Travel: Two weeks of inhaling wild rosemary only serves to highlight the awfulness of air freshener
Sunday 22 August 1999
After all, it was only a fortnight ago that you were sitting under the Tuscan sun by the pool with a glass of spumante in your hand. Only a fortnight? Only a fortnight since these big issues - today so autumnally cloudy - shone with the sharp, clear light of summer?
Back then you understood perfectly the eternal cycle of knackered people needing to recuperate. Of batteries running down and being refuelled again. Of non-work only making sense in the context of work. Of outpourings of creative energy (and inpourings of salary) being followed by inpourings of Spanish brandy (and outpourings of salary).
But now that the grey days are back you just can't remember the details. You had an elaborate theory, didn't you? But what exactly were those extraordinary insights to which you had such fleeting access by the swimming pool?
You can only guess, but one theory you favour is that it is only the prolonged torment of work that guarantees you the temporary joy of holidays. Except that this suggests that fields of olive trees and rays of sun falling through wooden bedroom shutters onto stone tiles are not intrinsically better than traffic jams and high levels of atmospheric lead. It suggests that you only enjoyed the olive trees because you were on holiday and that holidays were only brief island stopovers in the great oceans of work. After a few days of butter croissants for breakfast you might just as well be back on sandwiches from the canteen. Basically it means that your holiday rapture would dissolve in the swimming pool the moment you had no work to go back to.
The alternative theory about your insight by the swimming pool - that it is only the joy of holidays that guarantees the torment of work - has different implications but I am not sure they are more cheerful ones.
True, they confirm your suspicion that the quality of life of people on holiday is better than that of people at work. But they also seem to suggest that holidays are a mistake. If you take them, you spoil the whole of the rest of your life. Every time you inhale wild rosemary you condemn yourself to an ever-finer appreciation of the horrors of air freshener. Plucking a fig from the tree outside your cortijo today will only cause trouble when you return to polystyrene packed lunches tomorrow.
On the other hand this second theory at least holds open the possibility that there may be some way to turn your holiday into your life. Now could that possibly have been your insight by the swimming pool? Could it possibly be that you even considered purchasing your rental villa in Provence? Yes? You wanted your moment by the swimming pool to last for the whole of the rest of your life?
Now why didn't I think of that before?
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