It’s a quarter to three. There’s no-one in the place except ActorLaddie and me. And Willow. ActorLaddie is curled up peacefully; dreaming, I expect, of livery companies. Don’t ask. Really, don’t ask. Willow, at a guess, is investigating the strange oval shape which has recently appeared on the lawn. I am lying on my back, hoping for a car to drive past and counting my blessings. One – ActorLaddie.
It’s unlikely that a car will drive past. Our road goes from nowhere to nowhere. Only residents or learners drive down it; and you’d have to be pretty worried about your test to brave a lesson at this time of night.
There are plenty of foxes, of course. On each corner, thin and rangy, urbane foxes raise their eyebrows then saunter coolly across the roads. But they don’t have headlights. I am hoping for a car with headlights. Two – the kids.
I am not, generally, a back-sleeper. Out of preference, I’d be curled on my side around the hot water bottle. But I’ve not been sleeping well of late; and my back is hurting like hell, so I’m reluctant to turn. Three – my garden.
We have inherited a rectangular scrub of lawn contained by a rectangular path and thin borders of elderly roses and rampant ivy. The joy of a challenge. My vision hovers between Sissinghurst and Versailles. DearHeart and I re-assembled the greenhouse and now I’m redesigning the lawn. Four – DearHeart and BraveHeart.
The lawn is taking forever because, since the clocks went back, there’s just the sliver of time which can be carved out of the weekends between planning and marking. ActorLaddie has threatened to get me a miner’s lamp so I that can garden after school. I’m giving it serious thought.
It took the length of three audiobooks to peg out an oval shape with which I was happy. I’m now laying the bricks to create a mowing strip and I just can’t get them right. The lawn slopes something ‘scrutiating and I’ve spent silly amounts of time tweaking the bricks to get them level. I’ve got it as good as I can but it’s still not right and I can’t work out what to do about it. In the end, I call my dad.
“You must be so pleased with this,” says Ma as they toddle out into the garden.
“It’s not right,” I snarl, ungraciously. Ma retreats to stand in the ‘it’s good enough’ camp with ActorLaddie while Pa and I inspect the strip. Eventually Pa works out what is wrong and what to do about it. He shows me how to adjust the level the bricks with the end of the club hammer and we do the first few together. Then they toddle off again while I set to for a couple of hours happy tamping. I manage about a third of the oval before bad light stops play. It’s looking good.
ActorLaddie is off to the London City Guides’ Christmas bash while I settle down to a racy Saturday evening. I mark maths assessments, enter the results in a question analysis spreadsheet and work out the difference in points since the last assessment. At the end of the evening, I try to get up and can’t. My back has completely seized up, presumably in the excitement of the rise in average point score.
Clinging to furniture like a toddler, I coast my way into bed, manoeuvring the hot water bottle to the base of my spine. I doze a bit and then wake when I need to turn over and find I can’t.
We must get around to decorating that ceiling. In the distance, I hear the hum of a car. It turns down the road. As it passes the house, a strip of light moves across the ceiling. At once, I am snuggled between mum and dad, at the front of the bedroom flat on Battersea Rise, watching the strips of lights travel across the ceiling. Five – a happy childhood.