Globetrotting with Hiddleswift... Hollywood's latest power couple
Taylor Swift and Tom Hiddleston take in sights of Australia and Rome while the rest of us look on via social media, writes Phoebe Lockhurst
Celebrity behaviour is the distorted standard against which we measure our own. We study their abs and class our own as rightly inferior; we observe their social lives and privately term our own friendships mediocre. And we assess their relationships and then flounce away when he grimaces in the Instagram couple's selfie.
This summer, couples face truly impossible competition. Taylor Swift and Tom Hiddleston (aka Hiddleswift) are on holiday and they're making your staycation look as glamorous as the Duke of Edinburgh bronze expedition in the Trossachs where everyone got food poisoning from the sausages.
There was the July 4 beach party at Taylor's $17.75m (£13.7m) Rhode Island home; there were the syrupy pictures from Rome. She met his family on a trip to Suffolk: you're still waiting for your sister to accept your friend request on Facebook ("pending").
Now, they're off to Australia, which means they have agreed, happily, that they can spend a day travelling across the world together without triggering an international incident mid-way across the Pacific over a shared arm-rest.
They are peerless, but that doesn't mean you won't end up having an argument that will be sparked by seeing an Instagram picture of their initials outlined by a heart etched in the sand. To fuel your masochistic fascination, this is how Hiddleswift summers.
Much has been made of Taylor's July 4 beach barbecue - there is a school of thought that sees the event as a metaphor for 21st-century fame. Attendees included long-time members of Taylor's "squad": Gigi Hadid, BFF Karlie Kloss, Cara Delevingne, Alana from Haim, Victoria's Secret Angel Martha Hunt, Blake Lively and her husband Ryan Reynolds, as well as Taylor's childhood best friend, Britany LaManna, and new face in the squad, Orange is the New Black actress Ruby Rose and her girlfriend Harley Gusman.
Swift and Kloss wore matching stars-and-stripes swimsuits and bounced down an inflatable slide; Hiddleston wore a vest. Though it looked like something you'd find in a Topman clearance sale, it was, in fact, bespoke.
Swift employed a professional photographer and is rumoured to have enforced a social media strategy for the slow leaking of the photographs over the course of the weekend. Regrettably, she could not choreograph the expression on actor Ryan Reynolds's face.
In a three-couple portrait of him and wife Blake, Hiddleswift and Britany LaManna and her new husband, Reynolds looks like a man condemned to live forever in a stars- and-stripes cell of Swift's making.
We learned that the collective net worth of the individuals at the bash was certainly far larger than the GDP of a minor nation; but we also learned important lessons about how to negotiate the competing demands of friends and lovers.
This is a hard holiday to balance. It was totally Taylor's turf and her friends would have been put out if she'd spent her entire time running into her boyfriend's arms in the waves - he would have floundered if she had not introduced him, carefully, to those she thought could be allies in fame.
How else did she manage it? First, crucially, she branded the event as her own - "Taymerica" - which lent Hiddleston a status by association, catapulting him into a VIP spot approaching Karlie's.
She posed for an obligatory squad photo, but she also made sure Hiddy took the spotlight in several others. She ensured there were fireworks: a loud talking-point, though also so loud that if Tom dropped a banal clanger ("Wow! Colourful!") no one would hear him. Diplomacy is crucial for the success of this vacation set-up.
Here they were on equal footing, though Hiddleston, who studied classics at Cambridge, likely had an upper hand when navigating Rome's ruins. He looked like an off-duty James Bond (an entirely innocent observation). She wore a sundress and heels to clatter through Rome's twisted, cobbled streets, lending credence to the suspicion that she is, in fact, superhuman.
They sat, palms entwined, in Roman restaurants; they kissed and embraced in the Colosseum. Those who find the clammy touch of their partner in 40 degree heat unbearable were aghast.
Perhaps the couple had submitted themselves to some sort of environmental training beforehand, or perhaps they really couldn't keep their hands off each other, which is the more appalling likelihood.
It is near-impossible to fake this sort of enthusiasm, though you're more likely to make it through a holiday if you impose a ban on conversation during the hours of daylight.
Affect interest in Roman civilisation or suggest that you are trying to learn Italian, at hyper-speed, and therefore must listen intently to the locals. Stay - like Hiddleswift - no longer than a weekend.
If your other half's mother remembers a place for you at the Sunday lunch table 18 months into your relationship, consider it a breakthrough ("I think she likes me" you WhatsApp excitedly under the table). Just weeks into her new relationship Taylor was spotted arm-in-arm with Tom's mother Diane in Suffolk as the three processed down a country road, legs swinging like can-can dancers. There is, of course, no way this can be a contrived set-up.
The couple were in Aldeburgh, where Taylor was meeting the Hiddleston family. The couple walked hand-in-hand on a beach, where Taylor wore an unshowy oversized striped throw-over, and Diane wore a gilet, like any proper Home Counties mother on a British beach.
Taylor rightly intuited that matching the tone of her wardrobe was crucial: stolid middle-aged English mums can be suspicious of flashy Americans. Swift's outfit indicated that she is "game" and "up for it", even when "it" included a seaside walk in dreary weather.
At one point during the weekend, Hiddleston was captured walking with a red-headed male friend, suggesting that Taylor also put in some solo time with Diane.
There are no notes from the meeting, but as Taylor is savvy it is likely she stuck to safe topics including "the weather" and "your son Tom Hiddleston".
The latest adventure: a trip to Australia, where Hiddleston is filming the next instalment in the Thor franchise. The pair were spotted jetting out of LA. They wore co-ordinated outfits and matching caramel tans.
A long-haul flight can test long marriages. After the pictures of the pair at LAX airport appeared online, one close friend texted me to reminisce about a time we'd travelled to the US together (an eight-hour flight) and remarked fondly that by the end, she'd considered asking the man next to her to swap seats and provide a safe buffer zone between us. We have known each other since we were children.
The flight from LA to Australia typically takes 14 to 15 hours; how to ensure you do not join the mile-cry club? Take distractions: Hiddleston was carrying a backpack, possibly full of books and a travel Scrabble. He wore sunglasses hooked on to his top, which are useful if you want to pretend you are asleep.
Taylor toted a small Louis Vuitton bag in which she likely concealed a small eye mask for the same purpose. Oh, and also they were probably travelling in first class, which is a gilded safeguard against quotidian irritations.
The verdict? There is nothing that Hiddleswift cannot ace. So this summer, do take yourself out of the race before you trigger your own break-up.
Your post-relationship holiday won't look anywhere as good on Instagram.