Today we caught up with our NCT baby group, four years on. We see members from time to time and we try and catch up with everyone once a year. This was the first time in two years that (nearly) everyone was there. I think we were missing two daddies and one sibling. There were 8 couples in our baby group all on their first bump in 2008 and there are now 13 children with another on the way.
We met up in a small indoor play area that I go to quite often. It wasn’t open when we arrived – I don’t think they were expecting 12 kids and the same amount of adults to turn up at 10.30am on a Sunday. It was great to watch the kids running around and to see how much they’ve changed and how much they haven’t. It’s a nice way to keep us grounded with the passing of time.
As husband and I are both still poorly (my cold hopefully going, his just arriving) it was survival for the rest of the day. Rugby on the television with mummy giving commentary to keep the kids interested: “Ooh look now he’s got the ball, watch they’re all going to squish him. Look he’s saying, ‘my ball by ball’, ooh do you think he can kick it between those tall sticks?” Which, to be fair, is about my knowledge of rugby anyway, despite being an avid fan of the game. I can tell you most of the rules of football and cricket including the off-side rule and when it is and isn’t LBW. But rugby, well. I know about tries, line-outs and the fact the ball goes above the bar not below, but the rest is all a bit hazy.
We also did playdough and indoor footie. I kept getting told off by my son for responding to comments on twitter and taking pictures of the kids to use on the blog. I do feel bad when he reprimands me for combining work with play but I also remind myself they only go to nursery 2 days a week. We bumped into a friend of Aaron’s at the play centre (hurrah! – they chased each other for half an hour. Genius) and he goes to nursery five days a week. We’re all lucky that Mummy doesn’t have to, although if Daddy doesn’t get a job soon that might change. Having seen how weary my husband is getting of his extended childcare duties I suspect that’s a fate worse than unemployment for him. He freely admits he couldn’t be a stay-at-home dad on a permanent basis.
I spent today also trying to write a press release for the blog/free ebook, seeing it as a dry run for when there’s a proper novel out there that needs promoting. I used to work in Marketing but it’s a different beast when it’s your own stuff you’re selling. My first draft came in at two pages of mostly waffle. I’m always reminded of the quote “sorry for the long letter I didn’t have time to write a short one.” I do tend to the verbose (had you noticed? :D)
Claire settled into the squeaky seat and wrapped her hands around the solid white cup. Her smile spread wide as she raised the drink to her lips and sipped at the froth, glad Josh wasn’t there to see her milk moustache. She felt the air exhale from her lungs in a contented sigh. It wasn’t the biggest Starbucks or the most up to date. But the coffee always tasted the same. The caffeine zinged through her body, carried to the furthest tips of her fingers by her grateful blood.
She glanced up through the window for the eighth time. Stop looking. It’s no concern of yours where he’s gone. Another voice in her mind said no concern but still intriguing. We’d barely parked when he said See ya later and legged it.
Claire took another long slurp of her latte, letting the sensation of civilisation wash through her, warming her right to the centre. With a sigh she placed the cup back on the table and took out her Lonely Planet guide. If I’m only going to be in the Lakes for a day or so I’d better find something noteworthy to do. I don’t want Carl making me come straight back. I intend to spend at least a week in the next city we come to, even if it is Liverpool.
She flicked idly through the pages around Keswick and came across a picture of a snowy ridge of mountains with the title Skiddaw. That looks the ticket. A picture of me up there should shut Carl up for a while. I wonder if I can climb up for a photograph without having to walk along it. It’s not far from the hostel, maybe it’s not a bad thing that Cockermouth wasn’t available.
There was a tap on the window and Claire looked up automatically. A gentleman in shirt and tie was peering through the glass searching the interior of the coffee shop. As his gaze locked with Claire’s the clean-shaven face broke into a smile. Claire automatically smiled back although she had no idea who the man was. He does look familiar. God I hope it’s not another client. She hadn’t bumped into anyone she knew since the services on the way to Berwick and definitely wanted to keep it that way.
As if in response to her smile the man raised his hand in a wave and headed for the door to the café. Bugger, he’s coming in. She plastered her best client-facing expression on her face and sat up straighter in her chair, sliding the Lonely Planet guide off the table into her lap.
“Hey Claire, still here? How many coffees have you had? Am I going to have to tie your arse to the seat so you can drive us to the hostel?”
The words, as much as the Aussie twang, confirmed to Claire what her eyes could not credit.
“Of course it’s me, dingbat.” He slid into the seat opposite, a faint blush of colour peeping through his brown cheeks. His eyes slid away from hers and he made a show of looking round the room as if taking in the scene.
“So this is what we drove all the way here for? It’s nothing special.”
“It’s not the décor it’s the drink.” She wrapped her hands protectively around the coffee mug and drank the tepid dregs.
“Now I’ve heard that said about a bar but never about a coffee shop. You’re one strange girl.”
“I’m strange?” Claire’s voice rose in indignation. “I haven’t suddenly reappeared with a spanking haircut, shave, and shirt and tie still with the shop-bought creases in. What gives?” The words were out before she could stop them, despite vowing to herself that she wouldn’t question him. Sure enough a veil dropped across Josh’s face and his eyes lost their sharp focus.
“I had to Skype the folks. Mum likes me to look smart.” They both looked down at his hands where they twisted like coiled snakes on the table-top. “Anyway are you going to buy me one of these famous coffees or shall we head back to civilisation? Cities cramp my soul.”
As the words settled softly in Claire’s mind like fresh snow she was aware of a sense of loss. Whose loss she couldn’t say, or even why she had the feeling. It seemed like Josh was floating away on an iceberg in a choppy sea. She shook off the strange sensation and gave him her widest smile.
“Sure, let’s head to Keswick. I’m thinking of hiking Skiddaw tomorrow.”
The effect was instant, like changing the batteries in a run-down appliance. Josh sat up, his face beaming. The air of ancient injury dropped away and he became young again.