23/06/2014 07:26 BST | Updated 20/08/2014 06:59 BST

Travels With a Teen Boy

I don't usually take selfies in departure lounges - but it's different when travelling with a seventeen year old boy. It's sweet - he teaches me some stuff and I teach him other stuff. I was really surprised as we settled into our seats on board the aircraft, when he turned to me and said:

"What shall we play?"

This goes back to the days of hangman, noughts and crosses and travel scrabble when we all set off on family holidays. More recently, the boys have chatted to each other and listened to music on journeys - or travelled with friends. Suddenly we had this situation where it was just mother and son and I think we both realised how precious it was to be one-to-one.

He looked at me intently as you can do on a plane with bright sunshine streaming in. "Mum, you have a cute little nose, you know," said he. With this, he fell asleep and I tucked his sweater around him. (Well, his brother's sweater. They do this a lot - wear each other's things, without asking).

Our hotel was rather plush and a sort of 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off' mentality took effect with my boy.

"You just go to your signings mum, I'll try out all the stuff in this suite." Er, ok. Do try to see this fabulous, historic city as well, thought I, as I left out the brochures for all the sites plus copious euros.

A text arrived mid book-signing.

Teen boy: "Shower doesn't work."

Me: "I had a shower. You flip the lever above the taps."

TB: "I'll have a bath."

Me: "Okay."

Soon after:

TB: "The plug doesn't come out of the bath."

A bit later:

TB: "I broke my sunglasses."

Me: "You can have mine."


TB: "There is no power to the room. I can't charge my phone."

Me: "Did you put the room card in the first light switch?"

We ate in the Alfama district where the famous LOVE ACTUALLY scene (where Colin Firth comes to claim his Portuguese bride) was filmed. Grilled sardines, local cheese, delicious bread, sangria - so nice to see my boy polishing off platefuls of local food, including pastéis de natas at Belém.

On the final morning, we had a meeting with the big boss at my Portuguese publisher.

"We're very proud of your mum," he told my son.

Proud beam and nod. A look of 'so all that stuff you do at your computer is for real, Mum'.

Well, the deal had been that he could come on the trip if he revised a bit for his last exam the following week - this didn't quite come off until the homeward journey as we flew through fluffy white clouds and discussed metaphysics and ontological arguments. And if you are going to discuss the existence of God, a flight is a good backdrop.

As we arrived back at the house, suddenly I was a mother of three again, instead of just his mum, which I had been exclusively for a few days. And I realised this had been a beautiful experience and that I must go away on one-to-one trips with them as much as possible.