18.59. I'm typing this from a tent in the middle of a far-flung desert, many miles from my family. For most parents – at least those who aren't serving soldiers – this might sound like an unusual, even agreeable, situation. It certainly sounded like a great idea, in the midst of a particularly weepy fit of hormone-induced mania a month or so ago, as I announced that I needed time ON MY OWN, expecting tearful dissent from my husband, only to be met by the words "good idea, I'll help you pack".
Several weeks later, here I am, on my own in what is officially called a yurt. "It's an eco retreat," I'd explained to the four-year-old, the night before I left. "There's a donkey and chickens, and you can collect your own eggs, and…" but the conversation got waylaid when my daughter had a sudden urge to know what an egg really was, and then left the room crying. So it was that I never really thought about what an off-grid retreat might involve, until I arrived only to find no TV, no Wi-Fi, no radio, nobody to talk to, and – being pregnant – no prospect of getting blotto to pass the time.
Which brings us to where I am now: perched on the corner of my bed, arms unnaturally outstretched so as to be able to sit while typing at a laptop attached to the only plug socket in the room. "Read your book," my mum shouts down the phone, my husband having apparently delegated babysitting duties to her before heading to the pub. "Yes," I say, looking down at my book, a particularly sinister thriller. "Bye bye!" my daughter calls out, adding, quietly: "I hope you come back".