The "Keep calm and carry on" metal plaque used to hang in my office (my vast, spacious office with two windows, two windows people!) as a tongue and cheek allusion to the daily craziness involved in keeping 25 aging and cranky pro-Europeans happy and 2 million young, enthusiastic Europhobes at bay. Yes, I was busy and important.
I do not miss the craziness at all. I now rarely find myself having to reply to 200 emails in the middle on the night, newspaper stands hold no terrors for me and I can go a whole day without once agonising over the next European Elections' likely dismal turnout. I'm, like, a totally normal person again.
And yet. In the gilded garden leave of my current life, spent mostly scribbling at home in a room with one measly window (one window, people!) I sometimes miss the implied frenetic excitement conveyed by that sign. I was the person juggling those plates, pacing and making those phone calls, writing those pithy rebuttals and saying things like "God, I've really earned a drink tonight."
This, you understand, changed the world by not one single iota, in the great scheme of things. Or, as I used to reassure the terrified intern on his or her first day, "no baby will ever die because we made a mistake. No baby will ever be saved either because we had a good day at work. At most it means getting an MEP on Radio4 ".
Still it's the thought that counts, isn't it? Specifically the self-image you get when you are extremely well paid to take on a lot of pointless stress. You feel...alive. With no time to actually partake of or enjoy life, of course, but deeply embedded in its flow.
I still have the plaque however - I brought it home on my last day together with piles of articles and files I was saving to read 'one day' and never managed to (they were recycled by that same evening) and a box of now uselessly out of date business cards which I have since managed to completely displace.
The plaque now lies propped against the window of the study but - as no room in my tiny house and no surface in any room is allowed to perform only one task - the study is the wardrobe, ukulele, bookcase and ironing room and the iron too sits on the windowsill.
Yes, reader, the jokey, 'isn't this awful and exciting' sign has become an ironic backdrop. Literally. I now keep calm & carry on ironing - an activity I was a genuine stranger to these past 20 years - often while listening to Radio 4, a luxury no amount of MEPs' droning on can ever mar.
I'm still baffled by my new found status of Lady who lunches (a term readily deployed by myself and others as the least threatening definition for this limbo of well-funded idleness not following a sacking and hopefully preceding a spectacular new appointment), but I'm easing into it.
I'm crap at it ( the ironing, people, I'm talking about the ironing!) but on the plus side that rarely makes the news.