Real life

Real life

8 January 2022

9:00 AM

8 January 2022

9:00 AM

Last night I dreamt I went on holiday again. It seemed to me I stood by the departure gate, and for a while I could not enter, for I kept setting the metal detector off. Then, like all unvaccinated dreamers, I was possessed of a sudden with supernatural powers and passed through the barrier.

The boarding tunnel wound away in front of me, its sides covered with weeds. As I pulled my hand luggage on squeaky wheels, I lost sight of the open door of the plane, and then it appeared again, the smiling stewardess beckoning. I came to the door suddenly with my heart thumping.

There was a British Airways Boeing twin-engine jet, and my seat on it, secretive and silent as it had always been, the navy blue leather shining in the moonlight of my dream.

Time could not spoil the beauty of those navy seats, nor of the plane itself, as it gleamed like a jewel on the runway.

The grey runway lay placid under the moon, like a lake undisturbed by wind or rain.

I lowered myself into my place and saw that the stewardess was staring at me with accusing eyes, an oxygen mask on her mouth, miming the safety demonstration.

As I sat there, I realised the plane was not an empty shell, but was breathing, heavy and laboured. No, it was coughing. Or was it full of people coughing?

A voice said: ‘Good evening, all genders and none, this is your non-binary captain speaking. Welcome aboard this gluten-free, vegan, nut allergy-proof flight to…’ But I couldn’t hear where we were going. The lights on the runway were extinguished.

I looked down and realised I was wearing a bikini. I hadn’t packed any clothes. And the stewardess was coming at me wearing her oxygen mask still, a fist full of syringes in her right hand, saying: ‘We know all about you. You haven’t even downloaded the App. Well, now you’re going to have all the vaccinations you’ve refused…’

And as she bore down on me with three syringes in her fist drawn back in readiness to strike, I awoke in a cold sweat.

‘Do you suppose we will ever go on holiday again?’ I said to the builder boyfriend, after I brought him his morning coffee in bed.

‘One day we will,’ he said, which is what he always tells me when I ask him what he thinks is going to happen to us if we continue this objecting.

The truth is, we can so seldom afford to travel while leaving the horses and dogs that we have had only two foreign holidays in the ten years we’ve been together. The first was when we drove to the south of France. We took the one spaniel we had at the time and spent a night in a four-poster in a château in Angers on route to the Dordogne, where we stayed in a one-room gîte with a curtain around the bed to shield it from the kitchen area. It was overcast for much of the week, a strange anomaly for August, and one which I took to be deeply unfair at the time, given how seldom we could afford to travel. I look back now and wish even more fervently that we had enjoyed some sunny days.

But I do remember a wonderful walk around a ruined castle and a sumptuous meal in a roadside brasserie where we ate pâté with little wild strawberries of the most intense flavour. And I remember the sweet, sharp smell of the melon fields as we drove back through rural France, stopping for a picnic by the side of the road. I have photos of the BB sharing his lunch with the spaniel while lazing on the ground, the food going between them like Lady and the Tramp.

The only other holiday we have had together was on the Greek island of Lefkas, the October before Covid started. For two glorious days we sunbathed by the pool of a villa overlooking a bay. Then, while driving to the beach, we received a phone call from the builder boyfriend’s father to say he had found Gracie lying on her side collicking when he went to check the horses first thing that morning.

While I dealt with the vet over the phone, the skies darkened, then opened and the rain began to fall. It didn’t stop for the rest of the week as I took the decision to let Gracie go.

Sitting on the edge of the bed next to the patio doors of the villa bedroom, I cried so hard I thought my heart would burst.

I remember the breeze blowing the white, floor-length curtains towards me.

With apologies to Daphne du Maurier, these things are permanent, they can never be dissolved.

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