Why you might need budgie-smugglers in France

Which is better shorts or speedos? Picture: Getty Image

Which is better shorts or speedos? Picture: Getty Image - Credit: Getty Images

If you were just about to pack those nice, capacious swim shorts for a holiday in France, you might want to check the local rules first.

Man in Speedos alert. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Man in Speedos alert. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

We were at my son's house to look after four-year-old Wil and Herbie, 14 months, for the day. George was at school.

The family was getting ready to head off to France for half-term, on a camping holiday.

That didn't, thank goodness, include me and grandpa. My camping days have been over since I have needed to get up in the night for a wee.

It's not a problem at home, with the loo next to the bedroom but when the toilet block is across a field, booby-trapped with molehills and guy ropes, it's a problem.

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Soon after we arrived at their home in rural Essex (that is not an oxymoron - Essex has a great deal of lovely countryside), there was a knock at the door and my son took delivery of a small parcel.

A little later, there was another knock at the door and another slim parcel arrived.

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"I know what these are," said my son. "Speedos."

What? Speedos? The well-known brand of itsy-bitsy men's swimwear?

Fashion-wise, this was quite a radical change of direction for my son and his sons. When we went on a seaside holiday to Thorpeness, in Suffolk, they all wore swim shorts. Like ordinary shorts, only seaworthy.

My son noted my expression as he removed a slip of shiny Lycra (or similar) from its packet.

"We have to wear these in France. It's the rules. If you use a public swimming pool, you have to wear trunks, not shorts."

Who was making these rules? Women?

My son explained that it was all about hygiene. The rationale is that men might wear swim shorts outside the environs of the swimming pool, where they might get grubby. Any grime might then get into the water.

If a man was wearing teeny trunks, however, he was unlikely to wear them for any other reason than swimming.

You can see where they're coming from. It would have to be a bold man who would stride down the high street in what are colloquially known as "budgie smugglers". One dictionary definition of the term is: "A jocular reference to a man's tight-fitting swimming costume or swimsuit appearing as if he has a budgerigar concealed inside it, ie. his bulging genitals."

Ah, like that man who was striding around the hotel pool in Crete… Anyway, moving swiftly on…

"What is the French for 'budgie smugglers'?" I wondered aloud.

We pondered. Could it be 'contrebandiers d'oiseau domestique'?

The refined version - ie once I'd looked up the French for budgerigar - is probably more like "contrebandiers de perruche".

I should add, in case anyone in HM Customs and Excise is reading this, that no real budgerigars were smuggled in or out of France in the commission of my son's French holiday.

This was my second encounter with the lesser-know requirements of continental holidays.

I had my eyes tested a couple of weeks ago and my optician asked if I had a spare pair of glasses. When I said I hadn't, she said a spare pair was needed if driving on the continent.

To be honest, if I broke my glasses or somehow lost them (I wear them every waking hour), I would not attempt to drive. Without my specs, in my eye test, I can't even see that there are letters on the screens let alone read them out loud.

I do now have a new pair and they have the ultimate spec of specs - varifocals, ultra-thin lenses and light reactive. I am superspecs woman although, like Superman, there is one substance to which I am vulnerable and that is water. If I go swimming with my husband (can't you use a float like other people? ED), I can't see who's in the water with me and when I try to approach him in the pool I might accidentally grab a total stranger... that's honestly what happened, officer.

As a result of feeling all alone when immersed, I am not keen on swimming. In my teens, I went swimming in the North Sea and the current took me a hundred yards along the shore. When I tottered out of the sea and on to the killer shingle, I couldn't find anyone I knew. There was nothing much I could do except stand still and wait for my mum to come and find me. Eventually, she did.

I wish I had been born with 20:20 vision. When my biology teacher, Miss Short, told me that, in prehistoric times, natural selection would have quickly weeded me out due to my poor eyesight, it gave me pause for thought. Fortunately, however, my short-sighted, astigmatic ancestors were not scooped out of their cave by a sabre-toothed tiger, and, thanks to advances in optical correction, I have survived to beyond what was once women's pensionable age. With glasses, I can read a car number plate from 20.5 metres, although this is not a hobby.

Moreover, I believe you can get prescription swimming goggles, now. That would prevent any mishaps.

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