It’s a funny thing, I think, when the chap you lived with for twenty-one years, had two children with and who was once your closest companion, can stalk past you venomously, without a word.
So another busy, less than average week, punctuated with my sister’s wedding in sight of Wembley Stadium, me holding the bouquet for about 3 hours and lunch in a kosher Chinese restaurant, a long drive on the M1, hotel reviews and visits, leaving me ready for a peaceful Friday night again.
After the normal commute, I pop home to spend a precious 45 minutes with youngest daughter before she heads out clubbing and also catch up with her chum Charlotte, who is gainfully employed by the police force. No doubt a huge relief to many of her former class mates who have, on occasion, had a brush with the law. Daughter and I complete an eclectic shopping list, featuring make-up wipes, Christmas pudding and chorizo along with thirty first class stamps and Christmas cards.
I have given in: since buying my first ‘solo’ house six months ago, sharing it with assorted young people, my teenage children included, things have gently slumped to a relaxed lowest common denominator. This is without doubt, a student house, with a thin veneer of middle class motherhood slicked across the top. The veneer may be getting thinner and that is a worry. Carpets are still hoovered, shirts ironed and baths cleaned but much else is left to its own devices. Do not look at the back of the fridge!
Girls gone and two cups of tea drunk, I do the car reversing thing, we park train style, which can be a bore. Daughter’s car is a tip, despite my best cleaning efforts last weekend. I do still try to keep us all on the right side of health and safety on the hygiene front, although at times the challenge of bathrooms and bedrooms threatens to overwhelm me. Anyhow, I head to Tesco’s, the ideal place to spend a Friday evening. I park up, and armed with a sensible list and my hairy hessian bags, good for the environment, horrendous to look at, I sashay forth.
The store is gloriously empty, which is often a blessing but on this very day, a real curse. My trolley at the ready, I head for the veg aisle only to spy in the rather too near distance the children’s father, a man I haven’t properly seen for over a year, perhaps more. What astounds me is that he does indeed look very much as I remember him. I, who have changed so much, cannot, I imagine, look even vaguely similar and yet, there he is pretty much unchanged. Aah yes, this I remember, the killer look, the look that wishes you right off the planet and beyond. It takes but a nano second, and I press on firmly towards the soft fruit. None of which are on my list but never mind.
It’s a funny thing I think, when the chap you lived with for twenty one years, had two children with and who was once your closest companion, can stalk past you venomously, without a word. In fact, so ridiculous is it, that I slip a wry smile to myself. I harbour no grudges, I can see no point. I pick up a leek, celery and salad leaves from the veg section and collect myself. This list will be completed I decide, come what may. After a somewhat hesitant entry to baked goods, not a man in sight praise be, I swing down the aisles in an almost cheery, defiant fashion.
However in washing products, we meet again. I hover by the stain removers, fake tan is a nightmare for Egyptian cotton sheets, something mothers of all clubbing girls must know, and there he is once more. I stifle a moment of sympathy, he too must have this very issue, with the very same children, and then I hoist an industrial size pack of powder into my trolley, which is, satisfyingly, on special offer this evening. Without further incident or meeting, I complete my purchases, get to the till, load up the car and drive home.
Having unpacked back at the ranch, and second glass of wine in, I reflect on the lessons of the last eighteen months, brought somewhat into focus by this evening’s events. Clearly I can survive, for now at least. Which is good to know. I can hang up pictures and mirrors, using an empty vodka bottle when there is no hammer, I can bleed radiators, change plugs and light bulbs, treasure and enjoy my kids, love again and shop whenever and wherever I like. It’s a pleasing list of both major, important and small, sweet successes. Who, I wonder, needs more?