I don't think I'll ever lose the sense of satisfaction that hits me, with the heat of the midday sun, as I step down from a plane. And I'm sure that nowhere else in the world will ever make me relax quite as completely - I walk differently in Greece and my shoulders slope downwards instead of the usual clutched-up round-my-ears tenseness.
Recently, however, I've discovered the pleasure of taking a week off work for no other reason than to be at home. The first couple of times this simply meant staying around the house, making no plans at all, just seeing what the days would bring. Then I realised this in itself was making me tense. I didn't want to tell people I was at home, in case they made claims on my time - I even pretended to my mother that I was in the office when she rang, lest she started suggesting things for me to do. Then I realised that the days were just drifting away - before I knew it the week was up. I had little to show for it and was cross with myself for wasting the opportunity.
But no more! I have discovered the power of a to-do list. No more wasted time, a real sense of achievement as I tick things off the list and a lasting record of all that I've done.
There are, of course, a number of rules to be observed - the perfect to-do list is no simple thing:
- there is no priority order
- there is no sense of scale - small mundane tasks like 'plant courgette seeds' can sit happily alongside aspirational options like 'write a short story''
- you can include boring household tasks that you really ought to do every week anyway
- it's ok to add tasks to the list after you've actually already done them
- every completed to-do must be ticked off with a dramatic flourish
My list for this week has 12 items on it. So far, halfway through the week, I've completed 9 of them. We now have a functioning fridge door and a clean bathroom. The neighbours can stop worrying about our drinking habits as I've collected together all the wine bottles from outside the back door and taken them to the bottle bank. And last night we enjoyed rhubarb crumble - the first made with our own home-grown rhubarb.
Task number 10 is to dig over another row at the allotment - that's my aim for this afternoon.
Then tomorrow it gets really exciting. My daughter and I have both celebrated 'big' birthdays this year, so we're treating ourselves to a day out and a posh lunch. I'm sure there won't be many to-do lists with 'go to Paris' on them - I know I'll enjoy ticking that one off.