Once upon a time, four child-free days would have been a dream come true. Nowadays I dread sending my little dears off – it happens much too often and gives me much, much too much time to think. A friend in a similar leaky boat told me the secret is to keep busy, so I have drawn up the following lists:
Things I would like to do while the children are away
1. Go on a holiday mini-break with True Love. This would involve poking around a scenic medieval capital, browsing the art galleries, having a few delicious dinners under warm, starry skies and generally gazing into each other’s eyes in a way guaranteed to sicken any passers-by.
2. Do huge quantities of work, thus enabling me to invoice up a storm, get paid on time and remove the giant albatross of my Visa card from around my neck.
Things I have actually done while the children have been away
1. Realise that 99 per cent of my friends have children on half term and are busy going on family hols/doing creative Mummy stuff all week long. Remember that, thank God, I do have a great friend who is also man and child free, and make ambitious plans with her for four full days of entertainment of the non-PG variety. Spend last moments with children frantically applying nail varnish, waxing legs and plucking eyebrows, much to their bemusement.
2. Receive a call from friend on first day saying that she has the flu to end all flus, and is effectively bed-bound throughout the whole half term.
4. Go to Peckham to distract myself from wasteland that is my life, and idly pick up a pack of Dylon Amazon Green fabric dye in Woolies. Only a fiver-ish, and will transform the old duvet cover at the back of the linen cupboard which, beautiful in its heyday and costing a fortune from the Conran shop, could really do with a revamp. What a clever idea, and will hardly add to the ghastly debt mountain at all. Decide that, as I recently dyed Child Two’s duvet (French lavender, gorgeous) I am an expert and do not need to read the instructions.
5. Take duvet out of machine, hideously blotched in vomit green and bile yellow. Now I read the instructions. I should have spent five minutes damping the material first. Panic.
6. Drive back to Woolies to get pack of pre-dye colour stripper, around £4.
7. Follow instructions rigorously but drip stripper all over new outfit from Hobbs (£200) which I am only wearing to cheer self up. Wash dry-clean-only Hobbs kit in sink and watch it shrink before my very eyes. Duvet cover comes out of 95 degree wash looking even more vomity than before.
8. Drive back to Peckham for more pre-dye stripper, plus more Amazon Green dye and go for Ocean Blue as well – aiming for a pale, wafty turquoise this time. Hand over £16-odd quid to assistant, who eyes me strangely.
9. Go through colour stripper routine again, taking all clothes off first to avoid dreaded drips. So that’s why they call it stripper!
10. Duvet comes out still in patches, though admittedly paler than before. I grit teeth and shove both the blue and green dyes into the machine, throw the duvet on top – it is now beautifully damp, hurrah – and press ‘on’. It will work, it will, it will, it will ……
11. It doesn’t. Retrieve duvet, now in splotches of darker green and blue. Pretend I was going for a sea-scape look. Know full well, in my heart of hearts, that it is the type of unsuccessful tie-dye look even a 70s hippy would snigger at. Acknowledge that, if I should ever date again (very unlikely), one look at this duvet cover would have any sensible man fleeing forever. Try not to remember passing stand of quite nice duvet covers on sale in Woolworths. A double was £10.
12. Friend rings me to say she is all better, and ready to play. By this time I have a raging sore throat. Retreat, alone, to hideous tie-dyed bed for rest of half term. Pull covers over head.