There are days I feel quite proud of myself for giving this a go and trying to carve out a new life for all of us. Today was not one of them. I just thought: "God this is such an effort" when I woke up, opened the wooden shutters and gazed out onto the foggy village street. I hate weekends up here when I am on my own. The week is bad enough but then, at least, I have help with the children and there is school to give the day some structure. The weekend though completely tips me over the edge of darkness; I roll down the scree, leaving pieces of myself along the way and by the time I reach the bottom there is very little left.
I decided it would be better not to be alone - when I say alone, that equals me plus three children and I turned to my phone book. I list the mothers up here all together. There's a slightly grey trail down the page of names; the trace you would get if you regularly ran a finger down it slowly, name by name, looking for someone to call. It is the mark of desperation. One woman was out; one woman's husband is only at home at weekends; I rang another woman once before when I felt this teary panic and she sounded so surprised at the call, I would rather not repeat the experience; one friend left to live away; two others have their own domestic difficulties; another, I had seen too recently for it to be respectable to call again so soon; a couple I know so slightly, a call would be bizarre. One mother I do like and I did call. She invited me round tomorrow but it still left me with today.
In the classic tradition of the unhappy female, I gathered the children up and went out to shop. I hate the supermarket in the nearest market town. My husband goes shopping there with the three children and tells me the shop assistants cannot do enough for him. They do nothing for me. They might occasionally say: "Do you want help packing? "but they do not mean it. They might say: "Do you want cash back?" but they want to ask me: "Why did you have three children? You can't control them." Instead, I prefer to make my own rounds of the butcher, the baker, the grocer, the newsagent, the chemist and the electric shop. When they know you live here and you are not a tourist, small shopkeepers do not seem to mind if you shout at your children. That can come in handy. The man in the electric shop was supposed to sell me an inside aerial which would make the television work. He sold me an aerial - the closest it came to making the TV work, was sitting on top of it; it certainly did not fetch down a picture from the skies.
After the shopping, I took the children to the beach. This is why we live here - one of the reasons anyway. "Right," I said, "we're going to the beach." My six-year-old jutted out his jaw. "I hate the beach," he said. I was not in the best of moods. "I don't want to live here," I said, perhaps over-hastily and not what the children need to hear, but the words pushed themselves out regardless. I blame the weather. "We live here so you can go to the beach. We are going to the beach. Whether you like it or not." My son shook his head. "I'm not going. I'm staying in the car. You go." Forced to chose between the beach or straight home to bed without tea, he caved and chose the beach where the fog was so dense, it obscured even the castle. The boys played in the misted-out dunes, doing what they call "adventuring" and I ploughed the sand with the buggy and a chilled baby. "There you see," I told them, the wind so cold it felt like it was tearing strips from my head to hang from its beaded belt, "isn't this nice?"