Look at Life: Girls' Weekends

28th December 2018

I'm on a Girls' Weekend… Get Me Out of Here!

By Heather Harris

Everybody warned me… that it would be like negotiating Brexit but without the frequent trips to Brussels.

And they were right – except organising a girls’ weekend away involved more politics than trying to determine the future of the country – especially when my numbers just didn’t add up. I’d invited seven women (odd number: not good), in two hotels (second mistake, to split the group), travelling in four cars (front seat allocation never easy) for 48 hours in the Lake District.

I should have cancelled as soon as I overheard a friend’s daughter say to her mum, ‘Why aren’t you going on Heather’s weekend away when all the other mums are?’
Naively, I presumed that using a closed WhatsApp group (my husband still refers to it as ‘What’s Up’ group, and he’s not wrong on this occasion), would mean it would remain ‘confidential’. But with every invitee booking various treatments the week before we left, (why did they all think they had to be hairless under their waterproofs?) the ever chatty beauty therapists ensured our itinerary was shared with the remaining uninvited local population.

Not that it was that exciting. Personally, I had planned on including caving and kayaking, as everyone had assured me ‘honestly, we don’t care what we do…’ which basically means ‘we don’t care what we do as long as it doesn’t include anything we don’t want to do’.

And these are friends I know well – I thought that it would be straightforward. But a more experienced weekender revealed it’s actually easier inviting women from different parts of your life – ‘because then they’re on their best behaviour and never complain about anything’. Even the finances…

Being teetotal, I’ve spent the last 30 years silently subsidising my friends’ drinking habits. Therefore, I assumed the same principle would apply during our mini-break. Except we had three non-pudding eaters, one vegan, one border-line alcoholic and one ‘I never eat lunch but you all go ahead’. The simple line ‘let’s just split the bill’ was replaced by endless mutterings about how many times seven went into a fixed figure if one person paid a third less than the other six and two didn’t pay anything because they’d bought the coffees.

A work colleague admitted that it took the entire three-hour train journey from Antwerp to London to sort out the bill after her Book Group trip. Another accidentally took her joint credit card, and after insisting on paying for everything during her 50th birthday weekend in Amsterdam (for the sake of peace) went over her limit, forcing the bank to freeze their card just as her husband reached the front of the supermarket queue back home.

At least we were in the UK. Hearing I was writing this piece, a neighbour confessed that on a girls’ trip to Abu Dhabi she had confidently told everyone the exchange rate meant ten pounds in local currency was a fiver in sterling. ‘Four days of massages, meals, trips and cocktails later, I realised it was in fact the other way round – sterling was double, not half the local currency. We spent the rest of the trip by the pool – broke!’

Everyone laughed about it afterwards… but they’ve never been away together again.

Nor have the participants in Kate’s school reunion weekend. ‘We argued so much about the meals that by Sunday the only thing we could agree on was a trip to M&S Food Hall where we all purchased our own individual lunches.’

As every psychology manual will tell you – spending time together with fellow adults in a confined space can make or break relationships. (Just look at the success of tv’s Big Brother and I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here).

But it’s not all bad. My sister-in law, Lucy, organised for five college friends from across the country to meet in Brighton. All were travelling by different trains. She arrived first at 2.30pm and sat at the station bar with a bottle of champagne waiting for the next arrivals. Unfortunately, everyone else’s trains were variously delayed… by the time the final guests had arrived, on replacement bus services, at 8pm and 10pm, multiple bottles had been consumed. ‘It was the perfect start to the trip. By closing time we’d all remembered why we used to get on so well – and we hadn’t even left the station!’

And that’s exactly why so many of these trips are doomed to fail. So often the best nights out are those that happen spontaneously. Organised fun is arguably an oxymoron. Just because you have a fun night out with a group of friends – doesn’t mean you want to see them from dawn to dusk over an extended period.
It’s like a Brexit-fest… boredom and argument set in and before long you’ll be wanting to Leave rather than Remain.

Find Your Local