This week I did a really naughty thing. I pulled a sickie. Played hooky. Went AWOL. In my defence, it wasn't premeditated, it just sort of happened. It started off like any other day. I woke up, had a shower, did my hair and make-up, dressed, packed up my diet lunch, got in the car and drove to work. Nothing unusual there. It was a lovely, lovely day - crisp, autumnal, sunny; the sort of day when you ought to be out, walking your dog in the park, kicking up the leaves, just happy to be alive. The sort of day that, if you had one, you should to be hammering down country lanes in your open topped sportscar, enjoying the autumn sunshine, catching a whiff of woodsmoke as you wend your way through pretty villages in search of the perfect pub for lunch. The sort of day that you shouldn't spend caged up in an office, staring at your computer screen like some sad little budgie gazing into its mirror, wondering if this is all there is to life.
So there I was, waiting at the traffic lights, and suddenly a renegade idea came into my head. Bugger it, I thought, I really don't want to go into the office. So I didn't. I pulled into the carpark, did a swift U turn and drove straight back out again, stopped the car half a mile away and phoned in sick. I can't believe I actually did it, and to be honest, I'm still slightly shocked at myself. I don't usually do things like that, but I've rationalised it now - they owe me so much time I could take the rest of the year off and still have change, and my colleagues, who suspected that "things were getting on top of me" were OK with it. And somehow I just needed it. So it was a done deal. I was taking what is known in some countries as a "mental health day" or, to put it in Brummie vernacular, I was skiving a day off.
My next phone call was to my husband who was supposed to be working at home.
"Fancy going out to lunch with me, in the country?" I already knew the answer to that one. He's always been easy to lead astray.
"Have you got the sack?" he asks, shocked that I am not already in the office.
"Not yet, but I'm working on it" says I, tossing the phone in my bag and heading for home.
After a brief pit-stop to pick up husband and get changed into my casual gear, off we went, heading out into the Staffordshire countryside. Apparently, the autumn colours in the UK this year are even more spectacular than the trees in New England, and driving down those country lanes I can quite believe it. What a fabulous sight. The sun shone through the golden leaves as they drifted down to the ground, the roadside red berries looked vibrant, the creeper covered walls positively glowed, there was a nip in the air which brought the colour to our cheeks. We found a wonderful pub, sat in the stone-flagged bar in front of a crackling log fire, husband ate game pie, which he said was delicious, and I enjoyed venison sausages and tried not to think of Bambi. After a nice cup of coffee and a walk around the village, we took another picturesque drive home. An entirely fabulous day, a totally unexpected but necessary soul-restoring treat.
And did I feel guilty? Yes, a bit. Did I regret it? No, not at all. Are my batteries fully recharged? Yes, yes and yes.
Life, as someone once said, is too short to stuff a mushroom. Or let glorious autumn days slip by unappreciated.