Monday, 31 March 2008


Do you ever dream of escape? A world away from the mundane grey existence that the daily grind has been reduced to? I remember when I had just had sproglet. I desperately wanted some respite. I knew post section that a tube journey was out of the question and it never occurred to me to get a cab - so I reckoned the furthest I could get away had to be on foot. Not for me the fantasies of Hawaii and an oiled Brad Pitt lookey-likey rubbing my rolls of flesh or a spa retreat to pamper me into oblivion - no, all I craved was a night at the Swiss Cottage Holiday Inn. The thought of the air conditioned rooms, clean sheets and the ability to sleeeeeeeeeeeep a whole night through was my idea of ultimate escape. Bless me.

We get those moments (my most recent one was post Easter) when we need to down tools and get the hell outta there. I am blessed. I have a retreat to run to. My Auntie M's. She is amazing - a product from another innocent era, where men worked and women tended the home: where cakes are made daily and scones are whipped up in the blink of an eye. I arrive to hot baths, roast dinners and shortbread. She gets up with sproglet and lets me lie in until 10am!!! My clothes are washed and pressed and left back in my room as if the laundry genie (that husband believes in) actually exists. She slips fivers in my pocket and runs me to the cinema, babysitting sproglet. She asks me what I want for dinner and always has hummus in the fridge. And home made jam. She is the Uber Mother. I feel secure and calm and my stress just melts away. She lives in York - a quaint beautiful city (until the bloody tourists take over). I wander around the town, pausing to watch street entertainers (they were my big crush when I was an over-romantic 15 year old, I thought them glamorous a bit dirty and inviting - like circus folk)shoving home-made ice cream in my mouth and popping in and out of clothes shops - finally having the time to try on an item or two. She lives next to a small lake and it is utterly surprising how good feeding pesky ducks can make you feel(even though sproglet chased a goose today and I fell on my arse in the mud trying to stop the bird from taking out his eyes). All too soon the day rolls round when I have to leave - say goodbye to the over-flowing cake tin, the meals that appear from nowhere and the pretty green garden that catches the sun in the mornings.

I get on the train for the big smoke and bite my lip. It is never easy to leave. When I used to visit every summer as a child, my Aunt then lived in another area - teaming with kids - they used to form an arrivals committee on the bench at the end of her road, cheering as I climbed out of the car, delirious to be there. I would play out from sunrise to sunset: bombing around on a borrowed bike, climbing trees and building playhouses, eating hot salty chips with scraps (a Yorkshire thing - little flecks of batter that have fallen from the fish - heavenly) and sucking frozen ice pops until our foreheads hurt and our lips were stained blue. I wore a T-shirt with an ironed-on tigers head and skin tight jeans and had a crush on the boy across the road who had a big nose and brother who did wheelies on his motorbike. Summers felt like they went on forever to a soundtrack of 'Fame' 'Eye of the Tiger' and 'Frankie' by Sister Sledge. Every time my case was packed and the goodbyes were said I would sob the whole way to the airport and the whole flight home to Ireland. I remember a woman once taking me under her wing convinced I had a fear of flying - I just hated to leave my haven.

26 years on and it is still my escape destination. I leave again tomorrow. There may be no-one to wave me off bar my Aunt and Uncle, I'm not leaving behind a cherished bike and a secret stash of 'Top Deck' shandies, but I'll be sad all the same...

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