It is three in the afternoon and I have just ordered a cocktail. I have done so not because I particularly want a cocktail, but in celebration of my departure from the status quo, which would about this time see me bracing myself for the school-run and pre-bedtime chaos. So I have ordered a cocktail, and I will drink it slowly, enjoying the condensation forming on the outside of the glass.
I am staying in the sort of hotel I would never bring my children. The sort of hotel, in fact, to which no-one should ever bring children. Quietly luxurious, its residents are almost entirely middle-aged and older, lying two-by-two in near silence. Built into the side of Madeira’s mountainous coast, what is ground-floor on one side is pleasingly high on the other. The pool is thus nearly level with the tree-tops, which offer gentle shade against the surprisingly hot sun. Surprisingly hot, that is, for the two of us, who have stumbled out of the UK’s seemingly interminable greyness, into a week child-free sunshine.
We are half-way through day two, and I have read four books. I am wallowing in literature like a child let loose in a chocolate factory. When I am not reading, I am gazing out across the island, which falls away beneath the hotel under a series of terracotta roofs. The sea is so very nearly the colour of the sky that the horizon disappears in a hazy line I have to strain my eyes to find, and the smell of sun-cream rises from the hot teak decking. It is bliss, and I am grateful to the friends, relatives and scarcely-acquaintances who have made it possible.
‘We should do this every year,’ we say, knowing full well we will not. That there is a very good reason why it has been seven years since we last did it. But we are doing it now, and that is all that matters.