When I was seventeen I made my boyfriend at the time kiss me. He had pustular tonsillitis. I ended up in an isolation unit on an IV drip. But I did get out of taking my A’level mocks. I use this as an example of how far I will go to avoid doing things I don’t like doing. Like running (I wonder whether herniating a disc in my back was a deliberate act to avoid ever having to run again, but then I remember that the same boyfriend I had at seventeen was responsible for herniating it, so scratch that). Other things I avoid doing – emptying the bin, answering the phone, checking my bank balance, parallel parking, exercising, shopping in Bromley.
Today I am wondering whether, like snogging someone with pustular tonsillitis, packing up our house and travelling around the world is another extreme reaction to doing things I don’t like doing. In this instance, looking for a new job and chairing the residents’ association which got foisted on me last year because the average age of all the other neighbours is 113. Maybe, I’m just involved in some massive avoidance strategy for dealing with things that suck. Wow. It has taken me twelve years, a tonsillectomy, queuing for fifty hours in the Halifax to draw cheques for the communal gardener, as well as several thousand pounds in airfares to reach this epiphany.
I prod the ephiphany for holes and can’t find any – my first reaction when having to deal with anything unpleasant (like scavenging through the job pages of the guardian, poking down the remains of last night’s dinner, answering questions on Henry VIII’s reformation, neighbours asking me for my opinion on the buddleia) is to run. Which is ironic because I just said I don’t like running. You know what I mean. That was metaphorical. My reaction is to escape.
My best friend Vic lives in Grand Cayman – which is the island that Tom Cruise goes off to for some mafia money laundering in the film The Firm. Not that Vic has anything to do with money laundering or Tom Cruise, but anyway it helps you picture it. It’s in the Caribbean – think Pirates of the Caribbean but with lots of accountants instead of pirates.
Her, her lovely husband and her gorgeous baby (my god delusion daughter) upped sticks and moved there last year. They have a boat, a swimming pool and did I mention a boat? (Which they had no clue how to sail – I love that about them). Admittedly there is no shopping on the island unless you’re after duty free bling or some rum cake, not much in the way of entertainment either (unless you like paying $100 and taking tea at the Ritz) and on the downside they have to contend with the odd hurricane and the fact that the island is populated by accountants and lawyers, but on the upside they do have near year-round sunshine and a boat (did I mention the boat?) that you can sail to stingray city and starfish alley. When I went out there for their wedding, being on that boat deck was the closest I’ve ever come to feeling like a Bond Girl.
I ask Vic if she has plans to come back to England and she wrinkles her nose at me. It looks doubtful. She mentions the British Virgin Islands or America or Canada as a possible next stop. I feel inspired. Though personally, as idyllic and lush as the BVIs sound, I’d be heading somewhere with a topshop.
So I realise, what if this whole project of ours is an avoidance strategy – does it actually matter? I suppose it only matters because in life you often have to do things that suck and I can’t keep running away from the suck. I will at some point need to suck it up. But I can learn to suck it up. When I’m in Bali with a mojito in my hand. Then I can definitely learn to suck it up.