Down & Out In A London Kitchen

Esther Walker started a food blog called Recipe Rifle in 2009 when desperate and unemployed. In 2010 she married restaurant critic Giles Coren and far, far too quickly had a baby daughter, called Kitty.

Silencing my voice of doom

Posted by Esther Walker
Esther Walker
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on Tuesday, 20 March 2012

I have always had a strong inner voice of doom. No holiday, party or weekend plan has ever been able to escape my critical logistical eye – and with a baby it has raged out of control. “We can’t do that,” I will say gravely when my husband suggests grabbing a morning coffee with the buggy. “It’ll be a nightmare.”

Some people don’t mind “nightmares”. Some people think they are, in fact, quite fun. War stories. Battle scars. Not me. I think “nightmares” are just that and I avoid them at all costs. My instinctive urge when invited to do anything is to say “no,” because I basically just want to stay at home and change Kitty’s nappy in peace.


So that is how I came to turn down a free foreign holiday. We were invited to a house abroad, somewhere sunny. There were other couples and children and on the surface it sounded great. “What fun!” I said, smiling blankly. But with inevitability of a chorus in a Greek tragedy, my voice of doom started up. There were going to be five children under 5 and no help – not with the washing up or babysitting. We would also have to supply our own cots and high chairs.


Everyone else was excited about it. “Sunshine,” they thought. “Swimming pool.” My mind merely reeled at the avalanche of hurdles to overcome: getting us, plus excess baggage through an airport, out the other side and into a rental car. Then once there: where does one purchase nappies and formula? And then, with excess baggage, nappies and formula, what are the mosquitoes like?


So the mosquitoes are fine. We survive the night. The next day, some people want to go and have a boozy lunch. They have already started drinking, they are in high spirits. Not everyone can go for this boozy lunch because there are these five children, you see. So some people go for the boozy lunch and some people get left behind.


Then the ones that went for the boozy lunch come back and pass out next to the pool and snore and the ones that didn’t go for the boozy lunch say nothing and are terribly polite because they don’t want to cause a scene but inside they are absolutely seething with resentment. “Tomorrow,” they say to themselves, “WE had better be the ones going out for the boozy lunch.”


But tomorrow, no-one offers the stayers-behind a boozy lunch. Or they do, but the stayers-behind get back from lunch to find that no-one has had their nappy changed, or lunch, or a nap and the boozy lunchers-turned stay-behinders are all asleep snoring by the pool.


From then on in, things can only get worse. So, my mind cascading in on itself with horror, I pulled out of the holiday, when people have already booked time off and confirmed the availability of the house.


A week later, feeling guilty about it and moaning on at my husband about what a party pooper and a loser I was, he said: “It’s fine – just standing in the queue at the car rental place would have been a disaster.” I just stared at him. Shouting at Avis reps in French is what my husband lives for. His pathetic attempt to be on my side made me see myself in new and even worse light.


“I’VE CHANGED MY MIND ABOUT FRANCE” said my immediate email to our holiday party. And do you know what? I feel terrific about it. And my voice of doom hasn’t said a word since.

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