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In my days at the Telegraph an esteemed colleague – now editing a national newspaper – used to put his head in his hands regularly throughout the summer holiday season when confronted by the latest offerings from the comment desk which I, theoretically at least, oversaw. “Oh no, not another what I did on my holidays column,” he would cry, sometimes adding a swear word or two. Yes, I would respond glumly. One of our columnists is offering another “what I did on my holidays pieces.”
Columnists, of all the journalistic sub-species, are prone thinking they can get away with turning two weeks in a deserted part of Tuscany into an extended meditative essay on the condition of Italy, as revealed to them by five minutes spent watching the evening local news about a strike by binmen in Florence, and ten minutes garbled conversation about the European Union with the nice man running his own organic olive oil enterprise and charging us idiot Brits (under the banner of artisan individuality), double what we pay for the same stuff in our local Tesco. We hacks when abroad are shameless. We sniff the air and smell… well, whatever.
As I sit in my favourite part of France, sipping a glass of Gigondas and gazing up at Ventoux while my son performs the timeless British holiday pursuit of “playing on the Nintendo Switch”, I will resist the temptation to produce one of those tiresome visitor columns about the condition of France, where I am for a few days recovering from the general election and the side effects of the extended trauma suffered by the entire media-political class in Britain in recent months.