He placed his sun-glasses firmly upside down on his nose and went outside to talk to the grass.
(Anne, for those not on first name terms, was last seen on the steps of a caravan letting Timmy lick the plates clean while Dick, Julian and George sorted out some filthy gypo. And since F9’s own haven of choice, his filth-packet bedroom, is a place a troll would hesitate to enter, his idea of domestic perfection is possibly insulting.)
Still, it’s true that I’ve had my fill of needle and thread recently, in sewing a million labels onto rugby tops and navy shorts, to the point of grinding a hole in my finger. Something the Victorian novelist Mrs Oliphant did for real, to more lasting effect in that her books will be read rather longer than my labels will, though not for want of strong stitches.
For T11 became T12 last week which means Secondary School.
F9 expressed his wishes for a good day in typical bizarre fashion.
T12 already looks two years older than he did a fortnight ago by dint of donning a different school uniform. [photo removed] Nylon blazers, slippery ties, oh yes, the lad is growing up: he has 73 new songs on his mobile phone to prove it. Pray God you’ll never have to hear them. We do. 2 bars of a tinny Funky Town at 6.45 in the morning tests parental love to limits the NCT kept quiet about.
A step up the school ladder is a big stride for us too.
For starters, there’s the continuous flushing of cash: not merely the usual wild splurging on Extras but endless new uniform and then £86.50 (horribly specific, as if they added it up and everything), on a bonding trip. A bonding what? one is eager to splutter. £330 went on an end of primary school jolly and now one gets stung for a beginning of term one.
Then we got a sharpish letter reminding us that we haven’t put in for Ball tickets. At £40 a pop, no, we haven’t, love. My eyes are quite giddy with rolling. We endured death by Speech Night last Friday, am I really ready to bop in a big frock, jostling with strangers and pay £40 for the pleasure?
Then there’s the unGodly hour. We have to get up as if we’re about to catch a plane, at 6.30, to ensure T12 catches his bus, a grimy soup of ring tones and tossed plaits and who fancies whom, and representing another £740 flying from the account.
Home schooling was never contemplated, thank you, but a frown did flicker at glancing at a map he’d filled in, and spotting that his confident placing of Gloucester (his school town) firmly in Wales, a shifting down and to the left by a couple of crucial centimetres that threatens Cardiff’s free run at the south coast. There was no busy, red correction from the teacher. My fingers itched, but my attempts to re-establish the relative locating of Cheltenham, Bristol, Gloucester and Cardiff were met with the disdain of one who
a) knows my reliance on sat nav to get out of the drive in one go
b) being 12, knows it all anyway.
Still, education, eh, marvellous thing.
It’s paid for, moreover, in long, long days, days where breakfast takes place in the dark and 11ses feels like lunch time.
It is easier, the hellish rising, than I had feared, but it underlines why I am a night-person. By night you can be with those whom you choose, those you love. Come the drilling of the alarm clock and we are fractured, dispatched via endless mini-roundabouts and roadworks, by an obligation to earn money or sit in a classroom.
Well some of us are, some of us stay behind and hang things crossly on the washing line and wish we’d thought of being a doctor, pound signs zinging in our greedy, lazy eyes. Until the realities of the mouth ulcers of strangers, gummy teeth and furry tongues ping in and I am content instead to take comfort in serene contemplation of two more rooms being all but finished: the house becomes a home indeed.
An ex-garage has been converted into a room housing most of our books and 2 sofas you could swim on
and we have a sitting room, (with normal sofas)
No curtains yet, nor are all the pictures up but to wander about at will without crashing into motley furniture or piles of boxes is so pleasing as to make one weep.
Consolation for being torn apart again following the lovely long holidays, for being left with the dog for company. [photo removed]
Although, when wearing her bomb, her obedience collar, she’s almost pleasant to be with. Words I never thought I’d say.
Today, we went picking blackberries. (Oh God, "we" is me and the dog, shudder.) I filled a bag full and then leant – very Aesop – towards the only plump cluster I had seen so far, just out of reach, only to plunge down a rabbit hole – very Alice. My foot was clutched by roots, my hands steeped in nettles, the bag split, the blackberries scarpered and I swore. Not very Anne.
I stood there, suddenly knee high, fearing moles and bats permeating my boots, feeling strange, feeling like Mrs Hope. She who knew that Help Was Coming. A clumsy pensioner with a propensity for living on the edge who, in a range of press ads in the ‘80s, frequently found herself poleaxed on the floor: stumbling on the stairs, stiff across the lino, prone against the back door. Was there an ill-advised attempt to take on the attic ladder? I think there was. She never learnt. Anyway, a twit on her pins, Mrs Hope cannily clung to her zapper and could ping for Help. The tools of my rescue were merely the detonator for Lolly’s bomb and my mobile phone which at that point swarmed into life with a lusty toot of Funky Town (courtesy of T12). I glanced at my hands and arms, resembling those of a self-harmer and discussed lesson dates with the piano teacher at the other end of the line. I whispered, fearful of being come upon in a hole and shouting.
Then I clambered out of the hole, undignified and rather foolish. The crumble will be slim on blackberries, and still it's not yet time for lunch.