Ideas and Interviews: 2013 365 Challenge #73

Old meets New in the City

Old meets New in the City

Sometimes you have to get out your comfort zone to realise how comfortable it is. I actually missed the kids today, even though I enjoyed my London adventure.

I also felt like I was on some kind of research mission for a character not yet born. Not Claire, Helen, Lucy, Annalie or Rebecca.

Someone new.

Someone who, like me, tries to return to work after being at home with the kids for years and finds it all a bit different to what she remembers.

A comedy, definitely.

There will be an incident where she goes into Pret a Manger to buy tea and a sandwich, forgets to say ‘dine in’ and is too embarrassed to confess. She’ll end up heading out into the winter’s day instead of eating her avacado, crayfish and rocket bloomer snug in the warm cafe. She may wander the City streets surrounded by suits, carrying a cup of tea she’s dying to drink, desperately seeking a bench. In the snow. With her hands red-raw and freezing.

She may squat in the lee of a building next to the sneaky smokers, drain her cup of tea in one long gulp while feeling as self-conscious as a pink hippo, then head for Costa. She might go to the Ladies to scoff half a sandwich before buying a second cup of tea, then sit with the other half of the sandwich in her bag calling out to her rumbling tummy.

Lunch with Daddy

Lunch with Daddy

She’ll feel nervous to be back in London again and be slightly bemused by the new buildings. The fact that they’ve completely rebuilt Kings Cross will leave her flumoxed. She’ll get lost trying to find her platform with only minutes to catch the train home and really want to stop and take a picture when she spots Platform 9 3/4 as she runs for the escalator. She’ll resist and board the train as the doors close with a hiss, praying it’s the right one.

She’ll sit on the train home feeling like a real person for the first time in years, tapping away at her laptop and watching as the weather changes from blizzard to sunshine to blizzard again every few miles. She’ll wonder how the kids got on with Daddy and look at the picture he sent of them having lunch at Tesco.

Maybe she’ll call home and hear that they’re all snuggled on the sofa watching Peter Pan, having had a brilliant day at the park, and feel that maybe they didn’t miss her much at all. Until her daughter says “Miss you Mummy” and makes her all choked up and grateful.

She’ll sit, watching the world whiz by out the window, feeling the blissful space and distance away from the family home and feel torn between wanting to be a Mummy and wanting to be a normal functioning productive wage-earning adult again.

That might all happen in my next book. 😉

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Claire felt a sharp sting as a hand slapped her on the bum, followed by a loud guffawed as she squealed in surprise.

“Come on love, they’ll be waiting for us at the bus.”

Claire felt a strong desire to kick downwards and boot the source of the taunting voice on the noise. Taking a deep breath she conquered the impulse and poured her anger into her voice. “Get your hands off me. I’m stuck.” She tried to turn and glare at the offensive man trying to shove her through solid rock but she couldn’t move her head more than a few inches. Actually I’m quite glad he made me cross, it gives me something else to think about other than coffins and closed spaces and what they’re going to do if I really am stuck. Her mouth felt dry and she could feel her heartbeat begin to quicken as the sensation of immobility seeped through her consciousness.

“You’re not stuck love, you just need to wiggle those hips. Too many pies is it?”

“I am not fat. How dare you?” Claire wrenched herself forward until her shoulders were free. The sound of tearing cloth filled the tight space.

“Nah you’re not fat love, you’ve got a nice arse. Got you moving though, didn’t it?” He sniggered as he nimbly clambered through the rock behind her.

Now I know why they call it weaselling. Not only do you have to have the agility of a rat in a drainpipe, the instructors are all weasels too.

“You’re lucky none of the teachers can hear you talking like that.” Claire spat the words over her shoulder as she wriggled through the crevice towards the chink of daylight at the end.

“No chance of that, they’re miles ahead. You know you’re being shown up by a bunch of kids?”

“They’re smaller than me; of course they can get through. Besides, kids are bendier.”

“What about the teachers, they all whisked through quick enough.”

He chuckled and Claire could hear the goad in his voice. She thought about retaliating that most teachers were skinny because everyone knew they were a day away from a nervous breakdown, never mind being poor as church mice, whatever that meant. She decided the trek leader wasn’t worth her ire and concentrated instead on getting through the narrow fissure in the rock without losing any more skin. Her hands were raw and she could feel a graze on her cheek from when she slipped and fell against the rock at the beginning, much to the amusement of the gaggle of brats in her group.

“Why did you want to come with a bunch of kids anyway?”

The trek instructor seemed to read her mind. Claire thought about telling the truth: that she’d been double-dared by her boss’s PA to go weaseling and had discovered the only way to go was to join a school party. Sod that. Makes me sound like a right muppet. As she dug her chipped nails into the crumbling rock, trying to pull herself forward before she got slapped on the bum again, a nasty idea popped into Claire’s mind.

“I’m an undercover journalist, investigating malpractice by tour guides and trek leaders. You know, inappropriate behaviour, hazardous practices, unsafe equipment.”

She giggled quietly as she heard Pete the trek guide suck air through his teeth at her words.

“You knew I was mucking about, like, when I slapped you and said you had a nice bottom? You won’t report me? I need this job. I’d never do that to one of the children.”

He sounded genuinely concerned and Claire felt a stab of guilt. She let him sweat a moment longer then, with as much reassurance as she could put in her voice while wedged in a tight crevice, said “don’t be silly. I was winding you up. I am a writer but not a journalist. I have a blog and I’m meant to do loads of outdoor stuff to please my boss.”

There was a pause and Claire wondered if Pete would be offended or see the funny side. She suspected he wasn’t sure how to react either and felt a bit sick at the thought of being cruel. It was below the belt I guess.

“I am sorry. You pissed me off that’s all.”

“That’s okay. I deserved it. I shouldn’t have wound you up. It was just nice to have a bit of a laugh. You have to be so careful around the youngsters.”

“I don’t know how you do it.” Claire pulled herself through the gap and crawled out onto a ledge, glad to be able to stand vertically for the first time in half an hour. She squinted her eyes against the sudden brightness and tried to see how far ahead the school party were. She wasn’t in a hurry to catch up. “Just spending the morning on the bus with them was enough.”

“Ah they’re alright. All full of lip and nonsense at this age. Give me ten-year-olds to teenagers any day.”

Ten, fifteen, five? They’re all the same. You can keep the lot of them with my blessing.

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