So I am on the last minute picking Bobbie up from nursery again. ‘Don’t be the last one there, please don’t be the last one there… again,’ I repeat to myself as I hop up and down on the door step.
The door swings open to Jenny, Bobbie’s key – worker giving me that ‘tut – tut, it’s one minute past six,’ look that I’ve come to recognize so well.
‘Sorry,’ I begin, instinctively, ‘got held up at…’ but Jenny couldn’t give a Castlemaine XXXX if I’d been held up at work or at gun point. She wants to go home. Bobbie is overwhelmed with gladness to see me. ‘Daddy, daddy, daddy,’ she shrieks down my ear – hole, accidentally headbutting me as I pick her up to give her a kiss.
‘She’s had two poos,’ says Jenny.
She looks at me like I’m a moron.
‘One of them got stuck.’ She wrinkles her nose up in distaste, ‘it was massive.’
‘Sorry ’bout that,’ I say, unsure quite why I’m apologising. After all it’s not like I took a shit. Jenny is probably 19 years old and has an NVQ in childcare. I am 35. I have two degrees, I am an assistant head of a large science department in a secondary school. I am married, have two kids, a mortgage, two cars, a dog.
I am terrified of Jenny.
Anyway, I tell myself, trudging down the path with Bobbie squirming under one arm and the car seat under the other, Jenny’s shift doesn’t finish until 6.30, don’t know what she’s got to be so huffy about.
Let’s be clear: Jenny hasn’t actually said anything judgmental, or even huffed. What she actually said was, ‘Bye – bye Bobbie. Have a great weekend!’ But she said it in a way that meant, ‘fuck off and don’t be late again next week.’
We push through the front door of our house, literally pushing it against a pile of junk mail, shoes, parts of a pram, an umbrella stand. Our front room looks bomb damaged. I sweep some stuff off the sofa so we can sit down.
Bobbie’s favourite episode of Peppa Pig is teed up and ready to go. I prepare to do the Friday night slump. Bobbie loves this little ritual of ours. ‘Daddy fall over, Daddy fall over,’ she shrieks with glee.
I stand about three feet from the sofa with my back to it. Check behind for clearance. Bobbie claps her hands excitedly, ‘go on Daddy, go on.’ I let all 6 foot three inches of my sixteen and a half stone frame fall backwards. One of these days this thing is going to collapse is the last thought that flashes through my head as my body impacts with the decaying leather sofa. A loud crack and a partial collapse of the sofa indicates that today is that day.
Bobbie launches herself onto my lap causing the sofa to subside a little more. ‘Mummy is going to be so pissed at you,’ I tell her. Bobbie gives me a sweet smile and giggles.
‘Pig?’ she says, pointing at the telly. I have found a compilation on YouTube that has about 4 and a half hours of Peppa Pig episodes strung together. Who uploads this stuff? And why? I mean, what’s in it for them?
Who cares. It will keep Bobbie quiet for approximately six minutes of those 4 and a half hours. The theme tune kicks in but my eyes have already started to close. I hear Daddy Pig’s mellifluous baritone drifting through my dream: ‘It can’t rain for ever,’ he says.
I want to scold him for his hubris. Oh you silly, rotund porcine. Don’t you know not to tempt fate like that?
And suddenly I am dragged from slumber like a drowning man pulled from a warm pool of mud and thrown into a freezing shower.
‘Ludek – wake up!’
It is Annie, my wife. My senses are instantly tuned and on red alert. Something is up. I detect a certain wildness about Annie. Her eyes seem to be saying, ‘Fucking get up. Quick!’
The front door is still open. Gretchen, my step daughter is almost certainly dawdling, gazing up at the stars or writing rude words in the dirt on my car. It is freezing. ‘Close that bloody door…’ I am about to shout when I become aware that the living room is pulsating with a feverish blue light.
Bobbie’s little face is a picture of confusion. She looks at me. ‘It’s the Police,’ Annie says, bottom lip wobbling, ‘they’re here. They want to talk to you about something.’