There are so many cliques about the right way to relax, and admittedly I am one of the worst for offering a hot bath and a cup of tea as the cure for all manner of ills.
But the other night, I simply couldn’t face the whole palava of running a bath and lying still for half an hour. I just wanted to be clean, so I jumped in the shower, splattered rosemary oil on the shower floor and worked up a sudsy storm with a bar of lemon verbena soap and a loofah. I got out, jumped into clean pyjamas and found myself sitting snuggled up on the sofa watching I Captured The Castle, and dreaming of another lifetime. And you know what? It felt great because it struck me that there are nights when "relaxing" doesn’t mean slowing down, it means doing what it takes to revive enough energy so that you don’t feel the urge to crawl into bed, hot and tired, half an hour later…
We women are very bad at knowing what we need at any given moment, so we rely on the old panaceas: red wine or chocolate fudge cake, overspending or collapsing in a heap in front of the tv. We don’t know what will make us feel better so we look for cheap thrills or, temporary mood lifters. We don’t take the time to identify what we need, probably because most of the time we are to exhausted to think at all…
I am in the habit of over complicating things. I can’t have a cheese sandwich, I have to have an all singing all dancing triple rye bread, layered affair with two types of pickle, thinly sliced mature cheddar, oodles of salad, mustard mayonnaise and sun dried tomatoes. I can’t take a quick dip in the bath, I have to have the full works with candles, oils, lotion and pyjamas pressed with lavender; I can’t have a box of Cadbury’s chocolates, I want Prestat violet cremes: I wouldn’t
dream of heating up a microwave meal, I have to cook it from scratch. And you know what? Sometimes all this "lets make life that little bit lovelier" is just a teeny bit tiring. More trouble than it is really worth. Sometimes I just want my Dad to deliver a foil wrapped white bread butty with a slather of margerine and a slab or two of rubbery red leicester…
Now I know you are now having horrors: that you think I am abandoning my cause in favour of a life of frozen meals and cold showers. But it isn’t true. I just want us to have some perspective about what we are capable of when we are carrying the rest of the world on our shoulders. I want you to understand that not everything has to be perfect, or wonderful: sometimes it just has to enough to satisfy our immediate need’s. And that is all.
Tonight is snuggle night. There are going to be others. Many, many others, so if tonight isn’t perfect, you can declare tomorrow evening "snuggle night" and do it all over again. If you can’t get parma ham to wrap your asparagus in, serve it with bacon, and know inside that it doesn’t matter. It’ll be a taste sensation regardless.
If you don’t feel like watching a film, let Cole Porter sing you to sleep, or if all else fails, put a long coat on over your jim jams and go for a long, long, evening walk. Nobody said you had to snuggle in your living room.
Do what you want. But do what you need.
Be snuggly. Be content.
*An abbreviated version of this post first appeared in my Vintage Housekeepers Circle, but I thought we could use a teeny reminder…*