A not-so-grand day out

Toby Costa

Toby begins his primary school adventure today, so I took yesterday off to treat him to one final boys’ day out for the summer.

Now if it had been Isaac, he would have immediately produced a list of demands including Legoland, London, the cinema and ten other things, all before lunch. But Toby is a different beast. Offer him a day of undivided attention, and he’ll ponder quietly before asking if he can have a pyjama day to do some drawings and watch Top Gear on TV, and request nothing more adventurous than a trip to the coffee shop.

The thing is this: for all his big, creative ideas and love of foreign countries, Toby is a boy with big ambitions but limited plans.

So this is what we did with our not-so-grand day out.

We spent a couple of quiet hours at home, googling images of the Eiffel Tower and other famous landmarks and then watching one of his favourite Top Gear DVDs. Eventually I coaxed him out of the house and we popped into Newbury for coffee. (Note: the marshmallow that accompanies his regular babyccino must be pink, or else all hell breaks loose.)

That was followed by a stroll around the car park, where he was delighted to find two Fiat 500s parked next to one another, a plethora of Peugeots and a cornucopia of Citroens. Every car he spotted that he liked, I had to take a photo of. It didn’t matter whether it was an Audi TT or a Renault Clio or a Ford Kuga, it was mandatory for me to capture an image of them all. (Naturally, I’ve quietly deleted virtually all of them since then, as I would have required a server farm approximately the size of Suffolk to store them all.)

After a bit of toing and froing car-spotting and popping in and out of shops, I took him across to the local Peugeot dealer – he loves any car as long as it’s French. (While we were waiting to cross the road, he correctly identified the make and model of every car that passed us – at least 30 or 40 of them.) There we carefully examined every car on their forecourt as he pointed out to me all the visible differences between a Peugeot 107 and a 108. (There are many and Toby knows them all.)

I then took him into the showroom, where he told the salesman that he would like Daddy to buy a Peugeot RCZ (I don’t) because I really like fast cars (I do). I quickly hurried him back out after securing a couple of glossy brochures, which he’s been clutching ever since with the same reverence one might show if holding one of the few surviving copies of the Magna Carta.

He’s a funny one, is our Toby. Sometimes trying to engage him in conversation is like trying to prise a signed photo out of the hands of a rabid Justin Bieber fan. But ask him about cars or to talk about things geographical and he could put a politician in full-on filibuster mode to shame. He’s a lot like me in that respect.

After that we had lunch in McDonald’s, then I took him to the new(ish) ice cream parlour in town and we came home, where he watched Top Gear and drew Peugeots from his brochures for the rest of the afternoon until everyone else got home from work/nursery/Beavers.

And that was it. A mundane sort of day by most people’s standards, but pretty much perfect as far as he was concerned. (Perfection would have been visiting Citroen and Renault showrooms too, completing the French trifecta of car manufacturers. I’m not joking.)

Which just goes to show that it’s not about where you go or what you do but about who you’re with and knowing what will please them the most. And a day spent with my too easily forgotten middle child pandering to his obsession with cars was a day well spent.