I'm sat in a little cafe. Coco. The only artisan cafe-deli in Croxley Green. Named after the proprietor's chocolate-brown Labrador - a docile, sad-eyed dog. I pause between thoughts to sip hot chocolate, sweet and velvety. I've always enjoyed people watching in this type of establishment. You know, the type of affair decorated with distressed furniture and tasteful paraphernalia hanging sparsely on muted walls of duck egg blue and grey. A cream-white Gerber - my favourite flower - sits in toddler-sized milk bottle on my table; I used to suck on a straw from such a bottle in '76 - a throw-back to free-milk break times in reception, dressed in a dark grey pinafore, nipped at the waist by a forest-green sash.
Today - Monday morning to be exact - Coco is very quiet. Empty. I've seen other writers on other days, thinking, tapping, drinking, blinking. And an actor type dressed in the same clothing every time. A plush maroon suit. A cravat. Jet black side burns. Side burns that point in the direction of the adjacent town - Watford. But not today. It's just me, sat at my regular table for two by the window, the rumble of moping traffic in my right ear, the soulful tones of Stevie Wonder in my left, the metallic clinking of knives and forks and spoons as the owner organises the cutlery into their respective drawers.
Over the last week this cafe has become my haven. Weekday mornings, barring Tuesday, I've been handed a calm respite, a window of tea and toast and French onion soup - from all the packing tape, card board boxes, the excel spreadsheet detailing the contents of our lives - to work on my novel. Our flat is currently a warehouse, no longer a home but a holding space, a prologue to the next act of our story. Did I forget to mention, the contracts finally exchanged? I know! We are moving this Thursday - at long last, after the arduous journey of selling and buying began five months ago. But why am I here? In Croxley Green? Now - this morning? Well Little A started her new pre-school last week, a stones throw from our soon home-to-be. You see, we had hoped to be living here by the time term began. That didn't happen. But I still thought it prudent for my threenager to settle in before we extricated ourselves from West London. An easing in to her new life, her new routine. And it seems to have worked. Little A loves her new school. In her mind, she's already moved, is a member of the local community - arrived before Younger Dad and I!
But the constant journeying up and down worn tarmac - morphing from the A40 into the M40 into the M25 - has been, at times, very trying; not helped by going to bed later than I should - it's the novel I'm reading, can't put the damn thing down. This morning I struggled to keep both lids open as we passed under the bridge that strongly advises 'give peas a chance' - I will. I promise - and over the white teeth of the speeding markers on the motorway. Over the course of the last week, my mind has mulled over these teeth, these tyre-taunting canines. In my tired imagination, they've come to resemble fish bones instead - I'm driving over the spine of a cod and now over a haddock and now a plaice. Such is the monotony of travel.
Still this is such a small price to pay. In less than three days, all this schlepping will be over.
We will be here. In our new home.
And I have promised myself that at least one morning a week I will come here, to Coco's, and sit at my table - the one by the window - with a hot chocolate in hand and observe and write and smile.
Now if you excuse me, I have a bill to pay, a daughter to pick-up, and yet another forty minute journey back down the motorway.
How long does your school run take?
Amazingly, unbelievably, I have made the shortlist of the Britmums BIBS Awards under the category, Lifestyle. I am so ruddy grateful to everyone who voted for Older Mum in a Muddle. Now if you would like to see me in the Lifestyle final six, then please, please, please vote for me one final time. The champagne is on me if I make it this far...... (nominations close on 12th May)