On a jetty in a seaside town, somewhere in France…*
Judith Chalmers (for it is she): Hey Dudes! Welcome to da show! We’s got SUCH an awwwwsome interview-tastic dillio for youse today!
Producer: What the…? Judith, I know you haven’t done the Wish You Were Here? show for years but you really don’t have to get down with the kids. They’re all probably on their X-Stations and PlayBoxes right now anyway. This show is aimed at the motorhome and caravan generation – you know, all ‘nice cups of tea from the thermos’ and ‘we found this lovely pitch on a lane just off the A13 near Hornchurch’ brigade.
Judith: (returns to usual cut-glass accent) Oh thank God for that, darling, I’ve been so worried about getting in front of the camera again, do you like my hair? I’ve brought my special tea cosy with me too it’s been all around the world with me did I ever tell you about the time Cliff Michelmore and I..
Producer: Judith! Let’s just get on with it shall we?
Judith: Sorry, sorry – which camera am I on? You can edit that bit out can’t you? I’m all sixes and sevens, what am I like? Do you remember when Cliff said..
Judith: (clears throat, smiles at the camera) Hello, good evening and welcome to tonight’s Wish You Were Here? This week we’re in France where we’ve tracked down a couple of travellers, a few weeks into their motorhome tour. Hello Ken and Gill!
Ken & Gill: Hi Judith, lovely to meet you. Nice tea cosy!
Judith: Why thank you! It’s been in the family since my mother knitted it in an air-raid shelter during the blitz in…
Judith: Where was I? Yes. So. What’s your story then dears? How did you come to find yourselves here in this lovely fishing village somewhere in France?
Ken: Well Judith, we’re just an ordinary couple, I’m a driving instructor and Gill’s a teacher. We had a bit of thinking time when Gill had some time off after she broke her ankle in 2014 and decided we’d got into a bit of a rut.
Gill: Our children are grown up and have left home so we spent some time thinking about what we’d like to do in the longer term in case health issues catch us up as we get older. There’s so much talk of dementia these days we want to enjoy ourselves while we can.
Judith: Oh, you darlings, you’ve got years ahead of you! Look at me, I’m well into my winter years and I still have all my marbles – did I mention the time Cliff and I were filming and he…
Producer: (sighs) Stick to the interview Judith..!
Judith: Sorry, you were saying…
Gill: We gave it a lot of thought and decided motorhoming might be fun; seeing a bit of Europe but taking a few home comforts along too.
Ken: As I’m self-employed, with a bit of planning I could take a long break and Gill had reached the point in her career where early retirement was an option. She feels the days may have gone when a scary Scottish teacher can silence 30 youngsters with a glare. Go on Gill, show Judith your scary Scottish teacher glare!
Gill: (glares at Judith)
Judith: (pales suddenly) I.. I’m so sorry, I left my homework in the Science room, I’ll just…
Ken: (laughs) Don’t worry, she does that to me all the time! At our wedding, she glared at my poor best man when he made an off-colour joke and the vicar had to dig out some dry underpants for him.
Producer: Would you like to sit down Judith?
Judith: (collects herself) No, no I.., I’m fine. So er… where have your travels taken you so far?
Gill: We started off with a few UK weekends away to get a feel for travelling in a motorhome, there’s lots to learn and we weren’t even sure we’d like it. Fortunately we really took to it and went ahead with planning our four month trip where you find us after twenty-three nights. We started off in Belgium visiting some of the WW1 sites, then headed into Normandy along the coast. We’ve done a little of South Brittany before arriving here in the north on our way to St Malo to see the big Spring Tides.
Judith: The Spring Tides? Oh how lovely, the wind blowing, the waves crashing against the shore – so romantic! There was one time when Cliff and I…
Ken: (interrupting) Ahem, yes it’s been fun. We plan to head south from St Malo to find some more sun and to visit some friends in the Aveyron. Then we’ll do a bit of Northern Spain and the Pyrenees and after that..? We’ll decide then. Maybe the south coast, maybe the Alps, maybe both!
Judith: (claps hands) What fun! And how have you been getting on squashed into – Vince is it? There can’t be much space to get away from each other in a van can there!
Ken: You’re right – there’s not a lot of space. It’s lucky we get on so well, we share the same taste in music and everything. Gill doesn’t like to drive Vince abroad; he’s a big fella and as I’ve had lots of experience driving on the right, I do all the driving. Gill kindly said that if I drive, and do all the ‘outside’ jobs like filling and emptying water, setting up the electric hook-up and taking care of the toilet cassette then she’d do the shopping cooking and cleaning. All the woman’s work in other words.
Judith: (looks aghast) The woman’s work..? Oh no, don’t do it Gill!
Gill: (unleashes the glare) While Ken is unconscious can I just say that if I hear one more bloomin’ pop-punk song, or prog rock or another blinking jig-a-jig Irish reel I swear I’ll…
Judith: Yes I can understand your frustration but…
Gill: (getting into full flow) And driving? DRIVING? Have you ever sat beside a bloody driving instructor? “ten-to-two, TEN-TO-TWO – Mind that child! I really think you should have signalled there, did you see that red light?” Getting him to do the outside jobs is the the only peace I get.
Ken: (coming round) Whazza? What? Where was I?
Judith: Not to worry Ken, we’re just finishing up by asking both of you for three amazing things about your trip so far, right Gill?
Gill: I love the way – unlike the UK – you can park up pretty much anywhere for the night. In this village we’re right on the quay, it’s lovely. I like the technology in the modern motorhome; we have heating and hot water, a fridge, and we can send downloaded movies wirelessly to our TV! And most amazingly I haven’t murdered Ken…yet…
Judith: What about you Ken? Three amazing things?
Ken: (still dazed) Well I’m quite astonished at the linguistic ability of the children here, I’ve seen some of them as young as three speaking fluent French. It’s uncanny! The sailors here seem to be very OCD I’ve noticed. If you look at the boats in the bay, their owners seem to park them all facing the same way. Maybe it’s for the tourists. The amazing thing is that when the tide turns, they seem to come back and – incredibly – turn them round to face the other way, it’s so tidy of them. But most amazing of all? Gill hasn’t murdered me…yet…
Judith: (turns to camera) So there we are, another episode of Wish You Were Here? comes to an end. I hope you enjoyed it – see you again soon!
Producer: Cut! That’s a wrap. Can somebody get Ken a medic?
Judith: (puts her arm around Gill’s shoulder, they walk away together…) Now dear, how would you like a nice cup of tea? My cosy has been keeping it warm all this time, you know – did I say earlier about the time Cliff and I were in Marbella and….
Cliff Michelmore presented the BBC’s rival Holiday programme until 1986.
*some of the above interview may not be true.