A Righteous Reprimand & the 2013 365 Challenge #38

Not the roundabout but you get the idea

Not the roundabout but you get the idea

[Apologies for the repeat post and the lack of Claire instalment in the first one: see below!]

I got told off by a random stranger today. The worst part was it was entirely justified. Don’t you hate that? He’d paid for his daughter to go on one of these £1 rides you get in supermarkets, the same one my kids had just been on and my son had demanded “more more”. The ride has three seats so, without thinking, I whisked Aaron over and plonked him on one of the spare seats.

I’d never do that normally without asking the person whose pound has paid for the ride (even though I love it when people come and let their kids ride for free on my pound. The more the merrier).

When it had finished the Dad turned on me and told me how rude I was. I got defensive, lord knows why, because he was absolutely right. I apologised but it was too late, I’d lost some goodwill and was left feeling wretched for the rest of the day.

The irony of course is that I’m trying to teach my daughter not to be so sensitive to being told off. If I so much as ask her to sit still at the table too often she runs off sobbing (particularly if she knows she’s in the wrong.) How can I teach her not to take things to heart so much when I’m even worse?

I tell you, if I had possessed any tiny notion of how hard this parenting lark would be I would have remained single and celibate for the rest of my days. And here’s me, planning on changing Claire’s mind from being a child-dreader to someone who wants to be a parent. Don’t do it Claire, keep your independence and your sanity! 🙂

As I wrote this, a notification popped up in my Facebook account that my sister had shared a blog post: 10 Facts on Motherhood. The post is so spot on relevant to my day that I had to share it.

Apologies to anyone who got this post without the Claire attachment: I went to the coffee shop after dropping off the kids to finish off the post but couldn’t get on the internet. I have resubmitted the post with the Claire section included. I knew that auto-schedule was going to bite me one day.

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“Hey Claire, how’s it going?”

“Kim, great to hear from you.” Claire settled into the corner of the faded sofa, ready for a long chat with her oldest friend.

“How is your Have Helly Hansens Will Travel life going?” Her voice sparkled like sunlight on the sea. “When did you last shave your legs?”

Claire’s shout of laughter caused a couple fiercely focused on their Scrabble game to look up momentarily. She smiled apologetically at them and laughed again more quietly. “This morning, actually. Our room is en-suite and Josh left as soon as we checked in to go stomp his teenage-angst out on the hills.”

There was a loaded pause before Kim shrieked down the phone. “Oh. My. God. Who is Josh, why are you sharing a room, where are you staying? Teenage angst? Have you shacked up with a younger man? En-suite? Don’t tell me you’ve given up already and checked into a hotel. You’ve only been gone a week. Tell me, tell me!”

Claire put the phone back to her ear as Kim finished talking and spoke thoughtfully. “Has it really only been a week?” She tried to count back to her arrival in Berwick but realised she wasn’t completely sure what day of the week it was. “Is it Friday today?”

“No, it’s Saturday, and you’re evading the question.”

“Which one?” Claire chuckled.

“All of them.”

Claire paused, letting her friend stew in her conjecture a little while longer before letting out a giggle. “Your ability to jump to the furthest conclusion is astounding. I’m staying at Ninebanks, a lovely hostel somewhere between Newcastle and Carlisle. Josh is an Aussie guy I met in the Kielder youth hostel who is travelling along with me for a while because I have a car. He is probably my age but is currently acting like he’s twelve. It appears most YHA hostel rooms are en-suite and has it really only been a week? It feels like a month.”

“Phew, thanks for the update. You had me worried. So, are you enjoying it then? You sound very relaxed, more than I’ve heard you sound for a long time.”

Claire was surprised at Kim’s observation. I don’t feel very relaxed. My boss is trying to hound me out, I’m sharing bunk-beds with a bloke I met two days ago and Michael keeps dangling himself tantalisingly in reach like a chilled bottle of bubbly.

She looked around the small hostel lounge, taking in the couple near the wood-burner still grappling with unknown seven-letter words. The only people who knew where she was were Josh and now Kim. It was, she decided, quite a nice feeling.

“I guess I am pretty chilled. The hardest part is deciding what to do every day. I try to have a plan but I keep getting scuppered by events outside my control. Some of the hostels aren’t open in the winter and now it turns out the lead mine isn’t either.”

“Lead mine? Seriously? Surely a diamond mine is more your style?”

“Last time I checked there weren’t too many diamond mines in Northumberland. I am working you know Kim. I need Blog Fodder every day. There are only so many things you can say about the floral duvet covers and the colour of the en-suite tiles. I’ll be damned if I’m going to shadow Josh in his current mood. Besides, I’m tired of hiking.”

“You’ve been hiking? Your idea of exercise is lifting a G&T to your lips and then working off the calories in an insane spinning class.”

“I love you too Kim.” For some reason the words, despite their truth, made Claire feel low.

“Sorry hun I wasn’t trying to be mean. I thought you prided yourself on your indoors lifestyle?”

Claire shuffled in her seat and pondered why Kim’s words made her defensive. Who am I trying to fool? Of course she’s right, I don’t fit in this world. I don’t want to fit in this world.

“Ignore me. My old life feels a long way away.” She described what she could see to her friend, trying to share some of the atmosphere of the hostel.

“It sounds great. Maybe Jeff and I should come and meet you at one of your stops. It’s about the only holiday we’ll be able to afford anytime soon.”

Claire paused as she tried to imagine Kim and Jeff in her new environment. It felt odd considering the merging of worlds, although not as strange as the idea of one of her work colleagues appearing amid all the faded furniture.

Lucky none of them would be seen dead here.

“Sure, why not. There aren’t many hostels near Cambridge but when I’m a bit further south we can see when you’re free. Anyway, tell me about Puck. How’s it all going?”

Claire settled deeper into the sofa and listened to Kim’s tales of her life treading the boards. She realised it was the first time in ages they had gossiped on the phone. Usually she was too busy working or socialising or sleeping to catch up with friends. Chuckling at Kim’s anecdotes Claire rested her head on a cushion and thought maybe she could get used to her new life.

***

Lincoln Longwools, Illness and Ikea: 2013 365 Challenge #37

Aaron posing for the camera

Aaron posing for the camera

We are a house of ill. Son has a temperature of 38.8C (I think that’s around 102F), daughter screams every time we go near her with her medicine and I’m coughing like a seal every thirty seconds.

The only option today was to divide and conquer. That’s what we call it when we take a child each. One is so much easier than two because you only have to follow one rambling non-sequitur laden conversation instead of two. So husband took daughter to Ikea (lucky them!) and I took my son to Sacrewell Farm.

Running for the muddy puddle

Running for the muddy puddle

Followers of this Blog will know I love our local Farm. I call the feeling I get when I’m there Farm Calm. Today was no different. Despite a hacking cough, an icy wind, and a tired and poorly boy we managed a lovely two hours under blue skies. Aaron was even brave enough to feed Humby Keith – a Lincoln Longwool Ram with a very loud baa.

It was just as well we went early as it has been snowing/sleeting/hailing/raining all afternoon.

A happy boy to be at the Farm

A happy boy at the Farm

Husband came back from his road trip with the usual Ikea extras – a new ball for the dog (she loves the soft footballs they sell but does tend to chew them up), cutlery, some gadget for the wardrobe and chocolate. He did at least also come back with the expedit unit he went for!

A more surprising thing he came back with was a thought for something to do with Claire.

“She should take part in Race for Life”.

Humby Keith with the loud baaaaaa

Humby Keith with the loud baaaaaa

Great idea. It fits into her personal growth nicely so will definitely plot that in for May or whenever it happens wherever she is at that point! That’s if I’m still writing the story by then.

The daily blog is definitely taking its toll. I am trying to remember we are a house full of illness and flux, with husband’s lack of job sending ripples across everything else. It feels like me spending 2-3 hours a day on the laptop is the root cause of the kids’ tantrums and anxiety but it’s probably as much to do with none of us knowing where we are on any given day. Hopefully things like my son’s terrible Separation Anxiety (I can’t leave the room at the moment without him screaming) and daughter’s feelings of being unloved will improve when we can put some structure back in their lives.

I hope it happens soon for all our sakes, especially Claire’s!

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Claire looked at the flashing phone, trying to decide whether to ignore it. She and Josh had left for Ninebanks, the next hostel on Claire’s list, early that morning and the journey had been swift and painful. Since their brief conversation about photos the night before Josh had done little more than utter monosyllabic sounds like a sullen teenager. They had booked another twin room and Josh hadn’t made a single suggestive comment about the double bed that formed the bottom of the bunk. When he pulled on his boots and muttered something about going for a walk Claire waved him off with all the relief of a mother on the first day of term.

The phone continued to flash silently, dragging her eye from the accusing stare of the iPad. She reached over to check who was calling and saw only the word International. Her heart plummeted. The only person she knew that went overseas was Michael. Well he can just sod off. Stalker. She reached to hit reject but made a sudden decision to connect the call. If I don’t face him sooner or later I’m going to need a restraining order.

“Hello?”

“Claire?” Harsh tones boomed down the phone and into her brain. She ignored the surge of disappointment that it wasn’t Michael and took a moment to place the owner of the angry voice. She hadn’t heard it for a while.

“Robert? Long-time no speak, brother mine. To what do I owe this unexpected pleasure?”

“This is not a social call.”

Claire tried not to laugh. Her brother sounded like a posh TV detective come to arrest the pretty protagonist. “Then why are you calling? You never call, is your Skype broken?”

“I did not want to risk Francesca overhearing my conversation. It is not for sensitive ears.”

Has he taken to perusing Gothic novels? I thought I was the one reading bad literature to pass the time.

Suppressing a sigh Claire settled back as best she could in the uncomfortable chair and gazed at the flickering of the wood-burner. When it became clear Robert was not going to add any more she inhaled through her nose and asked the obvious question.

“What isn’t for sensitive ears, Robert? And since when was Francesca sensitive? Judging by some of the stories she told on that hen do you made me go on she could give Frankie Boyle a run for his money.”

“I have no idea who Frankie Boy is…”

“…Boyle.”

“And I don’t appreciate being interrupted, thank you.”

“Robert you’re my brother, not my father.” Claire fought against the teenager she could feel rising within and lost. “Just spit out whatever stupid reason you have for calling and get out of my head, I’m trying to work.”

“Ha! Work. Is that what you’re calling it? Debauching with strangers, singing and dancing drunk in a bar, hanging upside-down from trees flashing your flesh for the world to see. It is not what I would call work. Nor is it the behaviour I expect from a member of my family. I have a position to uphold and you posting half-naked pictures of yourself across the Web – on LinkedIn! – is the outside of enough.”

Claire hit mute on the phone halfway through her brother’s rant so she could laugh without restraint. Tears streamed down her face. She was hiccupping with mirth when he finished and she was forced to turn the sound back on. In her mind she saw the picture that had got her brother so upset. The one Josh had taken of her the day before on their double hike of Hadrian’s Wall. After Josh had climbed the wall and posed for the camera she had found herself needing to go one better. School-girl gymnastics came to her aid and she’d managed to shimmy up the sycamore tree and hang from one of the branches like it was an A-Symmetric bar. Her coat had obeyed the laws of gravity and she recalled a few inches of frozen flesh creeping out into the chill winter’s day.

Eventually Claire stopped snorting tears and managed to compose herself enough to respond to her brother. She could imagine his increasing wrath at her laughter but that only whipped the flames hotter.

“Is that why you called? To tell me off like a first year caught skiving class? I had a hard enough time following in your prim and prudish footsteps at school Robert. You are not going to rule my life from Geneva. If my blog offends you don’t read it. Who, besides you, is going to know we are related? My name isn’t even on the blog.”

“Thank goodness for small mercies. What the hell does Sally’s Cat mean as an author’s name anyway? Mother tells me this is your job now and that you’ve left AJC. Sounds like a suicidal career move to me.”

“I’m amazed Mum got even that much right for all she listened while I was there. I haven’t left AJC, they’re still paying me my normal salary. Not that it’s any business of yours. I am working on an assignment to promote healthy living on behalf of the YHA and Coca Cola. If I’m managing to have a bit of fun while I do it it’s more than you’ve ever managed in your entire Head Boy career.”

She heard the rush of air as her brother sucked his breath in through his teeth. Her mouth spread wide in an unholy grin. She loved getting under Robert’s skin. It was so easy yet so very satisfying. She waited for him to speak, picturing his face contorting as he tried to respond without swearing.

“If you have nothing else to add Robert I’ll say goodbye. My blog isn’t going to write itself. I haven’t decided yet whether I’m going to go to Gaol or down a Lead Mine to explore the locality. I’ll be sure to keep my clothes on either way. It is winter here after all.”

Robert muttered a barely-civil farewell and hung up the phone.

Well if I’ve managed to irritate Robert I must be doing something right.

Claire closed down her blank blog page and brought up “Things to do in Ninebanks”. Mentally she reworded it “Things to annoy your eldest sibling”.

That shouldn’t be hard.

***