I am alone..finally after three weeks of constant high alert and squeezing between spaces and egos I am alone. The fridge in the empty flat buzzes and ticks. The turtle doves call softly. The wind knocks sunshine around in the garden… I feel my body bubble expand and burst open. Still in blue kimono dressing gown I sit in the middle of a Sunday morning and I let out a long breath…
Who can I call? I think nervously, looking at the phone.
I am like that.
Dad dropped me at Staines on Friday and headed back to Zambia. I leapt trains all the way back to Cambridge and was picked up by Silent J, Mum’s partner.
I love being picked up from stations, airports, bus stops. There is something to be said for that last little trek home being taken over or done alongside someone else. I am glad to see Silent J and Mum looking so well. It has been several months since they took off on their epic European adventure and they are back in town for a break. Whilst I have been in Devon they have settled into my little flat and seen dentists, opticians, done laundry and caught up with friends and family.
Mum barefoot and slender greets me in the doorway. She gives the best hard, long hugs. I am still shoulder tense from the last couple of days and feeling fragile emotional. I tell them this as I step over their bags and squeeze onto a chair in the corner of my once again litter strewn flat..
I know they are still here for a night.
‘Errr two nights..’, corrects Mum
‘Oh. Two nights,’ I nod sinking slightly into my chair.
Kindly they insist on the concrete futon which means they can stay up later in the living room and get up earlier.
‘The futon.’ I remind them. ‘Its virtually plywood.’
‘Are we are adventurers now…you should see what we have slept on in the past few months.’ Mum launches into tales of dodgy Polish camp site toilets. these go on for some time.
My mum looks annoyingly fit and lovely, hair in a shiny bob and slim-fit jeans from Gap sale. She twirls and cooks and chats and with her usual energy she has rescued my garden! The whole space is up-lifted and cheerful. Weeds are under control, beds are dug, my little fountain is working for the first time this year (and completely confusing Marmite the neighbour’s cat) Silent J has propped up my waterbutt which was slowly toppling into the mud. The garden calls to be looked at, lived in. My Mum is a green genius!
I see Dennis the squirrel on the newly fixed bird table. He has combed his fringe in an effort to appear respectable. He looks like a deranged rodent version of Tintin.
The next day I feel refreshed and even get to the gym but something has slightly soured. Silent J is quieter then ever. I wonder if I am talking too much about Dad and the whole Devon do.
I ask him
‘No,’ he says. I wait for something more but that’s my lot..for the rest of the night apparently.
My Mum is gesturing wildly trying to describe another remarkable thing they saw on their travels. They drove thousands of miles and hit the top of Finland for the solstice. I have been bought Sami treasures…on a soft leather strap I have a bone pendant with a strange pattern inscribed. I also now owna small smooth birch cup and some resin soap that smells like deep forest with hint of bear. The packet says ‘don’t eat this!’ Spoilsports.
My mother gets every country mixed up and each foreign word malapropises on her tongue but she loves saying them and when Silent J corrects her (which he does tediously and ominously over and over again) she trys fitting the right word in her mouth and repeats it with delight but it still always comes out wrong. It has always been thus and used to drive me nuts as a kid. Now after not seeing her for so long I just find it soothing.
She says something in what she thinks is in Czech. Silent J scowls and growls. She corrects herself and it comes out in Urdu.
I strategically stay in bed next morning until I hear Silent J heading out and spend a too quick hour with Mum.