We went back to the UK this weekend, to spend a weekend with some friends in Scotland. On the way hubby and I each made a list of things we missed from home. His list included Malteasers, Match of the Day and Pret a Manger. Mine consisted of Columbia Road flower market, the Royal Family and Take That.
We had to change flights at Gatwick, as apparently the Prague-Inverness commuter route is not well-enough established to warrant regular flights. Happily, this allowed us to sate at least a couple of our pinings. I was delighted to find out that the Royal Wedding paraphernalia is getting so out-of-control that Pret has special Royal Wedding branding now. Will there be a special sandwich in honour of the upcoming nuptials? The convenience-food generation’s equivalent of Coronation Chicken perhaps.
I will actually be returning to dear old Blighty again for ‘I do’ on the 29th April. There are two distinct types of expat: those that set up camp in their new home and immediately bitch about how terrible their motherland is, and those who go straight to the nearest optician to order their rose-tinted spectacles. I am firmly in the latter category. Yes, the UK is beset by public sector cuts, evil bankers, a dearth of decent television and an overpriced, inefficient transport system that makes commuters (and the transport secretary) weep. However, in my own daydreams it remains a land of cream teas, Colin Firth, steam trains and Emma Bridgewater.
My point was proven the last time I visited London, when I saw a man riding down Piccadilly on a penny farthing at three o’clock on a Thursday afternoon. Fancy.
I think I am at risk of becoming a bit dreadful, however. I work in an office where people bring in their own mugs. I have two – a union jack mug and a ‘Will & Kate’ official-fake-souvenir beauty. This is decorated with the date of the wedding, the couple’s initials and several little cartoon helicopters. In my apartment I also seem to have acquired a union jack flag (framed. Is that weird?) and a toy dog (called Jack, very original) also bearing that design.
Anyway, our happy hour reacquainting ourselves with all things British in Gatwick airport (including jobsworthy security people), was followed by a marvellous weekend. I spent much of the time feeling as I were living someone else‘s life. Once I found remembered that it was mine, I felt more than a little lucky and also slightly bemused about how it happened so effortlessly.
A very dear friend had “won” a weekend away in a super luxury lodge in the Scottish Highlands for her and eleven of her closest pals. I don’t know why I put “won” in quotations like that, she really did win it. She is one of those people who wins things. I think she must be born lucky, or promote a very positive karma by being so darn lovely. Either way, I grateful that I am friends with her, not least because this weekend was on her.
It was a brilliant weekend – sort of Five Go Mad in the Country crossed with very middle-class, sedate Big Brother. “Day Three in the BB lodge and Julian is concerned that the house has run out of Merlot. The housemates start to turn on each other before Sophia locates another bottle hiding behind the balsamic”.
The main aim of the weekend was to relax in the Scottish countryside, and there were a multitude of options available. It was all so lovely that I didn’t know quite where to begin. I am not terribly good at relaxing at the best of times and often find myself befuddled on short breaks about how to optimize the down-time. I was exceptionally blown away this weekend. I exhausted myself trying to relax properly. What was the most effective order of hot tub, steam room, warm bath, haggis, snowy walk and reading? Wine or G&T before dinner? Cup of tea or freshly brewed coffee in bed? Cosy chair in the drawing-room or watch the rugby in the library (yes, we had a library)? Honestly, and I don’t expect an ounce of sympathy here, it was quite tiring.
The weekend offered me a sneaky peek into the lives of the rich and/or famous. I was going pruney in the outside, loch-view hot-tub, enjoying a beer. I was trying to lean at the angle that would allow me to enjoy the unspoiled view whilst protecting the back of my neck from the gentle snow-fall and simultaneously avoid getting my hair wet. At the back of my mind I was slightly concerned that I might not have time to enjoy the steam-room as well as have a relaxing nap before dinner.
It was then that I almost understood how the ladies-who-lunch gang (there are loads of them in Prague, it’s like the Northcote Road in Clapham out here) end up as stressed as they appear to be. How to decide between a massage followed by coffee at Bakeshop or manicure and lunch with the girls? Although if that actually is your everyday life, presumably you’d have time to pace yourself and discover the optimum relaxation routine. They should probably try harder and then they wouldn’t look so harassed.
For me, the lap of luxury remains reserved for weekends where someone else picks up the tab. So running around exhausting myself trying to do everything seems unavoidable. Pity me?
Note: Since the time of writing, CzechingIn has returned to the Czech Republic to convalesce in the tedium of everyday living. She will be supported during this difficult time by Jack, her patriotic dog.