Monday, December 29, 2008
All is calm, all is quiet
So here I am, stranded in Kent, all alone in my parent's house. Of course the journey down South on Christmas Eve wasn't without incident; a steaming bonnet, broken power steering and a bright red battery light that wouldn't go off after a stop in a service station on the M11 80 miles from my destination. My Dad and Lurch (50 miles behind me with Danny Boy) advised me to carry on and not stop the engine. I did, with The Terminator swearing undying loyalty and promising not to leave me on my own. We made it over the Dartford Crossing without stopping and whooped and cheered as we arrived at El Vel and Sean Sean the Leprechaun's half an hour later. 'Happy Christmas everyone!'. Christmas was lovely, very relaxing and just family. The boys, Lurch and SSTL went for a long walk along the beach in the morning and then we had a fabulous traditional turkey with all of the trimmings.
Boxing Day was pretty much the same, although the boys were cranking up a gear and getting slightly more boisterous by this stage. I rang the AA on the 27th, they came out but said nothing was open and I would have to wait until Monday. I was supposed to be going back to work in Leeds. Lurch and the boys went off, as planned, on the early morning ferry to France. In the spirit of our recent home education experiences they are visiting war graves and possibly going to Ypres in Belgium too. So I had the weekend on my own.
Something strange has happened to me since. I've slept for 8 hours a night and am feeling totally relaxed to the point where my mental processes have broken through the perpetual low-level fug to a near clarity of thought. I'm not being bombarded with the usual artillery; requests to drive people anywhere (can't!), clean anything, break up fights, find anything, fix anything, empty or fill things. I've read Pat Barker's 'The Eye in the Door' and Sue Gee's 'Reading in Bed' and really enjoyed them. I feel like a different person, maybe this is what's really meant by a break?
It's also strange being back here without my family, and not being 18 again. I went to Tesco with El Vel and she pointed out grey, tired old faces that I didn't recognise. They're the same age as me, I know that because I went to school with them!
Yesterday we went for a walk (I went running) to the beach. On the way there we saw Alan, a neighbour of my parents, hoisting his Union Jack up the flagpole in the back garden. I hadn't seen him for years and he was certainly twice the man he used to be. After a quick chat we moved on. 'Blimey, he's put on weight, hasn't he?' I said to Vel. She made a face that was a cross between a bulldog sucking on a lemon and a crocodile smiling, this is how you can tell that she's feeling intense disapproval, although she would 'never say anything..' 'He's a fascist' she confided 'he's really nosy and knows everyone's business, he patrols the neighbourhood. He's even complained about building rubble here', she signalled to a nearby building site 'Dad and I were just having a very quick look through the windows and the builder invited us in for a tour, lovely man' she said.
We got to the beach and there are remembrance benches all along the seafront. I recognised the name of a girl I used to play netball with at school and the Aunt and Uncle of a friend of mine, and others I knew, it was extraordinarily moving. I ran half a mile one way into the biting, cold December wind, and then turned back. My parents were a short distance ahead, all wrapped up in hats, scarves and mittens, holding hands and battling the elements together as they'd done for nearly 50 years now. They didn't hear me as I approached at a jog. 'Get a room!' I yelled in my mother's ear as I passed. A startled stagger and a look that was pure bulldog was my response.
So now the AA have been and I'm here until tomorrow. The parents are at the golf club. Lurch has phoned and spoken to me in a strained tone with a background track of heavy fighting. I made the boys promise to let Lurch enjoy his holiday and to cut the brawling and behave and then I put the phone down, ran a hot bath with aromatic oils and pondered my third choice of novel.