Life Lessons: I have decided what my superpower would be
There's a questionnaire in one of the newspapers I buy on a Saturday that I like.
Every week, they ask the same questions of different famous people. One of the questions is: "What would your superpower be?" Many of the A-list say invisibility, because it must be hard to have us saucer-eyed plebs gawking at them all the time.
Of course, an actor asking for invisibility is a joke, they are, by definition, desperate to be seen. The superpower question makes me think, though, about what mine would be.
Invisibility sounds awful. The way I see it, we go through life trying to be noticed, like the tubby kid in PE class, whether in school, work or relationships, we are always inwardly shouting: "Pick me, pick me!" So it sucks when someone doesn't pick you. And that is where my superpower comes in. It dawns on me as I am making the (second) wine run with my flatmate. He is telling me about a woman who went on a round-the-world trip with her partner, only to have him turn around at the first stop and tell her it was over.
I've never met her but I know (having been dumped while printing boarding passes) that if I had a magic wand I'd wave the pain away. Like the Fairy Godmother of break-ups, when your heart gets broken and you think you can't go on - poof! - I appear with a bottle of red wine, a Xanax and my wonderful heartache-reversing wand.
I wouldn't eradicate all the pain, because that raw emotion is life-affirming, character-building and 99pc more likely to make you think twice before dumping someone by text. Also, the immediate dumping aftermath, when your friends feed you wine with a spoon and wipe your nose, is lovely. So I'd let everyone have a day or two of crying in the shower, then I'd arrive with my magic wand just before the 'no one will ever love me' sets in and ping, you're back.
I'm a street angel and a house devil too
When I open my mouth, my mother comes out. She had a certain way of looking at you. A withering expression where you knew to retreat hastily.
I can remember situations where she held a door open for someone and they walked straight through without a thank you and she would say in a very caustic, posh and clipped way: "Don't mention it".
As my twilight years approach, I'm rapidly morphing into her. I was coming down a narrow road the other day with parked cars on the other side and I nicely waved a car through.
He struggled to pass me by and started glaring at me. An ugly specimen. Before, I would have mouthed swear words at him but I rolled down the window and said: "It's your lack of gratitude I have an issue with." There's decorum for you. Mother would have been proud.
Singing the re-entry blues after a break
I got an email on Monday morning, thanking me, amongst others, for our participation on a trip. We'd had a great time he said. We'd been in Italy, he said. Skiing, he said. When I looked up from my gardening-shredded cuticles, I did have a vague recollection of somewhere chilly. Pasta, skis, dancing, laughing... We'd got back on Saturday evening but this was Monday, a full 36 hours of real life later and reality was showing its teeth. I was back at work, I'd gone grocery shopping, the bank card was rejected, the stairs needed vaccuming. Had I really been away?
On a guided tour, you only have to worry about appropriate outfits and whether you need to pee. All the important stuff involving where and how is decided for you. Granted, on this one, with the skiing and all, I was also supposed to contribute by staying upright but they were very understanding about the fact that I struggled with that a lil more than others.
Because of their divine absence of any great need to be responsible, guided tours are extreme versions of any holiday. Even if you don't quite forget your troubles, the physical distance dilutes them. Perspective or escapism, who cares? A change really is as good as a rest.
But no matter the distance or degree of rest, reality can often seem turbo-turgid when you land back. In the dazzling glow of an impending break, certain jobs will be graaaaaaaand to finish at 6am on your returning Monday, the insurance shop-around and broken fridge light will all be easy "when you get back". But in the shadow of a retreating break, even emptying the dishwasher feels like a psychic attack. It's okay. This too will pass. It's just the re-entry blues.