After mixing with Mexicans for ten days, Signor Jong and me are back with our suitcases and astonishingly bad jet-lag. Or hang-overs. Most possibly both, because all-inclusive holidays mean that you can try out every single cocktail on the bar menu, which involves sampling many neon-coloured liquers and a great deal of sugar.
That was breakfast.
For the rest of the day, we read until our eyes blistered, on a golden secluded beach, under gently swaying palm trees.
Apparently, at home, my family and the rest of the country were snowed in, wearing gloves and scarves indoors.
Ruby – banished to kennels (or Doggy Holiday Luxury Spa, which is how we sold it to her, as we coaxed her into her crate with bits of ham) – had to be swaddled in a tiny canine Arthur Daley-style sheepskin coat.
Yes – in the sort of unheard luck that usually happens to other people – we were on holiday in Mexico with steady balmy temperatures of 28° during the Beast from the East.
I honestly did try and feel sympathetic.
There were a lot of Americans in our hotel. They were extremely noisy. British holiday-makers are amateurs when it comes to Americans. We need to practise more. They were at impressively full volume, for incredibly long periods of time, when it came to table football (or foosball, as they call it), or endless cheerleading aerobics in the pool.
Or just anything really, even just talking.
And they don’t seem to call each other by their names, just where they come from.
As in: “Hey there, Kansas!”
“Texas! Still waitin’ on that beer, cowboy!“
“Missouri! How’re you doin’?”
Would be weird over here. Signor Jong and me experimented, sniggering quietly in a corner;
“Well, hi there, Cambridgeshire, where’s that pint?”
“Norfolk, how are you today, cowboy?”
No. Shudder. Ridiculous.
Interestingly, the Americans didn't seem to swim, either. They bobbed about instead. They had giant litre thermos mugs, and every so often they bobbed up to the swim-up bar, and got their mugs re-filled with beer or a Mud Slide (very alcoholic chocolate milk shake) and then just bobbed about some more, shouting at each other, getting more and more sunburnt, until it was time to clamber out of the pool and shout at each other across the foosball table.
Yes, I know I sound horribly condescending, but in reality I’m a bit envious. It must be liberating to be so uninhibited to just not care what other people think.
Interestingly, their carefree attitude had the effect of making us become particularly repressed so that we were practically talking in whispers by the end of the holiday.
If we’d stayed for a fortnight, we’d have had to learn sign language.
We did find another British couple, quite by chance, and it was such a relief. The four of us immediately rushed off to a quiet corner and drank wine for a couple of hours, whispering very British comments about how different we were to all the loud Americans. It was heaven.
We are still suffering from jet lag.
Mr Young – I have to remember he is no longer Signor Jong, and I also have to remember that life is no longer all-inclusive otherwise I will get arrested for shoplifting – and me are so tired that we are walking into walls and only managing to speak in half-sentences.
Apparently, accordingly to Google, it is likely to take us three to five days to get over our jet lag, and symptoms can include diarrhoea, bloating, indigestion, nausea, mood changes, insomnia, daytime fatigue, and general feelings of depression.
“What on earth did we go on holiday for?” I ask Mr Young.
“Promise me we will never go on holiday again,” he says.
“Absolutely,” I say.
“I’m serious,” he says.
“So am I,” I say.
It’s the longest conversation we’ve had since we returned from Mexico.
Harry’s birthday, and we’re off to meet Mrs V and her daughter Ellie for lunch in Cambridge. This is an extremely gratifying occasion; obviously because Ellie is one of Harry’s best friends, but mostly because it becomes clear that Mrs V is even more troublesome in restaurants than I am.
Hello, Vindication! So, we meet at last! It’s been worth the wait.
Mrs V has apparently already insisted on moving tables twice before me and Harry have even arrived, and is volubly disapproving about our over-enthusiastic waitress five times while the poor girl is still within earshot, even though each time the rest of us hiss; “Shut up! She’s still right behind you!”.
Yes, it's just the sort of thing I do that drives the rest of my family mad!
It's so gratifying to know that other people do it too. I'm beside myself with joy, and almost forget to eat.
Such a lovely lunch.
In the evening, everybody is home for a family meal. I am doing my signature dish – lasagne – but have clearly forgotten how to write my own name because my white sauce just won’t thicken.
I make an extra roux (extremely technical chef-y term) and add it, but that does no effing good (another technical chef-y term).
At this rate my signature dish is going to be reduced to an X scrawled in crayon.
I have to enlist Tom’s help.
Which is embarrassing.
Although his lasagne is his signature dish, and he did learn from the best (i.e. me).
He makes another roux, and finally succeeds in making the perfect white sauce (annoying), and together we create a perfect lasagne.
The ragu bolognese is delicious, anyway, and that’s the hardest part, as everybody knows (chefs, particularly).
Or as I tell everyone, anyway.
And, come on, let's remember I'm still suffering from jet lag, for goodness sake!
Now it’s Mother’s Day! Life is just one non-stop blur of things happening! It’s so exhausting.
I feel like I deserve a morning in bed, so I have one.
My children prepare lunch for me, as they clearly believe I am under-nourished (this is not true, because after my holiday, I am a tanned little butterball).
Nonetheless, as they have been to a lot of trouble, I eat all three courses. Every mouthful.
All the crab pate with asparagus in butter and ciabatta; roast beef with Brussel sprouts in blue cheese, scalloped potatoes with ham, Yorkshire pudding, roast carrots; crème brûlée. Plus wine.
It’s getting difficult to differentiate between the jet-lag walking-into-walls and the over-indulging walking-into-walls.
But bruises are bruises, I suppose.
Good job I’ve still got a tan.
I’ve never been to a baby shower before, let alone hosted one, but I am an expert now. I’ve spent the week up to my armpits in pastry – and I do mean that literally, as I discovered getting undressed one night – and getting tiny triangles of pink tissue paper stuck in my hair.
(Two interesting side notes: Mary Berry’s quiches never look like they do in her photographs, and the assistants in Waitrose are very easily distracted if you unwittingly have little pink triangles in your hair.)
But here we are, it’s 11 o’clock, we have a gaggle (or whatever the collective noun is for a group about to hail the baby showeree) of excited female friends, some with offspring – with Lucy and Mr Young shoving things in and out of ovens and arranging things on plates – all ready to greet Harry and her sizeable bump.
There’s a great deal of food – a lot of it cooked by me (see pastry, above), but some made by Lucy, and Dawn, Harry’s step-mum. Everyone comments on the delicious food;
“These dips are lovely – especially that one!” (Lucy's)
“I love that halloumi salad!” (Dawn's)
“Who made these mini frittata? They’re delicious!” (Dawn's)
“Wow! These chicken wings are gorgeous!” (Lucy's)
“Oh, look at these little eggs that look like babies!” (Lucy's)
I immediately abandon my plans to set myself up as a baby shower caterer and wonder if it’s too late to cancel my order for business cards. Stupid idea.
Pastry is so yesterday, anyway.
Mr Young is the star of the show. Far from disappearing upstairs with a plate, as he’d indicated earlier, it’s impossible to get rid of the man.
He’s like an out-of-season Father Christmas, in jeans and without the stomach. The babies gravitate towards him like iron filings to a magnet, and he bounces them on his knee, talking to them, lifting them in the air, while they laugh wildly, and Ruby (her special pink ribbon askew) runs worriedly around him, wondering if she’s lost his love forever now that he’s found new favourites.
Harry’s said that she doesn’t want presents, but people can bring books for the baby if they want – so this has been taken very seriously, and it’s touching that favourite books from childhood have been wrapped lovingly to be passed on, in a world dominated by iPhones and technology.
Having said that, later I’m very glad that technology’s around and invented the dishwasher.
Mr Young has now chosen this particular moment to disappear upstairs with a plate.
The pink balloons are deflating, and so is my energy. There seems to be a lot of quiche left.
But I don’t care about any of that.
Because it looks like the world is still going to be full of books and babies.