Something is pulling the floating threads of my mind back together. They were wandering deliciously free only a few moments ago, doing silly and unfeasible things, like talking to field mice while spooning marshmallows from tiny egg cups into my children’s open mouths.
I’m trying to send it back again, from whence it came. I don’t want it. I like it here deep in my psyche. Go away! But this alarm is pitiless: a mother’s sixth sense, the strong arm of consciousness. It reaches right in to where I’m weak and soft and vulnerable, asleep in this cozy tent, yanking me back to reality.
A field in Sussex in the middle of the night and there’s a noise I should know. Not the deafening ferocity of rain hitting tent top - although this is the sound I register first - because that’s obviously been there all along. No, this is something new, something alarming. But for now it seems to have stopped...
Ah yes! We’ve come camping for the weekend with friends. Memory floods back in like rainwater down an overflow pipe. Youngest was keen but not still very well, with an eye infection. Middle One was grumpy because he didn’t want to go in term time. Eldest was happy-go-lucky because exams are over and his job as a runner in Soho has come to an end with all that lovely wonger in his bank account. He’s going to buy a new guitar, he says, and strummed us some lovely tunes on the old one by the campfire. Middle One can play too but not as well as his brother, yet, so he watched and sang a bit but mostly just watched. I asked for more Beatles and suggested Eldest learns Here Comes the Sun when we get home because, you never know, it might help with this shocking rain…
And now, lying here in this ridiculously narrow double sleeping bag, being jolted every time husband shifts position, I remember it all. The incredible amount of washing, shopping, packing, loading, driving. Followed by the incredible amount of unpacking, tent-erecting, bed-inflating, bickering, drinking, eating, smiling, joking. The lovely meal last night cooked on open fire, eaten in the farmer’s barn because of the rain, with the battery fairy lights I brought with us to see by, along with the candles supplied by friend, then snuggling under canvas for a lovely long sleep… And then I hear it again and realise what that noise is: vomiting.
I sit up, pencil straight on the airbed, catapulting husband a few inches into the air. “Youngest!” I exclaim with utter certainty “Being sick.” And unzip our pod for a better listen. Nothing. Husband groans, then he listens too. We’re used to this: sixteen years of this (not all the time, obviously). We even had a child vomiting the night after Youngest was born at home and had to change all his sheets, twice. That’s why this particular sound slices through even into the very depths of a wonderful drinking, eating, walking, pub-lunching, barn-dinning induced sleep: because I’ve heard it so many times before.
And then I hear it again, the unmistakable sound of retching, followed by a voice somewhere out in the rain, “are you okay?” It’s not coming from our tent. It’s not Youngest. It’s lovely friend nearby in her tent with her husband attending, having a much worse night than me. Poor thing.
So I go back to sleep and in the morning the rain briefly stops and we have the best fry up I’ve ever had the pleasure of wolfing down (except for poor friend, who only has toast), while standing in a field, and then we do more chatting and smiling in the drizzle and then an incredible amount of packing and loading and some driving, followed by an incredible amount of unloading and unpacking and washing and then some cooking and a bit more bickering, just for good measure, and Middle One goes upstairs and I hear him teaching himself to play Here Come The Sun on his guitar because, you never know, it might help with this dreadful weather and also, maybe, because I asked his brother to learn it.