“What are you doing, Mouse? Why are all the cushions on the coffee table?”
I’m one of those interior over-achievers where everything is aimed towards an aesthetic symmetry, rather than communal enjoyment. Throws are certainly not to be thrown. Cushions are designed to be lightly held atop your lap, or placed on the carpet next to the sofa when you’re in situ. I get very twitchy if someone leans against a cushion. Sit on it, and you won’t be invited back. This makes me sound like a bit of a stern host, but I do rustle up copious amounts of cake – don’t mess with my cushions, and you shall be rewarded.
“Sorry mummy. I’m looking outside for crisp.”
“What, like a packet of crisps?”
“No, silly bum bum! Crisp. The postman.”
Aaaah, got it. Chris. Chris is our lovely postie and is a bona fide friend of our family, because my husband sometimes races with him and he works with my brother-in-law, also a postman. I think I gave him some homemade mince pies a couple of Christmases ago – if I didn’t, I definitely meant to, and it’s the thought that counts (I jest).
“I don’t think he’s coming today my peach, it’s a bit late now.” Actually, shitting hell, it’s gone 3pm and we only finished lunch five minutes ago. I’ll do better with time management tomorrow, I’ll make something even less labour intensive than crumpets and marmite. I’ll just get up earlier to give us more of a contingency buffer. Up at 6am, breakfast at 8am, out by 9am for a bit, lunch at noon. Easy. Everything tomorrow will just be better. “How about I feed your sister and then we’ll do something fun?”
It’s a frustrating week in Moo’s world. When she’s having a growth spurt or needs a poo, her table manners are bloody awful. She thrashes about, whacking every part of her face against my nipple because she’s incredibly cross and it’s all my fault. She’s like one of those bizarre ocean floor dwellers you get on David Attenborough, a sort of pink sea cucumber with no eyes and a mouth like a hoover. I opt for a bit of skin to skin and take most of my clothes off – Mouse doesn’t bat an eyelid, she’s used to me being weird – and I move a cushion to one side so I can sit down.
A few minutes later, I hear the shuffle of paper being pushed through the letterbox. “Crisp! It’s Crisp!” Mouse shrieks, scrambling over the sofas to look out of the window. I play a quick, silent game of takeaway menu bingo – I bet it’s pizza. “Nah, wasn’t Crisp.” Mouse is disappointed. “I’ll see what it was. Oh, oh, there’s MAN AT THE DOOR! MAN IS THERE!” I hear a soft knocking – we had to disable our doorbell because it got stuck on “Rottweilers barking” which wasn’t good for the cat’s heart murmur. I hook a finger in Moo’s mouth to unlatch her, like releasing a fishing line from a trout. She protests, a hell of a lot louder than a trout. I whoosh her onto her shellsuit-fabric playmat and hope she doesn’t shunt off the other end like a curling stone, while wrestling my top back on and praying it’s not cold out. Opening the door, it’s clear there’s no-one there. I start to close it, when a guy from Yodel comes into view from nextdoor’s driveway. “Hello?” he says. “Um, hello” I reply. “Sorry, I thought you were knocking my door.”
“No, I’m knocking this door”. He gestures to my neighbour’s house. “Yes, sorry. Our walls are quite thin and it sounded like you were outside my door.” Quite thin = waffer thin. Our bedrooms back on to each other. Our beds are on either side of the party wall. It’s all rather intimate.
Nextdoor open up. What ensues is a bizarre three-way tango of everyone explaining whose door they thought was being knocked, and me saying sorry, like a parrot. I notice I have Moo sick in my hair. I move to close the door.
“Your child…” says Mr Yodel. “Yes?” I reply. “Your child is at window.” I take one step outside and crane my head around the wall to see that yes, indeed, my child is at window, trampling over the bloody sofa again. “It’s alright, I’ll go and sort her out. Sorry.” This is now intensely awkward. Sort her out how?! And stop saying sorry! I offer Mr Yodel some effusive thanks, kind of salute at the man from nextdoor, and retreat indoors. “Come on then, child at window. Do you fancy going to the co-op?”
Ten minutes later, we’ve just about got one shoe on Mouse, when there’s another knock at the door. Oh dear god, it’s Mr Yodel again. “Hello!”
“Hi…” I reply. I urge every membrane in my tongue not to say sorry.
“I have parcel for your neighbour.”
“Ah, right, OK. Which neighbour? Not that one?” I cock my head in the direction of nextdoor. He in turn leans back and looks at their house. “No, I deliver their parcel before.”
“Yes, sorry, I know.”
“Will you sign…and I let neighbour know you’re here?”
“Yes, yes of course. Sorry.”
“Leetle girl not at window now!”
“Ah, no, she’s getting her shoes on.” From somewhere behind me I hear Mouse. “What you said mummy? Wellies are boots not shoes.”
More profuse thanks and handing over of parcel, which must from musclemaximo.com (or something) as it weighs about 8kg.
“Sorry, for disturb your day.” Now he’s at it, he’s caught my sorry bug.
I bid Mr Yodel farewell, and after a second round of wees and this-jacket-not-that-cardi, we’re finally walking down the road. I clock the red Royal Mail van parked just inside the cul-de-sac that joins our street. 5…4…3…2…”Mummy, it’s Crisp!” It’s not, it’s someone else, emptying the post box.
“Mummy? Talk to me about….(this is her latest thing. Asking us to recount events literally five minutes after they’ve finished, so we can really blast out the finer points and consider things from all angles) Talk to me about that man with the parcel?”
Like I said, tomorrow will just be better.
-SJW May 2016