Travelling on my own – seeing people like I used to be: stressed.
When I missed the train into town from the airport by less than a second and it, with relentless Teutonic efficiency, closed on my nose and drew away on the dot, I didn’t tell myself I was stupid for being slow, or that it was unfair. I found somewhere to sit in that featureless underground station and I read my book (Arnold Bennett’s Old Wives’ Tale, if you’re interested, and I’m loving it). A family next to me also missed the train. The parents spoke with strained voices, blaming one another. That used to be me. Horrible.
Going through security, going to the loo: all these things used to involve shepherding children. ‘Stay near me!’ ‘Hold my hand!’ Are they hungry? Sleepy? Nappy change? Have I remembered to pack everything for everybody? Books, toys, swimming costumes, suntan lotion, raincoats, anti-moustique, enough pants and socks, calpol? Everybody having a good time seemed to depend on me. The responsibility for everything – including building happy memories – weighed heavily. Would the villa have any sharp drops? Would the hotel rooms be interconnecting? What if one of the children drowned?!
In the olden days, pre-children, I used to jump on and off of planes like they were buses. Executive lounges, taxis, rental cars, swanky hotels, meetings, suits and makeup. Well, that’s all changed. I get public transport to the airport these days, if I fly at all, and on this trip I will be sharing a very basic room with a perfect stranger. There’s no room service, or any kind of service, and I didn’t bring any makeup.
I wasn’t worried about the plane falling from the sky, and I wasn’t worried about what the people here would think of me. I wasn’t already rehearsing what I was going to say to them. That is all gone. (The cure was the Alexander Technique.) I wasn’t worried about leaving the oven on or being burgled (admittedly, my daughter is housesitting).
I have not shared a bedroom with anyone other than my husband for almost 30 years, not including the odd night in a hotel with my children, and – as my daughter pointed out – I am the boss of them, so I say when it’s lights out. Not coincidentally, since my ‘ehemalige Ehemann’ (ex) disappeared, I have not slept more than a couple of hours at a stretch. I go to the loo in the night, I listen to the radio, I check my emails and so on. Now that I am so grossly overweight I expect that when I do sleep, I snore. I was apprehensive about sharing a room even before I got here, but now I see how extremely tight it is, how the bathroom door is right by the beds and bangs loudly, how there is no privacy for getting changed etc, I am more apprehensive still.
But this morning, as I tidied up my things prior to the arrival of the others in the group, I noticed a funny thing. An unfamiliar thought: ‘it may be fun!’ Well I never.
PS Fun fact – I just thought I’d double check the meaning of Teutonic before using it here, and in Germany, the definition is: it’s the name of a British passenger ship