Something always comes up

WE’RE going away today. For a week. Well, four days actually.

It was supposed to be a week but Something Came Up. It happens every time.

There are people in the world who organise their holidays 12 months in advance. They frighten me. Their supreme confidence that nothing can go wrong seems to frighten everything. Even the gods. Because nothing does go wrong!

They block out the dates in their calendar with indelible pen and the world shuffles around a bit to accommodate them. Wars change dates; volcanoes tighten their buttocks.

It’s just another example of confidence breeding success, but I can’t do it. I book a holiday tentatively. It’s as if I expect my diary to explode in my hand as soon as my pen places a ring round a date.

I ring up hotels and ask, please, if it’s not too much trouble, could they fit us in. I check carefully that it won’t inconvenience anyone at work.

And if they can fit us in and no-one at work is inconvenienced, then three days before we’re due to leave the hotel will develop legionnaire’s disease and the rest of the office will develop berri berri.

This only needs to happen once or twice to change your whole mindset.

I use to mend my car with enthusiastic optimism, until I got used to it never starting afterwards. Now I just grit my teeth and pay someone else’s bill. And I’m certain the only reason it works for them is because they expect it to.

Same with holidays. My wife has developed toothache. Root canal work, the dentist said. He started last week, but needs to do some more tomorrow morning, so we put off going away until tomorrow afternoon.

Probably the tooth will flare up about Wednesday, if we’re lucky, and we’ll have to come home. I say if we’re lucky because I wouldn’t be surprised if it flared up as we’re backing out the drive.

Is this what marks life’s winners from life’s losers? Expectation? Do I never win raffles because I never expect to win? Could I trick fate by pretending I expected to win?

No. It’s like saying prayers. The gods know when you’re genuine and they smile on people who have arrogance like their own.

If I could say: “Now look here, God… I’m flying to Europe next year. I do not want to suffer airline strikes, a worldwide epidemic of ebola disease or sudden disappearance in the Bermuda Triangle. Or there’ll be trouble,” I would probably earn brownie points.

Instead I ask nicely and I can’t get a full week even if I sneak it in at the last moment while the fates have their backs turned.

But I shouldn’t complain. At least it looks like we’ll get started. And if we drink bottled water and eat only stuff we cook ourselves in our unit, we shouldn’t get food poisoning.

And if we don’t go near the beach, on account of the jellyfish and crocodiles, nor the rainforest on account of the snakes and the spiders – basically if we stay in our unit with the door locked and the curtains drawn, we should have a very nice time.

If the television works.