Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Lady of the Flies 2

Summer then has been insane. Not a little mad, but full blown, lollopy, lollopy insane with builders and moving and more builders and children everywhere. My husband has been here for all of it. Yesterday, he went back to London. He waved cheerily as he pulled away. An hour before he left, he said: "I am so ready to go back to London." Then he said: "But I'll miss you." And he went. Cue massive tears from the four-year-old due to start school tomorrow. The six-year-old said: "You have to stop because you're making me sad now." While my baby girl stretched out from her high chair to lay across the kitchen table, gaze into his sodden little face and tell him: "Don't cy. Don't cy."

I had a really bad day today. I always have a really bad day when my husband is not here. For a start the flies came back. They never really went away but the gates of hell must have opened again and they are everywhere. Often one is on top of another. Having sex. I mean eeeeeeurgh. I said to two of them: "Get a room." Then remembered they had. My kitchen. There are so many of them, they are virtually swarming. I sprayed before I went to bed last night; this morning there must have been 200 dead flies on the floor and my polished granite worksurfaces. I had to sweep the dead away before we could eat pancakes. It has reached the point that when you cook something in a pan and come to serve it, you look in and there is almost certainly going to be a dead fly staring back at you. I was serving pasta the other night when I realised that the black stuff on the quills was disintegrating fly parts, not pepper. I ate it. I figured it might make me think like them and so help me kill more of them. Unless it makes me want to have sex with something with more legs than I have. In which case, I probably won't eat it again.

The day then starts off in a flies graveyard. I make the pancakes, pick out the flies and feed the children. A visitor, a farmer's wife, is expected at 10 so I tidy round furiously. She is slightly late which means the children have time to untidy everything by the time she arrives. Not content with tidying the house, I go out to the garden and start cleaning out the tent we borrowed last week for the children to have a go at camping out. It is squalid. I decide I have to empty it, clean it and after spending some considerable time staring at stains, reluctantly strip the inner lining out to wash it. This is the problem with borrowing anything. Time comes to return it and you think: "Was that stain already there or did my children put it there?" I am still cleaning off what I hope is banana from velour sleeping mats when the stove man arrives to inspect the stove he painted which is now installed in the arches. He tells me he will have to paint it again which I decide is OK providing I do not have to pay him again to do it. Halfway through lunch with the farmer's wife, the builders arrive. I was not expecting builders this week as they are technically on another job. My builder puts into my care his teenage apprentice who is tasked to strip out my ensuite shower which I want tiled. This means I now have no sanctuary. The apprentice, who is both talented and hardworking, is at that age where every word he utters has to be wrenched from him. He makes me think to the future, to how my sons will be when they are grown. The noise level with my outlaw boys after six weeks of summer is horrendous. If we had neighbours, they would be drawing up a petition to get us rehoused. I said to them tonight: "Boys the noise has to stop." I do not think they heard me. In 10 years, if the builder's apprentice is anything to go by, I will be pleading with them to speak to me at all.

After lunch, the farmer's wife takes the children away down to her farm and I arrange to meet up with them in two hours time at their swimming lesson. I had wanted to do some work but realised instead I needed to spend the time finding things for tomorrow morning and writing names on clothes. I have always suspected parents are forced to write names in the clothes so that when teachers get the children mixed up, they can haul up the collar and read it. Some of the clothes these days have a space for the child's name and his class. I put "aspirational middle" but I got bored after the gym kit. I do not have to bother finding my four-year-old's new school shoes because he had already told me he is not wearing them. For some reason, I can find no blue airtex tops for the six-year-old and no school trousers for the four-year-old. In the midst of this, the friend who lent us the tent drops by with his four sons, aged five, seven, nine and 11. Within 10 minutes, the nine-year-old has killed 14 flies and the 11-year-old, 28. They line up the bodies for me on the oaked wooden floor. When they leave I put away all the clothes and calculate I have exactly, to the minute, five minutes to drink a cup of tea and eat expensive chocolate to make myself feel better about everything. I spoon a fly out of the tea. At that very moment, my evangelical friends arrive with their three children. I make the grown-ups a cup of tea (two minutes), chew a large piece of chocolate (one minute) and chat (another two minutes); I leave them finishing their tea outside the cottage.

I am very stressed as I drive to the swimming pool as I think about how to persuade my four-year-old to fall in love with school. During the complicated transfer of child seats in the car park between the farmer's wife and myself, I manage to reverse the car with the back passenger door open and scrape the car next to me. I leave a note. I want to leave an amazingly complicated rationale for why I parked where I did, explaining why the door was open, that I had not noticed, that at the very moment I did notice and turned to check, a child shouted out for me and I stalled, the door swung out, scrape and damage and what a bad day I am having. I settle instead for a "terribly sorry " and "my apologies" and "please call me and let me know the damage" sort of note, sign it with my name and weight it down with their windscreen wiper. I am aware that I have not done anything to improve that driver's day either.

When I get home, I get the tent liner out of the washing machine to discover that navy blue has now run into beige, giving it a marbled effect. It still has suspicious stains. I hang it on the line, cursing. I go upstairs to check on the children to find the six-year-old has given the baby girl, a piece of paper, a squeezy bottle of red paint and a paintbrush. The baby girl is painting the paper and my newly sanded floor, pillarbox red. I am not happy. I explain why I am not happy. I know I should say: "Thank you for looking after your sister and for being so creative. Shall we take the paintbrush away now and give her this nice wax crayon?" Instead, I say: "What were you thinking of?" among other things. By the time I push, bully, plead and cajole everyone into bed, I am fit for nothing more than killing flies and drinking wine while I do it. Around 9.30ish the phone rings. A woman on the other end says: "Hello, you left a note on my car..." I want to cry. I say: "Yes, I am so sorry. I was trying to fit a child seat and I didn't realise the door was open and..." She is lovely. Coincidentally, her car is going in for other paintwork jobs and she tells me her husband is a mechanic. She does not want any money from me. More importantly, she does not shout at me. She thanks me for the note and says she has got children too. I put the phone down before I cry. I think: "How about that? The day just got better."

32 comments:

violincjj said...

Oh you deserved the nice car woman. The other stress stuff WILL pass.

wakeupandsmellthecoffee said...

Oh, Nice Car Lady has made me cry too. I remember those hellish days with little ones all too well. Just think, though -- your husband is back in London during the Tube drivers' strike. All I hear from my hubby is how many miles he's had to walk and how crowded the trains are.

Stinking Billy said...

Snap! I too once damaged an adjacent car in the carpark of a supermarket, and also left a note on a wiper. I too got a call later in the day, and it turned out that the owner lived only 100 yards from me. He seemed almost grateful that the accident had happened and immediately refused any recompense for the cost of the paint job needed to his, er, Jaguar. Okay, so he was richer than me, but such kindness does promote a warm glow.

Rainbow said...

Isn't it always the way? Some days you'd be better just not getting up at all. My kids are teenagers now so it's a different kind of stress - I can now look back at their babyhood through a rosy glow of having survived it, but there were times when I felt like lying on the floor and screaming as well...

rosiero said...

Sorry you had a bad day. There will be better ones to balance it out. As for the flies, my friend discovered heaps of flies in her dining room last week and discovered they were coming from behind a large cabinet. She painstakingly unloaded everything from the cabinet and then tugged the cabinet away from the wall. She found a decomposing mouse the cat had brought in. The mouse must have staggered to the back of the cabinet to die a painful death. My friend found it half missing and covered in maggots and flies. Check where the flies are coming from - this may be the reason. Do you have a cat?

Em said...

Wow. You definitely deserved the nice car woman. As for flies, we have those sticky flower pictures in nearly every window, which help - and the animals are quite good at catching them, too. Especially the dog. She's very good.

Hope all goes well with the kids & school, and the builders :D

Sweet Irene said...

Well, it's not easy is it. with the kids still little and the husband gone? You need to have courage and fortitude and good friends to help you through the tougher times. It does get lonely and scary sometimes, doesn't it. Women always need to be larger than life heroines and so completely natural at handling all sorts of trouble, while the husbands go off to their nicely organized adult oriented jobs. Have good cheer, it really all does get better as they get older and you do write an awfully good blog. I enjoy reading it, while you may not enjoy experiencing all of it. Take care, dear.

Crystal Jigsaw said...

Funnily enough we had a plague of flies yesterday that I was heaving over. They were everywhere. In my kitchen. I totally fumigated it, finding dust on top of dust behind the microwave but the amount of flies I managed to kill was a great feeling. I couldn't breathe very well afterwards due to half a tin of fly spray I used but I did feel proud of myself.

Crystal xx

Rob Clack said...

Crikey, what an easy life I lead! I'm not gloating; I'm just relieved!

I agree the flies must have a source, but it might not be a corpse. Might just be cow pats. I thought you had bead curtains to keep the buggers out. Walking around the area sniffing for dead meat might be a good plan anyway.

And three cheers for Nice Car Lady. Got me going, too.

midlandsgirl said...

Hi there - read for a while but not posted before.
I feel you don't need words of support from me because you already know you can cope. I sometimes have imaginary conversations with myself in my head when I'm feeling particularily overloaded - "can I cope with a bit more stress - oh yes! look, I can!" I find that's normally around the time that someone asks me to do something, or contribute some time to something and inwardy I'm screaming "NO" whilst my mouth is saying "Oh I'm sure I can fit that in". It's a game sometimes isn't it.
I have three kids, all beautiful, full of life and noisy, age 14, 11 and 6. The other day I commented to a friend that after 6 weeks of summer the little one was becoming feral and that just about sums it up. I absolutely love the start of the holidays - no more 'activities'- scouts stops, ballet stops, football practice stops, no whirling dervish-like behaviour in the mornings getting everyone up and ready for buses and school. But then come the end of the hols I am desperate to get some kind of routine established again. I work part-time (continuing through hols) and it's great to go to work for a rest!
As to the car - karma does exist - just go out of your way to do a kind and unexpected act for someone as soon as you can - and you will be rewarded two fold by the nice feelings it gives you.

Winchester whisperer said...

You could always leave the tent up in your kitchen overnight with a piece of rotting meat in it. In the morning, zip it up with all the hideous flies inside and dump it somewhere.

lady thinker said...

The nice car lady wife of a mechanic sounds nice, pleasant and reasoanbale - ring her back and invite her out for a coffee - she may become another friend.
Great post - sorry flies are back - at least they could be worse - flea infestation is worse (believe me)- perhaps you cleaned the fly killer of the wondows - you get the fly killer pend drawing around the window and door edges again.
I'm wondering what it could be if it's not banana on the velour sleeping mats!

lady thinker said...

God - what dreadful typos - blame it on the lunchtime galss of wine.
x

Moi said...

Blimey, wifey, you nearly made me cry and I live with two teenagers....But it reminded me of when I first moved to the country and was descending into a catatonic state. One day I left my handbag hanging on a Waitrose trolley, in the car park, in the middle of Cirencester. I drove home (7 miles) and when I reached round for my bag to get my keys....Small, shrieking nervous breakdown followed and I drove back to Waitrose, knowing it was fruitless. I walked in, snotty and red-eyed and a smiling lady behind the counter lifted my bag from underneath and said, 'Someone found this hanging on a trolley outside.'
Made me howl even more....Keep despair at bay and occasionally believe in the goodness of others.

Iota said...

I wish it had been you who had hit my car when I lived in London. The people who did it never left a note (I'm assuming it was six or seven different people over that 3-year period, but who knows? maybe it was the same person every time). Mind you, I would have taken their money, unlike your nice mechanic's wife. See. London's not all nice.

And following up the suggestion of looking for a dead mouse as the source of your flies, don't forget to look up any chimneys for a dead pigeon (speaking from experience).

This post, though, is FULL of friends. That's encouraging, surely?

SINGLE MOTHER ON THE VERGE said...

I actually feel quite worried for you. Envious at first because I'd love to be a housewife and can't be, yet now, reading this post, you sound very unhappy. Not just telling the story, but sad in a very quiet and damp sort of way that doesn't at first seem obvious. Is there nothing you can do to make it better? Perhaps go back to your previous life in a city? It doesn't seem right that he leaves you all the time.

Cathy said...

London is really not fun at the moment, so you may have got the best of the deal.

The car lady sounds very kind, perhaps her reaction will restore your faith in the residents of Northumberland. With school back you may now get space to breathe too. Things can only get better, so hang on in there.

aims said...

OMG! I can't believe everyone passed over the flies having sex - and having sex with something with more legs than you....I'm still laughing....and wondering if you are seeing things differently now that you've eaten one - like Jeff Goldblume in "The Fly".....too funny.....

Lady Levy said...

Oh no, what a horrid day. And I thought I was stressed but this is too much. The thing that stresses me out the most is that feeling when every single minute of the day is taken up with something or someone. I hope you had a better day today and that the 'first day' went okay.

Pig in the Kitchen said...

oh dear, it sounds as tho you have an epidemic of flies, should you be calling some infestation eradication company?

I once reversed into a man's car (with him in it) as I left my house. But it was the school run, the baby was wailing, I'd already locked myself out of the house that morning, the stereo was blaring to drown out the baby...and so i didn't hear my reversing sensors telling me to stop. I thought i'd just had a near miss, leant out my window and brayed, 'really sorry' and with a wave, drove off. Hours later i saw the scrape on my car, and when the doorbell rang at 6pm i knew who it was...bang went my no claims, I needed a nice woman like yours!

First day of absent hubbies always the hardest...
Pigx

merry weather said...

I like the "aspirational middle" class labels. You've captured the spirit of chaos with kids very amusingly in this post, it made me laugh.

As for the flies - Rentokil, the final solution - Personally I can eat a lot of things, but not flies....

Eats Wombats said...

So, your commendable honesty was rewarded. How nice! I read once of someone returning to a damaged car to find a note reading:

"Sorry about the damage. People watching think I'm leaving my name and address. Alas, they're quite wrong."

No flies on him, eh? Tsk!

mutleythedog said...

The flies are because of the muck spreading now going on - it never used to be a huge problem until they banned stubble burning.. It is slurry they are spreading on the fields...

On a lighter note I have received your application to join my Fan Club, but unfortunately you did not fill in the sections Favourite Sexual Fantasy and Payment Details... Could you have another look?

Belladonna said...

Hey Wifey

Looking after children full-time - even those you love more than life - is hell on earth.

You have my sympathies. Sorry about the flies too.

Norman said...

They say that in the deepest hell you find the kindest angel. Car lady it was.
Kids, absent hubby, a plague of flies and non vegetarian pancakes and to cap it all, bent cars.
At least you have us and we can all laugh and cry with you.

jennyswlondon said...

Have not read your blog for a couple of weeks so have just spent a very entertaining 10 minutes catching up! More please! Please let us know how your 4 year old is getting on at school. Mine has also just started and I have had to tell him that Mummy and Daddy will go to jail if he doesn't go everyday.Please tell me it gets easier...!

Jeff said...

"Children today are tyrants. They contradict their parents, gobble their food, and tyrannize their teachers."
~Socrates

mimi said...

Hello, I finally got an account- had been posting as mike, now have my own. Really enjoyed this post, but still don't know what happened to nanny- maybe you've locked her in the aga?
re-read some of your very early posts, and wonder now are you more settled up there, or still thinking of moving back to London?

Self employed mum said...

"Unless it makes me want to have sex with something with more legs than I have." This is the funniest thing I've read in ages.

We were £150 recently when my daughter scrapped my neighbours car on her bike.

Tina said...

I'm glad the car lady was nice & I hope you get the flies sorted this time. I can't abide them, but they're not as bad as spiders. That would have me running for the hills...

@themill said...

If it is your husband who wants to be up north, why doesn't he stay here and you go off to work in London?

lurkerfan@lj said...

Just signed up so I could say what's already been said by another:

"Looking after children full-time - even those you love more than life - is hell on earth. "

I stayed home with three little ones while my hubby was in grad school many, many years ago, (really, 1963-1972), and your posts bring those days back to me so vividly that tears come to my eyes. Unless a person experiences it, one has no idea how wearing it can be.

I love your sense of humor and your writing is grand. Hope the many comments you get help some. On many political blogs I read, comments are mostly mindless trash or worse -- vitriol, but yours are human and generally kind and at least intended to be helpful.

It doesn't help your days now, but I can tell you that you and the little ones will survive this era and that you will ache a bit at the loneliness and wish you could have them so close again. But it will also be grand to have the tea and the glass of wine or even the long, lazy day in bed reading a good book in peace and quiet.

And when they go to live in their own homes, you and hubby can the pleasure of each other in any way you like, any time -- absolutely heaven. With a good hubby, the empty nest is wonderful. My hubby and I are nearing our 50th wedding anniversary.