x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

My cover's blown, I was home

Emily Shardlow tries to keep a low profile during a short trip home to England - but her cover is blown by a Facebook photo.

In the end, the Facebook photos were my undoing (I'm sure that I'm not the first to utter that sentence). There they were: online and incriminating, planting me in an unmistakably English country garden (the greenery was vivid and lush and despite the glaring sunshine, discarded umbrellas littered the background) on the afternoon of June 1.

I didn't deliberately set out to keep my visit to the UK a secret and I certainly never intended to offend anyone by doing so. It's just that since I was back for less than a week, to attend a wedding in the Lake District, it seemed rather pointless to tell all and sundry (and by that I mean my London-based friends and extended family) that I was in England. I told my parents, of course, and we spent a delightful day tramping around Lake Windermere - although it must be said that my father's idea of a "decent" walk is rather longer than mine. Aside from that, I kept schtum.

Now this might sound terribly selfish, but I think that the reason this visit became something of a covert mission was because my last trip home, a mere six weeks before, left me somewhat drained (both physically and financially). I spent the whole time rushing from place to place: breakfasting with old colleagues, hurriedly meeting friends in their lunch breaks and traversing the country by train to ensure that I saw my grandma and touched base with my best friend from university. It was brilliant. But it did mean that I returned to the UAE feeling more tired than when I left. So, I reasoned, given that I'd be spending all of my short holiday in the north and it wasn't really feasible to see anyone (beyond the wedding party), this time I'd just keep quiet.

To say that this didn't work out as planned is something of an understatement. My wonderful friends were less than happy to learn that I'd been back (one of them wailed that given the chance she would have travelled to the airport for a catch-up coffee), Grandma expressed sincere disappointment that this time the only contact we had was via the telephone and my "auntie" Sally (her word - no blood relation), who admittedly lives only 30 minutes from the Lake District is, according to my mother, furious.

The result? I feel terribly guilty, have been well and truly put in my place and will be returning soon to make amends.