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LAURA CRAIK IS UPFRONT

Laura Craik saves her sanity with a new type of ‘holiday’, isn’t totally wild about her pond swim and wants actual ice in her iced drink

With the Government recently telling us to travel abroad only for ‘absolutely essential’ reasons unless we’re a football VIP with dispensation to spray tiny globules of spit all over 65,000 other fans at Wembley, it’s understandable that some of us are pushing the boundaries of what ‘absolutely essential’ means.

Inspired by the Government’s definition, I decided it was absolutely essential to check in to a hotel for the night. Not that I’d been counting, but it had been 461 days, 13 hours and 45 minutes since the last time I’d been away from my family.

This wasn’t a staycation. It was a sanecation, which is different, the way that VIP football fans are different. A staycation is when you go cycling in Yorkshire. A sanecation is when you’re too strung out to make travel arrangements, so you hop on the Tube and spend 24 hours in a different postcode and it still feels like you’ve jetted off to the Maldives.

Finding myself in W1, I decided it was absolutely essential that I see the new Hockney exhibition, and so I did, my eyes welling up at the beauty of the cherry blossom, though it might equally have been PMT. Exhausted by this onslaught of emotion, I went back to the NoMad in WC2, where the staff don’t treat you with unbridled hostility because you’ve asked them to tidy their bedroom.

“A sanecation is when you’re too strung out to plan travel, so you hop on the Tube to spend 24 hours in a different postcode”

It was absolutely essential that I had a cocktail, which at £16 was a small price to pay to sit on a velvet stool at a sexy bar without the dog looking accusingly at me because I’d forgotten to walk her.

The following day, I went crazy and ventured to W10, where I bought a pastel de nata from Lisboa, a city verboten to me because mainland Portugal is no longer on the green list, which has nothing to do with football, and anyone who thinks so is a conspiracist.

I then had lunch in an Italian restaurant, the pasta pomodoro as good as any in Naples, another city we probably won’t visit this summer. After that, it was absolutely essential — in the original meaning of the words — that I went home. And do you know what? I appreciated it more. I’d recommend a sanecation to anyone.

Stay sane: grab any vacation you can right now

In hot water…

On the hottest day of the year, I took my annual ‘wild’ swim in Hampstead Ladies’ Pond. A lot had changed since last time: namely the £4 entry charge, a contentious move that one swimmer loudly opined was ‘a total rip-off’.

On hot days, it probably is, since staff go up and down the queue urging bathers to swim for 20 minutes and not linger afterwards, so that everyone gets a turn (Covid rules state the pond can have only an 80-person capacity). Tell that to the women having leisurely picnics on its banks, determined to get their money’s worth. If you want value, go when it’s colder.

…when all you need is ice

In the pantheon of modern mysteries, it’s not quite up there with Coleen Rooney wondering who was leaking stories about her to the papers, yet the conundrum of Pret’s Perpetually Broken Ice Machine could still benefit from the sleuthing skills of Wagatha Christie.

Has anyone ever successfully managed to order an iced beverage from Pret? ‘The machine’s broken,’ says every barista in every branch whenever I or any member of my family tries. Suspicions were raised when my daughter heard a barista telling a colleague ‘it’s driving me insane’, as yet another hapless customer tried to quell his thirst on a hot day. Peerless as Pret’s £20 a month coffee subscription is, if it includes iced drinks, it needs to fix its ice machines.

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Dead ones everywhere. Apparently they’re fighting their own pandemic due to air pollution, pesticides and climate change. Too sad.