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Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Scraping the barrel

Second week back at work after the holiday at home, and it's the last week of Eden's school holidays. Summer (and I use that term in its broadest sense after the dismal weather we've had this year) is sliding inexorably into Autumn, and already things are picking up a gear again at work as people return from their vacations and start looking towards 'back to university' season for academic books and the Christmas craziness that engulfs the mass market book trade each year. Meanwhile, as the pace picks up at work, I sense an increased stir-craziness amongst my family after seven weeks knocking about together in the same small south east London semi. Paul (put-upon house husband) has the air of someone on the edge of a nervous breakdown. Three kids all at home, no money and endless rain for seven weeks can do that to a person. He regards me slightly helplessly as I arrive home to survey the blue poster pain all over the cream sofa, the raisins and biscuit crumbs trampled into the floor and the general air of chaos that pervades. Last night he commented simply, 'I need a holiday'. The children are also restless. Trailing up the street after me in the mornings in their pyjamas, toast in hand, they cry, 'Don't go to work!' in plaintive tones. And it seems when I return in the evening that the mere fact of my arrival tips them over into hysteria. Ava (nearly one) almost always bursts into tears the moment I walk through the door - as if my sudden presence shocks her into the realisation that I have been absent for most of the day. Nathan (2 1/2) usually spends the next 20 minutes leaping all over me, legs flailing in all directions, irrespective of whether they are coming into frequent contact with both his sisters' heads. Eden (5 1/2) attempts to squeeze in a cuddle between the more raucous administrations of her siblings. And then we move on to the family supper, during which Ava cries every time I leave the room to fetch something from the kitchen, Nathan spreads his food liberally anywhere that doesn't involve his mouth and Eden again attempts to tell me about her day - generally without once being allowed to get to the end of a sentence. It's the price I pay for going to the work - a sense that the bit of the day I get to spend with my kids is the dreggy part; the bottom of the barrel. Thank goodness for three-day weekends!

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