midsummer

It’s dispiriting to feel like your life is boringly monotonous. The same day after day drudge and drear of samey life, greyness, rain, drizzle, cloud, an office job towards which you feel at best indifferent. I have been there. But now, here in Summer 2018, life is not like that.

Now the days are long and the heat is frankly ridiculous. The end of June sees us in the middle of a sweltering heatwave pulsating across Britain. My wife is seven months pregnant and understandably struggling. Things can’t continue like they are right now – although a long hot summer is forecast. Work is unpredictable, insecure, never the same, but not terrible.

We are progressing, working through things to a set timeline, a certain goal or a series of them. Life is buffering, a montage sequence in a film ahead of the dramatic climax. Serious scary change is coming.

*

Our last visit to my parents was strained and faintly awkward. Mum had been clear in wanting to see us at regular intervals throughout my wife’s pregnancy so we felt the press of obligation to return. In truth, I would have preferred to stay home, drink beer and watch the opening World Cup matches.

But they were busy around our visit too, and perhaps only expecting us to stay on Friday night, not Saturday. Saturday’s very simple meal suggested we weren’t. They were going on yet another overseas holiday the following week and didn’t have so much in the fridge. Such things are not always clearly qualified from the outset, although Dad always likes to know the full plan as far in advance as possible.

It was heartening to overhear my parents laughing together in the kitchen. Mum often seems keen to be perceived as the valiant, put-upon, long suffering hero of their marriage. She will habitually moan about her husband at length. It is justified to an extent because Dad clearly is quite selfish and lazy. But she absolutely enables his behaviour and makes catering to him her life’s occupation. On a walk the following day, when I mentioned being pleased to hear that moment, she almost seemed embarrassed, foiled. 

Mum is going charity shopping crazy in anticipation of our baby. If there is a baby related product on sale at a car boot sale or in a charity shop which is sub £4, Mum will buy it whether we want it or not. We were not sure if we wanted a sterilizer. Especially a used one.

“Is this… erm, milk, around the edge?” my wife asked.
“No no, I’ve given it a wipe,” Mum replied.

Nonetheless we are forever in her debt, forever giving thanks and conscious of having to give thanks.


On what was a mind-numbingly boring Saturday night it felt like I was taking liberties to ask for a second beer when nobody else had a second drink. Then I realised I had drunk three of my Dad’s four pack over the two days. Was that…? Was that ok? Or too much…? Was there a beat of disappointment before my Dad’s consent? 

Sometimes it feels like these people are not my parents who I have known all my life, but two new housemates, people who have recently taken me in, to whom I should always be enormously grateful every second of the day. Much is unknown and unspoken.   

*

On the work front too I am apprehensive of the switch up from third gear coasting to a higher gear of busyness throughout next week. The ability to adapt and accept such fluid change is part of freelance life, but it still makes me nervous. Consistency gives a greater assurance and confidence than jittery stopping and starting. You have more time to think and have doubts about all the things that can go wrong, how you might be let down by equipment or yourself in difficult situations.  You fear dropping the ball somehow.

Planning work around her due date is another worry. As a sole trader you have no paternity leave, as well as no annual leave. Knowing there can be long neurotic stretches of quiet, you feel unable to turn down reasonably paying work when it’s offered. But you don’t want to miss anything in the first few days of your child’s life and you certainly don’t want to be absent when it matters. Less important but still massively annoying, work also means missing out on big World Cup matches.   

 

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