I am seriously confused at the moment. It’s, what? Sunday? No, Monday. This week is always an odd one, of short days and no routines and bizarre sleep patterns, but I’ve added an extra layer of weirdness by trying to cram as much into it as I possibly can, with the added complication of geography. And snow. And basic engineering idiocy by Eurostar (there goes my long-cherished blog sponsorship plot). Tiny planes, giant empty boats, terrifying German cars, and all manner of buses and trains. Add that on top of this peculiar first single Christmas for 16 years, and you have a recipe for utter discombobulation. I’m clinging like an orphaned rhesus monkey to the tools of my continued survival – passport, credit card, various sets of keys, a nest of chargers and adaptors, Iphone, Guerlain Midnight Secret. I forget all the rest – pants, toothbrush, deodorant, presents, warm clothes, socks. Thank god I stopped the anti-depressants and I don’t need contraceptives, because there isn’t a hope I’d remember them.
On Saturday, the CFO and I took the boys to Pizza Hut for lunch (yeah, judge away. This is suburban Brussels on 26th December; it was that or Quick, the hamburger chain that time forgot) and then I kissed them all and drove to the station to get on a train to the airport to fly to London. Yestterday I stood on the grey, windy banks of the Thames and watched my niece and nephew mess around in the mud. I hugged my wonderful brother, arms stretching to meet around his steroid distorted midsection. We went home and played with their new Playmobil pyramid (awesome – I want a Playmobil pyramid. Actually, scrap that, I want to LIVE in a Playmobil pyramid. With my own sphinx). Then I waitied 20 minutes for a 94 bus, dropped my bag and ran to get a train to go to a cocktail party in the Cotswolds. I’m sitting writing this on the train back in a daft dress and heels, with a sweaty sheen of daiquiri on my upper lip. My knee of death is being a dick again, so I have no great belief I’ll be able to get up again in Paddington and even if I do it’s hardly going to be a pretty sight.
All this frenetic activity is entirely deliberate. I can’t in all conscience complain about something I’ve engineered myself. The thought of a week alone in the Salmon Palace, however good it might have been for the Great Belgian Novel, my finances, the house, and my sanity, seemed unbearable. And like a homing pigeon, when I get some free time I migrate stubbornly to London. So here I am, and of course most people leave London and go and see their families, walking through stupidly pretty, empty Notting Hill, looking in, and sneering at, lavishly themed Christmas trees, rushing from one end of the country and the city to the other.
It’s a bit lonely. I’m terribly good by myself as a rule, but there’s something about these few days that seem made for hibernating in an overheated, selection box finishing fug, getting cabin fever and squabbling with family members. It shows my decisions in exceptionally sharp relief. ‘This’, it says ‘is what you wanted. You wanted independence, time on your own, adventures. Well here it is. And don’t you dare have the temerity to complain if you don’t like it’.
And I’m not complaining. Have I sent the odd pathetic text? Certainly. Have I done anything regrettable? Nowhere near as much as I might have liked. I seem unable to fall over regrettable behaviour however hard I try. Have I had fun? Yes. Are there hollow, lonely, scary moments? Yes. Lots. Do I actually regret being where I am right now? No. Emphatically no. And that, presumably, is the acid test.