The romantic Life Launch didn't get off to a great start, because going to lovely tropical places means starting out from their diametric opposites in south-east England: more specifically, a "night before flight" B&B at the end of the runway. I'd imagined VNC arriving at the hotel to find me draped seductively in some sort of pearly-pink Jacuzzi glow, with a tray of room service culinary delights on the pillow. (Sometimes my ability to believe in the improbable really worries me.) In reality, I had to blag a set of fairy lights off reception so that the lo-energy strip lighting in our dismal little cell didn't make VNC run for the bus and the Adelaide Blonde. And the only food available was sandwiches from a bar that Alan Partridge could call a spiritual home, where the staff were behaving as if the arrival of 100 advanced booked guests was a total surprise.
The greatest danger I saw in this all-too-typical tale of British catering woe was that I should reveal my dreadful fascist personality traits to VNC. He, being a totally balanced and internally peaceful individual, was unfazed by brown swirly carpets and cooking margarine in the sarnies. I, being a neurotic perfectionist, was ready to kill all the hotel staff with my bare hands. Luckily VNC persuaded me into a more sympathetic view, and we got to bed under the fairy-light glow without my having dragged the waiter across the table by his lapels.
Things didn't improve the next day, when we got to the check-in desk: our flight was overbooked, and for half-an-hour we stood around as people frowned and tutted over computer screens.
"Did we fancy going anywhere else?" the jolly airline official behind the desk quipped. I don't have a sense of humour under stress, so for a while I was in danger again of showing VNC what a truly ghastly individual I am. I went to the loo to avoid blowing an emotional blood vessel in a public place and by the time I came back all the frowns were gone and VNC was holding our boarding passes like a trophy.
All the same, I began to feel that our whole week was ill-fated: the plane would crash, or be hijacked to Moscow, where we'd die of hypothermia on the runway; Tobago would suffer the worst hurricane since Crusoe, or our hotel would be knee-deep in cockroaches and cholera.
I can't really tell you too much about how wrong I was, because in the middle of the first full week of a British January you'll just get jealous and nasty. We didn't crash, get hijacked or suffer hurricanes or cockroaches. But nor did we do replays of From Here to Eternity on the beach, or snog endlessly under the palm trees. We had a very busy week being a matching pair of little anoraks and pootling about the island naming things: plants in the rainforest, fishes on the reef. We drove through little villages teetering and cantilevered on to impossibly steep hillsides, where trees bloomed orange against the green of other wildly flourishing vegetation. All the people smiled, and all the dogs were cute and wagged their tails.
And it felt marvellously fresh, because although I've been to lots of other tropical places, I've never been with Beloved. So everything about this glorious extravaganza could be tied to VNC, to the future and not the past.
I revelled in the New Year and all it could be, whilst dancing with embarrassing abandon until very nearly dawn on 1 January. It all filled me with hope and the milk of human kindness. I came home feeling that I could make everything all right for everyone: I'd mould the kids, me and VNC into a family, make friends with Beloved and his Bonk and grow vegetables and sweet peas for everybody.
That lasted about as long as the fantasy about Hotel Runway. We came home to a house with no light or heat, in the hurricane that Crusoe sent from the Caribbean. There was a series of biology experiments in the fridge, and the picnic table was upside-down in the pond. The kids showed their desire for family life by jumping ship to a friend's house immediately. Beloved, it seemed, wanted me publicly flogged.
Only VNC stayed steady in the face of my fragile dreams. He lit a fire, and held my hand when I cried a bit as the past seeped back in. Then we planned our next escape to tropical heaven.
Stevie MorganReuse content