Saturday, 5 July 2008

On being feckless and child-free

James finished school on Friday for the summer holidays. Yup, that’s right – the start of two months stretch ahead of us (and again I wonder why it is that you pay huge fees for less school time than state schools – one of life’s mysteries). More for less, that’s a principle I wish I could apply to my working practice (and my whole life really).
Anyhow, the curious thing is that I haven’t seen him yet. Could he go home with a friend for the night? Well yes, sure. He has fun; we get a night to frolic around town. Freedom! Freedom without the cost of babysitter! Exclamation points surely allowed for this? We had early supper at Woods, bumped into some friends, got chatting, didn’t have to keep looking at our watches for the witching hour. Adrian sank a fair few pints and I sank, hmm, two decaf cappuccinos, one J2O, one mineral water and one ginger beer. God, I hate this not drinking lark.
Unused to being off the leash we trailed home reasonably early and watched American Gangster with a mug of Options hot chocolate (how sad is this?).

The next day was surreal. Vague memories of a life pre-child floated back. The actual reading of papers (rather than skimming the headlines and then putting them in the recycling pile – some days I even bypass the headline bit); the leisurely drinking of coffee; the silence (no PlayStation, no yelling, no thump of rugby ball against wall); the sheer unadultered luxury of a bath uninterrupted by ‘Where’s my (whatever)….’ and ‘I’m hungry’. Then the phone call. He was having a fabulous time and could he stay another night please? We looked at each other, shrugged and said, sure, why not. A whole weekend of feckless freedom. Bring it on. Arms punching air.

But the problem is we’ve forgotten how to relax. We’ve lost the gentle art of childless pottering. One morning was fine but the prospect of a whole other day sans child, sans Playstation, sans incessant ‘what can I do’itis? I went into panic mode. This was my chance to do all the things that normally can’t be done. Panic turned into headless chicken. The list reached such monumental proportions that it toppled over and fell to the floor in a heap.
I got some work done; we visited SWCBM; we cleaned; we tore down half the old kitchen; I washed piles of clothes; sorted out tons of stuff and freecycled a bunch and took another bunch to the charity shop. Then I decided to make an assault on the garden. So this morning there was I, in the sagging fruit cage, picking fruit in steampunk fashion, arms like pistons, fruit flying anarchically – half in the bucket, half out. My back aching, vicious gooseberry spikes stabbing my wrists. A young blackbird hurtled past me in terror and I suddenly wondered what on earth I was doing. How tragic is it that I can’t even pick fruit in a vaguely bucolic leisurely fashion? Instead it’s a manic race against time.
I really truly envy people who can lose themselves in the moment, wobble through life in a gentle manner, smell the roses, seize the day. But maybe I just have to accept that that is never going to be me. I’m always going to be spinning, arms flailing like a demented Indian deity.

Also, I realised that, while childless freedom is fabulous, I miss my boy. Hate having his room empty, find it unsettling that I leave my PC for half an hour and come back to find it still on the same page (rather than being greeted by wild flashing graphics and some new just-discovered game). As I type this, Adrian has gone to pick him up. Within half an hour we’ll be back to the usual mayhem. Have to say I’m pretty glad.

Midsummer Resolutions

I’m making resolutions. Yes, I know it’s not the New Year but that passed by in a blur of family trauma and I really didn’t have the inclination to do anything other than lurch through each day, clutching a bottle. Anyhow, New Year resolutions are a lousy cliché and also it’s a rotten dreary time of year to resolve to Do Better.
Midsummer (ho ho) is a different matter. As I write, the rain lashes down, the wind whips and, to be honest, it could be bloody New Year. Still, never mind. I have put Ray Lamontagne on the CD player (to remind myself that there is always someone more depressed than oneself) and stuck some neroli oil in the aromatherapy burner (to lighten the mood a little and to get rid of the overbearing smell of rancid dog). Now I am sitting at the kitchen table in our new (oh yes, oh yes!) breakfast room deciding on how to live out the rest of the year. So, I hereby resolve:

1. To follow my own advice. I am shamefaced to admit that while I can merrily dish out the wise words to all and sundry, to those who ask and those who don’t, I blithely ignore it myself. Therefore I will:
a) get my feng shui sorted. I know it sounds bonkers but I do believe in this stuff (the proof of the pudding and all that) and I haven’t lifted on finger towards sorting out my cutting chi and the money pit of the Loo of Doom.
b) start eating healthily. Yawn, yawn (the devil’s food is soooo good) but must be done. I am falling to bits and must get sorted. Last night I had a last hurrah of steak and chips and now it’s lentils all the way.
c) call in the experts. As soon as the money comes in (see point 6) I will get me to an osteopath/homeopath/nutritional therapist. I need to clean up my act and need some judicious prodding.

2. To have a makeover. Again, this is dependent on number 6 (as are most things) but as soon as humanly possible I’m going to get a haircut, a manicure, have my eyebrows shaped and my invisible eyelashes dyed. I’ve gone feral and need to remember that I once had self-respect and looked vaguely groomed (as opposed to a shaggy fat hairball). I will stop short of a wax as I don’t want the beauty therapist suing.

3. To blog more often. It really is therapy for me. However please note this does not mean I expect you to read and comment on every dollop of my verbosity (do you reckon one in seven is a reasonable expectation?).

4. To stop being honest. OK this flies in the face of my last post but it truly is the devil’s path. If I’ve learned anything this last year it’s that honesty, naming names and being blunt simply doesn’t pay. So, from now on I’m going to hide behind pseudonyms and trot out polite aphorisms and Not Stick My Neck Out.

5. To stop trying to be perfect. I have, at the last tally:
· a job (sort of – see point 6 again)
· a child (boy, 9, demanding and truculent)
· a husband (not rich, very messy)
· a Greek chorus of needy friends
· a house in the process of being dismantled and cobbled back together at huge expense and severe trauma
· two revolting dogs
· far too many goldfish (whatever possessed me to think that goldfish were easygoing happy little pets?)
· a garden full of triffids and ground elder
· a trail of divers builders, plumbers, electricians, decorators et al in constant need of urging, placating, praising, encouraging, decision-making and tea-providing

I do not have:
· a nanny, child-minder or cheery helpful relatives ready to pitch in
· a cleaner
· a personal assistant
· a never-ending supply of money

Ergo, I cannot be superwoman. You’d have thought I’d have realised it by now but I begin to think I am truly rather dim.

6. To make money. Somehow. I have £100 in the bank and a tax bill 30 times larger. I will rob Peter to pay Paul but it’ll mean we will run out of radiators by the time we get to the bedrooms unless I do something quick. I have been monstrously self-indulgent, wallowing in Poor Me syndrome and it has to stop. I have taken on a book project (nicely timed to tie in with the school holidays which have already started - how did that happen? so wrong - ) and shall actively pursue more work.

I was going to go on to 7,8, 9 and 10 but I think that’s enough to be going on with. Don’t you?