What to wear on a mini-break? Oh dear, oh dear! This subject can occupy a woman's mind for several weeks as she mentally packs and unpacks, buys new clothes, has a brainwave which requires the buying of yet more new clothes, then remembers the whole holiday capsule wardrobe concept, in which you take a small number of key garments and mix and match them in such a way as to create twenty different looks, and regretfully discards half the new clothes.
I once passed a woman in the street agonising out loud about packing for holiday. 'I thought if I took the smaller suitcase, and wore my boots, then I'd only need a pair of shoes for the evening, so I'd have room for the cords as well as the jeans...' On and on she rambled, with her husband making the occasional noise here and there which implied assent. Memo to self: never try and get a man on board about clothes packing, interior design, home made jam or trips to IKEA. He's not really listening, he's thinking, 'If Reknapp takes the England job on part-time initially, then...'
To be honest, it probably doesn't much matter what you take with you on a mini break. A bunch of nice clothes, basically. Don't fret, you'll be fine, provided you've got a) a pair of shoes/boots you can walk miles in, and b) something lacy (if you are going with a companion whose tastes veer in the lacy direction). Apart from that, the only essential for a stay in a hotel is earplugs. Never, never book into a hotel without them. You cannot know in advance how thin the walls are and how noisy the neighbours.
The chancellor and I have just had a couple of pleasant days in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. We were staying in Jesmond, which is pretty much wall-to-wall student accommodation as far as I can see. There are a string of hotels along one of the main streets. They all have bars, and in the evenings this is where the students like to gather. Hence the need for earplugs. It is one thing to overhear the exotic street drama of Bologna being played out under your window; quite another to be kept awake by Daisy or Freddie asserting (in the tones of astonished uncertainty which are currently fashionable), 'I hate washing machines? I LITERALLY hate them?'
Back in the early 90s we lived in Gateshead. It was odd to be back on the South bank of the Tyne enjoying the stunning views from the Sage, built on what was the Saltmeadows Estate in our parish. Its inhabitants were just being rehoused prior to the estate's demolition when we left. Back then the Baltic was still an empty flour mill, the Angel of the North was brand new. I stood and looked across the Tyne and it felt as though I'd never lived there at all.