Monday, 11 October 2010

A Pumpkin Day To Remember

Yesterday was the kind of day I always imagined family life would be like. You know that image you have of an ideal family - fun days on the beach, Sunday lunches, days out, everybody smiling and laughing, teasing each other good naturedly.

But I've found that life with kids is somewhat different to the image I carried around in my head for years. In my everyday reality, there is much gratuitous noise, a truckful of disagreement, an inordinate amount of crying, a smattering of bedwetting and an awful lot of poo.

Yesterday reality went on hold for a day. For me, yesterday was a pure distillation of autumn. If I reach old age, I’ll wheel out the memory of 10/10/10 and hold it up to the light to view from all its impossibly perfect refracting angles.

The day was ripe with a warm amber glow. It began with me and Billy sweeping up leaves in the garden. You would never think it, but sweeping up leaves with a three year old is one of the most pleasurable things you can do. We chatted and swept, talking about everything from, how many leaves it would take to fill up the green bin, to why Stephanie from Lazytown always wears pink.

After lunch, we piled into the car and drove out to a local farm to choose pumpkins.

“There they are!” the boys shouted. “Pumpkins! I can see them. Look, Mum! Hurry up, Dad.”

And there they were – comical blobs of orange strewn across the fields. Billy and Dan tumbled out of the car.

“Corn on the cobs!” Dan yelled. “And they’ve got blackberries. Can we get some?”

“I want a punkin,” Billy said, lip quivering at the mention of other, less exciting, foodstuffs.

We chose two fat pumpkins, a whole heap of corn on the cobs, some local honey and several punnets of blackberries.

Still early, we decided to drive on up the road to The New Forest. The light filtered down through the trees, dappling us with its warmth. We headed to a small arboretum packed with towering redwoods, silver birches, larches, horse chestnuts and solid oaks; perfect for climbing. Red-leafed maples and smooth-trunked eucalyptuses rustled next to willows and other exotic specimens.

We collected fallen leaves, built rickety miniature wigwams from fallen branches and picnicked amongst the acorns and conkers.

Life can be hard work and mundane. Sometimes it can be heartbreakingly unfair and sad. But yesterday was beautiful and I’ll keep it safe and separate in my mind to take out and polish on the not-so-great days. Like a shiny conker or an exotic orange pumpkin.

Doing Nothing

Pete’s at work, The boys are at school and preschool. Nothing to do for the first time in ... months.  Well, I say nothing to do - there’s a ton of stuff to do around the house, but I’m exhausted, like there are no bones in my body. Like I want to crawl back under the duvet and sleep for a year. So, today I’m going to do nothing.  I mean nothing. Nothing at all. Not read a book, not watch TV, not listen to the radio. Not even go out somewhere to do nothing. Just sit in the lounge and …be.  Can I do that?

First, I’d better empty the dishwasher and wipe down the surfaces in the kitchen. Then I’ll make a coffee and I might even treat myself to a bag of Maltesers.

House a mess. Don’t look.

Phone’s ringing… Yes my house is on the market. Yes I understand you’ve got five hundred million buyers who all want to buy my house. But no, I don’t want to change my agent. Yes, I suppose it would be okay if you called me back in a month’s time. THANK YOU, BYE!

I sit in the lounge, crunch my chocolate and sip my deliciously scalding hazelnut coffee.  It’s quiet and warm. Just right. The unfamiliar sensation of luxury sweeps across me. The luxury of time and of peace. Of empty hours lined up ahead of me. I smile.

My laptop sits benignly on the wide arm of the sofa. 

I’ll just check my Hotmail.  I open it up and press the power button.  The warm silence is replaced with a heated electronic hum.  I wait, not so relaxed now, but still …

Hotmail. Great, five messages: two new Twitter followers. Better check them out, follow back and then I’ll have a quick look on Twitter while I’m at it.  Think of a few witty-ish tweets. Okay, I’ll give myself till then I’ll stop and carry on doing nothing.

Song lyrics in my head. Quick, grab notebook, write lyrics. Ooh melody too. Quick, grab phone, press record, sing into phone.

Phone’s ringing … Shit, forgotten the melody.  Hello? Hello? Oh joy, a call centre. Why can’t I just hang up? No thanks. Oh really? No, no thanks anyway. I’ve got to … Oh? No, I’m not really interest … Right, Mmhmm. Thanks, but I’m really not ... Repeat to fade.

Some new messages on Hotmail. Family stuff. I’ll just fire off a few replies. Better check Pete’s email to see if he’s got any offers of work (freelance copywriter extraordinaire). Check Authonomy to see if anyone has commented on my book – nothing.

Just had an amazing idea for the next chapter of my novel. If I don’t write it down now, I’ll forget it. It won’t take long and then I can really relax and rest my cluttered brain.

So happy with my chapter. How could any agent resist? I still want to carry on writing, but I’m shaky with hunger. Lunch first and then I’ll write and make sure I leave some time to do nothing. I don’t have to pick Billy up until 2. I’ll still have some time.

Some cheese and crackers whilst writing a couple of critiques for other books on Authonomy. 

Now, back to the relaxing. Just ever such a quick peek at Hotmail, followed by the teensiest tweet and another check on Pete’s email. A little look on Authonomy. Someone backed my book! Love them forever xxxx

Ooh, the sun’s come out. I can put the washing on the line. Anyway, it’s too late to write anything before school pick up. Still trying to remember that elusive melody. Bloody call centre. I’ll quickly hang out washing and then should have a good forty minutes left to relax.

House still a mess. Don’t look.

Phone’s ringing. No, Virgin, I don’t want to upgrade my phone package. Piss off please, thank you very much if it’s all the same to you.

Is that the time? I’ve got to go and pick Billy up from preschool. And it’s raining, the washing’s going to get soaked. What happened to my day of doing nothing? I did pretty much nothing, so why am I still tired and why do I feel like I’ve wasted a precious day? Bad mood descending, grrrr.