Monday, 28 April 2014

#Once upon a time - 365 Days

Once upon a time .....

One day, only a week a go, we all squeezed inside the long blue van, Younger Dad, Little A and I. It was a long long van, plenty of room for the brand new double mattress and away-away bags in the back, even space for monkey and doggy. A very used van; rust on the hubcaps, a small dent on the bonnet, scratches along the side of the sliding door. Witches fingernails? Or dragon's claws? Probably a swipe from a bony branch along a narrow bramble-lined road. 'It's so high up,' said Little A. It was fun with a view, even if my hips were compromised, wedged between the inflexible bookends of a child seat and door. Younger Dad drove. I read. 'Can I watch Frozen on the ipad?' a little voice asked. We were on our way to Norfolk, to Granny's; to accost the Easter bunny, to reload the van with a veritable cardboard city of Younger Dad's history, perhaps also a pin ball machine, a proper one with lights and things that go ping. And where exactly was it going to go? Next to the dining table? In the shed?...... Younger Dad pulled over, time to eat, asserted the weight of the rented vehicle, parked in a diagonal across two spaces; no messin' our family of three...

And the irony wasn't lost. A year ago, box upon box stacked ceiling-high in the living room, sucking the oxygen from the air, blocking the light from the sash windows. Dry. It made my mouth dry. And dust. In hair, on scalp, in the grooves of my palms. Masking tape stuck on the carpet, on lips, along the skirting boards. The big big move. Away from London, but not quite, still zone seven, in the north west ring of the Home Counties. Far enough from the urban cry of sirens, close enough for a curry in Brick Lane or a trip to the zoo. The best decision ever made.

The hob didn't work, the fridge broke down, there were ants and leaks and damp. A garden choked in weeds. And we loved every minute of it, even if it was the coldest spring, and half the new living room was for months an unpacked tower(s) of books and records and unnecessary jetsam. Little A began a wonderful pre-school, will begin the primary school six doors down the road this September - a sky blue uniform, a brand new adventure - with her favourite friends and cousins. So good living near family now, for a cup of tea, a chat and a shoulder; a palpable belonging. I pulled out the dandelions and the creeping buttercups, replaced them with lavender and snapdragons, terracotta pots and ornaments. A garden to sit in, feel proud of, the hollow curlink-curlink sounds of the wooden wind chime hanging from the arm of the silver birch. I wrote. A lot. Pounded through the first draft of a novel, tapping away at the window table of the bestest local cafe ever - like evoooor - eating slice after slice after slice of cake. We have celebrated birthdays, held parties, and relaxed in the warm fuzz of a lazy first Christmas. Now we have ambitious plans; to extend outwards, to build upwards, to make our mark, to stamp the interior in the colour of three different personalities; to make our house a family home. And here I am. Calm(er) and quiet. Myself.

The pinball machine never made it, beyond repair. Never mind eh? But many boxes did, arranged against the living room wall. Piles and piles of old music and technology magazines. A twenty five year old computer. Degree course work. The milestones of Younger Dad's life. When we arrived back from Norfolk, a cloud burst had deepened the colour in the garden; pea green grass and roaring pink clematis, like the rich fondant centre of a strawberry chocolate. Is this what shamans see? Home. Home. Home...

Once Upon A Time

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Saved by Red Velvet

It wasn't the best of weeks. Tissues and temperatures. The dust and dirty clothes ignored, forgotten for another day. We braved a museum, one with aeroplanes and helicopters and bombs laid out like little fat sausages. She didn't understand the associations with war. They made me feel cold. And after circling the hanger several times, sitting in a cockpit - diiiive, pull uuuup - we felt worse; her nose ran, my cheeks flushed. The following day, we sat on the sofa, did nothing, watched the box. It's easier when we're both poorly, no pressure to entertain, permission to flop and eat tinned beans. My biggest achievement was defuzzing a pair of bobbled jumpers. We were supposed to drive over to Cambridge for Younger Dad's actual birthday, a walk in the botanic gardens, afternoon tea. That didn't happen. He came over to us instead... began coughing.

And a bad cold can ferment the worst; raw feeling, a vulnerable heart beat.

'Mummy, I feel sad.'
'Why sweetheart?'
'I don't have a brother or a sister.'
'I know.'
'There are only three in our family. I want it to be four. Like my cousants.'
How was I supposed to respond? I'm sorry sweetheart but Mummy can't have another one, she would become very ill, and things are better now, normal, and besides, she'd rather push out a novel than suffer the craziness of hell fire hormones and lack of sleep... 'Mummy's tummy is too old to have another baby.'
'But I want four in our family.'
'What if we got a pet? A gerbil? Would that help?'
'Yes, then it would be four.' She carried on playing with a teddy, a grey bunny, mumbling to herself in thought, 'Mummy?'
'Yes sweetheart?'
'Will you be here for ever and ever?'
'I will be here for a very, very long time. When you are grown up and you have children.'
'Can I marry you Mummy?'
'I'm afraid that isn't possible darling. Children don't marry their mummies.'
'I'll marry my best friend Jake instead then.' Abandoning her short-lived game with ted, she made for a nearby plug, switching it on and off.
'You know not to do that, it's dangerous,' I said.
'Mummy, what does electricity look like?'
'Well you can't see it-'
'-does it go straight through you?'
'Can it make you die?'
'Yes. You might stop working, die.'
'Would you miss me if I died?'
Would I miss her if she died!!?? She was asking me to contemplate her death, an impossible world without her. I knelt down before her, placing my hands on her arms, barely focusing for the water collecting in my eyes. 'If you weren't in my world, I would be devastated, my life would mean nothing without you, you are my life Pupkin.'
Her bottom lip wobbled, into my arms she flew, bunny discarded on the floor, both of us sobbing.
'We need a bit of cheering up don't we?'
'Yes we do, I feel so sad Mummy.'

In Cocos, Little A ordered a small hot chocolate layered with soft marshmallows while I had my usual, a detox tea. And we shared a thick wedge of moist red velvet cake. It tasted good. We felt better. The sounds of Little A's pleasure as she peeled away the icing, pronged the sponge onto her fork, so taken aback there was real beetroot in each mouthful. A life affirming cake for a horrid cold. Comfort food in an existential crisis.

And that was one conversation I didn't want repeating again, ever... *sneeze*

If you like my writing, please, please, please could you vote for me in The Writer Category of the Brilliance in Blogging Awards (BIBS). Voting closes at midnight on 12th April. 

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