Family Martin woke up grumpy today. We’re all still adjusting to the new normal, particularly poor hubbie who is feeling squeezed between work and the children, with no time for him. We had promised the kids a trip to an indoor play centre, but we weren’t in the right frame of mind.
When hubbie is low, spending money acts as a pick-me-up so, as we’ve also been promising the kids new wardrobes for ages, we decided a trip to Ikea might be in order. It tends to be a momentous family outing, because it’s miles away and the children aren’t used to car trips over an hour. I loaded up the iPad with TV shows, chucked in some snacks and off we went.
Ikea on a Saturday is a crazy idea, but we went with a plan. After twenty minutes waiting for a parking place, and another twenty minutes queuing for the obligatory meatballs, we happened to mention to the children about the crèche, not thinking for one minute they’d entertain the idea. They cry going to nursery, after three years of going, so dropping them with strangers seemed unlikely.
They were keen to try it, though, so we booked them in and spent the half hour wait letting the darlings pick the colours of their wardrobe doors. Amazingly they then went into the crèche without a fuss. Hurrah.
Oh my goodness what a difference! I can’t imagine trying to design, order and pick the twenty-odd components required for their units with them competing for our attention. As for getting through the market hall without, “Mummy I want… mummy look… mummy can I…?” Instead our bag only contained a couple of stocking fillers and the usual tat hubbie and I couldn’t leave without. 🙂
The best part was going to pick them up after the hour and seeing two happy smiley faces. Free childcare (which I get very very rarely) and happy kids, what more could you want? When I collected them, daughter said, “Mummy, I don’t want to do crèche again.” Ah well, it was fab while it lasted!
Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:
Claire cupped her hands around the mug of tea and gazed out the tall Georgian windows at the view. After the bustle of her busy day, it was good to stop and rest her throbbing feet. With a belly full of food and the aroma of hot tea drifting up to her, she felt her face relax for the first time in hours. The Eden Project had assaulted all her senses in good ways and bad, and her mind still wrestled with her Gift Aid idea, wondering if it was possible to take it further than a mere suggestion. There seemed such merit it, her brain wouldn’t let it lie.
When the phone rang, she didn’t realise immediately it was hers. Glancing around the dining room, she flushed as she saw people looking her way. She grabbed the phone from the table and held it to her ear, shielding her face with her hair.
“Hello?” Her voice came out in a hiss.
“I’m sorry, is this a bad time?”
“Robert? No, of course not. How are you? Why are you calling? Is everything okay?”
“Can’t a man call his sister without it being the end of the world?” Robert said defensively and Claire smiled. It was clear he wanted something.
“Maybe not every brother, Rob, but definitely you. You never call me unless it’s to tell me off.” She remembered the last out-of-the-blue call, after a photo on her neglected blog, and her smile grew wider.
“Yes, well, that’s not why I’m calling. I haven’t spoken to you in a while, that’s all. I wondered how you were getting on. And Ruth, of course.”
“You could call Ruth yourself.”
“I did, actually, but she was just heading out to some meeting at church of all places.”
Claire’s smile dropped as she wondered what her sister was doing going to church on a Wednesday evening. “Was she taking Sky?”
“No, Sky’s with her dad, can you believe? Apparently he’s moved back nearby and sees her twice a week.”
Claire felt genuinely glad that Chris had decided to move nearer to his daughter. She didn’t want to get into that particular discussion with Robert, though. They were unlikely to see eye to eye about it.
“That’s good,” was all she said. “If you spoke to Ruth you know more about her than I do, I’m afraid. We talked a week or ten days ago, but all she had to say to me was about the church, too. I do hope she’s not getting caught up in some cult.”
“In England? Really, Claire, you do come up with the most fanciful things.”
She heard the hesitation in his voice and she imagined him realising that criticising her wasn’t the best lead in to a favour. She was about to tease him some more when her work idea came into her mind.
“Actually, brother mine, I have an concept to run by you. How easy would it be to set up a national scheme to allow gift aid to be taken easily? It only needs to have details like a person’s address and tax eligibility, but it would need to be read by a chip and pin machine or have a barcode or something.”
There was a pause and she could almost hear her brother’s financial brain whirring. “That would be quite straight forward,” he said eventually, “but you’d need someone financially motivated to set it up. Who would benefit?”
“The charities, I guess. Quicker entry time, more gift aid collected.”
“That wouldn’t be enough. Unless each charity were to subscribe, or members paid for their card, who would fund it?”
“What about British Tourism?”
“Hmmm. Possible. Marketing, that’s the key. Being able to use the list of names to market to, or having the card sponsored by a major partner. Interesting idea. Who came up with it?”
“Well, well done sis. It has merit. Let me know if you need financial partners, I can put the word out.”
Claire beamed. If her brother thought the idea had merit, then it wasn’t too daft to put in her report.
“I will. So, why are you really calling?” She decided he’d been too helpful not to put him out of his misery.
“Ah, yes. I have a favour to ask. I was going to ask Ruth, but she didn’t give me a chance and, on reflection, you may be the better person.”
“Come on, Robert, spit it out.”
“Er, can you take the boys for a few weeks in the summer?”
“What?” Claire sat up straight, wincing as her chair legs scraped on the floor. “Why?”
Her words were greeted with silence. Claire waited for her brother to speak, fear twisting at her stomach as she wondered what his next words might be.
“Francesca and I split up. A few months ago, actually. The boys are in a boarding school, so it hasn’t been a big deal. But it’s the long vacation now. Francesca’s having them for half the time, but they’ll be with me for three weeks.” He took a deep breath, and his next words were nearly a wail. “I can’t have them on my own for three weeks! I have to work. And, besides, what do I know about looking after adolescent boys?”
“And I know so much more?” Claire blurted out without thinking.
“Well, you’re a woman; these things come naturally.”
Claire thought about her time with Sky, and snorted. “Not so much.”
“So you won’t take them?” His voice was accusing. Then, in a defeated tone, he added, “I guess I’ll have to ask mother. Or Ruth.”
Good luck with that, Claire thought. She tried to imagine travelling round with her nephews. Would it be so much harder than having Sky? There would be two of them, so wouldn’t they entertain each other? And they were older than her niece.
“How many weeks are we talking exactly? And when?”
“Claire, you’re an angel.”
“Wait, I haven’t said yes. I’m just asking for more information. I can’t have them for last week of July or the first week of August.”
“Oh.” He paused, then said brightly, “Well maybe I can swap weeks with Francesca. How about if I brought them to you this weekend?”
“What? Robert, no, I can’t. My boss will freak. I’m struggling to get into the hostels as it is, without needing two extra beds.”
“That’s okay, the boys can stay in a tent.”
“On their own? They’re only, what, seven and nine?”
“Ten and twelve.”
“Even so. And surely Francesca won’t change plans just like that.” She wanted to ask more about the breakup of their marriage, but her head was spinning with the idea that she might have to look after two boys for a fortnight.
“She’ll do what I tell her to; I’m paying her a handsome settlement for her to live in an apartment and get her nails painted.”
So, not an amicable split then. Oh dear.
She thought about her nephews, caught in the middle, shuffled from pillar to post. She thought about them stuck at her mother’s house for two weeks, while her dad wrote his novel and her mum went to WI meetings.
“Alright. I’ll take them. Two weeks though,” she added quickly, as Robert filled the airways with his dignified gratitude. “And they bring a tent.” She thought about how expensive the Eden Project had been, and mentally multiplied it by three. “And you pay for all their accommodation fees and the like.”
“Yes, yes of course. I’ll speak to Francesca, and I’ll call you with the details.”
As Claire disconnected the phone, she wondered what on earth she had agreed to.
- IKEA Nanny Banned Commercial (parisrenovation.wordpress.com)
- design at dinner time: the new trendig range from IKEA (thelifecreativeblog.com)
- IKEA 365 Campaign (neilperkin.typepad.com)