It’s been a long day, involving a four-hundred mile journey and much turmoil. I am tired. I stand outside a public house and think back over the afternoon. It is eight in the evening.
Five hours previously.
I meet Favourite Son from school.
His Teacher: You should of seen his face! When he saw you!
I ignore her. Not on purpose. But I suppose I’ve more important things to give my attention to.
Favourite Son: Daddy? How come you’re here to pick me up when you live so far away?
Me: I got up really early.
This satisfies him. It’s the end of term and he presents me with a small plant-pot from which is growing a bean-shoot he has nurtured for the preceding weeks. He is chuffed.
We collect his sister, who proudly shows me her jigsaw mouth of milk- and small-adult teeth. The baby teeth are her mothers, the new jagged ones are mine.
Retiring to a public house down the road from their school that possesses an outdoor children’s area, we drink lemonade, laugh and play. We spend the afternoon together, have dinner elsewhere and at about seven meet their mother.
Favourite Son looks at me with horror.
FD: Daddy! Where’s my bean?
I’ve only left it behind at the pub down the road from his school haven’t I? He was no doubt bursting to show it to his mother. I look at his face.
He’s five now, his small body coursing with unaccustomed bursts of testosterone and every slight injustice is felt with a hammer-blow of outrage and inconsolable grief.
I look at his mother’s face. We’ve already established that I also forgot to pick up his lunch-box and PE kit so this latest testament to my incompetence is obviously no surprise to her.
Me: It’s ok. Don’t worry. I’ll go and get it.
The pub is bloody miles away and I’m exhausted and on foot.
Tired Mam: I can call them if you like. Get them to put it to one side.
Me: No. No. [To Favourite Son] I’ll get it. It’ll be ok.
He seems alright with this. They go home. I find the bean-shoot and all is well.
My lodgings for the night are at the maternal grandfather of my children, with whom I have an unlikely friendship. I look at my watch. He’ll be asleep by now. I’m alone in a town that I have not lived in for about seven years and is now alien to me. The brief sight of Tired Mam seven months pregnant has not been a soothing one. Nothing to do with me I might add. My nerves are shot. The public house is filled with people, sound and light.
Me: A pint of strong drink please.
Barman: No problem. And for your friend?
He gestures to the small plant-pot next to my elbow on the bar. Funny fucker.
Me: *sigh* He’ll just have some water.