Tidying Futility: 2013 365 Challenge #181

Playroom Carnage: We're taking Baby Annabelle to France

Playroom Carnage: We’re taking Baby Annabelle to France

I have taken to saying / tweeting lately that Cleaning with children in the house is like trying to paint a boat that’s still in the water. Utterly pointless.

Dragged myself out of bed this morning to tidy up, after a night if calpol and cuddles for fever boy. (Fever broke at 4am) I found craft sand all over the playroom after Daddy and daughter craft last night, so cleaning had to start there.

After ninety minutes of sorting, tidying and hoovering I found the playroom floor. It looked lovely.

Then Saturday morning TV ended and the children decided they wanted to go on holiday to France. They packed bags and babies and buckets of other junk (they’ve watched Mummy pack too often!) and the cushion corner became their car. I’ve been reading recently about the importance of play for the sake of play, and that mess is good. So, I am turning a blind eye.

Sometimes it takes effort to do nothing. No one said it was easy to be the parent you want to be. Lord knows I don’t manage it very often. But for now I’m off to hoover the lounge, and then LOCK THE DOOR!


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:


“I, Jeffery Philip Westwood, take you, Kim Louise Jenkins, to be my lawful wedded wife…”

Claire stood next to her best friend and tuned out the familiar words. It was the first time she’d been part of a wedding, although she had attended a few. It felt different, standing at the front, with the registrar so close. She was almost scared to breathe, in case she interrupted the ceremony. Gazing at the side of Kim’s face; her eyes sparkling, her lips quivering in a smile as she locked eyes with Jeff, Claire thought she could set off a firework and the bride and groom would be oblivious.

Her shoulder-blades itched. She could feel Michael sitting behind her; could sense his eyes boring into her back. It wasn’t hard to imagine his thoughts, as she stood this close to an altar. Although they’d never discussed marriage, the fight that had ended their relationship gave her a pretty good idea where Michael’s desires lay. People didn’t want children without wanting the full family experience.

The formulaic exchange of promises droned on. Claire recalled the awful night, four months ago, when her rosy view of the future had ended. When she’d realised how desperate Michael was for children. Their discussion had confirmed for her how equally-desperate she was not to have them. There hadn’t been anything to say after that.

And now, my best friend is married and with child. Wouldn’t Michael have a field day, if he knew. Resisting the urge to look behind her, Claire squared her shoulders and prayed for the weekend to be over.


The sun hovered low on the horizon. Dinner had been survived, and the free alcohol was going down a storm. Claire stood in the corner of the terrace, watching groups of friends mingling and separating in a slow, elaborate dance. Laugher echoed on the breeze, and through the people, the occasional flash of cream silk showed the bride at the centre of things.

Kim had managed to persuade some high school friends to turn up with their drums and guitars, and live music drifted out from the great hall. Claire had sent Michael for drinks, glad to get away from his pervading presence. Now the chores were done, he had taken to standing behind her shoulder like a bodyguard, scaring away anyone else brave enough to attempt to approach for a chat.

Claire mused that it would have been infinitely preferable to have come alone, and feel like the awkward spinster, rather than have the dark cloud of her past literally following her around, raining on her parade.

She felt a touch at her elbow and turned to see Michael holding out a glass of champagne.

“Have they run out of gin?” Claire frowned. Champagne made her giddy. What she needed was good, hard liquor.

Michael looked awkward for a moment, before saying, “Tonic. They’ve run out of tonic.”

It was clearly a lie. Claire sighed, the pent-up frustration of four months gusting forth like a hurricane.

“Enough, Michael. Stop trying to control my life.”

Michael’s head jerked back, as if she had slapped him. “I’m not trying to control anything.”

“Then why bring me champagne when it’s obvious they have plenty of gin and tonic. This is a licensed bar, not a village hall party. Are you hoping I’ll get drunk and you will get me horizontal? You can scrap that idea right now.”

Michael’s eyes hardened. “That’s not fair, Claire. You asked me to come, and all you’ve done is avoid me. Now you’re acting like I’m your father one minute, and some oik in a bar trying to get laid the next. I am none of those things.”

“Then stop acting like it. What happened, Michael? We used to work, once. What went wrong?”

“Nothing.” He took a step closer and she unconsciously stepped back, avoiding his outstretched hand. “Nothing went wrong. We had a misunderstanding, that’s all. I still love you.”

His words made her shiver. “If you do, then leave me alone. Please. I’ve moved on, Michael.” She wanted to add, I’ve out-grown you, but managed to hold her tongue.

“Is it still about the baby? We can talk about that. We never talked about it properly.”

“There was no baby, Michael, except in your mind. I was late for my period, that’s all. I wanted you to reassure me I could do what I needed to do, if I was pregnant. And you went all doolally on me, practically picking the baby names and decorating the spare room.” She glared at him. “I wasn’t ready for happy families, not then, not now.”

“But, I thought… All that time with Sky.”

“You thought, because I had fun with my niece, I was ready to be a mother? That’s why you’re here, isn’t it? You want to start again?”

He didn’t respond, but the shift in his expression told her she was right.

A boiling heat rushed through Claire, darkening her vision and causing her hands to tremble. “Get the message, Michael. I am not interested.” Her voice rose. “I do not want a baby. Kim can go ahead and have one, if she wants. Get married, have the happy ever after, but not me. I’m not ready for that kind of responsibility.”

“Kim’s pregnant?”

Michael’s voice rang out across the terrace, just as the band finished one song and were about to start another. His words caused a hush to fall across the assembled guests.

Claire felt the world close in. Me and my big mouth. She turned, seeking out Kim in the crowd. Her friend stood several feet away, her face white. Claire took a step forward, apologies on her lips. Kim gave her a furious stare and swept away.

Dropping her arms to her side, Claire prayed for the world to end. Of course it was a secret. Now her Director knows, everyone knows. How much trouble is she going to be in? She’s never going to speak to me again.

Michael reached out a hand, whether to blame or reassure her, wasn’t clear. She shook him off, and ran from the terrace towards her car.