Extracts from a travel diary

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17th December, Heathrow Airport

We’ve just come through security and collapsed in front of a Costa. The gentleman next to me smiles, but nevertheless departs so quickly for his plane he leaves a flurry of five pound notes, which we find fifteen minutes later. I have this brilliant idea to give the money to the people at Costa, to pay for the drink of the next person in the queue. What a glorious Christmas good deed, etc, etc. I am already wiping away tears.

I join the queue, and end up in front of a trainee barista whom, it soon transpires, does not speak good English. I ask her whether she can use the note to pay for the next person’s drink, and she asks me whether I want a single or a double. No, I clarify, I want to pay for someone else’s drink. Single or double, she responds, menacingly. I end up impatient and loud, she ends up waving the fiver in my face. The chap behind me gets his free drink but we’re all terribly embarrassed about it. I don’t think Jesus ever had social awkwardness problems.

17th December, somewhere above Chicago

On the descent, and Henry is sobbing on Tim’s lap. Ohhh, I think, clutching Teds and my own head, he got my ear problems. Poor baby. What have I bequeathed upon you?

On and on it goes. It’s a long descent. I am cursing my genetics and the seatbelt sign that prevents me going to help him.

‘His ears!’ I say to Tim once we’re off the plane, my tone a wilderness of self-reproach and sympathy.

‘No’, Tim replies. ‘He was cross I turned the iPad off’.

18th December, the front drive

Having an argument with the cat about where butts should not go, viz. in my face; on my trousers, between the covers of my Agatha Christie. He gives me a five-clawed scratch in response. Violence does not win debates, Ugly (his name really is Ugly).

19th December, the mall

There’s a whole shop selling merchandise for the Alabama football team. Its motto appears to be ‘Crimson Tide’.

I cannot be alone in thinking uncomfortably of periods.

19th December, Airport Boulevard

Really, though. Would you use a garage called Budget Brakes?

20th December, the back bedroom

I’ve forgotten about the voltage difference in America, because I am an idiot. My straighteners use variable voltage, and are fine. But using my hairdryer is like being caressed by the warm breath of a horse standing at some distance.

This may be the last time I wash my hair.

21st December, cinema, screen three

On a double date with my bros. Jennifer Lawrence is crawling away from poison gas, bellowing like a stuck pig. Tim leans over.

‘That’s what you sound like when you give birth’.

Next time I’m in labour, I will meditate on the image of Jennifer Lawrence in poison gas, and I’ll feel pretty good about myself.

22nd December, LDS chapel

Someone just said ‘lackadaisical’ in a Southern US accent, and it was the most beautiful thing I ever heard. Andrew Lloyd-Webber should set it to music, when he’s finished lurking creepily in corners and getting his eye-bags monitored from space.

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