One of life's conundrums is, I think, how to manage expectations. Other people's. Your own.
Frankly, I'm not very good at it. I have noticed myself painfully enunciating to the children why their plans for a treehouse (equipped with car battery powered film projection system, hammocks and Haribo filled fridge), a flying car, and other such products of their rather wonderful imaginations are very unlikely to happen. The problem is that I have been burnt, inadvertently - often by ommission - encouraging lesser flights of fancy only to be faced with accusing, tear stained faces when whatever the fancy was simply fails to materialise/be achieved. But I feel a deep sense of betrayal as I try and pour the water of practicality on their dreams.
My own expectations? Well, despite the fact that someone once described me as being "a fabulously glass half full kind of person" (I took as a compliment, rather than reading as code for "hopelessly-deluded-over-enthusiastic-akin-to-a- labrador- puppy) I'm not sure that I am. I know that I look on the bright side of life most of the time - experience has taught me that for me to do anything else is a recipe for personal disaster - but I tend to think that I am actually a pessimist, but am then pleasantly surprised when things work out better than I have expected. But that's not strictly true either. I get hopelessly excited about things - often, too, the little things - then try and stifle the excitement. Sometimes, too, I think it's the prospect of something that's the most exciting thing about it.
Before our trip to London, I had to engage in a massive expectation management exercise. The children wanted to explore far too many museums, and in the run up to departure discussed a mind-boggling itinerary that showed only that they they have watched too many films (Jonny English, Paddington) and have no regard (as indeed they shouldn't) for the reality of being in such a huge city. In the end, though, we narrowed it down to 3 museums, possibly a trip to the cinema and a visit to the skate park near where we were staying. As for my own expectations, all I wanted to do was to visit Bread Ahead in Borough Market for doughnuts. This was to be combined with the trip to the Tower of London - but I wasn't overly optimistic. In order to beat the crowds, we wanted to get to the Tower early, but not too early to avoid commuter hell on the Earlsfield to Waterloo overground. Perhaps we would have to forego the doughnuts. Tant pis thought I. Such is life.
But then, it all came good. We hit London Bridge in great time, and decided to go for it, Borough Market waking up and doughnuts not yet arrived on the Bread Ahead stall which gave us time to mooch through to the Monmouth coffee house and score some steaming lattes.
Back to Bread Ahead trying to stifle the little voice that was doing jigs at the prospect of eating what a friend confidently advised me were the best doughnuts IN.THE.WORLD. She used to be a buyer for a deli and sourced from Patisserie Valerie. I trust her judgement.
But the pessimist in me was there - they won't be that good, they're just doughnuts. Don't get too excited...
Well, reader, the doughnuts were AWESOME. No flabby, over-sugared, inadequately-jammed disappointment worthy only of a "who can eat their doughnut without licking their lips" contest. These are doughnuts of the gods.
Fatly plump, oozing custard flavoured with praline, flavoured with vanilla, flavoured with caramel, sugared, delectable, doughnuts of the gods.
I'd like to say they were all equally good, but I couldn't bear to share my praline one, so I didn't get to try the others...
And then we went to the Tower of London and there was no queue for the Crown Jewels. Marvellous.