Tomorrow Mr Young and I are flying off for a week in the sun, but today Lucy arrives home for the weekend; so instead of spending my time sensibly writing my Holiday Packing List and searching for the Travel Scrabble, I take her into the city centre to visit Patisserie Valerie, which is new and unbelievably tempting.
Its dear little French-style shop window is positively bursting at the seams with calories, and I have been desperately trying to think of an excuse to visit ever since it opened. So today I’m very excited to have a real reason to actually go inside; up until now, I have just been standing outside, staring in at all the little rows of tarts and cakes and drooling menacingly (an odd juxtaposition of words, I know, but I can't think of an apter description. Although I’m not sure that apter is even a word. You see what sort of grammatical havoc can be caused by a fusion of menopausal hormones and French pastries?)
Seduced by its continental chicness, Lucy and I become sophisticated Ladies Who Lunch with a light salad and perfect coffee, and then decide to choose three cakes to take home for our supper - why not treat Mr Young as well? I generously ask myself, without waiting for an answer. The only way to select a pastry is to go outside the shop and look in at all the rows of miniature chocolate and whipped cream structures, then go back again and point out your choice to the girls behind the counter, so I have to leave our lunch bill with the cashier.
“Don’t worry, we’re not doing a runner,” I tell her with a reassuring laugh, “we’re just popping outside so we can see all the cakes - I’ll pay for the whole bill when we come back.”
“No problem,” she says. “That’s fine.”.
We spend about five minutes selecting a deliberately eclectic assortment, and then go back inside to pay to find a gaggle of agitated Patisserie assistants by the till. (Although I’m not sure that gaggle is the correct collective term; perhaps it should be a pride of patissieres? I know I’m proud of myself whenever I succeed in making my own pastry. Not to mention slightly surprised.)
“Oh!” says the manager with relief. “There you are are!” She looks ready to embrace me. “Thank goodness! We thought you’d done a runner!”
“But I told your cashier!” I say, looking round for the girl. “I told her that we were just going outside! I specifically said we weren’t running off!”
“Yes, but you just disappeared,” she says again.
“Yes, but I told her,” I say again. We clearly aren’t getting very far with this conversation.
Lucy, logical as ever, tries to point out that they can’t have looked very hard since we were both standing just three feet away, and on the other side of their own shop window but I am so indignant that I can’t even be bothered to make a joke (which was going to be a good one, too, along the lines of well, this sort of accusation really takes the biscuit! etc.) But it’s hard to stay cross when you have a small army of apologetic and soft-voiced assistants wrapping up delicious constructions of chocolate and cream in dear little boxes with peach ribbons, and then popping these little boxes into dear little matching paper bags.
On the way home, we go into Top Shop because....well, just because, really. Sometimes there doesn’t have to be a reason, does there? While Lucy lingers among the maxi dresses, I have a look at the jewellery on the sale rail. There’s a rather attractive silver ring that I feel obliged to try on. Again, just because. It looks rather good, even on my cocktail sausage-like finger, so I wonder whether I should buy it, and show it to Lucy.
Then I try and take it off again. Note that ‘try’; it is stuck - so stuck in fact that I wonder how I ever got it on in the first place. Lucy and I wrestle quite energetically with it for long enough to start attracting suspicious looks and a small crowd. Eventually - and I’m not proud of this - the prudent application of saliva does the trick. I am very relieved. It would have been too much to have been accused of shop-lifting twice in half an hour. Especially with the running saliva theme: add the gaggle of appalled Top Shop assistants to the pride of patissieres pointing and shouting that’s her! The woman who drools outside our shop!
Now I really do have to get on with packing; Mr Young and I are leaving for Majorca in five hours and we still haven’t found the Travel Scrabble, let alone that cunning little blow-up cushion that you can place around your neck and (in theory) have a nap on the plane without waking up to find that you have been drooling and snoring on your companion's shoulder. (Again with the drooling, I see. This is starting to worry me; I shall clearly have to Google ‘excess saliva’.)
We have decided to take just one suitcase; I have been arguing the case for just taking hand luggage (did you spot it? Arguing the case? God, I’m good), but Mr Young does not believe that we will fit all our holiday essentials into two small bags. This is because Mr Young is a hopeless packer.
I - you won’t be surprised to hear - am a brilliant packer. I can fit a whole week’s worth of outfits, hair straighteners and enough accessories to fill up a Top Shop sale rail into an area the size of a shoebox. Mr Young’s packing pile, however, is already taking up half the bed and he still hasn’t found the three essential shirts that he’s decided he also wants to take (and which I haven’t yet ironed, although I don’t tell him this).
It is up to me to edit the pile, which I do when he’s not looking. After all, no man can possibly wear more than fifteen pairs of underpants in one week.
We are staying in an apartment up on a hillside overlooking Port de Soller. It is very chic. There are glass wall lights at mid-height and both Mr Young and myself crash into these and bruise our elbows during the first half hour of being in the apartment. We also crash into the low-level bed within the first half hour and bruise our shins. I begin to wish that we’d brought some bubble wrap to protect our extremities, but this would mean a second suitcase which flies in the face of my packing principles.
And anyway, we’d look like fools when this literally light-as-air case was placed on the scales at the check-in desk.
The view from our balcony is amazing; we can see the mountains over the far side of the port, all the little Majorcan villas below, and the harbour, beaches and hotels far down in the port. The sun is shining and the fridge is cold...but empty. There is no point in lying on our balcony and admiring the view without Mr Young being able to bring me a rum and coke at regular intervals. So we go off and explore, to have breakfast and buy provisions (rum and coke).
It quickly becomes clear that the reason for the spectacular view from our balcony is that we are very, very high up on the hillside. Very high up. There are three routes down to the supermarkets in the harbour; one long, winding but quite gently sloping road, one slightly shorter but hillier path, and two sets of very steep steps. We go down the medium route. It is very, very hot. But it’s the first day of our holiday and we are in good humour.
Adventurously, we choose the Majorcan Special breakfast, which turns out to be pineapple chunks and a curious tomato paste spread onto chunks of bread, together with a few slices of cheese and some unidentifiable meat. Uncharitably, I wonder if it really is the Majorcan Special or just a random collection of leftovers. Mr Young pretends to enjoy it, but he is probably just showing off. Never mind. It’s the first day of our holiday and the coffee is perfect. And we are still in good humour.
After a stroll round the bay, we find a supermarket. “We’d better not buy too much,” I say. “It’s a long way back up to the apartment, don’t forget, and it’s very hot.”
“Oh, don’t worry about that,” says Mr Young. “Look, there’s a taxi over there. We can buy everything we need and then get a lift back up the hill.” So with seven bags worth of provisions (rum and coke) we pay and go outside. The taxi rank is empty. It’s now very, very, very hot.
We stand by the empty rank for a couple of minutes.
“Let’s walk back after all,” says Mr Young. “We might have to wait for ages for another taxi.” I think this is a bad idea, and tell him so. Even waiting for ages would be preferable to walking back up with seven heavy bags of shopping. But Mr Young is insistent and points out that he will be carrying the bulk of the shopping. I am still not certain about this plan, but he strides off purposefully so I have to follow.
Half an hour later (we took a couple of wrong turnings), we finally arrive back at the apartment. It is so hot by now that I am sure the eggs have hard-boiled themselves inside my carrier bag. I am fuming. In both senses of the word. Mr Young has lost the ability to speak, it seems. We are both a dark purple; not exactly the tan I was hoping for. He is still trying to pretend it was a good idea to walk back up the hill - up 380 steps (because, of course, he insisted on taking the steepest route) in 37 degree heat - but as he needs all his breath to just stay alive, he is not doing a very good job.
But at least I’ve got a rum and coke to drink on the balcony. Even if it is just below boiling point. Mr Young joins me, sipping a beer that is presumably at a gently simmering heat. We aren’t quite in our former good humour.
On the plus side, we now have a dozen hard-boiled eggs all ready for lunch.
It has been a lovely week; lots of sunshine, lots of rum and cokes, plenty of taxi rides back up the hill (we have both learned a valuable lesson) and lots of games of Travel Scrabble which I win. We arrive home at just after 1 am. Harriet has been staying during our absence; we know this because the kitchen is extremely clean apart from two large sticky patches on the floor, beer and two slices of chocolate cheesecake in the fridge, and a half-empty bottle of tequila in the cupboard. I don’t really care how wild a party has been if I can come back to a tidy house and a boosted alcohol supply.
Mr Young collects Archie from the kennels; he’s very pleased to see me again (Archie, not Mr Young; after a week of seeing me exclusively, Mr Young’s enthusiasm has waned slightly) and spends the rest of the day following us around like a not very discreet private detective. Tom comes home, and we have a cup of tea in the garden while Mr Young hacks away at assorted innocent shrubs and trips over his devoted bull terrier.
“I’ll show you our holiday pictures!” I say. Tom, to his credit, feigns interest. As I now have an iPhone, I am using the camera and the video, and have been experimenting all week. However, it seems that the sum total of my holiday pictures is eight of the view from our balcony, two of the side of Mr Young’s head plus two videos of the view from our balcony (by this time, I think Tom is heartily sick of the view from our balcony), two pictures of an anonymous woman standing under an umbrella on the beach, and a video of the back of a Catalonian taxi driver’s head as he talks to Mr Young during our journey back to the airport.
Mr Young, the international jet-setter, is off again on a sales trip to Germany for three days. In spite of a whole week in his company, I miss him already.
Still, at least I have some fond memories of our holiday to look back on.
As well as two pictures of the side of his head.