Letting go

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Just got back off my holidays. Lovely time. Devon, then home. Scotland, then home. Maybe not the most adventurous of choices, but it was fun, and that’s the most important thing.

It’s when you go away, and then come back, that you realise what kind of person you are. There are people who can get away and forget about everything, instantly, forget about the fact that you might have left the fridge open or you’ve forgotten to put the bins out or you did put the bins out but you don’t remember if you asked your neighbour to bring them back up again and you don’t want to advertise the fact that you’re away when you’re damned sure you forgot to set the burglar alarm. All that stuff has gone by the time you’re halfway down the A59, and fifty miles into the M6 you’d forget the children if they weren’t sat in the back scratching their chicken pox spots and asking for things that you last saw in the bottom of one of the suitcases in the boot. A week away feels like a lifetime. Everyday cares just disappear. Lancashire could go up in smoke and you’d barely raise an eyebrow. A holiday is a trip to another life.

And then there’s the other type. Type B, for want of a better and less hierarchical system of classification. These are the people who have to be persuaded not to turn back, halfway down the motorway, because they might not have left the fridge open but they definitely left the milk out and it’ll be off and, you know, now we’ll have to buy milk on our way back. The people whose first actions, when arriving at their destination, are to check what the mobile reception’s like and (if the kids happen to have chicken pox) to find out the details for the local out-of-hours medical care. The people who spend more time than they should, possibly, looking at their emails and texts, and spend more time than they should, definitely, replying to them. A holiday is just like a normal day, just hotter (hopefully) and with less reliable wifi.

Now this is hardly a revelation. Everyone knows this, and everyone knows which camp they fall into.

What’s interesting, though, is what happens when you get back from the holiday.

Up you drive, park the car, and (if you’re type B), it’s all planned out. You know what to expect, right down to the fermented milk sitting next to the kettle. Nothing surprises you, nothing disappoints you, you just unload the kids and the luggage, check the messages, check the post, and get on with it.

Type A, though, looks around in horror. The kitchen smells. It’s dark, and cold, the rain’s come in through the roof again and this time it’s missed the bucket. The neighbours are outside, being noisy, as usual, and the moment you hear the messages and realise how much stuff there is to do, you’re plunged into the kind of shallow misery usually reserved for the Monday morning commute.

The thing is, everyone knows that Type A has had the better holiday, Type A has chosen the right state of mind (not that it’s a choice, grumbles Type B), Type A has got everything spot-on. But the ability to let go comes at a price, and that price is a wall of reality crashing down on you with a great thwack the moment your holiday’s over, like being woken by your alarm in the middle of a wonderful dream, only worse. Type B doesn’t have to worry about any of that. Type B has no adjustment to make, can fit smoothly back into everyday life with little more than a shrug and a shake of the head.

As a dyed-in-the-wool, take-no-prisoners Type B, I know only too well what it is that makes me what I am. It’s the same thing that causes me, when in the middle of something complicated like buying a house or setting up a new broadband account, to phone and email everyone involved constantly and remind them what they’re supposed to be doing and check that they’re doing it right. It’s the same thing that causes me to leave the house ninety minutes before an appointment that’s just an hour away. It’s the certainty, born of experience, that things will go wrong unless you’re there to make them go right. Type A’s an optimist, she’s going away for a week, and in her absence, nothing can go wrong. Type A will be disappointed. The world might love an optimist, but even more than that, the world loves kicking sand in an optimist’s face and laughing at her.

So on behalf of all the pessimists everywhere, all the Type B’s, who know that the world only spins because we keep it spinning, I have four words that we rarely say (because you’d eat us alive if we did), but keep locked inside our hearts, always there, always true.

I. Told. You. So.

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If you liked this, there’s poems and sketches here, extracts from my novel here, and a selection of the best posts here. Oh, and please comment, like, share, whatever takes your fancy.

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