Friday, 23 February 2018
AS I race back home after dropping my son off at school, I nearly get whiplash in my haste to shut the front door behind me and breathe in the sweet air of a quiet, kid-free house.
Pity, then, that Cookie’s let rip the foulest of farts in his excitement at seeing me and the front room is filled with a gas so toxic that it melts the can of Febreze sitting patiently on the mantelpiece in anticipation of such a noisome occasion.
Still, I reason with myself, he hasn’t been himself lately and his world has been turned upside down this week, too, what with the summer holidays ending and both kids going off to their respective schools, so I vow to feed him no more Double Gloucester and forgive the poor fella his pong, gritting my teeth and holding my breath while I give him a great big hug.
And though the stench stings my eyes and burns my throat, it doesn’t dampen my buoyant spirits as I skip into the kitchen, leaping over assorted piles of holiday detritus to make myself a celebratory cup of tea. For today is the first day I’ve had to myself for what feels like an eternity.
I survey the chaos (empty Frubes tubes, bowls of lovingly-prepared but uneaten porridge, mounds of rotting fruit next to scraped clean jars of Nutella) and smile.
But a knock interrupts my reverie. Cookie goes berserk as I somehow manage to open the front door.
It’s Philip from WalKeys.
“Hi Philip,” I beam.
“Pwoar, what’s that smell?” He waves his hand in front of his face and crinkles up his nose, feigning a cough.
I point at Cookie, quick as a flash, lest Philip thinks it was me.
“What have you been feeding him? I’ve told you before, no dairy for dogs,” he says sternly.
I shake my head as if to say no way, nu-uh, no dairy, no, never and say: “I think he’s a bit depressed. The kids have both gone back to school and he just seems, I dunno, a bit lacklustre.”
“Ah, that’ll be it — they’re complex creatures, more emotionally intuitive than we’ll ever know. And highly intelligent, even setters. But cheese won’t cheer him up, so lay off the Double Gloucester, okay? Both of you,” he calls as he loads Cookie into his van.
But now, with the odious dog out of the picture, left to my own devices, I haven’t got a clue what to do.
So I do what any self-respecting mum in my situation does and turn on the telly. I know I should use this precious me-time constructively and watch the first series of Doctor Foster on catch-up, so I can watch the second series in real time, but I just can’t seem to stop thinking about the kids.
With the Sunshiney Seven-Year-Old in year 3 at the local primary school and the Eleventeen Year Old in year 7 at big, big school in the big, big smoke (Reading), I’m actually feeling bereft. Lacklustre, even. And a little bit scared.
I worry whether my girl will be accosted by the junkies and assorted other unsavoury types on the long walk from Reading station to her new secondary school (although, with a sharp tongue like hers, they’d regret ever trying to engage her in conversation); I fret that my boy will bitterly regret his choice of pencil case (a bright yellow banana-shaped thing with a smiley face on it) when he realises it’s not very cool and I practically wring my hands off at the thought of Cookie’s upset tummy.
Until I hear the strains of Slipping Through My Fingers by Abba softly beckoning me back into the kitchen, nearer the radio. Whereupon I promptly dissolve into tears.
I should be dancing a jaunty jig of joy, revelling in my solitude, indulging in crucial work displacement activities like preparing for fabulous autumn by Googling cosy coats and gorgeous boots that I might, just might, be able to fit over my cankles. One day. If I give the cheese a swerve.
Instead, empty (albeit whiffy) nest syndrome has me in its grip.
Never one to dwell (much), I suddenly remember the builders have finished my shed out the back and let out a little yelp.
But that’s another story…
15 September 2017
POLL: Have your say