Tuesday, 12 March 2013

The Universe, or at least Radio 4, Hates Me

At 5.30 the alarm goes off and I haul myself out of the deep pool of sleep in which I have been wallowing. I lie staring at the dark ceiling, stunned and then, before my eyes close again I get out of bed.

An hour later I leave the still-silent house. Helen will get the girls up and dressed and off to school before heading off to do a 12 hour shift in Glasgow which she will not get home from until after midnight.

I arrive at work at 7 and after two hours in which I get a lot done, I am smothered under a blanket of back-to-back meetings in which I feel I manage to do absolutely nothing. I try to leave work at 2.30 but my way is blocked by a queue of colleagues who want to ask me many, many questions. I try again at 2.40 and by dint of feigning ignorance of everything, I succeed.

I'm late to pick up the girls from school so I cycle like never before and arrive in the playground just as the bell rings. I am a ragged, speechless, sweating mess but I have, at least, brought chocolate hobnobs and not - shudders - oatcakes and apples. Sorrel permits me to live.

We wait for Lulu to get out at 3.20 and then I string their various bags onto my handlebars and we walk home.

When we get there they want to watch TV. I want them to do their homework. There is a brief battle of wills that I - unusually - win. I help them both with their work and then, whilst they watch telly, I cook the evening meal.

We eat together at the kitchen table and have a nice chat about their days: what lessons they had; who they played with and what games were played; who said what and to whom and why it was knicker-wettingly funny at the time.

As it's Wednesday they both have swimming lessons so they get changed out of school uniform and put swimming costumes on under their clothes. I pack knickers and towels and goggles and armbands and ear plugs and snacks into two bags and we head back to school.

I sit in the stifling environment of the high-school swimming pool for an hour and a half; showering both girls as their lessons end and then overseeing them getting dressed. Both of them have plenty of friends in their swimming classes so this bit of the evening is a bit mental. If, after a days work, you feed me a nice meal and then take me for a swim in a very warm pool, I will become drowsy and compliant. If you do the same to my children they act as though they have been mainlining sugar and yellow food colouring for the best part of the preceding 48 hours. I ponder the wisdom of the law that forbids shooting them with a tranquilliser gun.

Back at home I gently coax them down from their post-swimming high with some toast and get them ready for bed. I read them stories all curled up together on mine and Helen's bed. It's the best bit of the whole day for me.

Once they are in bed I go downstairs and clear away the tea things. The dishwasher is full of clean dishes when I come to fill it. This discovery never fails to give me a profound feeling of ennui. There should be a special word for it. I sigh heavily and empty it before refilling it again with the dirty plates.

There is a load of dry washing on the rack so I take that down and fold it and then put out the wet load that I set off this morning before leaving the house at 6.30. I put the swimming stuff in the now empty machine and set it off.

Next I make the girl's (and my) packed lunches for tomorrow. And then I clean their shoes.

Finally, I can stop. It is 10.30. I pour myself a beer before bed and switch the radio on.

I press the button and hear this: "...men don't pull their weight domestically..."

I switch it off again.

Fuck you, universe. And fuck you, Radio 4.

Monday, 18 February 2013

A Bad Start

Sorrel, who's only 5, has not been well. She's had a hacking cough and a cold for most of the half term holiday. Yesterday however she climbed Arthur's Seat.

For those of you unfamiliar with Edinburgh, we are blessed with a mountain in the centre of town. Not the one the castle sits on. A much bigger one. Arthur's Seat is an 820 ft high extinct volcano and something of a right of passage for the young citizens of Edinburgh. Either you've walked up it or you haven't.

Well, yesterday, she did.

This morning is a different matter. This morning she is tired. This morning is the first day back at school after a week off. This morning she will have her revenge.

Helen is working an overnight shift tonight (starts at 10pm...finishes at 10am) so she needs to lie in. It's up to me, then, to get the girls up and dressed. Sorrel has trotted through and climbed into our bed in the middle of the night. She does not want to get up.

"Uh!" she grunts at me. "UH!"

Lulu in contrast is sitting up in her own bed reading.

"Can I just finish my chapter, Daddy? I'll get dressed and come downstairs after."

Well OK... I go back to Sorrel. "Come on Sweetie. Leave Mummy to sleep for a bit."

She glares at me. "Where are my SLIPPERS???"

"I expect they're downstairs."




"Um. No. Not if you're going to speak to me like that. Now why don't you come and get dressed?"

"No! I want to go downstairs first!!!"

"Well, come downstairs and you can get your slippers when you're down there"


We go downstairs. She curls up in an armchair in the corner of the kitchen.

"I'll go and get you some clothes," I say gently.


I sigh. "OK. What would you like?"


I explain that we have 45 minutes in which she has to get dressed, have breakfast and have her hair and teeth brushed. At this point Lulu arrives in the kitchen, dressed and smiling. She asks for some toast.

"Would you like some toast, Soz?" I ask as I pop a slice in the toaster.

She sighs the sigh of a labourer who has been heaving a vast sack of despair up a ladder only to find there is nowhere to put it when he reaches the top.

" I hate toast," she informs the world in general.

"How about some bread and jam?" I suggest, astonished at the deep well of patience I am currently tapping.

"OOOOHHHHH!" she groans as if longing for the day that I would grow old and die, finally brining an end to this incessant round of ludicrous questions. "Is there ANY strawberry?" she growls in the tone of one who knows the person she is speaking to is an utter cretin who can't keep strawberry jam in the house to save his idiotic, miserable life.  And on learning that there is, "OK. Bread and jam then. But NO BUTTER!!!"

A moment later I place a slice of bread and strawberry jam on the table. She drags herself out of the armchair and over to the table. She hauls herself onto the chair. She stares, incredulous, at the plate in front of her.

"Where's my TOAST!!!???"

The rest of the morning is not much better. She cries when I suggest she wears her new boots ("They're too bummfully") and then cries for them when I appear with her shoes. ( "Oh no! NOT my shoes!") She complains, loudly, that the clothes I have fetched from upstairs have not been warmed on the radiator. She screams, punching my leg repeatedly, as I very gently brush her hair.

She weeps bitter tears of frustration when she realises that this morning, as every morning, we'll be walking to school. ("What's the point of having a car if we never use the car?!?!?!).

It's frosty outside so I insist on gloves being worn ("Gloves??? NOT gloves!!!! Waaaaaaaaaahhh!!!")


When Helen picks her up later she cries and moans all the way home but insists on going the long way round because she knows it's shorter. Even though she needs a wee. And it isn't.

By the time I arrive home at six she's wrapped herself in a blanket and gone to sleep without eating any tea.

To the doctor's tomorrow, I think....