What women want
'The perfect day" - the very phrase is enough to make your neck unhunch from your shoulders and your head turn musingly cloudward, a wistful smile on your face.
Adult life's mess of obligations and responsibilities means such reveries are the stuff of universal imagination. More so, perhaps, for women, being the great multitaskers and fantasists that we are.
If we were to believe advertising platitudes, the perfect feminine day would be wiled away on chocolate, in baths surrounded by candles, with immaculate children somewhere in the middle distance.
Happily, a group of German and American researchers, from the University of Bremen and the Georgia Institute of Technology, have discovered that what we are really after is 24 hours of well-slept, vaguely social simplicity.
Yes, to achieve the dream balanced life, 38-year-old Ms Average Western Woman begins her day on eight hours of sleep. After this, she enjoys 16 different pursuits, taking up to 106 minutes each, including time spent on social media, shopping, exercise and socialising with friends. The 900 women surveyed also expressed a desire for a whopping 106 minutes of "romantic" time, making this the chief diversion after sleep.
My own dream day runs thus: wake up rested and content. I may have been accompanied during the night, but am now on my own, in freshly laundered, high thread-count sheets, a blue Italian greyhound at the end of my bed.
I partake of an aromatic bath. Breakfast is poached eggs, taken over a broadsheet, with an imaginary, non-speaking friend. I settle to a couple of hours of virtuous work, looking onto a green and bird-filled garden. A stroll in the crisp late morning - dog bobbing on lead - followed by a late lunch.
After a visit to a gallery, I return home. My time is then taken up concocting truffled macaroni cheese to Handel arias. The lover from the night before reappears and there is food, wine, amusing conversation, a fire, no washing up, the requisite 106 minutes, then bed for a nightmareless sleep. But such schedules are a case of different strokes for different folks.
Writers, more than most, may have the pleasure of shaping their own existences. The novelist Susan Hill's plot is more solitary: "The day would be spent entirely alone, in silence, here in the country, with a border terrier and cat for company and a book to write."
A balanced life requires a degree of daily grind that makes the fantasy worth having.
Moreover, as no less a sage than Fay Weldon remarks: "How can one know what would make it perfect until it happens? And afterwards all days would be a disappointment. Here and now is good enough as a feast." - ©The Daily Telegraph