I’ve been feeling a bit jittery the last few weeks. Partly it’s been the heat, which has taken all us Little Britain-ers by surprise. Hot is all very well when you’re on the beach, or beside the pool, or in a hotel room or apartment geared towards hot weather. It is not the same when in a carpeted house with double glazed windows and an attic bedroom trying to continue to function. I hadn’t realised quite how poorly I’d been sleeping until the rains came back and I slept the whole night through. I’d spent many nights in the previous few weeks starting up in sweaty terror at 2am convinced I was, in fact, about to die from a parched mouth.
The summer holiday brings with it more expectations than the Christmas and Easter holidays, which can be summed up as mass consumerism and chocolate respectively. Everyone is away from normal duties then, but the long summer stretch of absentia belongs to families and those that work with children. The belief that becomes more insistent as July rolls around is that everyone will have a marvellous time, moving from one sun-dappled location to the next, getting on with each other beautifully.
Of course this cannot be. I am self-employed, so am lucky enough not to have to scrabble around frantically trying to find daycare for my offspring. In any case, they are now 13 and 10, so can be left alone for a while if I have to pop out for a meeting. I still must shoehorn bits of work in here and there, which seems much harder to do while they are in the house, even if it is at 9am and they won’t be awake for at least an hour because they’re not going to bed much before midnight. #badparentalert.
The problem lies in the gap between expectation and reality (mostly the case with any experience). I am tired. So are they. Part of me wants to be going on a picnic or country walk, another part of me wants to stay in bed and look at pictures of other people’s picnics and walks on social media. My boys also want to immerse themselves in screens. They will come out for the occasional picnic or swim, but I have to let them have their holiday the way they want it.
It takes some time for the jitters to subside, the negative voice in my head that I am not doing it right to be quieted. Even if I am not ‘working’, the ‘work’ of the household, especially as I am a sole parent, does not go away. I’m still schlepping round the supermarket, cooking and doing the washing. I have a fantasy of some (fully staffed) tropical island, where we can decamp to for six weeks, along with several of our friends. The super-rich do have this kind of lifestyle, but perhaps some of them long for home.
I've been reading one of Alan Bennett's diaries (very slowly. Not because I don't enjoy it, but because it's in the bathroom, reserved for my post-shower sit in towel to dry off). It made me realise I would LOVE my own 'What I've been up to this week!' type column in a paper/magazine. So would many thousands of others, I'd imagine. So, I've created my own additional section here. Less ranty, reflectiony or reviewy than the other bits.