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It is not often that a major leap forward takes place in the holiday industry.
     Such a leap forward is taking place today.
     I am proud to announce a holiday-planning innovation, which will revolutionise the way the British take holidays.
     It will, in brief, solve the major problem, which still taxes all but the most far-sighted holidaymaker:
     That is, making sure you go on holiday with the right people.
     Everything else has been solved.
     We can now plan WHERE we go and WHEN we go and HOW we go.
     If we want a French holiday home, we can look in the pages of a glossy brochure like Chez Nous or Vacances en Campagne and choose an apparently glossy holiday house.
     If we want a cruise, we can pick the ocean, the vessel, the cabin, even the nubile young purser.
     If we want two weeks getting pink by the sea in Santa Alfalfa in the Grand Canaries, we can home in on the hotel of our dreams.
     What we can’t do is decide who we want to be on holiday with.
     Oh, yes, we can take our family with us. Often we have no choice BUT to take our family with us. It is very difficult to tell our family that we are leaving them behind this year when we go on our jaunt to the sun, even though our family might be secretly relieved.
     So very often we try to spread the stress by going on holiday with another family, or taking our own relatives.
     Which doesn’t work, does it? Between you and us, we wish we had a wider spread of friends and relations to choose from, don’t we?
     Well, now you have!
     Because this year we are introducing our new holiday catalogue called En Famille, from which you can choose the family YOU would like to go on holiday with.
     Yes, the ideal family of your choice - even though you’ve never met them before.
     Picking a family by mail order ? Doesn’t sound right, does it?
     And yet that’s exactly what you do with a holiday home, or hotel, or cruise ship! You pick it out of a catalogue without hesitation because you like the sound of it, or it looks nice in the photos, or the description makes it sound just what you’re looking for.
     Well, if you can do it with a holiday home, why not with your holiday companions?
     In our En Famille brochure, we have literally hundreds if not thousands of stunning colour photographs of families of all ages and sizes, one of which is bound to be the perfect fit for your holiday wants!
     Say for instance that you are a normal (!) family of four people - father, mother, son, daughter. Father is dead keen on sailing. Mother hates sailing, loves shopping and antiques. Son quite likes sailing but prefers video games and loafing around. Daughter hates her brother, likes horses and pouting a lot.
     Bit of a problem, eh?
     The long-term solution is obvious. This family is headed for disaster and should be split up immediately, with each member being relocated in another family.
     But in the short term, for holiday purposes, there is another solution. Turn immediately to the pages of En Famille, and using the sophisticated step-by-step guide, find another family with a yacht-mad father, a shopaholic mother, a grungy son and a moody horse-loving daughter.
     Book them up to go on holiday with you and your problems are over!
     Perhaps you don’t need an entire family, just a companion for your moody teenager, or a golfing crony for your golf-mad dad?
     These too can be hired singly from En Famille! You don’t have to have a whole family from the catalogue - just one family individual can easily be hired. We have plenty of individuals for hire, ranging from louche single mother to bulimic teenage daughter, from studious anorak twenty-year-old to football-mad middle-aged and paunchy!
     Although En Famille is in its first full year of operations this year, we had a pilot run last year and initial reports were unbearably exciting.
     Here are some of the comments we received from happy first-time En Famille users...
     “Dear En Famille, Thank you, thank you, thank you for putting me in touch with another caravan freak! None of my family has ever understood my hobby, so it was beyond my wildest dreams to be able to hire a fellow enthusiast!”
     “Dear En Famille, We were dreading taking our 12-year-old son on holiday, as all he is interested in is this dreadful new Warhammer game, so we are eternally grateful for the hire of the equally dreadful teenager from your catalogue, who kept our son quiet throughout.”
     “Dear En Famille, I thought you might like to know that my wife has recently run off with the husband of the family we went on holiday with from your books last summer. I cannot thank you enough for this.”
     The En Famille holiday catalogue. Over 1,750 families in full colour. It could change your life. It could even change your wife.  Order your own copy now, through this column.

The Independent Tuesday April 20 1999

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© Caroline Kington