Me and Mr Young are away for my birthday weekend in an Air B&B tiny converted stable. We’re a bit like Mary and Joseph, but with a flat screen TV, toaster and underfloor heating. I’ve left it entirely up to him to choose because I trust him completely (yes, I said it with a straight face). Oh, the pressure on the poor man, as I’m pretending to be completely relaxed and, as we all know, if the slightest thing is wrong (mattress too hard/soft, not enough hangers, stray pubic hair in shower tray, no complimentary dishwasher tablet), I will do my little ‘oh, it’s fine!’ laugh that we both know means he’s failed and ruined the whole weekend.
Ruby is not a fan of windy days. Or rainy days, or sunny days, or snow. Her sense of smell is not great, either. She’s not the doggiest of dogs. She does like the idea of a walk though. We are walking/dragging Ruby in the wind through the manicured streets of Alconbury Weald before we shove her in the car for our drive down to Martlesham and discussing just how remarkably well the two of us have been getting on since March.
“You have been my ideal lockdown companion,” I say to Mr Young. He nods in agreement, as if he expected nothing less. I wait for him to return the compliment, but there is a long pause before he says, “And you’ve been mine.”
“But why did you pause?” I say.
“I was considering it,” he says. “I was paying you the respect of thinking about it.”
Running through a list of potential candidates in his head before deciding that yes, I did indeed come top doesn’t sound like a compliment to me.
“So I guess you decided Charlize Theron would get on your nerves after a couple of weeks, then?” I say, slightly put out.
“Oh, I didn’t know we could have celebrities,” he says. I wonder which non-celebrity options were on his list.
The bloody sheets had better be Egyptian cotton.
As it turns out, our holiday destination is absolutely charming. There is a wood burner, a tiny enclosed garden for Ruby (with artificial grass which she is somewhat mystified by. “Look says Mr Young, pointing, “it’s even got an artificial weed!” To my shame, I believe him.)
There are freshly laid eggs from the farm, with butter and bread and milk, and the shower room is beautiful and spotlessly clean. Pubic hairs would not dare to cross the threshold. In the bedroom, very excitingly, there is a remote control for hundreds of multi-coloured lights in the ceiling, which can be changed at the press of a button from red to green to yellow to blue… which I do for several minutes until it stops working. Either the battery is flat or I have broken it through sheer exuberance. I hide the remote control in a drawer and go and do something sensible.
Above the bed is a charming if rather bland landscape watercolour; I spend a couple of minutes wondering why the artist chose to make the sky so uninvitingly grey before two bobble hats appear and make their way steadily across the canvas before disappearing stage right. A tree branch then waves briefly top left and I realise that I’ve been confined to my own home for far too long. Sometimes a window is just a window.
Back in the living room, Mr Young is swearing at the woodburner, which goes out every time he turns his back, and Ruby is engaged in a battle of wits with a flimsy wicker armchair that she has decided to make her bed. Every time she jumps onto the cushion, her ears flatten against her head while she waits for the rocking to subside, then she tries to make herself comfy, whereupon the vibrations beneath her begin again, and so on. It’s Einstein’s definition of insanity played out before me; both of them doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Mr Young waiting for the log burner to light, Ruby repositioning herself on a capricious piece of furniture and expecting it to obediently form a comfortable bed. Who needs Netflix?
We are off for a walk. The Circular Walk, to be precise, which is on a laminated sheet, and – we’ve been told by the owner – incredibly easy to locate (“just pop down the lane…”), takes 45 minutes, and will be ideal for us and Ruby. We are not natural country folk, and neither of us are natural navigators. One of us admits to the latter, and one of us doesn’t. I will leave it up to you to guess which one he is.
We do locate it and we do enjoy it. We stroll, and chat, and point out trees to each other and try not to trip over Ruby, who doesn't know whether to be alarmed or excited by all the new country smells. But, Reader, it is not a Circular Walk as advertised. It does not take 45 minutes. I don't intend to ask for my money back, bearing in mind that (natch) we’ve forgotten the laminated map and have perhaps got a bit confused en route by the arrows on the signs along the path to guide us on our circular stroll. Two hours later, when we’ve passed the same delightful pink thatched cottage for the third time and realise that our circular route has actually been a figure of eight with a couple of detours, we come to a halt with a panting and confused Ruby and consulted Google maps. Fortunately, our holiday cottage turns out to be just 100 yards away. With immense relief, we stagger inside and reward ourselves with large glasses of red wine (because it's almost dark). An exhausted Ruby sleeps her way through our drunken game of Scrabble, her snores and gentle farts producing occasional squeaks from the vibrations of the wicker armchair.
As it's my birthday, Boris, of course, has a special treat for me this evening. When I say me, I mean the nation, but I don’t mind sharing my bounty. I’m generous like that. I am of course thrilled that he’s waited until we are on our weekend away to announce the Lockdown Special – such a thoughtful touch, so typical of the man – but slightly annoyed that he hasn’t even bothered to brush his hair and kept me waiting for almost three hours … and on my birthday, too!
Good job Mr Young is in charge of my birthday cake and presents. At least they arrive on time. I can’t think of anyone I’d rather spend walking aimlessly not in a circle with for the weekend.
I’m sure he’d rather have been not managing to light a woodburner with Charlize Theron, but I’ll forgive him for that.