BEFORE you pelt me with stones of envy, please know that in the past six years I’ve holidayed twice.
I know, I can hear you. Many of you have not had the good fortune (or money) to holiday at all. I get it.
But to create a terrible analogy, I can’t feel guilty for all those who are constipated just because I have a regular constitution. I’m making no effort to gloat or dismiss. This is just how it is.
Against the many fibres of my being that anchor me at home with my children and dog — and keep me in that persistent mood of reluctance to venture past my front door — I kicked myself up the rear and forced my domestic soul to go to visit my daughter, Bo, who is working as a nanny in Corfu for three months.
In truth, I don’t leave home because I struggle to leave my dog. Make of that what you will. It may be quaint, lily- livered and ridiculous but it’s who I am, or who I’ve become.
You may judge me but I’m comfortable in my saggy, insular skin.
Besides, I’ve travelled a lot in my days, initially internationally between broken-down parents from the age of eight.
To that end, I’m a fairly experienced and competent traveller. But in a time of Covid it is an entirely different ball game.
An ever-changing national strategy, a constantly shifting mandate by a government that doesn’t appear to know its a*** from its elbow because there are too many cooks in the Cabinet room.
You have a perfect storm for anyone mildly hesitant about going from one country to another.
Being force-fed a never- ending diet of horror stories of British people being turned away from airports, being refused the right to fly and forced to quarantine in mice-infested hotels abroad despite having tested negative.
Not to mention the story of my daughter’s friend being turned away because her Passenger Locator Form had been filled in “too early”.
It’s little wonder I had huge reservations about even giving it a consideration.
But as I move forward with life, I’m trying desperately hard to show courage and, above all else, grasp the nettle. So I booked my flights.
From that point on, I was fretting about getting everything sorted.
What should have been a simple exercise in flight-taking turned into a bureaucratic nightmare.
I thought the Swedes were champion bureaucrats, but I’ve never had to jump through so many hoops in preparation for a trip.
Covid tests, countries’ traffic lights that change quicker than, erm, traffic lights, pre and post-departure arrangements, Passenger Locator Forms, indecisive government advice sending you round in circles via websites and links.
Demands for printouts but ultimately accepting digital. The insistence on antigen and PCR tests issued by profiteering, private companies which cost more than your actual flight and must cripple most families.
It’s enough to make your palms sweat a river as you approach the check-in desk.
The whole palaver wreaks havoc and confusion.
I have seen friends and colleagues in the hospitality business suffer terribly over the past 18 months and know this: The travel business needs you, too.
There is a brave new world out there waiting. There is sun, sea and sand and villages, towns and locals who, like those in the UK, have suffered devastating blows to their businesses.
I felt the sand on my feet and I went to a place that, 18 months ago, I thought I might never, ever see again.
Where old men sip ouzo with their morning coffee, where children run free, bare- skinned and without boundaries, where the cicadas sing for you all day and night and where the pace is slow.
I also got to share four nights in the same bed with a snoring 20-year-old. So try not to be too envious of me.
The truth is love hurts
I DON’T believe I’ve seen Ant McPartlin look as happy as he was last weekend on his wedding day to Anne-Marie Corbett – the woman he credits with “saving his life” and getting it back on track and away from drink.
But no sooner had the publicity pictures appeared than my mind raced to his ex-wife, celebrity make-up artist Lisa Armstrong.
You’d have to have been living under a stone to have missed the painful demise of their marriage and the quiet but very public trauma of a heartbroken Lisa trying to come to terms with pursuing a life without the man she thought was hers for ever.
Is it possible to be happy for your ex? I’ve grown tired of people pretending they are thrilled for their exes. I know it sounds uncharitable, mean, selfish, short-sighted, bitter and retrospective – but that’s me.
I can’t profess to know the details but Ant and Lisa lived, loved and tried to ride their marriage out, cantering down the bumpy, pressurising road of trying in vain for years to have a baby.
They suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, like so many couples going through the stuff of life.
And then, it seems, after enduring all that, some other person comes along and scoops up your partner and is hailed as the saviour. People say they are happy for their ex but I’m pretty sure they don’t feel it.
I’ve not had to handle the same situation but in some small nod of solidarity with others who have, I did have a boyfriend who once recoupled a bit too soon for my heart’s capacity for benevolence.
And I made no pretence to cover it up.
Basically, it’s the only time that can give you the generosity of heart to be pleased for your ex. Oh, that and maybe a new partner for yourself.
It’s just a painful thing to go through – to imagine that you were somehow not enough, that someone else was better, that you put in the work and the investment but they found another shiny toy.
It’s also vain and selfish to think like that – but the truth is, love hurts.
And it’s really only the passage of time that aids the digestion of painful, happy news about your ex.
And before you know it, you’re thinking: “Ant who?”
Protect our dogs
I HAD no idea the Theft Act does not cover the taking of pets.
The hope now is that a Pet Theft Taskforce will make a recommendation of a new offence of Pet Abduction being incorporated under the act – and criminals could face up to five years in prison.
You’ll know me, by now, for being passionate about dogs. The idea that their sentience has not seen them being given better protection to this point has shocked me.
There has been an 11 per cent increase in dog thefts in this past year and it is of huge concern. I cannot exaggerate enough how much my dogs have meant to me.
I’ve gained five in my life and lost four. Indeed, two weeks ago my best friend lost one of hers, Betsy, in tragic circumstances and it really triggered me.
My dogs have been my most loyal companions. They have seen me through bouts of depression, have helped me out of the depths of despair, made the prospect of all the lockdowns much more bearable and have brought me so much joy. The idea the theft of any pet has hitherto not been punished with serious sentences horrifies me.
Our animals offer us unconditional love in a way not possible by humans.
There is no such thing as “just a dog” or “just a cat” – they are highly valued members of our families and an extension of ourselves.
I could not imagine life without one by my side.
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