RACHEL JOHNSON: The erratic charm of travelling with my husband

PUBLISHED: 08:00 29 June 2018

Ernest Hemingway. Photo: PA.

Ernest Hemingway. Photo: PA.

Topham Picturepoint/Press Association Images

RACHEL JOHNSON reflects on travels with her husband, Brexit business concerns and how trying to have fun can be such hard work.

Travels with my husband, Ivo, have an erratic quality that I have decided is part of their charm, if not allure. We spent two days in Helsinki en route to Delhi this year. He and my oldest son went to the Kiev Champions league final via Riga. And we spent last weekend in a Schloss near Klagenfurt in Austria, playing tennis on clay against a Sound of Music backdrop, swimming in lakes, picnicking on freshly-caught, grilled trout, dancing the polka in the Schnapps cellar, drinking deep of Schleppe, the local beer, that always sends me straight to Schleep. It was a real tonic.

Sehr schon. Gemutlich! Can you sense the but coming yet?

It was always my husband’s intention to profitez-en by tacking on two days fishing. So we headed to Ljubljana airport so I could fly home to London for the start of the working week, and he could pick up a hire car and set off the foothills of the Julian Alps and the fly-fishermen’s holy grail of Most na Soci. Of course, when I tried to check in on the Sunday the EasyJet desk broke the bad news. When Ivo had altered his flight, he had also cancelled and re-booked mine inadvertently at the same time and all the alternative flights back to the UK were overbooked.

I was stuck in Slovenia, so am writing this on the terrace of the Penzion Sterk, overlooking the emerald Tolminka river, red tile roofs and white spired churches, thickly-forested mountains, while Ivo is thigh-deep somewhere, un-spooling a long line over a purling river.

In a house a few miles away in Kobarid Hemingway wrote A Farewell to Arms. That line about life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans is the tagline of our marriage.

I have just sent ideas through to Sky News where I appear on the panel show, The Pledge, on Thursdays (repeats throughout the weekend). I suggested we should debate why the traditional party of business, the Tories, have declared war on business and traduced the concerns of the CBI, Airbus, Unipart, BMW etc. “Keen to avoid Brexit if possible,” the producer emailed back. I know what she means. A friend had a 60th birthday party last Saturday and decided to label the tables according to conversational topics. He is a Brexiter (oh OK then it was Matt Ridley) and one table was called No Brexit Talk. Table 4 next door was labelled Definitely No Brexit Talk.

I know I would have been ‘sat’ on one of them, to shut me up. I know and understand why people are fed up and bored but that doesn’t mean we have to roll over and lie back and try to enjoy it – we still have to think of England.

PS, I was in Austria and couldn’t go to Matt’s birthday bash at Blagdon Hall. My husband’s superpower is sleeping. I wish mine was the ability to be in at least two places at once.

For the first time since we’d been coming to party with Tony, our host, we were stopped on the border between Slovenia and Austria. “Papers,” a uniformed guard demanded. There were kiosks, it was all a bit Bridge of Spies. We all produced passports. In the taxi, we debated why. Both countries are in Schengen, it didn’t make sense. “Flüchtlingen” the taxi driver explained. Ah – it was to do with refugee crisis.

Then it transpired that only half an hour away from the Schloss there was a migrant camp with refugees from eight different countries, learning German and skills.

I felt bad about not going to see it but Tony’s schedule of Schnapps drinking and picnicking and partying didn’t allow for it. And frankly nor did Tony – it is his way or the high way. His aim is for his guests never to eat in the same location twice over the course of a three or four day weekend which is some feat. Oscar Wilde said that work is more fun than fun.

I’ve always suspected the missing second line to that aphorism is “and fun is more work than work”.

Rachel Johnson is a columnist on the Mail on Sunday.

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