Friday, 23 October 2009

Two Days

7.30am on a day in early November 2008. I wake up fully recharged after a full night's sleep. That's how it always is, apart from the weekends when I often wake up with a hangover. There is a fine mist outside but the sun is out and it's going to be a nice day. I doze for 20 minutes before I get up and have a shower and then a cup of tea while I read my emails and Facebook messages and watch Sky Sports News on tv. I can take my time. I work just a few miles away and don't need to be there until nine.

I arrive at nine after a journey punctuated only by a stop at the newsagent's to get a Guardian. Work is work, it's okay. I'll need to get another job one day but not yet. My motivation to do so is low, as is my self-confidence. The day passes without much incident, as it usually does. And then I drive home.

I'm home before my flatmate. He generally gets in as the second part of the Friends double bill is on and I'm draining my second coffee. How was your day? Fancy a pint? What are you up to this weekend? Okay. No thanks. Not much. Then dinner, the second installment of the chilli concarne I made yesterday. Day old chilli always tastes nicer and comes with the added bonus of being ready after two minutes in the microwave.

I'm staying in tonight, as usual. Going out on weekdays is something I did when I was younger. I value a relatively early night now plus a clear head in the morning. So what's on tv? Not much normally but there'll probably be a wildlife documentary or some decent sitcom repeats to pass the time. And then to bed. Nice and early, around ten, so I can get some reading done. Reading sets me up nicely for sleeping. I love to read, and at some point I'll nod off without even knowing it and wake up in the morning ready for another unchallenging day. It's a simple life, far too simple, and I long ago gave up any pretence that this is what makes me happy. But this is what I do and I know no other way.


7.30am on a day in early November 2009. I've been awake for well over an hour after a broken sleep and left the bed half an hour ago. It's nice to have a cuddle with my girlfriend in those barely awake moments that occur before the alarm goes. And then it's off to the stables.

Caleb's large white head peers out at me from the stable door as I arrive. He's always pleased to see me because I give him breakfast and let him out into his field. This is all I have to do here as one of the girls will muck out on their way home from school in the evening. It's good to get some early morning fresh air, and the sight of the rabbits or a pheasant scuttling across the fields reminds me that I'm in a very nice part of the world.

Back home to get ready for work. As I step out of the bathroom one of the children hands me a cup of tea, today it's Lee. They're always keen to get my opinion on the quality of their tea so they can boast to the others that they make the best cup. I have long ago given up rating the children's teas anything other than very good, and equally as good, no better or worse, than the ones their siblings make. This means I don't have to deal with any resentment. I learnt this lesson early on and apply it rigorously in every situation where competition may arise. It makes for a much easier life for me.

A packed lunch is made for me too, by Sarah or one of the two older girls, Melody or Paige. Tea and a packed lunch made for me; I feel quite humbled whenever this happens. It's so nice to have people who are happy to do things for me. At least one of the children will then ask me to drop them off at school as I'm on my way to work. Normally I'll say no. It will probably make me late for work and so I don't want to go out of my way. I'm also thinking of banning the school lifts altogether because of the resentment it causes to those who haven't had as many lifts as the others. Or rather, because of the earache I suffer because of this resentment.

I have a 25 mile journey to work these days and it's not much fun. I'm frequently late because of traffic congestion on the motorways but my management is sympathetic. Work is work, it's okay. I'll need to get another job soon though. I now have a proper reason to do so. I need to earn more money, and then more money after that. There are seven of us in the house, soon to be eight. Even if the seven wasn't enough then that eighth member of the family is all the motivation I need. For the first time in my life I need to provide for someone other than myself and it will be a privilege to do so.

The drive home from work is always worse. It's dark and there is, without fail, a traffic jam for at least part of the journey. Dinner is presented to me shortly after I walk in but never before I've had a cuddle with Sarah. Again I feel humbled. I just sit down and someone puts dinner on my lap! I cook dinner on a Tuesday. Or a Wednesday. I should do it more often as Sarah is tired. The pregnancy is really taking it out on her. Her tummy holds a hyperactive girl who seems to be literally fighting to get out. She has around two months left before this little girl emerges and that time can't pass quickly enough.

So, who's cleaning the kitchen tonight? An easy decision. A couple of the kids have been naughty and so it's down to them. Then this will happen: they will squabble in the kitchen. Shortly afterwards they will walk into the living room and claim to have finished cleaning. Upon cursory inspection this will prove to be untrue and they will be told to finish the job properly. They will return to the living room and repeat their claim to have finished cleaning. The claim will be untrue, again. Usually by the third claim the kitchen will have been cleaned to a satisfactory standard.

There's time for a little television before bed. I'm usually in bed by ten, not so I can read but because I'm tired. My body runs to a different clock now. My day starts and finishes a couple of hours earlier than it did this time last year and I'm often tired, but I know that once my daughter is born I'll be regarding this time as a golden age of leisure and rest. I go to bed. I'm happy and weary and possess a feeling of belonging and purpose that had eluded me for all but the last few months of my life. Sleep comes quickly.

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