Lost in Ikea…

ikea-map

I have long been a fan of the ‘heroic age’ of exploration: Mallroy and Irvine, Captain Scott, Ernest Shackleton, Ray Mears. These names echo through the ages. Finding the Poles and Everest somewhat inaccessible I have conducted some of my own, more modest, but nonetheless equally perilous, expeditions through modern life. Here I bring you my experiences and some advice for fellow explorers.

The map on first glance is not overly complicated though the ‘find your way in the Self Serve Furniture Area’ diagram looks like a schematic of a nuclear reactor.

The more you wander the show room though, the more the map starts to take on the appearance of a diabolical maze. The clean, ordered white lines of the Showroom and Market Hall diagrams, and the gently meandering dotted white line that marks out your seamless progress through the store, bears no relation to the reality of the situation you find yourself in when ‘on the ground’.

Upon arrival in the entrance foyer you are immediately presented with a scene reminiscent of the American withdrawal from Saigon, minus the helicopters. The flow of humanity through the seemingly haphazardly arranged layout of the store presses you onward. No beating against the tide here. Missed the stylish chrome towel rail you saw on their website last night? Can’t find that discounted storage unit that you thought would be in the ‘bedroom area’ but wasn’t? Thinking of turning back for a second look? Forget it.

I turned back, like a salmon seeking it’s spawning ground. I decided to swim against the tide to locate a desktop lamp that I thought would look nice on our kitchen table. The name of the item was a string of vowels, some with umlauts hovering over them, no consonants, which made pronunciation inadvisable. Asking for help was rendered futile. ‘Are you looking for the Äeoiae or the Øöeaüo?’

I saw grown men weeping.

Advice for fellow explorers

Items to pack for your journey:

  • Tamazepan or Valium and/or sizable hip flask containing spirits depending on the length of stay.
  • Mindfulness colouring book and pencils in case things really do get testing.
  • Compass, in case you find that the map you pick up at the entrance doesn’t match the layout of the store (as I did). I had to escape through a ventilation duct.
  • Credit card: just as the 1921 expedition members to Everest found the silent whiteness of the ice – bound world they discovered powerfully alluring, deciding to go back several times until most of them were dead, so will you find the siren call of cheap, minimalist Swedish designed furniture difficult to resist.

 

 

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Review: Marie and Me, The KonMari method

Every week I try a different self – help guide’s life advice. Here’s how I got on with Marie Kondo.

Here’s the thing with me and Marie: at first everything was great between us. There was the initial excitement of a new relationship, the butterflies in the stomach every time I opened ‘The Life – Changing Magic of Tidying,’ counting down the seconds until I could get home from work to be with her. Then there was the physical stuff: tearing our clothes off the shelves, arranging our cups in the cup drawer, folding our socks – all the usual ‘new relationship stuff’. After that though, things fizzled out a bit between us.

Don’t get me wrong, Marie’s a great girl. She’s upbeat (relentlessly), she’s organised (goes with the territory really), I mean – she’d never forget to remind you it was your mum’s birthday. And she’s got a great sense of humour too, I think. When she’s in the mood she can say some pretty funny things, possibly unintentionally, but nevertheless – she’s entertaining company. And she smiles – a lot.

But that’s kind of the thing really. You could never take Marie down the pub to meet your mates. You’d always be a bit concerned she might say something odd. Robbo’s pulled a muscle playing footie for instance. Marie’s advice is along the lines of: ‘a firm but gentle massage by human hands does more to loosen knotted muscles that being pummelled by a massage machine.’

Fair play you think. Nothing too controversial in that. ‘The energy that flows from the person’s hands into our skin seems to heal both body and soul,’ she continues. She’s had a fair bit to drink  by this point: ‘The same is true for our clothes.’

Sorry? What was that Marie? ‘When we take our clothes in our hands and fold them neatly, we are, I believe, transmitting energy…’ and on she goes.

And then there’s the jealously to deal with. My wife Annie was well and truly sick of Marie by the end of the week. ‘Marie says this, Marie says that… why don’t you just go and bloody well live with bloody Marie bloody Kondo? I mean, where have all my hair grips gone?’

Oh sure though – credit where credit’s due. If Marie’s taught me one thing I’ll take away from this it’s that focusing on what you want to keep and the joy that those items bring you is more important than the tidiness aspect of it all. Just don’t let the lads here me saying that.

With less stuff to sift through I spend less time worrying about what to wear, which shoes go with which shirt, whether the lime green cords really go with anything. I’ve kept a few shirts and jeans that just go with each other and to hell with it.

We ‘Kondoed’ the kitchen and the bedrooms and the house feels fresher. We threw away enough paper work to build and igloo out of and about a dumper truck full of crappy plastic toys. That bit felt liberating. Now that we’re liberated and the house is very spartan it could, ironically, pass for the interior of an East Berlin condominium circa 1978. It feels a bit cold without all our old stuff.

On the plus side. Now that we’ve got nothing left we’ll need to go shopping. Just for some essentials. And I love a good shopping spree.

Next week my self – help binge continues with Paul Arden’s ‘It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be.’

Charity Shopper #1

Charity shopper is a weekly blog post. The rules are that I have to visit a charity shop every week and purchase something from it. I cannot leave the shop without making a purchase and I must use the purchase at least once. I will report every week on what I buy.

It’s more fun if you play at home: if you would like to be next week’s Charity Shopper all you have to do is contact me on twitter @TmhoLudek or email: themagichappinessof@gmail.com with details of what you’ve purchased and be able to answer some simple questions about why you bought it (otherwise I’ll just do it again!).

Date: Sunday 31.01.2016

Shop: British Heart Foundation, 11 Goodramgate, York YO1 7LW

Purchase: 1 plain black T – Shirt

Cost: £1.50

black t shirt

Why did you purchase it?

A plain black T -shirt is the timeless uniform of the existential rebel. Think Marlon Brando in The Wild One.

Wasn’t he wearing a white T – shirt in that film?

Well if you’re splitting hairs then: Gregory Fitoussi

Who?

Tsk! French actor described as the ‘heart throb du – jour’ by The Times.

Ooh la la!

Indeed… on the cover of last week’s Times Magazine he looks effortlessly cool in black T – shirt, black jeans and brown boots. See also: David Beckham stepping out in his recent acting bow playing ‘The Stranger’ in the Belstaff promotional film Outlaws.

You mean the ‘surreal film within a film’ where Becks plays a ‘motorcycle stuntman, haunted by memories of a beautiful trapeze artist’?

Umm, I think that’s the one.

Bit highbrow for our Becks isn’t it?

He’s reinvented himself of late: no longer a footballer – now a cultural icon, a brooding biker in black leather, stubbly with goodness, as Phillip Larkin might have put it.

I imagine a universe where Phillip Larkin might take any kind of interest in David Beckham’s stubble but it is difficult to sustain the fantasy.

Perhaps…

A bit of a boring purchase to kick things off though isn’t?

Not at all. It’s achingly stylish. Haven’t you heard of normcore?

Normcore?

Psssh! Have you been living under a rock? It’s a term coined by ‘New York trend agency K – Hole,’ to quote Vogue, (which I do always) that means absent of labels or adornment, basic and functional. Think unbranded Fruit of the Loom sweatshirts, black plimsolls, Primark jeans and you’re somewhere close.

You’re so normcore.

Thank – you. But seriously – in a busy world where stressed out twenty – somethings are consumed by work and Twitter and sharing picture of cats licking their balls on Instagram normcore is a look that makes sense.

How so?

Let me draw your attention to Daniel Levitin’s Sunday Times bestseller ‘The Organized Mind’. Levitin argues that in a digital age we have too much information and too many decisions to make which leads to a lack of attention and feelings of being overwhelmed.

Sorry, what? I was just checking my Facebook… someone tagged me in a picture of a cat licking it’s… Hang on, what does this have to do with your black t – shirt?

Well making decisions about what clothes to wear can take time and mental reserves which detracts from time spent on more important decisions. Think Marc Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs: both sport a normcore uniform which takes little thought or time to assemble.

Blimey, I wasn’t counting on all this…

Well, you asked.

Normcore fashion

Charity Shopper continues next week.

Talking shop: conversations overheard

I work Saturdays in a shop on H____ Road in Hull. Let’s call the shop Oddbury’s. Every Saturday I write down the funny things I hear. These are real conversations with real people about the things they’re buying and what they mean to them. Names have been changed to protect people’s identities. Paul is my co – worker.

Sat 30th Jan 2016 2:15pm Malcolm 53, unemployed and Paul 59, shop assistant

Scottish Malcolm: You got any Christmas lights?

Paul: Blimey, you’re getting organised early.

Scottish Malcolm: What for?

Paul: (Puzzled) Well, Christmas.

Scottish Malcolm: Nah, cannae stand Christmas.

Paul: oh?

Scottish Malcolm: Hate it!

Paul: how’s that?

Scottish Malcolm: (sniffs) Just cannae. You got those lights or what?

Paul: got some in the back. Wait here.

Scottish Malcolm: Be quick.

Paul (returning): Got these ones – different colours, light up, flash in different ways, you can have them fast or slow flashing or twinkling. What d’you want with Christmas lights if you don’t like Christmas?

Scottish Malcolm: They’re ‘cos ma wife’s comin’ home t’day.

Paul: she been on holiday?

Scottish Malcolm: Prison.

Paul: oh.

Scottish Malcolm: Domestic violence towards the dog. But she’s OK now.

Paul: she like Christmas?

Scottish Malcolm: Nah. Ah’m gonna make a love heart in lights above the bed. So she can look at it. While were f***kin’ like.

Paul: right you are.

Malcolm says about his purchase: I’ve missed my wife while she’s been inside. It’s been tough for both of us but I’ve not been able to visit her as much as I’d like. I haven’t been with anyone else like. I just couldn’t afford the bus up there every week. We’ve had our ups and downs, what married couple hasn’t? But I’m going to buy some rose petals and sprinkle them on the bed and with these lights in a nice love – heart shape I think she’ll see I love her. I need a nail gun from B&Q and then I’m off home to put them up. Maybe she won’t batter me for not coming to see her! The Christmas lights are going in the bin if I don’t get any action tonight.

Clear out confidential…

So it’s time to embark on ‘Kondoing’ our home but there’s a stumbling block already. We’ve decided that clothes are the Achilles heal of our tidiness problem so following Marie Kondo’s advice to work on one category at a time we’re starting with a whole scale clear out of our clothes.

ugg boots 2

My initial skepticism about the KonMari method overcome I am enthusiastically ditching my clothes by the bin – bag full. The vile lime green and black checked Burberry shirt – does it ‘spark joy’ KonMari asks? Presumably it did around 15 years ago when I paid £215 for it at Birmingham Bullring but I have worn it a handful of times and it has languished in a early – noughties ghetto in my wardrobe for a decade and a half. I feel a small tug at the heartstrings as I pitch it into the bin bag but as soon as it disappears inside the guilty feeling is replaced by a strangely vertiginous rush of euphoria. Turns out that throwing away, donating, disposing, consigning one’s possessions to oblivion is actually quite addictive.

The kids have got in on the act too. Gretchen (who we call G) is sifting through piles of decapitated and limbless barbies, dismembered teddies and broken roller skates. She draws the line at disposing of Mifkin, her 9 year old Steiff bear who, having very little fur left and only one, leering glass eye, is frankly terrifying, . She does, however, consent to have him washed so at least we can rid him of the faint whiff of piss that clings to him. Small steps.

All is going so well until I check on Annie’s progress. She is sat on a vast clothes mountain on our bed, her head only a foot away from the ceiling.

‘How’s it going?’ I ask.

‘Good!’ She is reading a copy of Take a Break magazine. ‘Have you heard about this woman? She didn’t know she had a mouse living in her hair for three months until it fell out one day!’

‘I meant with the clothes. Have you thrown any away yet?’

‘Some. A bikini. A pair of pants with some brown stains on them.’

‘What about these boots?’ I ask.

‘THOSE?!’ She is incredulous. ‘They’re Uggs! They were really expensive. And you bought them for me.’

It’s true, they were, and I did. We got them on our honeymoon in New York. I remember the exact day, the weather, how much fun it was to wander around Manhattan visiting all the shops and how happy we were, high on the euphoria of being newly married and in The Big Apple. If you parachuted me into Central Park tomorrow I could find the exact Ugg shop we purchased those from. Holding them in my hand awakens some of those memories.

But the zip is broken now and in any case, they are pink and Annie hasn’t worn them in the five years she’s owned them because pink doesn’t go with anything she owns.

‘I can get the zip replaced,’ she says, raising her eyebrows in a mock sad expression. I feel like a mean spirited bailiff stripping a penniless woman of her television or something.

‘OK! You can have those,’ she says springing down from the clothes pile, ‘but I am keeping these.’ She clings a vile pair of luminous orange Crocs to her chest as though they were a naked baby.

‘They’re vile Annie.’

‘But they’re mine!’ she says defiantly and flounces out.

Small steps.

 

Life – changing?

If you’ve been following my posts over the past couple of days (which you absolutely should have been) then you’ll know that I’ve set myself the challenge of transforming my life in six key areas:

  1. To be happy(er)
  2. To not be nearly bankrupt
  3. To not feel disorganised
  4. To have more time with my kids
  5. To have time to be creative
  6. To feel physically healthy

I have decided to go on a self – help binge as a way of exploring whether the $11 billion industry really can improve my life in a sustainable way and I invite you all to follow my progress on this blog – wherever it should take me.

To give you a bit of back story in case you haven’t been following this (if you haven’t then where have you been?): one week ago I came home from work expecting a pizza and Netflix and to fall asleep on the sofa only to find that my wife had been pulled by the Police for driving without insurance. Cue a £300 fine, 6 points on her licence and a massive insurance bill.

By the way, as an aside, the back wheel of her car nearly fell off today but that’s a whole other story.

Clearly my life has some scope for improvement so who better to get the ball rolling than Japan’s self proclaimed ‘expert declutterer and professional cleaner’, not to mention multi – million selling organisation guru Marie Kondo?

The Life – Changing Magic of Tidying arrived through the post today and I felt a genuine thrill of excitement at opening it. ‘The Japanese sensation – 3 million copies sold’ proudly trumpets the cover and I am primed and ready to join the ranks of the converted.

I should confess at this point to coming at this self – imposed challenge with some skepticism. ‘After your course, I quit my job and launched my own business doing something I had dreamed of doing ever since I was a child,’ proclaims a satisfied former client of Kondo’s on page 3. Sounds good though it depends what the dream job is. I dreamed of being a fighter pilot and would be stoked if reading The Life – Changing Magic of Tidying could transform my life to such a degree: ‘I went from teaching Science to disaffected teens to fighter pilot months after reading this book. Despite having none of the physical attributes necessary for the role.’

The old adage ‘you get out what you put in,’ applies here though so I press on, resisting the urge to cackle with laughter at: ‘Your course taught me to see what I really need and what I don’t. So I got a divorce,’ and: ‘Someone I have been wanting to get in touch with recently contacted me.’ Presumably the longed for phone call from Michelle Pfeiffer is only a short read away.

‘I finally succeeded in losing three kilos,’ testifies another adherent but it doesn’t specify if that was in body mass or old nail varnish bottles and Happy Meal toys.

Despite all this, and my natural reticence when it comes to self – examination, I have to admit to feeling unduly excited at the prospect of what is, essentially, doing loads of housework. The clean, minimal design of the book cover and short, tidy sentences seem to hint that a life of order and fulfillment lies 240 short pages ahead of me. And watching Marie cheerfully folding socks and undies, who could doubt it?

Play along at home if you have a copy of the book. Let me know your experiences and thoughts if you’ve already done this. Comment, tweet, add me on Facebook.

 

The Magic Happiness of Marie Kondo…

Thanks to everyone for their suggestions on their favourite self – help books. I’ve got a list of 8 titles to get me started. With some degree of inevitability (see my previous posts) by far the largest number of votes was for me to try out Marie Kondo’s ‘KonMari method’.

life changing magic of tidying up

I bought Kondo’s ‘The Life – Changing Magic of Tidying Up’ from Amazon this morning so it should arrive tomorrow (Friday 29th January) and we’ll be ready to go.

In anticipation of its’ arrival here are 6 of the best KonMari quotes that I could find (in the 30min time limit I’ve given myself to blog this):

  1. ‘Do you like talking to furniture? Do you believe shirts have souls? Are you insane? This might be the book for you.’ George Cotronis quoted from http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3263855.George_Cotronis’
  2. Kondo thinks you should treat your socks like tiny people, and that when they’re in your sock drawer, they’re “essentially on holiday”.’ Oliver Burkeman quoted from http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/dec/05/change-your-life-strange-decluttering-advice
  3. May cause death

also from http://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/jan/17/spark-joy-japanese-art-tidying-marie-kondo-digested-read

4.“This book is a cult. A totally reasonable, scary cult that works, doesn’t kill people (a bonus), but does drastically change your life. In this case — for the better.” — Buzzfeed

5. “It seems mundane but I’ve Kondo’d some deodorant that I didn’t like the smell of.” quoted from http://nymag.com/thecut/2015/02/marie-kondo-room-purge.html#

6. “When you put your house in order, you put your affairs and your past in order, too. As a result, you can see quite clearly what you need in life and what you don’t.” Marie Kondo quoted in http://www.wsj.com/articles/marie-kondo-and-the-tidying-up-trend-1424970535

If you’ve Kondo’d your home (or indeed some deodorant) or if you’ve read the book leave me a comment or tweet me @TmhoLudek.

The magic happiness of a self – help binge?

A quick internet search for the term self – help reveals it to be the worlds biggest selling genre. The most commonly quoted figure of the industry’s worth is $11bn, most of it spent in the US admittedly, but the UK is catching up.

Shelf Help packshot shelfAs with most things I am a little behind the curve on this one. I have never read a self – help book or considered myself to be in the target audience for a self – help book. Recently though a new branch of the genre is making waves in the market: the so called ‘intellectually credible’ self – help book. The publishers Penguin assure me that it is OK now, if not even cool, to own books with titles like ‘The Examined Life: How We Lose and Find Ourselves’ . Well why wouldn’t it be you may ask? And I suppose you’re right.

Through their imprint Vintage, Penguin are promoting a series of 10 books they say have the ‘power to make life brighter’.

In response to the latest crisis in my life I decided to make a positive change to the way I live and have drafted a list of 6 things that I want to change before the end of the Year:

  1. To be happy(er)
  2. To not be nearly bankrupt
  3. To not feel disorganised
  4. To have more time with my kids
  5. To have time to be creative
  6. To feel physically healthy

With 2016 set to be dominated again by the publication of a slew of self – help titles from some of the biggest hitters in the field I began to wonder whether self – help could lead me to a happier, more sustainable and ultimately more rewarding lifestyle.

In this series of blog posts I’m asking have we become a nation of self – help bingers? What are the best self – help titles out there? And what are the worst? Have you got a favourite example that you think I should try?  Throughout the year I intend to read as many titles as I can get through and to post the results here for you all to read about.

Comment below or tweet me @TmhoLudek to leave suggestions.

 

Das Boot

I recently re – watched Das Boot in it’s entirety. For a bit of light relief. Worryingly, I identified quite strongly with the U – Boat captain. Especially during the scene when they are stricken on the bottom of the sea waiting to be torpedoed.

DasBoot-Still1
Worryingly, I identified quite strongly with the U – Boat Captain.

‘Know how you feel mate,’ I said to him, even though he couldn’t hear me – he being stuck on the bottom of the sea in the straights of Gibraltar and me being at home in Hull. And what with him being fictional and all…

But the point is, I feel like lately things have been building up on me. Not fathoms of sea water but small everyday things. My wife is not speaking to me now because of the £300 fine she got for not insuring her car (that’s correct…). All of the lights in the kitchen don’t work. Today I had to wear one blue sock and one black sock to go to work because I couldn’t find a matching pair. I imagine that Capt.-Lt. Henrich Lehmann-Willenbrock knows exactly how I feel.

Fair play to him, he probably had more on his mind than mismatching underwear but that’s not the point. He was in what one might, without fear of understating the case, call a tight spot. And I feel like, over the years, I have let things tighten around me without really noticing it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not comparing my plight with that of a stricken submarine crew (well, I am a bit) and I’m not unhappy, or at least, I don’t think I am. I mean, I don’t really think about it at all, I just plow through the days in the same way that everyone around me seems to.

What started as mild procrastination has got out of hand. Now I am faced with something that I can’t get a handle on. When I think about what needs to be sorted out I can’t see a way in. I can’t think how to get started. And if I do get started, what will I uncover? I haven’t checked my bank account for months. I daren’t log in to Experian to check my credit rating and I stopped opening mail about a year ago.

Once I’d put the kids to bed on Friday I sat at the kitchen table and decided to make a list of the top 10 things that I would change about my life, in priority order:

  1. To be happy
  2. To not be nearly bankrupt
  3. To not feel disorganised
  4. To have more time with my kids
  5. To have time to be creative
  6. To feel physically healthy

And I couldn’t think of any more…

Staring at me from the page the list didn’t seem unmanageable. ‘This is a start,’ I told myself, feeling almost proud. ‘And making a start is the hardest thing to do,’ I said, looking at the short list.

And then I thought, what now?

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.