Remember the halcyon days of the last blog post? When I moped around my South London neighbourhood, feeling sad and philosophical about moving to Amsterdam? Ordering “my usual” in my favourite café, flowers in my hair, whilst an attractive, lightly-bearded busker sang an acoustic version of Queen’s These Are The Days Of Our Lives across the street and my best friends and I had a deep and meaningful over our lattes?
Well, those WERE the days, my friend. Lightly bearded busker has just found out that his girlfriend is eight and a half months pregnant and now he’s singing UNDER PRESSURE. Also by Queen. He only knows Queen songs, and BY THE WAY anyone who thinks Queen is Dad Music is wrong and shouldn’t be allowed to vote.
Let’s rewind a little.
Four days before the Easter holidays begin, My Lawyer moves to Amsterdam to start his job. He is armed with a suitcase containing a couple of suits, a Dutch phrasebook and a blow up mattress. He meets our new landlady, who wonders where his furniture is. He explains that his wife was of the opinion that if the children could happily sleep on the blow up mattress at sleepovers, then so could he. For an entire month, before our furniture arrives. I may have failed to mention to My Lawyer that several children, some ours and some not ours, have experienced varying degrees of incontinence on this blow up mattress.
Our new landlady is not happy with this situation, and she doesn’t even know the piss-stained half of it. She raids her teenager’s bedrooms and presents My Lawyer with a table, a chair, a plate and a set of cutlery. He goes shopping and buys an armchair and a rug. My Lawyer is now living on the set of an Alan Bennett play.
Meanwhile, back in London, the Easter holidays kick off and I wonder what part this played in My Lawyer’s start date negotiations. I discover that my mum is going to Wales for the week to see her nearly ninety year old mother. I immediately offer her the pleasure of our company and she is overjoyed, although she plays this down very well, especially when I offer my car for the journey.
“Although you should drive,” I suggest to her, handing her the keys. “I don’t know the way. ROAD TRIP!!! Did you pack snacks, Mum? Mum?”
We leave the house spotless so that our letting agents can show people around whilst we are away. We need tenants in June to break even on the move, so the kids and I will stay with my mum for the remainder of the school term. Mum is becoming a master of understated reaction; you could easily mistake her delight for defeated resignation.
A week at my Grandma’s is just what I need. I’m offered food around the clock, the kids play football in the garden, we catch up with family and friends. My Grandma recounts all the recent local deaths. We Facetime My Lawyer a couple of times, to see how he’s getting on. I remind him to be sensible and not get involved in any cannabis smoking. He reminds me that he’s joined a legal team and not a band.
“Have you got any friends at work yet, Dad?” asks the empathetic seven year old.
“Not yet,” says My Lawyer, “but I do get free maltesers some days.”
The six year old looks up from customizing my Grandma’s furniture with menacing paper hands she has made. “Wait,” she says. “Do you mean free like you don’t pay, or free like, one two free?”
We’ve got to get this girl out of South London.
All too soon, we are back in the capital. My mum and I collapse into deck chairs in the garden and I’m just about to take a sip of tea when my phone rings. It’s my letting agent.
“So we’ve found you some great tenants!” she says. “They’d like to move into the house in three weeks’ time. How was your holiday by the way?”
So, the second week of the Easter holidays see me making so many phone calls that I have to recharge my phone two or three times a day. The administrative undertaking is as vast as it is boring. My children watch approximately 17 DVDs in succession as I navigate two distinct lists:
– Things I Didn’t Realise I’d Have To Do
– Things I Knew I’d Have To Do But Turn Out To Be A Lot More Complicated Than I’d Anticipated
By now, the lightly-bearded busker has segued seamlessly into I’m Going Slightly Mad. His girlfriend is in labour and it’s too late for an epidural. I phone my mum in fits of hysterical tears. My mum is a perceptive woman and identifies this as a Cry For Help, because I am crying and begging for help. She comes over to take the kids to the park so that I can break the back of some of the more trying tasks before me. The kids stagger towards her in a scene reminiscent of the 2010 Chilean miners rescue. They greet my mother in brief Disney film quotes.
Meanwhile, My Lawyer is homesick and we are thoroughly disconnected in our respective plights. He rings frequently and our conversations usually go something like this:
My Lawyer: Whatchya doing?
My Lawyer: What’s wrong with you?
Me: And I know you took the bluetooth music speaker. It’s not here. I wanted to listen to Queen and it’s not here.
My Lawyer: I’M COMPLETELY ON MY OWN! Hang on, what? Queen?
He wants someone to talk to; I want everyone to stop talking to me. We cannot quite appreciate each other’s situations. He is homesick and lonely. I am fantasising about being homesick and lonely. One morning, I receive a text from him telling me he has nearly fainted. I ring him immediately:
“What’s wrong? You need to go to hospital!”
“I’m ok now,” he says. “I think I was just in bed too long.”
I hang up.
My Lawyer returns to London for the Easter weekend. As we wait for him to get home from the airport, I wonder how long I have to stay before I can run out of the front door and locate the nearest deserted field in which to lie face down. As it turns out, it is not something I need to worry about, because I fall asleep on the sofa just after he arrives and tells me that the baggage handlers have broken our good suitcase.
When I wake up half an hour later, I discover that he and the kids have decided that we’ll all go out for a trip. We pile into the car. My Lawyer and I are both so exhausted that we still haven’t had a proper conversation. We drive in silence for a while. By silence, I mean that only the kids are talking/shouting/singing.
After a while, My Lawyer says, “The man in the car next to us is in his pants.”
“How do you know?” I ask.
“I can see his knees.”
I reach for my phone. “Maybe he’s wearing shorts.”
“Oh yeah. I forgot about shorts. Who are you texting?”
I don’t look up from my phone. “No one.”
“Are you… Are you blogging our conversation?”
“Of course not,” I say, dismissively. “Who’d want to read this?”
It’s good to have him back.