fresh air.

You know that morning after a few days stuck in bed? That one where you can feel the cool freshness of air in your lungs without spluttering, and you realise you’re no longer seven parts mucus and three parts sweat? Well, that’s today. And it’s beautiful.

I marked the occasion by squeaking open the bedroom window, as if to invite the spring breeze to sweep the plague out of the house while I languished in bed a little longer.

I wondered what it was I was supposed to be doing on a bank holiday Sunday, whilst half the country bundled its kids, dogs and picnic sets into people carriers and the other half queued in circles round B&Q’s car parks. It seemed appropriate to take to the garden with a coffee to ponder the issue some more. So I sat, bum on grass, drifting through the morning with two happy cats weaving in and out of my legs, their tails wrapping slinkily around my calves.

Quite predictably, the cats tired of me pretty quickly and ventured further up the garden, pouncing excitedly, now and then, on clusters of leaves rustling with insects and bits of fluff. This seemed pretty special (either that, or my positive mood was rare), so I reached for my phone and took a few snaps. Vivid blue flowers jumped into focus. My garden rolled out before me, twice its usual size and its colours popping in a vogueish fashion.

Drawing the boy’s attention to the beauty of the great outdoors only compounded his belief that a BBQ was the only compulsory part of the weekend. To be fair, I had no reasonable argument against this: we’ve had a week of rain, wind and work; and today was evidently an anomaly. If we didn’t crack open the firelighters today, there’s every chance I’d have to hear about it every wet August weekend.

And so the outing of the day has been a trip to the supermarket. I’m not sure why, but I feel this snobbish embarrassment at buying BBQ supplies, as if the girl at the checkout is mentally fitting us to a shirtless, sunburnt bank holiday photo-fit. To extricate myself from this (or perhaps out of sheer unhelpfulness), I browsed the magazines as the boy paid for our coals and packed his compressed log (seriously, that’s what it’s actually called).

Guffawing over childish “compressed log” jokes, we drove home, ate lunch and almost immediately started prepping dinner. Woodchips crackled, fancy French jazz music hung in the air, and I got that pseudo rustic feeling that never lasts.

The cooking was frantic, but the eating was smug as hell. Lamb kebabs, baba ganoush, home-made flatbreads, falafel and salads galore. We glugged red wine and congratulated ourselves.


I have a feeling we rolled into bed around 10.30pm.

Is this called being a grown up?

Ciao x


the driveway dance.

“He’s outside.”

We both know that it’s a tacit instruction, not a statement at all. In any case, the boy hurumphs back out of the door and takes a few steps out onto the crunchy graveled driveway.

After a few more steps he stops. Hands on hips. They’re probably at around five paces now and there’s a bit of a stare out happening. I hang back at the doorway, hovering on the threshold between languid curiosity and downright laziness.

The boy squats down a little, his breath rasping wispy white plumes that drift over his left shoulder and fizzle away.

The cat knows his game might be up: that his opportunistic dash into the dark ink of the night wasn’t exactly planned with precision. Even so, his little black legs slowly tense, ready to spring , as the boy shuffles – inches –  forward. The boy’s arms raise slowly to form a conciliatory outstretched V, as if to smile through gritted teeth.

It’s been a long day. But Sooty’s just limbering up now.

I’m quite sure the cat knows this will probably end in him being scooped up and carried back into the house like a bundle of laundry odds and ends. Still, this is how we do it. Every single time.

If I were just a little less lazy, I’d have the boy’s car guarded well before the cat’s inevitable dart underneath it. The familiarity of this dance, though, seems to compound my lethargy. The cat will spring from car to lawn; from lawn to tree; and from tree back to lawn as he runs out of ideas. We’ve waltzed this waltz a hundred times in our little garden ballroom, the steps a little slicker each time.

I turn into the house. Shut the door behind me. Flick on the outside light as the token thought that counts.

Cat number two gazes up from the empty food bowl, flashing eyes up at me that convey that fine balance of adorable and incriminating. OK: this I can do. Against the backdrop of muffled shouts and scuffles from the garden, I reach into” magic cupboard” and scatter a stream of greasy-crumbed pellets around the two baby blue bowls. There’s a face tilted horizontal between bag and bowl, with tiny china teeth crunching snortily between purrs. I’m reassured that the spillage will be taken care of in no time.

I feel the puff of the door-slam in time with its thud: a curl of icy air rushes in, as if to mirror the cat a few minutes earlier.

The boy trails two boot tracks of lawn mud across the hallway with a disgruntled sooty tucked, lamb-like, under one arm. I can tell he’s as smug as the cat is resentful: his triumphant grin an exact counterpoint to the cat’s upturned glare.

The cat spills out of the crook of the arm, twists and flails momentarily before landing with a defiant boof on the laminate. He’ll always land on all fours, but seems to like to keep us guessing with each dramatic dive.

We seem to cast a mutual glance at the paw-print legacy of a defiant strut to the kitchen.

I shrug off my coat and the boy does the same – an emphatic “whatever” in weekday-speak.







I was thinking maybe we should get the video camera out tonight”.

The boy’s head shot round, ever so slightly cocked to one side like a dog at the word “dinner”. I instantly knew from the quizzically raised eyebrow and bemused expression that I hadn’t articulated myself well.

“For god’s sake, I don’t mean it like that”, I hastily retorted, my words tumbling out in an eyerollish way. “I just mean to document stuff. The house. Our lives right now. That sort of thing”.

The head turned back round again and settled back into the slumped body, facing the laptop.

I knew it was a good idea anyway. The boy’s indifference hadn’t come as a surprise, but it did mean a lone mission into the stuff drawer: that labyrinth of tangled cables; batteries; string; a drumstick; chargers for phones that we don’t even own anymore. You know the place.

The camera came out without much of a struggle: charged as well, which meant I could force the expanded sprawl of wires back down, slam the drawer shut, and weave my way down the stairs. Wasting no time on preparation, I filmed my fuchsia slippers as I stepped: tread by tread by tread.

I wanted to celebrate an ordinary evening. The boy at home; me at home; the cats spread out: two splats on the floor, each basking in the novelty of the heating beneath them. I shot the camera over to the boy and cooed a over-the-top “heyyy!” in his direction (as if I always talk like this). I got an awkward “hello” and an unimaginative wave in response.

I hadn’t been prepared – as my fuchsia feet made their entrance into Act I –  for the fact that I might have nothing to say. Nothing to celebrate on this average Friday. I strolled around, silently, past kitchen utensils and other miscellaneous items. The cats stretched, yawned and squinted at each other as I roused them from their naps.

Straining for ambiance, I flicked on the radio. An advert for used cars blared out its jarring tune. My camera gaze rested upon an open bin as it continued its orbit. I swiftly switched back to a cat.

Seconds passed as I hovered. To be honest, they felt quite a bit longer.

“Are you still filming?“, the boy asked, bored. The pressure to do something celebratory mounted.

“Ermm…. nope. All done.” I sighed, having very prematurely run out of ideas.

The viewfinder flipped shut.

Documentary paused.



the herd.

APPROXIMATELY ninety people funnel up the narrow wrought iron steps above the train tracks at around 8pm each evening. I don’t know why I say ninety, as I only really see the backs of four or five heads as I shuffle irritatingly on their heels, treading step by step.

Fidgety yet vacant, we all jostle like sheep, shepherding each other, up onto the bridge and in the direction of home. It’s slow – sometimes agonisingly, othertimes not. Today, the air was warm and my piped-in music was up loud. I was excited to come home and write.

There’s a mechanistic quality to the daily commute: every step of the journey honed with each repetition. This morning, I shot a glance down the platform at a series of suited city soldiers. Standing, regimented, at each carriage door, their fingers hovered over buttons, poised to press at the earliest possible second.

Sat down, I mimicked the long-distance stare again today, honoured the tacit vow of silence, the careful compartmentalisation of limbs – contained, as if boxed in glass.

There are the regulars. Holey jumper man was the first I noticed, about a week in, as he fumbled his head and arms simultaneously through a well-worn burgundy pullover: all wiry limbs and tufted bald head racing each other, flailing, towards a gulp of fresh air. Then there’s the corpse: dead to the world as the train leaves the station. Jaw dropped, head back, cheeks hollowed out like my grandma that last time I saw her.

Details from home reveal themselves, jutting out from the corporate grey. Trainers, scuffed from kick-abouts, rebel against trouser legs. Zippy jumpers, scarves and gadgets spill over from Christmas stockings.

Plugged in and tuned out, we all bob in unison to the rhythm and sway of the tracks. There are newspapers, crosswords, headphones, laptops. A hundred little ways to fill the space inside. Maybe the furrowed lady with the list on the back of an envelope is scribbling them all down.

I didn’t know this space existed, crammed in to a steel carriage with rucksacks and overcoats.

I quite like it.


day forty seven.

IT’S not actually day forty seven, or seventy two, or eight thousand and ninety five.

I think if I tried to calculate what day it is today, I might well start hyperventilating – like the way I do when I watch space programmes on TV and wonder if I’m actually a microbe on the leg of a flea, and if my flea’s about to be swatted by a rolled up Martian Times.

It is, however, a Saturday. A day of a hundred implicit should do’s and could do’s. A day where fat blobs of rain hang stagnantly on the windows and shivering blades of grass warn you off venturing outside.

It’d be a great day for sorting things. Starting with the house. You see, it’s not quite got that Nigella-style cosiness about it yet: that enveloping smug order, where the cushions smell of cinnamon and the lights bleed out a warm, ambient fuzz. Truth is, the TV’s still propped up on a grey filing cabinet that got dented during the move, and there’s seemed little point in vacuuming around the half-emptied suitcases and their exploded innards.

But there we are. Here we are. I’ve been meaning to talk to you for a while about all of this: about how things are since I sold off bits of my life and moved away. About how it’s really, pretty much, the same over here, just with slightly different weather and a new computer login.

I know you had your serious face on when you told me over our lattes that there’s no such thing as a new start. We were doing our weekly Starbucks role-play – the one where I get whipped up into a frappa frenzy and you give me the eye roll. I think I actually knew, even then, that you were right.

I’m not going to speak about this much anymore. Let’s just note, for the record, that day one was a while ago.