It’s one of those ironies of life, or maybe a Divine joke, but my job involves a fair amount of travel; I border at times on agoraphobia so it’s actually quite hard to gear myself up to go away. Most of the time, away involves a day trip, 13 or so hours travelling within this country with visiting foreign language students, but sometimes, for my other job, it involves some nights away on the Continent. This is where the trouble begins.


Because of my baseline anxiety about just about anything, I find packing really hard work, even when it’s only for two or three nights. It doesn’t happen often enough for the packing to become second nature, and so I find myself struggling each time with getting ready. First on the list is things like passport, money and tickets. I’ve already checked them five times. Next is work clothes, and especially shoes. This is not Imelda Marcos speaking; I have to decide what pair of shoes/boots is going to be most comfortable for a couple of days where I am going to be on my feet a lot, in a colder climate that might well be icy and is going to look smart enough for the job. I can squeeze a single spare pair into my case, as emergency change. The same goes for clothes. Night things: pyjamas or a nightie? The way my mind works is the one I choose must a) look decent and modest should I be required to be out of my room after hours, b) is suitably warm/cool/comfortable enough to sleep in. This in itself presents a problem. If I choose warm ones, then the room will probably be overheated and I’ll overheat; if I choose cooler ones, then the bed itself will be icy when I get into it.

Then comes the matter of certain comforts. I bring a travel kettle, along with a mug and a selection of tea bags and so on. You cannot get a decent cup of tea on the Continent to save your life and I do like my tea. I also like a hot drink at bed time. European hotels don’t provide the kettle and so on English hotels provide and even if they did, I am staying at a Youth Hostel, which is even more pared down.

Other comforts: cosmetics. Yes, I know they are not strictly neccessary but they bring me comfort. And yes, guys, I know I COULD manage with a bog standard bar of soap, some shampoo, toothbrush and paste and a deodorant. I just prefer not to. I save up the free samples and mini sizes from my favourite companies to be enjoyed on this sort of trip. But then it comes down to which will I actually need or use….I’ve weeded out now what I won’t use but…there is so much pleasure to be had using a body lotion you’ve been saving for months. Make-up? Well, there’s only so much one can actually use and I don’t use much, anyway, but I have certain addictions: mascara and eyeliner, and lip gloss.

And then what to do in the evenings when we’re all gone to bed, but you’re not ready to sleep? I couldn’t for the life of me find a book I wanted to read when I went to the bookshops, so I’ve packed an old favourite: The Dark Is Rising sequence by Susan Cooper. I’ve also got a journal to write in and my mp3 player.

I’ve also got iron rations in my day rucksack: flapjacks, for emergency hunger, and a water bottle.

I won’t go into the current contents of my handbag but I hope I have everything I could possbily need but without overdoing it. I have left the space blanket at home and shall be wearing my red yak wool shawl that doubles as a pashmina-style scarf and is very cosy. I’ve also got a pillow for the coach, and an endless supply of sick bags.

I just hope that when I hit the hay tonight at about 8pm, I am going to sleep a bit because I need to get up at 1.30am to be picked up at 2am. I may get some sleep on the coach before we meet the kids at 7am but by the time we reach the youth hostel at 19.15 hours(fingers crossed) I will have been up for far too long.

I’ve also packed my camera so when I get back I shall put up some of the pics for you to enjoy.

Auf Wiedersehen!