Typical Friday meltdown part 3…

‘Look after your sister,’ I tell Gretchen and I go to hunt for the insurance documents in a pile of stuff, well, it’s more of a sizable mound of stuff on top of the Welsh dresser.

‘The pile’ (it has a name) has a permanent home on top of the Welsh dresser. The Welsh dresser is neither Welsh, nor a dresser. I don’t know how to describe what the Welsh dresser is in terms of its’ design, or indeed, its’ intended function. It’s kind of a tall, deep, white box that stands on legs. We bought in the sale from Ikea about 18 months ago and having neither drawers nor shelving and being too deep to reach the bottom of without climbing into, it is possibly the most impractical object we own.

It cost and arm and a leg and ironically one of its’ legs is broken so it lists quite heavily to one side, meaning that any object placed on top of it will slide towards the wall where it irrevocably becomes part of  ‘the pile’.

The pile has been with us for as long as the Welsh dresser has. From the moment we brought the Welsh dresser home it began to gather bits of paperwork, odd socks, bits of plastic stuff (the kind of thing that is left over in the box after you’ve assembled a piece of flat pack furniture but doesn’t seem to be indicated in the instructions anywhere), pamphlets, books, magazines, ties, bras, combs, unpaired gloves, pregnancy tests, a variety of chargers and adapters, school reports, recipes clipped from the Sunday lifestyle supplements. As much as the Welsh dresser attracts the kind of items that can only be classified as ‘stuff’, its’ gravitational field seeming to exert a particularly potent effect on the subcategory of stuff labelled ‘crap’, in some way it also acts as a repository for our failed aspirations.

The reason the pile is home to so many clippings from The Times Magazine about pilates, or the benefits of swimming, which are the best colours to paint a hallway with no natural light and how to make a magical tagine to go with sweet potatoes, is because we cut them out and place them on a vast to – do list, which is kind of what ‘the pile’ is. It’s where good intentions go to die. Whenever a piece of correspondence, such as a letter relating to a recently expired car insurance policy, is placed on ‘the pile’, what the person placing it there is saying is, ‘I firmly intend to deal with you, soon.’

‘You got it yet?’ says Annie dashing through the door.

‘I think it’s in here somewhere,’ I say looking at ‘the pile’.

She looks at me uncertainly. ‘Well he’s getting pretty insistent.’

‘Do you want to invite him in for a cuppa whilst I start looking?’

All hope drains from her eyes. ‘I’ll just have to accept the fine then,’ she says, throwing her arms up.

I nod, resigned to this. ‘How much?’

‘Three hundred quid.’

‘Fuck that,’ I say. ‘Go and stall him.’

The pile was quite benign at first but turned malignant, starting to metastasise other rooms in the house. There are offshoots of the pile in the kitchen, the downstairs toilet, several surfaces in the living room have semi – permanent piles of their own and every drawer you open has versions of the pile.

The insurance documents could be anywhere in the main tumor of the pile or in one of its matastases.

Two minutes later and Annie’s back. ‘He gave me the fine,’ she says flatly. Her eyes are ringed with black smudges of mascara. She looks like she’s just come in from an Alice Cooper gig. ‘And six points on my licence.’

‘Shit,’ I say, ‘when do we have to pay the fine by?’

‘I don’t know Ludek. I don’t care either. I’m fed up with this.’ She stomps upstairs.

‘Shall I make you a cup of tea?’

A door slams and is followed by the sound of Annie flinging herself onto the bed. There is a short hysterical scream, and then silence.

‘It’s not my fault,’ I shout, to no response. The kids and I stand at the bottom of the stairs listening for a while.

‘Is mum mad?’ asks Gretchen.

‘I don’t think so, really,’ I say, ‘I think she’s probably just tired.’

‘Is she going to prison?’

‘Only if we’re very lucky.’

Gretchen doesn’t laugh at this. She walks off into the living room and quietly pushes the door to behind her.

Bobby has stopped crying now. She hugs my leg and I pat her on the head to reassure her. She sighs loudly.

‘Done a poo poo in my nappy,’ she says.

 

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Typical Friday meltdown part 2…

‘Shut that bloody door!’ I shout out of sheer panic, just as an officer in a high – viz jacket steps into the living room, radio crackling. I marshal my facial features into an expression which I hope says a mixture of:

  1. Is there a problem here officer?
  2. There is nothing you can book me for, literally nothing (I am at least 45% certain of that)
  3. I haven’t just woken up. Honest.

‘It’s about the car insurance,’ says Annie, biting her bottom lip.

The lawman is looking around the living room. ‘Please don’t look at our living conditions,’ I want to say but my mouth is just moving. I try to force a sound out.

‘It’s actually you that we want to speak to miss,’ he says to my wife.

Annie gives me a look that says, ‘Please swap bodies with me.’

‘The insurance is with Hastings Direct,’ I tell him, hedging my bets. It could be with any of the major insurers but I have seen a Hastings advert recently; probably in between episodes of Peppa Pig.

‘If you could get the documents…’ he says to me and walks off to the patrol car parked on the drive. ‘Could you come with me please miss?’

Annie gives me a panicked look over her shoulder mouthing, ‘Is it insured?’

‘Hope so,’ I mouth back, as reassuringly as one can when mouthing the word ‘hope’ to one’s spouse who is being ushered into the back of a police car.

This doesn’t inspire confidence in Annie who starts to cry. This is fucking embarassing, I think.

‘Naughty man?’ asks Bobbie.

‘Is mummy being arrested?’ asks Gretchen.

‘I don’t know,’ I say to myself. Realising I have said this aloud I reassure the kids, ‘No. Definitely not,’ I say, ‘definitely not.’

This has the exact opposite effect from what was intended. Gretchen’s eyes well with tears.

‘Naughty man? Mummy go naughty man?’ asks Bobbie, a note of confusion evident in her tiny voice.

‘Erm…’ I say, not reassuringly.

Gretchen has started to cry properly now. When I say cry, what I actually mean is howl. I should say something about Gretchen’s crying at this point. She is 8 years old now and to my mind should have knocked all this crying malarkey on the head a long time ago. Recently though she has redoubled her endeavors in this field.

She has adopted a technique of throwing her head back, opening her mouth wide, scrunching her eyes up until the first tear comes (which can take up to half a minute to achieve) and then letting out a sound akin to a Vulcan bomber taking off.

The Vulcan bomber is now revving its’ engines. To this cacophony Bobbie now adds her own falsetto cheeping. ‘Mummy, mummy, mummy…’ she goes.

‘Don’t worry my darlings,’ I say, but the gentle tone I adopt in these situations is lost in the din of screaming and wailing.

From the kitchen window we can see Annie in the back of the patrol car, the loose bun in her hair waggling around when she variously nods and shakes her head. There is more shaking than nodding, which is concerning.

The patrol car still has its’ flashing lights on. I note that in the houses opposite neighbours have also come to their windows. I wave to Duncan and Mandy across the road; a gestured designed to let them know that this is all fine, just a mix – up, nothing to worry about. At all. But they don’t see me. Either that or they’re pretending they haven’t seen me. Or, alternatively,  they hate me, and this is the confirmation they were waiting for that I am a social deviant and someone they wouldn’t want to be associated with. Come to think of it, that would explain why they do seem to avoid me.

 

 

Typical Friday meltdown part 1…

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.

‘Great.’

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.’