There are little drips of something all down the hall. Maybe it’s water, I think to myself optimistically. I have to be optimistic: I washed that floor only yesterday because the cleaner didn’t come, because there was a seven-hour power cut, because some workman down the road accidentally cut the cable. No power, no hoover, no point paying for the cleaner, I thought. So I cleaned the house myself when the power came back on, on Friday night and then a bit more on Saturday morning, which sounds like a film - only with rather more mop action, and less sex.
I don’t have time to investigate the drips right away because I need to put Youngest to bed, a protracted affair under normal circumstances but even more so at the moment since he contracted his second ear infection in the space of three weeks. Now the bedtime routine begins with the dose of antibiotic (second round), followed by the Actimel to wash the revolting taste away before the lengthy application of verruca gel to the many verrucas on his feet (proof right there, as if any were needed, of his low immunity) and then, lastly, the inhalers, blue and brown, before finally we collapse into his bed for the story.
I have to read the story at the moment because it’s Wind in the Willows, my favourite. I’ve got a great voice for Toad, all lisping with a soft 'r' and totally exhausting. In fact, I’ve got so carried away as the various characters that when Mole smelt his home again and Ratty didn’t notice and carried gaily on down the road, back to the river, after they’d just been to the Wild Wood and met Badger, and Mole began to quietly sob to himself, I had tears streaming down my face. Youngest was transfixed, caught somewhere between awe and horror, I think. At least, that’s what I hope he was caught between; he could well have been thinking that his mother is a lunatic, which I suppose I might be looking at the recent evidence.
You see it wasn't an isolated incident. I started sobbing while watching the BBC Proms as well. It was Mendelssohn’s violin concerto and it reminded me of my second year at university when I used to play it all the time on my old portable record player in that damp little house near the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, when all the future was ahead of me and life still had possibilities and my heart had just been broken… But that’s another story. And it also reminded me of my Grandfather who introduced me to that piece of music and who is, of course, now long dead. I think it was played at his funeral. And we really loved each other, my Grandfather and I. So that made me cry too.
It was maple syrup, those drips on the hall floor. I realised this as I stepped in them when finally I got downstairs again after the verruca gel and the inhalers and sobbing with Mole and Ratty down on the River Bank, and it really wouldn’t have mattered much, that Eldest had obviously spilt it there while carrying his plate to the living room to eat his pancakes in front of the television before leaving the house to go to his GCSE exam, if I hadn’t left it for just that little bit longer and gone to sit down in front of the Proms.
Because then I forgot about it and later, much later, when I was carrying all the washing, after Youngest had come downstairs three times, all hot and emotional and exhausted to say he couldn’t get to sleep because Eldest was making too much noise (again), so that I had to take him back up and lie down next to him and stroke his brow and try to calm him down, lots of sand fell out of Middle One’s pocket. He’s been on a week long school trip to France, you see, and came back with a case full of the stuff, which I cleverly (or so I thought) emptied out in the garden so as not to get it all over the house, because I’d just cleaned it. But I’d neglected to turn out all the pockets.
So then there was sand stuck in the maple syrup drips all over the hall floor, which, quite frankly, just for a moment there, really made me want to cry. Again.