So, my break to see friends in the New Forest isn’t going well. Because there’s no mobile signal at my Airbnb I’m at the top of K2 (not really; a Hampshire hillock), staring at three little dots on my phone, quivering. What is He typing? I wait. And I wait. Not for the first time do I wonder why men are so painfully slow at texting. Is it that their fingers are too big or their brains too small? Will my ex ex come and rescue me from every single woman’s idea of hell: forced to be the third wheel at a dinner in a smart hotel with a friend and her husband. Forced to enquire endlessly about the couple’s offspring while they never fire one question in my direction. Worried about the bill, because couples always count themselves as one person, so I end up paying half.
Ooh. The dots have disappeared. He has either dropped down dead or a missive is on its way. It will appear any minute now. Oh no! Damn! My phone has just died. I summon the puppies and we descend at speed to the ‘cottage’ that I have rented for the weekend. I plug my phone in. Nothing. Wha?? Oh, the electricity has run out. I place the pound coin that the Airbnb woman had given me in the slot. I grab my iPad and fire it up. Here we go. He’s answered.
‘I can’t come running every time you find a spider in the bath.’ Well, that’s charming. Then I realise he’s referencing Annie Hall, when Woody Allen turns up (having left another woman warm in bed, let’s not forget that detail) at Diane Keaton’s apartment in a panic, to find she has a spider in her bathroom ‘the size of a Buick’. I must have seen that film 200 times while, when we met, my ex ex told me he’d never seen it as it was ‘too middle class’. I made him watch it. Ah, so he didn’t sleep through it after all.
I think about texting my other ex, David, but then imagine him in that smart hotel, with a long, grey beard and equally greying track pants, moaning to resident chef Angela Hartnett, ‘Is the bread gluten-free?’ And, ‘Panna cotta should only ever be vanilla.’ This from a man who doesn’t own a teaspoon.
There is a strange beeping. I finally work out it’s coming from the smoke alarm. The Airbnb woman is obviously from the Basil Fawlty ‘I should let you all burn’ school. The door to the bathroom sticks. The TV is like the Radio Rentals one I put in a skip in 1972; I can’t even self-medicate by catching up on Love Island, thanking the Lord I’m no longer in my 20s, believing if I meet the right man all my problems will be solved (and am I showing my age here, but really, what’s wrong with a nice cardigan?).
I start to pack, feeling like Cameron Diaz in The Holiday after one night in Kate Winslet’s bolt hole. Unfortunately, life isn’t like the movies. Men don’t drop everything when you call them in tears. You don’t open the door to find Jude Law, merely a person holding a bin bag who says, ‘You haven’t been taking your dogs into the churchyard to go to the toilet, have you?’
That was the final straw, I’m afraid. I texted my ‘friend’, said I’d had to leave for work, but to enjoy dinner at Lime Wood in my absence. I just put everything in the car, the bewildered puppies in the back, and went to knock on the Airbnb woman’s door.
‘I’m leaving,’ I told her. ‘You misrepresented the cottage. The smoke alarm isn’t working; perhaps that explains the note by the telly that says, “No lighting of candles”. The fridge is filthy: shall I jot down some notes on how to clean it? The TV needs upgrading: you might leave a note saying no red wine to be drunk while you’re sitting on the sofa, though to be honest a big stain might be an improvement, but what else is there to do? Polish the horse brasses? Gaze at the view of the green oil tank as big as a hippo? Make a plan for which part of your body you are going to wash with the dolly-sized bar of Imperial Leather?
‘Oh, and if someone has stolen the cafetiere, here’s an idea: invest in a new one!’
‘You’re not getting your money back!’ she shouted after me. ‘You will never Airbnb in Hampshire again!’
‘Hmm. Puppies!’ Six little ears shoot up. ‘Where to now?’