedictory feast, which will be accompanied by a splendid bottle of Rampolla's Sammarco 2000. I am going to miss Greve, it is everything you could wish for in a town, but we vow to return for more salami.

The evening meal is delicious (quel surprise), the wine is stunning and we raise a toast to Tuscany and all its delights. Prandial conversation includes a discussion of whether Lily could be any cuter, whether this is the apex of her cuteness and henceforth it is all downhill? I make a mental note to take a few photos in the morning just in case.

Saturday 1st October

Boo, we have to go home. We have some spare time before our afternoon flight so we have one final drive into Greve where we find the market is in town. I spot a stall fronted by a whole roasted pig, his decapitated head observing the thronging market crowds, his belly being sliced and sandwiched at two euros a pop. I have to sample this, the freshest pork sandwich I will ever taste. I could never be a vegetarian.

We begin the drive back to Pisa airport. I am stressed as usual, conscious that some terrible fate will befall us and I am not wrong. After losing my way, we arrive at check-in, only to be informed by the prissy BA staff that Lily does not have a ticket. "What do you mean, she hasn't got a ticket? How the hell did she get here?" I exhort.

The other day we were joking about dropping Lily off at the doorstep of Pisa's orphanage with just a few Euros and a bottle of milk. Perhaps it was a prediction rather than a joke? What really annoys me (and I hope a British Airways manager is reading this) is that the check-in clerk remains adamant that everything is unquestionably our fault and sternly orders us to buy a ticket for poor Lily - if there is one available. I am forced to stand my ground, make a scene and eventually her boss comes over, corrects her obvious mistake, which she reluctantly apologizes for whilst avoiding all eye-contact. Terrible, absolutely terrible.

We finally enter the boarding lounge and find that this is the kindergarten flight. You can see the look of horror on childless couples' faces who consider changing their flight or possibly staying an extra night? Lily is restless on the return. Even chewing the in-flight safety manual fails to mollify her, whilst Tomoko and I are bemused that BA serve pizza on a flight back from Italy. Surely that is rubbing in the fact that we are re-entering the land of frozen ready-meals and E-numbers?

Although Italy was wonderful, we are pleased to be home, even if it is the size of a rabbit hutch.

Monday 3rd October

Welcome back to England! No cashier at West Norwood station means I have to endure lengthy queues at Victoria Station where I try to give the rail operators my hard-earned money for their desultory service. If there was a train back to Greve, Tuscany, I probably would have taken it. I spend the day looking at the overcast sky and dreaming of freshly-made pasta.

Tuesday 4th October

Petrus tasting with Linden. I have been keeping a cold at bay until after the wines are tasted and by the time I get home, the virus is spreading through my body with wanton abandon. At least if it is Asian flu, I can die having tasted Petrus 1959.

Wednesday 5th October

Ill. Spend all day wrapped in a sleeping bag watching mind-numbing boring daytime TV. Having calmed myself after discovering there is no more Trisha, I veg out in front of the Conservative Party conference in Blackpool. I am impressed by the candidates: I will go so far as to say that if the Tory's take a chance on David Cameron, they could win the next election, but they'll probably stay safe (they are conservatives after all) and elect David Davies, and lose. Did you not know that political punditry is my forte?

Thursday 6th October

I am determined to go to work, if only to avoid contact with Lily. I struggle like a wounded soldier to the station, where I discover that I have left my train pass at home. I regard it as a bad omen and crawl back home to spend another day extracting both sympathy and steaming honey and lemon drinks from my wife.

Sunday 9th October

The Martin family drive to salubrious Wimbledon Village to pretend we are rich and inhabit one of those multi-million pound, 12-bedroom mansions that could house an entire Devonshire village. We stumble across Tootsies, home of the gourmet hamburger and dozens of ululating toddlers who got bored of the colouring-in place mats after 30 seconds. It is perfect for Lily, she can make as much noise as she wants, whilst I tackle the Michelin-starred burger. The waiter takes our ten quid pushchair and parks it next to the three-wheeled titanium "baby-cruisers" with sat-nav, prams that cost the same as my Renault Clio. It would be so easy to steal one and run down the street but they are probably equipped with an immobiliser.

Monday 10th October

Echezeaux tasting with CECWINE close to the mental institution otherwise known as the Houses of Parliament. Before procedings commence, I notice several tasters adorned with luminous LCD screens dangling around their neck: a palm pad where you can input your tasting notes directly onto a central computer. I volunteer to become guinea pig and see whether a computer can offer a more meaningful appraisal than my usual illegible scribble with a leaky biro, submerged under an indelible stain of spilt Merlot. Techno-illiterate as I am, it takes a while for me to work out precisely how it works, but I persevere. At the end of the tasting my notes are transferred to a central computer that spits out your results onto A4. I examine the sheet of paper on the train-journey home, find it makes little sense and quickly rewrite the notes whilst the wines are still fresh on the memory. Ideal for WSET students but not for me, especially as there was no drop down menu that included the descriptor: funky.

Wednesday 12th October

I have been sleeping on the sofa recently. No, it is nothing to do with my marital relationship, but the fact that I do not want to be found guilty of manslaughter. I am plagued by a recurring dream whereby Lily is sleeping next to me and is just about to roll over and fall off the edge and do herself unthinkable harm. To describe this dream as vivid is an understatement: it is real to the point that when I wake up, it takes around 20 seconds to realize that it is all in my warped imagination and that Lily is snoozing soundly in her cot.

However by this time I have subconsciously grabbed my sleeping wife and manhandled her to the safety of middle of the bed. Despite my noble aims, she is rather miffed at being spontaneously grappled during the night and has justifiably banished me to the sofa for her own protection. I guess this is one of the downsides of having a fertile imagination.

Thursday 13th October

South African tasting at Old Billingsgate Market. A superb venue: well organized with a scrumptious packed lunch for participants although I find many of the wines wanting (too many reductive finishes plus an unwelcome vogue for premium wines with hefty price tags whose motives seem more monetary than giving vinous satisfaction.) Another problem is that I cannot pronounce half the names.

Saturday 15th October

Morning is spent shopping at the local Sydenham Savacentre with their "Tu" clothing range (should they not have shown more respect and branded it "Vous"?) We end up spending more on Lily's Pooh-romper suits than our own weekly sustenance, although I do manage to hammer my wallet by ordering a huge wedge of expensive cheese from the delicatessan (a miscalculation on my part.) In the evening I cook a rather splendid chicken chasseur with an over-performing Les Ormes de Pez 1982, after which I order indie-flick "Napoleon Dynamite" off Homechoice.

Sunday 16th October

Tootsies Part Deux. I meet up with Kim and Cath, who I befriended many moons ago in the DJ booth at university when I was the emissary of funk posted at the wheels of steel i.e. I played my record collection for the drunken masses. Lily is in fine form once again, hurling abuse at nearby babys (fortunately her only utterance is limited to "dada" and "bwoo" so nobody understands - except babies of couse.)

Monday 17th October

Currently relishing the joys of the new Vashti Banyun album which is penned down for next month's album of the month (wistful Nick Drake-ish English folk that sounds like a foreboding nursery rhyme.) It makes me want to move to Shropshire and rear bunnies. As you can see from the album cover, the design has been inspired by my mother's knitted creature of undetermined taxonomic origin.

Wednesday 19th October

Lily is officially mobile and baby-rearing becomes a whole new ball-game. Vigilance is the watch-word. Keep your eyes peeled because one minute she is sitting with her comfort blanket, the next she is gnawing through the ethernet cable and attempting to physically connect herself with the internet. She has nailed what I term her "eel-like slither" to get from A to B, whilst the bum-in-the-air crawl is still being perfected (our friction-less wooden floorboards are hindering her progress.) I play Lily the Vashti Banyun album: there is no minimum age at which a child should be exposed in English folk. Indeed, she recognizes the strange creature on the album cover as one that inhabits her cot.

Thursday 20th October

Tomoko and Lily pack their survival kits and venture into the jungle known as Central London for the first time. I show Lily to work collegues who "ooh" and "aah" their appreciation, before we walk down to Japanese restaurant "Sakana-tei" to assuage our sushi fetish. We leave Lily to crawl around the floor, chewing the handwritten menu whilst we devour dishes of katsudon and tempura. We have to drag her back from crawling into the ladies toilet.

Friday 21st October

Tonight I am absconding to Southend with Lily: the first night my wife has been deprived of her daughter. Lily snoozes soundly on the way back, but is traumatised when she arrives at mum's, her strict routine broken, unaccustomed to such unfamiliar surroundings. I had planned to nip straight down the pub, but the sight of a distressed Lily compels me to stay. She seems to settle down after a quick bath and after a bacon sarnie I am off out.

At the Grand, I have arranged rendezvous with cousin Katy and some old friends who I have not seen for between three and ten years. It's always strange and sentimental meeting such friends whose lives meandered in a different direction, although no-one ever changes. The only difference is that we are not dancing on the table (although if Wham! had come onto the jukebox I am sure we would have.)

We end up in a private club in Leigh: the Black Cat, an emblem of the town's suburban hipness, with an intercom into which you declare your name in order to gain entry. The interior is dark and smokey, a cross between a jazz-bar, a London cocktail lounge and a New York rib-shack. We share some potent Sea Breezes and some delicious snacks, though I refrain from going overboard as I'm a single-income father with a child to support. At then end of the evening I am preparing to peel off the tenners when I am told that it's all on the house. Jesus, if I had know that I would have ordered a couple more cocktails and king-size shrimp topped with beluga caviar. Still, I am sufficiently inebriated to feel that I have made the most of a rare night sans family responsibilities.

Saturday 22nd October

Hangover not too bad, and anyway, mum's full-English absorbs any excess alcohol. In the morning I visit nan who has just moved into a nursing home, having endured the misfortunes of Alzeihmer's and Parkinson's in her bungalow for too long. Despite this being one of the better nursing homes in the locality, it is still quite a disconcerting, unsettling experience to enter the nursing home with a lounge full of aged women in various states of dementia and physical capability. However, my nan is still my nan whatever maladies are bestowed upon her and indeed there is no disguising her joy at seeing her great-grand-daughter, whose blissfully innocent smile radiates around the room. Will Lily ever remember my nan? Probably not, but she certainly brought a smile to her face and that is all that matters.

Tuesday 25th October

Embarrassing incident number 3,479 (do not e-mail me asking for the previous 3,478.) So I am in the salubrious surrounding of the Portuguese Embassy attending a Madeira tasting. The average age is 68, average accent Etonian but the fortifieds themselves are simply astounding, particularly a 1900 Henriques & Henriques. After tasting all the ancient Madeiras and ensuring that I scoffed as many canapes as humanly possible without raising the suspicion of the Portuguese waiters, I decide to enter the inner sanctum to find the lavatory.

I locate the toilet, although I cannot discern whether it is the Mens or Ladies. What the hell, I enter the cubicle, micturate turn of the century Madiera and exit, only to be confronted with the diminuative figure of Michael Broadbent's wife, Daphne.

Bugger.

"Is this the Mens or the Ladies?" chirps Daphne, obviously as befuddled as I.
"I'm not sure" I answer before scurrying away, praying that I do not bump into Micky B on the way out.

Wednesday 26th October

Objects that obsess baby Lily:-

1) My smelly slippers.
2) My ethernet cable for my laptop.
3) "Do You Want To" by Franz Ferdinand.
4) Any remote control. In fact, the metal Homechoice remote control now bears Lily's teeth marks. Even more miraculous is that she has somehow programmed our satellite TV to constantly remind us that banal BBC2 auction show "Flog It" is presently on air.
5) Hand claps.
6) Drinking dirty bathwater through sucking the sponge.
7) The coolness of the underside of the arm.
8) My glasses, which she is hell-bent of ripping off my face and chewing.

Thursday 27th October

Whilst reserving a table at new eaterie "Kilo" just off Regent Street, super-model Jodie Kidd enters with yapping pooch for an interview. I must admit that I resent her existence, someone whose fame rests upon the acute angles of her cheek-bones rather than any discernable talent. Yet I must admit she has a friendly smile and seems to come without airs and graces. Who am I to judge another person I have only met through the tabloids? She is too tall for me though, so if you are reading this Jodie, there is no point phoning for a date (e-mail me: it's more discrete.)

Friday 28th October

Sniff, sniff: my wife and baby daughter are abandoning me for two weeks, one day and thirteen hours to visit the in-laws 6,000 miles away in Japan. I have taken the day off work to spend my final 24-hours with Lily, so I take her to Dulwich duck park to feed the snobby swans and petulant moorhens. Alas, the weather is dreary and there are no ducks. In fact there isn't even a pond, since Lambeth council have drained it to reveal and quagmire of sludge. Lily is unimpressed, the stale bread is redundant and after a quick tour around the verdure we return home.

I chauffeur my family to Heathrow. On the one hand I cannot deny that I am looking forward to two-weeks of lie-ins, hardcore partying and relaxation. Then I take one look at Lily's angelic features and resist temptation just to turn the car round and return home. But eventually we arrive at the airport and I make a quick tour around Terminal 3 to check whether Wendys has really abandoned their last post (they have.) Instead we make do with a Burgerking, before bidding a sad farewell at Departures. I have a lump in my throat that almost turns lachrymose when Lily gives me a hi-five in her push-chair.

Then they are gone. Let's party!

10.00: spot Lily's stripy baby-grow on the clothes-horse. Retire to bed to stem depression. A big part of me is missing.