You know that picture book by Jill Murphy where Mr Bear goes from room to room looking for peace and can’t find any? It’s like that in our house at the moment. Gunfire staccatos from the basement, guitar music ricochets round the attic, cars screech in the living room, feet crash on stairs, drills wail in the bathroom, hoovering drones in the office, the washing machine climaxes in the cellar, the dishwasher beeps in the kitchen and the front door slams again and again and again. Noise. Noise. Noise. With three boys there’s always a lot of it but even by our deafening standards it’s gone up a notch lately with a new Brazilian cleaning duo and three builders to refit a bathroom. And we both work at home most of the time...it’s a joke.
I add to it just a little too if I'm honest, the noise that is, as with my odd pair of girl's knickers thrown atop the enormous man/boy washing pile. God knows what our peaceful Hindu neighbours think of my screaming. And possibly I reached a nadir on Wednesday evening with Husband away on business and Middle One and Eldest about to have a fight at the dinner table (“I’ll stab you with this knife!” “Oh yeah! I’ll smash your face in!”), when I chased Eldest up the stairs to his room shouting, “Don’t you dare behave like that… I hope you fail all your GCSEs!” (I think it hurt me more to say that than it did him to hear it). I noticed too late that his row of Velux windows were open wide to the street but I didn't much care. The threat of violence from someone now so much bigger and stronger than me, even when not directed at me, was deeply unnerving. And perhaps I shouldn't worry unduly about adding to the racket where we live, it’s already a cacophony of car alarms, sirens, fox screams, smashing bottles and wheelie suitcases trundled along pavements at five o’clock in the morning. I’ve had so many sleepless nights lately the bags under my eyes feel like friends.
Even when the drilling and vacuuming stops and the children finally go to bed, the broken boiler hums so loudly from below stairs it’s like our terraced house has snapped free from its moorings: a giant throbbing ship ploughing away through the night. By Friday evening we were desperate for some peace at last - and it almost looked like we might get some. The builders gone until Monday, the cleaners done with their weekly frenzy, the cellar door shut against the worst of the humming, if Eldest could just curtail his lengthy ablutions in the bathroom and turn the wretched tap off (it’s on a pump) we might actually be able to close our eyes and… but what’s that? Drip, drip, drip (I told you it was like the picture book). The builders had left a bucket under the newly installed leaking shower nozzle creating a bespoke Chinese water torture. How kind. No matter, simply shut the door against that too and then... at last... close eyes and... finally… sleep. But only for a short while because Youngest appeared at the doorway, his ghostly wheezing figure swaying before our bleary eyes, telling us he couldn't breathe.
Turns out he has a nasty chest infection so we’ve spent the last two nights lying in bed listening to a rhythmic rasping. If there wasn’t snow on the ground right now I might consider sleeping in the car. Well it worked for Mr Bear.