Last week just as I was in the middle of baking a batch of fairy cakes for yet another class cake sale, two eager helpers at the buttons of the Magimix (yes I cheat, but this method is condoned, nay recommended, by the divine Nigella) the phone inevitably rang and catapulted me into a frenzy of activity that resulted in rather well tanned fairy cakes.
The company that I used to work for before I had children, taking people on holidays in Italy, had tracked me down through my mother. They had a new trip about to start here in South Africa, their Tour Leader who was already out here preparing for the trip had had to fly home as her father was dying, and could I help.
So it was that I found myself, after a flurry of phone calls, driving to the airport in my scruffy car to meet the local guide, who was now taking the leader’s place, and welcome the group, trying to access the remnants of my once ultra efficient Tour Manager personality and quell the pre-trip butterflies in my stomach. They’re like stage fright and I always used to suffer from them, even when I was seamlessly running trips all summer. Meeting a new group of people... that important first impression, what will they be like?
It all did go smoothly. We drove to the stunning hotel – Cape Dutch wine estate with a backdrop of mountains and had a wonderful lunch, a grown-up lunch with conversation and wine, that I hadn’t cooked myself, in beautiful surroundings. After lunch I went with my new colleague, who is staying with the group, to her room to go over our plans. Relaxed on pristine bedspread in a tidy room with no clutter, a sparkling bathroom, giving on to a private terrace, on a lawn beyond which a helicopter reposed. Imagined staying with the group, going from nice hotel to nicer hotel, eating in good restaurants, sampling different wines, returning to my pre-children days of two parallel realities.
Then I waved goodbye, got back in my scruffy car and drove out of the bubble which faded to unreality as I neared home and popped completely as I walked into our weekend messy house, where my son was groaning on a sofa, having had an allergic reaction to a bee sting, supper needed cooking as we expected a guest and I felt at home.
Then it came upon me that working for a holiday company, a good one at least, is all about creating bubbles – beautiful, bright, seamless bubbles, for your clients to dwell in, buffered from the demands of life and decision making. A little bit of human magic. You just have to make sure you don’t get dazzled by your own spell-making and spend too long inside the bubble yourself, for real life is outside the bubble in the imperfections and gritty bits, in the silver linings of unlooked for clouds, wax crayons crunching underfoot and senile dogs barking, but also children smiling, presenting you with obscure presents constructed of glue and paper, people who belong to you for life, not just until the bubble bursts at the airport’s end.
I’ll be spending some time from home helping keep the bubble intact, then have another couple of forays into the world of gourmet restaurants and five star hotels to make sure everyone is happy, but I’ll be sleeping at home and that's how I like it.