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."