Saturday, 9 July 2011

The Tube

I’m standing in the school line at 8.45 am with Youngest. He's crying. He says he’s ill. Again. I have a lot of work to do today and my mobile is ringing.

“I really don’t think he is ill,” I'm saying to the teacher as my mobile clamours for attention. "He was running around in the garden with his brothers yesterday evening."

“Tell him to come to me if he feels poorly,” she's replying. “On Monday, when he was sent home in the afternoon, he just crept down to M's room and I knew nothing about it...”

“Thank you,” I say, glancing down at the phone. Eldest’s name is flashing on the display. “Excuse me, I just have to take this.”

“What the hell do you think you’re doing, Mummy!” he shouts.


“I need more money! For the tube, to get to work, you just left the house!”

Eldest is doing work experience at a friend’s production company in Soho at the moment. For two weeks.

“How is that my fault?” I reply.

“Well, you should have given it to me. You just left!”

“Actually,” I say, “I called up the stairs while I was getting Youngest ready but you weren’t up. You said you’d get yourself up this morning, remember…”

“Well, what do you expect me to do now? I don’t have money for the tube.”

“I’ll come home,” I say.

I drive home. Quickly. I pick up Eldest and drive him to the tube because he is so late. I give him money. He jumps out. I go home. I walk into the empty house. It’s a tip but I don’t care. I breathe a sigh of relief and start working. After lunch I get a phone call from the primary school. You guessed it.

I go down in the car and pick up Youngest. He says he really doesn’t feel well. He doesn’t look well either. I feel awful. He falls asleep in my arms as we sit together on the sofa. I fall asleep too, for twenty minutes, it’s delicious. Then I get up and go and get on with my work.

When Middle One comes home I go downstairs for a while to talk to him, then I go back up to work as he slumps in front of the telly. Much later the phone rings...

“Er, I have a problem!” shouts Eldest.

“What is it?”

“There’s no tube. How do I get home?”

“At Oxford Circus?”


“It’s because it’s the rush hour. They close the entrance sometimes, because of the crush, you could wait or walk down to Tottenham Court Road, it’s…”

“I know where it is!” shouts Eldest. He hangs up.

I get on with some work. A short while later the phone rings again.

“There’s no tube at Tottenham Court Road!”

“Are you sure?”

“Of course, I’m sure!”

“Well…you could try walking down Charing Cross road to Leicester Square or get a bus. You need to walk south either way.”

“How the hell do I know which way is south!”

“Are you near Centrepoint?”

“Yes! I'm in front of it.”

“Well then, if you are looking back across at Oxford street…”

“What the hell are you talking about, ‘if I’m looking back at Oxford Street’? Are you mad!”

“If you are looking back at the street you just emerged from, then, when you came out of that street, Oxford Street, you needed to turn…”

“Mummy! What the hell are you talking about?”

He hangs up. I get on with my work. A few minutes later the phone rings.

“I’m at Cambridge Circus.”

“Good.” I say. “That’s good, you’ve walked south down Charing Cross road, you are very near Leicester Square. You can pick up the Northern line from…”

“I know! I know!” he shouts. He hangs up again.

About half an hour later he appears home.

“You made it then.”

“Of course I made it,” he says. “I knew where I was all the time.”

“Right, I say. “Did you have a good day?”

“Great. It’s fab. I love it.” He flops down on the red leather armchair in the living room and tells me about his day. He's very enthusiastic and animated. “And did you know that T is working at Sainsbury’s as a security guard!” he laughs. (T is one of his friends from school.) “He’s such a loser! He should have got something better than that!”

“Er, didn’t I sort out your work experience for you?” I say.

“Yeah, well…” he says.

He has one leg over the arm of the chair, he’s swinging it backwards and forwards, surveying the room like a King. “When I get my own place, I’m going to need some of this furniture.”

You might need to be able to get yourself up in the morning, find a job and learn to get around London first, I think to myself. But I don’t say this.

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