Tuesday, 5 February 2013

The time of your life.

“So, she sent a text saying she was having the time of her life!” says friend sitting to my left in a French restaurant on Friday night. 

She’s talking about her teenage daughter, away on a school skiing trip, and so a discussion ensues between the seven of us, all mums, about the last time we had “the time of our lives”. I can’t think of anything. My friends round the table laugh. Then they stop laughing. “Come on!” they say.

“Maybe I’m just a glass half-empty person?” I say. But honestly, privately, I decide I haven’t had the time of my life. Not yet. 

This is because I never went backpacking across Australia, or island hopping in Thailand, or skiing in France, or sailing around the Greek islands with a boyfriend in my teens... 

I also never had a gap year and I didn’t have a particularly wild time at university or in the ensuing years as a twenty-something living in London after that. Mostly I sat in my negative equity studio flat in Streatham with Husband (before he was), watching episodes of Friends while he was sleeping.

We did take the kids to St Lucia once, on an all-inclusive thing when they were little, but we were all in one room, hardly slept, bickered through the entire first week and were driven mad by the constant reggae music down by the pool. And the least said about our honeymoon the better. It was in Austria. 

I think this was because I briefly flirted with 'doing what husband wanted'. I thought it would be novel - and wifely. But on the plus side, since it was so damn dull, we did make a baby. It was either that or get kitted out in Lederhosen to blend in, which, had we done so, would definitely have put paid to the baby-making.

The only things I could think of that might qualify, in that moment in the restaurant, were going on a road trip down the west coast of America all the way to Mexico (but I was with my parents at the time, and only nine); the euphoria I felt as I drove home from the BBC after directing my first studio programme; and having babies.

Certainly nothing has ever topped the natural high of giving birth, particularly the first time, as the summer dawn broke over those umber Chelsea rooftops and I held our naked newborn son against my skin after what had been an amazing, speedy, uncomplicated, drug-free labour. Never have I felt more alive than in that moment, but I don’t think that's the sort of thing they meant. So I didn't say any of that.

I carried on thinking about it after dinner and all through Lincoln (SUCH a boring film, am I the only person to think so?). When was the last time I had the time of my life?

I remembered last week when I took my eldest niece to Sadler’s Wells to see Sleeping Beauty, then both nieces stayed over and we had a family lunch the next day. 

I recalled the week before at the Hollywood Costumes exhibition at the V &A with two lovely friends, and then having dinner. 

I harked back to earlier that same day, with many of the same friends, having brunch in Soho, before going to the Manet exhibition at the R A. 

And then I thought of the night before, just supper at home as usual, with our three boys, when Eldest made tea for us all afterwards (not usual) and we sat around in the kitchen dunking chocolate biscuits and chatting. That made my heart fly back to them: my family...

Youngest would be tucked up in bed by now, Eldest was out somewhere with his charming new friend, Middle One would be sitting on the sofa next to the spot where I am usually slumped, Husband over in his chair, no doubt also fast asleep… 

Luxury though it was to be in the cinema with my wonderful friends watching a movie, suddenly I felt an overwhelming desire to be back home with them. And then it hit me: this is it. 

This is the time of my life.


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  1. Goodness, you've just made me a bit weepy. That is a lovely post. Most definitely the most alive moments for me are not hurtling down the side of a mountain, but times with friends and family - sitting round a table preparing food, talking, laughing, eating. Or snoogling on the sofa with my big pile of boys.

  2. Yes! Agreed. Thanks for that. Made me feel a bit weepy too, when I got to the end - and I wrote it! E x

  3. Loved this! Actually it made me laugh as I can relate to it tucked up under my duvet in dull Switzerland. My " time of my life " episodes are definitely family moments and a happy childhood with my parents, not adrenaline fueled escapades!

  4. So glad. Sometimes I wonder what on earth I'm wittering on about - all me, me, me! The aim is to talk about my experience in a way that resonates with others - so it's great to know that sometimes this does happen. Thanks! E x