Tuesday, 3 March 2020

Behind lace no-one sees you scream

Martin Freeman, late of ‘Sherlock’ inter alia, has boldly made a new tv series about the ills of parenthood. The ills, mark you, not the joys. 

This approach shouldn’t be unusual broadcasting, but it is. From Facebook to tv adverts, fliers to glossy magazines images of the perfect life, for those that have everything, are projected at us on a continual basis.

Folk on holiday on distant shores post photographs of exotic ravines, sunny seasides and fantastic family gatherings on to their fb and instagram walls.

Nowhere do we witness their ordinary moments. And even less so, fatal arguments between snarring couples, babies who cry, on the hour, every hour or youngsters who keep saying, ‘Why?’ or ‘No. Shan’t’. And, since I don’t even like the shouting on ‘Eastenders’, I can see why ugly scenes, or merely the mundane,  aren’t popular fodder for our tv screens. But to have perpetual perfection thrust at us is to relegate our ordinary hours not to simple domestic comfort but to a sense of failure. This is especially so when I’m washing up or mopping the kitchen floor while others are filming kangaroo or crossing the Golden Gate bridge. It’s important to clean the floor or disinfect the loos, do the ironing or load the dishwasher, but, while others are posting shots of fantastic sunsets on social media domestic chores that I take some pride in can make me feel tired and provoke a feeling of being sorry for myself. And I’m not a pessimist nor given to low mood but after five months of my husband’s illness I am beginning to sense envy.

Today is a beautiful spring day. At nine o’clock I went to the doctor’s surgery with my husband and later did some shopping. So far, so ordinary.

But no-one knows the effort taken to achieve these necessary tasks. No-one knows how little sleep I had owing to a throbbing knee and trapped nerve in my neck. No-one knows the strength it took for me to drag us both out of bed, feed the cat, feed ourselves, run a bath for Richard and ensure he took his meds, all in a rush, just to get to the surgery on time. I had little time to open the curtains. Never before have I had a glass of prosecco at 9:00 am. I tell myself it was a painkiller. But, after a sleepless night, all I wanted to do was go back to bed. And then, of course, we waited and waited in the doctors’ surgery. The doc was running very late.

But on the way back home the sun was shining and I knew I needed to get in some exercise today. I was too late for the bus that I’d planned to take for the swimming pool but I had time to walk into the village. That is 20 minutes downhill and the same back. (I planned to get the bus back and still get in some exercise.)

Without waiting to see the return bus times I dashed out of the house with my shopping trolley and made the downhill trip to the shops. Outside the supermarket the bus stop screen showed the next return bus was eight minutes away. Great. I had time to fill my shopping trolley and get the bus back up the hill.

But, of course, there was a queue at the till. I espied an ex-colleague who is still fantastically beautiful. From the corner of my eye I noticed that her shopping basket was full of vegan foods, not cheap cheese and sausages like mine. She went straight to the head of a newly opened till while I waited behind someone buying scratch cards. And another scratch card and more cash back. I avoided my colleague’s eyes and dashed out of the shop with my full trolley only to see the bus I wanted begin its slow climb uphill. Did I sit and wait alongside a well-known homeless man at the stop for the next bus? All the while knowing the still-beautiful colleague was getting into her comfortable BMW. Or did I struggle with my heavy shopping trolley and begin the arduous journey back uphill? 

Yes, I could have screamed. The butcher’s was closed. The DIY shop had finally closed forever. The brasserie was full. As was my bladder. No escape.

Head held high I began the journey home on foot and pretended I didn’t know someone beautiful, skinny and driving an expensive car had seen me struggle with a full shopping trolley nor that I was desperate for a lift. 

When I got home I opened the drapes fully. (I hadn’t had time earlier.) The sun shone through the Breton lace panel we have hanging at the window. It was still a beautiful day. I had achieved what I’d set out to do and could have the sleep I needed. 

Martin Freeman’s ‘Breeders’ is on Sky One on March 12th. I will be watching to see how he depicts a life of frustration which continually falls short of perfection. It’s broadcast a few days before my birthday. A birthday The Beatles sang about oh so many years ago. Am I really that old? No longer twelve, listening to a smuggled-in Sergeant Pepper’s album. But more like the mother - or grandmother - of Vera, Chuck and Dave. Oh dear. Yes I am the age of some women with grandkids. Time to face up to it. And maybe mix with others my age instead of pretending I’m still a young thing. Time to stop pretending. 

I look at our calendar and the view of San Francisco which illustrates March 2020. It hangs next to the window where the spring sunshine is filtering through the Breton curtain. We were planning a long trip abroad this year. It looks unlikely to take place unless Richard gets well and can cope with travelling. The only sun I’ll enjoy will be on our patio, seen through the Breton panel hanging at our window. And behind the lace no-one sees you scream.

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