Four months till publication – October

Having started this monthly countdown to publication by acknowledging that I needed to get some domestic help, I’d intended to use this post to write about the help I finally sought; what worked, what hasn’t worked, and about how, when you delegate something, there’s a strange patch of time when help actually consumes far more time that it saves. I’ve invested a great deal of time in the six weeks since our au pair arrived in establishing routines, and it’s beginning to work. The school run (an hour and a half when I do it alone) is now a shared chore; ballet and Cubs and Beavers and Brownies and Junior Choir are all firmly on the map; our au pair has started college and is making friends, and his willingness to run errands is of immeasurable value in protecting my time while the children are at school.
And then, on Thursday last week, everything collapsed. My mother had kindly taken the early school run; our au pair was gathering the later departure together; I was revelling in the thought of a rare early start to my working time. I dashed to fetch the vegetable monster which was to be the youngest’s contribution to Reception’s harvest decorations (the creation of which merits a blog post of its own), and there, huddled in the hallway and weeping into his mobile phone, was our au pair. ‘Mon père est morte,’ he said. My father is dead.
Nothing matters terribly now. Our au pair is nineteen. He has lost his father. Our children have had their first experience of loss – the father of the young man who’s been playing with them, taking them to school and making Saturday morning football possible, is far more immediate and relevant to them than the only other death they’ve been aware of, that of their Australian great grandmother last year. They haven’t always embraced our au pair, but the days between the news and his departure were filled with drawings and lovingly constructed Lego models, offered with shy deference and cuddles.
We cushion ourselves from death. We have new treatments, new drugs, healthier lifestyles, more understanding of how to live. We’re shocked when doctors put Do Not Resuscitate notices on the deathbeds of their relatives. Life expectancy in the developed world creeps higher and higher. Cures for once-fatal diseases are discovered. But still we die. It’s death that connects us with life. This is an important theme of The Ship; it’s also true. When we isolate and disconnect ourselves from the thought of death, we cut ourselves off from the curious wealth that is being alive.
And so, for the moment, I’m strangely content. Heartsick for the young man who’ll be attending his father’s funeral tomorrow, but glad in the chaos that is my life. Yes, I’ve got to get tea together; James is on a trip next week and has shut himself away to prepare; I’ve got another novel to write and can’t see when that’s going to happen, and four children to get to two different schools with four different start and finish times and no help. The children have been playing noisily and happily ever since I started writing this, but I can feel their game beginning to deteriorate as tensions run high. (‘Why do I always have to be the naughty unicorn? I want to be the dragon.’ ‘You can’t be the dragon, you’re wearing a t shirt.’) I need to conclude and run. And so, just this: thank you. Whether you’re reading by accident or design; whether you think you may read The Ship or avoid it like the plague; whether you’re a published writer or an aspiring one or one of those rare and fortunate people who are content exactly where they are, I’m grateful for the minutes you’ve given to reading this. Embrace your loved ones; feel pride in the joy you bring them; give yourself a small break to appreciate this moment, without worrying too much about the next. We’re doing ok, people. We’re doing ok.

One thought on “Four months till publication – October

  1. Pingback: In the Media: 19th October 2014 | The Writes of Woman

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