This morning, I waited an hour for a man to come and see about insulating the loft for free. I was in a hurry to catch the train to Southport to meet someone. When Loft Man eventually arrived, I watched with awe as he clambered up to the high celiing and disappeared into the hatch.
“What’s it like up there?” I asked, thinking about this vast space that is constantly above me but which I have never seen.
“Horrible,” he said, dusting himself down, “Cobwebs, spiders and a hundred years of dust.”
I’d been vaguely, secretly hoping for a tea chest full of musty books, an interesting painting, a secret diary, something from the war, maybe a couple of bin bags full of beautiful clothes from a few decades ago.
“Nothing else then?” I pleaded.
“Nope. Anyway, the deal is I get to have anything vaulable I find up there – you wouldn’t have gone up and found it anyway.”
Blummin ‘eck. I wouldn’t mind but it turns out we can’t have the free insulation anyway. Plus, he managed to dislodge my bathroom fan, causing a shower of plaster and that century-old dust to fall into my bath.
I burst out of the door in a hurry to catch the train, aware of the pendulous fan, swinging from its wire over the bath. I wished I had done the washing up straight after my friends left the previous evening and I felt as though I had forgotten something.
It turns out that the new yellow buggy isn’t quite as good as the Maclaren at negotiating the 30 steps at the train station. Today, after about 5, I had to stand at the top of the stairs and crane my neck to try to see the people on the platform.
“Hello!” Can anyone down there help me with my buggy please?” Embarrassing.
After a little wait, a kind man gave me the help I needed, but I had to enlist yet more help when I got to Southport and my wheels got wedged beneath the train on the way off.
When we had eventually safely disembarked the train, I took Tom to Marks and Spencers for his lunch – it is quite child-friendly and right by the station. We sat down at one of the little tables and had a good chat. It still feels surreal: Sitting directly opposite a toddler in a dining situation, just the two of us, nattering like adults. I don’t do a ‘baby voice’ when I speak to Tom, so it really is just like we’re both grown-ups. I was quickly reminded of his age when he pulled a rather sheepish face though:
‘Tom do you need the toilet?’ I went to touch his jeans to see if he had had an accident and he stopped me.
“No Mum, you’ll get a wet hand if you do that!” That was a yes then.
I looked under the table and saw a puddle. I managed to discreetly tell a waitress the probelm and she was very nice about it. I whisked Tom into the loos and undressed him. It was then that I realised in my fluster to leave home I had forgotten the bag of spare clothes. Thank God for the Very Hungry Caterpillar Cosytoes: I hid his naked body beneath it and rushed out on to the shop floor. These weren’t just any spare clothes, these were M and S spare clothes: I ended up forking out £12 on some too-tight tracksuit bottoms and a set of three space invaders underpants.
When I met my friend, I kept apologising to her for being flustered and as the conversation continued, just plain exhausted.
“What have you done since you got up this morning?” she asked. I told her everything and began to see just why I was so worn out. I just do everything on autopilot and rarely get a chance to stop and consider how tiring it all is.
So, this afternoon, before coming back to Manchester, I went to relax in one of my favourite places on earth, Kernaghan Books in Southport. Situated in a beautiful Victorian arcade, it is a magical world of antiquarian and secondhand books: Huge leather-bound chunks, yellowing Penguin Classics, decorative poetry volumes. The walls are lined with high shelves and there is a maze of nooks and crannies to get lost in. They sell old copies of fashion magazines, annuals and even slightly eerie sepia family portraits. This is, of course, exactly how I had envisgaed the hidden world of my loft. Tom sat cross-legged reading to Rupert Bear and allowed me to have the wind-down time I really needed. As we left, he stared upwards and said
“I’m looking at that painting fing – my Mum’s got a painting fing like that.” He pointed at a banner of The Kiss by Klimt.
I got home tonight and started looking to see what’s going on at the art galleries tomorrow, thinking that I could take him for a really fun day out. But no, I am exhausted and tomorrow is going to be one of those days where we curl up on the sofa with The BFG and Yellow Submarine and perhaps just about make it to The Sunny Shop for some crumpets. I can’t wait.