Tumbleweed and Three-Year-Olds

5 September 2021

It’s a funny old world, isn’t it? Well, no, actually. Right now, there aren’t many days when I wake up chuckling. Mr Young and I have reached the age when the alarm goes off, we check to make sure the other is still breathing, then pretend to be asleep until one of us has to get up, make the tea and let Ruby out.

It’s tricky getting the balance just right between pretending to be asleep and not looking dead. My approach is to surreptitiously wipe the drool off my chin (I have my pride) and throw in a couple of dainty snores to reassure him before he grumpily pads downstairs.

In the olden days, I imagine I leapt out of bed, threw open the curtains and did a couple of lissom laps of the bedroom in a silk kimono before skipping downstairs and scrambling eggs for my three laughing, rosy-cheeked children while they drank freshly-squeezed orange juice. Of course, they claim to have different recollections, but if they did have to make their own packed lunch, it was probably only once! Once! For goodness sake! Every mother’s entitled to sleep in now and again! Will they never let me forget?

6 September 2021

As my middle name's not Modesty, I don’t mind broadcasting the fact that I’ve been doing extremely well in my Open University studies. That is the good news. Unfortunately, it’s dawned on me, now there's no one left to show off to, that I’m a naïve fool; the first term is obviously always the easiest one, when they encourage and support you, like proud parents at sports day, and now I’ve set the bar way too high for myself.

The pressure’s on; I can either carry on at this level or fall behind. It’s going to be the egg and spoon race at primary school all over again when I tripped over my own feet two seconds over the starting line and everybody laughed. No smug boasting next summer; just tears and grass stains on my knees. Serves me right, of course. Lesson learned. (Probably not, but who doesn’t like a pun?)

Ruby adores but is slightly apprehensive of Nancy. As are both Mr Young and me, actually. Three-year-olds are enchanting, unpredictable and intimidating. After the initial ecstatic doorstep greeting, Ruby trails around after her for half an hour, then becomes the coerced performer in some complicated game that she tolerates with occasional pleading glances at me, until she manages to escape and hide under the spare bed, while Nancy searches the house, bellowing, “Rubes? Where are you? Rubes? Rubes?”

The latest game is the Indoor Lead game; a bungee cord is attached first to Ruby’s collar, and the two of them stroll round the “park” (coffee table) before Ruby is released and the rocking horse is taken to the zoo (dragged to the kitchen). This can last for an hour. One bungee cord. Who’d have thought? I have spent a fortune on craft kits, paints, crayons, paper, all of which take an age to set up, and then we create one picture in 30 seconds and I spend five minutes clearing away the mess. I know grandparents everywhere have been saying this for decades, and will say this for decades to come, but, seriously, how on earth did I bring up three children without going insane? (And yes, hilarious response to that, but would I be able to write such an erudite and witty column if I actually had gone insane? And, again, you can argue that I shouldn't critique my own work, but of course I can. Is that an oxymoron? It is now!)

7 September 2021

Again, as I wasn’t christened Penelope Modesty, I feel I can boast that I have another birthday coming up next month. OK, many people also have birthdays next month, in fact every month; of course I know that. I’m kidding. This is just a humorous preamble to the awkward situation I find myself in every year when I’m asked for gift suggestions and my mind goes blank. Normally, I’m constantly thinking of lovely things I’d like, as in ‘ooh, that ….’s just what I need for my ….’ or ‘how did I ever do without that ….?’ or ‘I would look gorgeous in that ….’.

But when my family ask me for ideas, my memory is as empty as the dusty main street in a spaghetti Western just before the shoot-out. All I manage to blurt out is a pathetic ‘Something nice for the bath?’, the female equivalent of the male ‘Socks?’ This year, I’m determined to be proactive and have started making my list early.

So far, I’ve put down bath oil. Pathetic.

8 September

Very excitingly, Alconbury Weald is opening its very own bistro café and bar today, Bohemia. As we live on a former airfield, they’ve re-purposed the former watch office, which was used to brief wartime aircrew on their missions. As it’s a refurbished Nissan hut, it already looks like half a giant Swiss roll, so the omens are good. Me and Ruby went to check it out on our morning walk; one of us with eager anticipation, the other like a sulky teenager as it was not on her usual route and she a) couldn’t sniff for foxes b) missed her accustomed poo spot.

But like I so often have to remind her, I’m in charge. It’s surprising how often I have to do this in my own home. She and Mr Young are always forgetting.

Mr Young has started going back into the office again. Not often, just a couple of days here and there. But I miss his funny old face, the constant demands for cups of tea, the periodic creak of the stairs which means that I have to leap up and pretend I’ve been doing something important like housework, or stacking his Gardener’s World magazines in chronological order, or restocking the wine rack. It’s odd having to iron shirts again, and having the house to myself on the occasional night when he’s away on conferences.

If I’m not careful, I’ll find myself pretending to be asleep when he’s not even there.