Not long ago I spoilt a child's birthday party. I'd checked into the Fairmont Bab al Bahr right here in Abu Dhabi to try to reboot my stamina and sense of humour after a few weeks of solo parenting. I was desperate to find some reserves of energy before attempting a 5am dash to Dubai airport and a five-hour flight with my 14-month-old toddler. Alone.
Ahead stretched 24 hours of me-time and an extremely comfortable bed, not to mention the opportunity to soak in the bath, before I had to get back to my real life as a temporarily single mother. Reclining on my sun lounger, I just had time to reach for a cool glass of water, slowly exhale and look out across the swimming pool to the Sheikh Zayed Mosque, before I realised what a miserable curmudgeon I have become.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, a disco version of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star began to blare out. Did I gaze benignly in the direction of the kid's pool, eyes teary at the prospect of tots running about enjoying themselves? Of course not. I tutted, peered over the top of my sunglasses and went over to the lifeguards and asked them to turn the music down.
"Do we all have to listen to it?" I asked, in an impression of Scrooge of which I did not know I was capable. Having to put up with your own kids by a swimming pool when every part of you is longing to lie back, relax and forget about childbirth is bad enough. Other people's children are evidently intolerable.
The next opportunity I would have to be ashamed of my behaviour was on a return flight, travelling business class on Emirates from Larnaca in Cyprus. This time it was my turn to be blissfully alone, and to eat with a knife and fork with the tray open across my lap like any other well-behaved passenger; rather than wolfing down whatever was within reach with a spoon as baby sleeps uncomfortably across my lap. But as I settled back into my roomy seat with the prospect of a magazines or a movie for entertainment, the whimpering cry of a baby drifted through the partition wall from economy class. I moved forward 10 rows so fast I practically spilt my welcome drink. I explained my twitchy behaviour to the steward, who nodded sympathetically but probably thought that I was a miserable old bat. And he would, of course, be right.
I choose to blame either bone-numbing fatigue or some genetic defect but there really is no excuse. Whenever I'm on the road with my daughter raising a very merry kind of hell, I've received nothing but patience and good wishes from other travellers. But then perhaps I've always mistaken kindness for sympathy?