I've just got back from the hairdressers, on the boiling hot Tube, to find a note on the floor of the hallway.
"Dear Mummy," it reads, "I have just left the house to go to the wreck (sic), I think I'll find M's house because it is near. I would wait for you but I must hurry along. P.S. It's the summer holiday!"
Very cute and endearing. But as I say it's a hot day, very hot, and I can see that Youngest has just thrown down his school rucksack and his blazer and gone. No lunch (it was a half day at school). No water. No hat or suncream. And I'm pretty sure he doesn't know how to get to M's house from the rec. on foot. He's only ever been in the car and it's further than he thinks.
So instead of getting a drink for myself and some lunch, I grab his cap and some water and jump in the car. I'm tired and hot but more than that I am worried. It's quite a long way back to the rec, it's thirty one degrees in London today, there's a warning not to be out in the sun between 12 and 3.00. And right now it's 12.30...
After only a few minutes driving, I spot him. He's that unmistakable little dejected figure on the pavement on the other side of the road, the one walking very slowly towards me, with a bright red face, hair plastered to his forehead, a sad little expression. I wind the window and call out for him to stop.
In the car with me he is near to tears. He couldn't find M's house. He got lost. He's hot and tired. Why wasn't I at home? I hand him the water and he drinks without pausing until the bottle is nearly empty. My heart goes out to him.
Don't you just remember those days? Those first forays out of the house by yourself? Going to call on a friend when not entirely sure where that friend lived in relation to your house? Somehow I do remember, or think I remember.
I certainly remember walking to school with my little brother in tow, when incredibly he must only have been about six years-old and I was nine, and that nervous feeling when an adult was coming towards us from the opposite direction. What if the adult spoke to us? Or looked at us? Or worse?
We used to walk down a 'snicket'. That's what they call them in Yorkshire: a narrow cut through, where no one could see you from the road.
I try and sort Youngest out and it takes ages. I drive him to his friend and when we get there we need to try and track down another friend who has gone out looking for both of them.
Eventually I track down that friend too, after much driving and phoning, and leave all three of them to play for a bit, with water to drink and hats to cover their heads, telling Youngest he can bring them all back to our house for bit when he's had enough of the rec. Then I drive home.
There is my bag on the hall floor where I dropped it, next to his. The house is cool and welcoming. I drink a big glass of water. I make myself something to eat. I sit down and I think: gosh, my summer cold has gone, I think, but I feel absolutely, completely exhausted, and I can't breathe very well…
Love E x