Three months later, the whole idea seemed absurd and I was tempted to cancel the booking. But I naively clung on to the belief that if we could take our son away from his comfort zone to a beautiful place with warm seas and blue skies, he would be transformed. Some people never learn.
As for the fear of flying, I decided to undergo a course of hypnotherapy sessions with a lovely woman who came highly recommended. The hynotherapy seemed to be very successful. Within minutes of arriving, she was able to put me into a deep trance and induce a feeling of tranquility that I hadn't enjoyed since I was a foetus.
Sadly, when I sat on a plane for the first time in six years, I realised that instead of being cured of my phobia, I had merely been hypnotised into believing that I wasn't scared of flying. When the plane took off, everything changed and the three-hour flight was one long silent scream.
Since then, I've been feeling rather gloomy. My son won't travel beyond the environs of Lewes and I seem to be limited to a damp part of northwestern Europe.
As if that wasn't enough, my wife casually announced that she'd agreed to look after someone's dog for five weeks, adding a further layer of restrictions to our movements. My world, which once extended to South America, had now contracted to a tiny, dog-friendly corner of England. I wasn't happy.
But then, one afternoon, I walked in the front door and found a small border terrier looking up at me, with trusting brown eyes. "This is Maisy", my wife solemnly announced. Maisy ambled towards me and jumped up, gently resting her paws on my legs. I smiled nervously, hoping that she wouldn't damage the sofa.
In many ways, Maisy is the ideal dog. At home she is only slightly more animated than a stuffed toy, which is perfect, but outdoors she becomes far more active and performs the sorts of tricks that children expect from dogs. I can't say that I particularly relish the hairs and the smell, or having my face licked, but I'm grateful to her for getting my sons out of the house.
The South Downs are less than ten minutes' walk from our front door, but persuading the boys to go there is usually almost impossible. If they do agree to have a walk, the continual carping and moaning puts a bit of a dampener on things. But since Maisy joined us, they've been up on the Downs every day:
(Trivia fact - this is the site of the Battle of Lewes in 1264, which resulted in the birth of parliamentary democracy)
Seeing my youngest son swinging on a farm gate, describing it as "The best fun ever" made me realise that I had to put all of my reservations about the smell, the hairs, the inconvenience and, worst of all, the poo, to one side. If this is the price I have to pay for getting my sons to swap the virtual world for the real one, then so be it.
Sadly, for the boys, this is a holiday romance that will have to end. In just over a month, Maisy's real family will return from their absurdly long holiday in France and I suspect that the house will be very quiet without her.