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A GAME OF SQUASH

Mr Porter’s Jeremy Langmead, remembers cramped family holidays trying to squeeze children and luggage into a tiny Fiat.

My wife and I were only a couple of years out of college when we fell into bed and into love soon after meeting and – ta da! – there were suddenly two small sons sitting there next to us. This unexpected feat, and our meagre young graduate wages, immediately put paid to our dreams of exotic holidays and for a decade or so we had to swap cocktails in Capri for sandcastles in Cornwall.

So each summer we would optimistically trundle off to Truro for a fortnight in our tiny Fiat Cinquecento. As most parents know, if you’re renting a cottage on the coast the amount of stuff you will need to pack for your toddlers is quite absurd: travel cots, teddies, bedding, food, fishing nets, clothes (for rain and sun), books, booze (for us, not them) and the list goes on. Not easy tucking that lot in and around two occupied safety car seats in the back and two adults in the front.

The real mystery is that even though you’ve taken a grotesque amount with you, there always seems to be even more to bring back again. Despite the fact that you’ve eaten the food, lost the fishing nets, and drowned a teddy or two, the pile of luggage to be packed back into the car for the return trip appears to be almost twice the size. It’s puzzling – apart from buying a picture of a lighthouse made from reclaimed driftwood and seashells (that you will hate as you soon as you get home), you don’t remember purchasing anything significant at all.

The last time we made such a trip to Cornwall, we went with some friends who had children of a similar age. On the morning we left – they were staying on for an extra day – they kindly helped us pack the car. We put the children in first, and shoved and shifted the rest of the luggage around them. The poor boys sat strapped in their chairs, crying quietly because the holiday was at an end, and because they said they were too squashed, as we huffed and puffed with the effort. By the time we’d finished, the children had vanished, buried under duvets and picnic blankets. Next up, my wife and I got into the Cinquecento and we squeezed yet more of our possessions into the small free spaces around us. By the end, we were unable to close the doors ourselves, so our friends pushed and leaned against the car doors until eventually they clunked shut. Unable to move our arms enough to wave goodbye to them, we just nodded our heads stiffly and set off, praying that nobody would need the loo, a sandwich, or too much air.

Now that my children are in their early twenties, and both over 6ft 2”, travelling with them in my car – a slightly larger Mini Cooper – is still an ordeal. At least now if there’s no room for everything I can tell them to bog off and catch a train. It’s my sons, not my suitcases, that are considered excess baggage.

Jeremy Langmead is the Brand & Content Director of MR PORTER and Editor-in-chief at The Times LUXX magazine.

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I love the classic yet striking combination of this model. It’s just the right size for a vacation now that my children are grown up and I get to travel in style once more.

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