Credit Where Credit’s Due

Posted by on Oct 17, 2015 in Single Parent Stuff, The Every Day | 0 comments

 

 

 

Excuse me while I clear my throat because it’s so long since I used my voice around here. Partly because I have been busy with and knackered by work and partly because – ahem (there I go again with the throat-clearing) I passed thirty many years ago so feel a bit weird / fraudulent writing a blog called My Shitty Twenties. I also feel like I had said all I had to say about single parenthood.

Turns out I haven’t.

 

When it comes to dodging Tory bullets, we’ve been lucky so far. Our house only has two bedrooms, so we weren’t hit by the bedroom tax and, given the fact Tom’s father doesn’t give me any money whatsoever towards his upkeep, the Child Maintenance changes didn’t affect us either. I’ve carried on, earning a pittance for a job I love, thankful for the fact my bank allows me to go way beyond my overdraft limit every month (and charges me for the privilege).

“That’s awful,” people say, “make it stop!”

But if I made it stop, my bills would bounce and then we’d be in even bigger trouble. Like an unflattering but generous elasticated waistband, the stretchy boundaries of my bank account are both my enemy and my saviour.

I’d read about the Tax Credits cuts and, I confess, screwed up my eyes and stuck my fingers in my ears and gone “lalala”. I knew that some families could lose “up to” this or “as much as” that and hoped that, as a hard-working single parent, they wouldn’t affect me too much. Tax credits are the things that make surviving on a low wage possible; surely the Tories, in their attempt to come across as the party for ‘hardworking’ people (that’s not even a word, Cameron), wouldn’t be reducing them by too much. Then I saw that brave lady calling out Amber Rudd on Question Time and decided I had better find out exactly how much worse off we’re going to be come April.

It’s over £1600 a year.

It can’t be right, I thought, struggling to sleep last night. Those online calculators are never very accurate. Call the Tax Credits office in the morning.

So I did. The first person couldn’t tell me and the second person confirmed that I was indeed going to lose nearly £1700 a year from April.

I and many, many others literally will not be able to manage if this happens.

Osborne and pals reckon the changes will force employers to pay more, but there’s a problem with that for me: I work in the public sector so my wages are determined by the government. Presumably they’re not about to give their low-paid workers a massive pay rise?

I am in work for 8:15 every morning, having paid the childminder to take my son to school because he starts after me. She also collects him in the afternoon, when I am still at work. I am a teaching assistant and I absolutely adore my job and the children I work with. I wanted to train to be a teacher, but because I had a baby in the middle of my degree ten years ago and came out with a 2:2 and the government has changed the funding rules to attract candidates who look better on paper, I would be eligible to “£0” funding to train. And that’s if I would even be accepted on a course, which is unlikely, even though I’ve got a Masters. Yep, I’ve checked, many times.

News about the Tax Credits cuts slipped through the nasty net of the right-wing press when they were too busy headlining the disaster that was Corbyn refusing to sing a song about The Queen. Now their readers, the ‘hardworking people’ [sic] courted by Cameron in the run-up to the election, are realising that from next spring, they’re going to be in real trouble. I didn’t think I’d ever agree with anything The Sun did, but their campaign to stop these cruel cuts can only be a good thing.

Two weeks ago, Tom and I marched. You spend all of summer waiting for cloudless skies, every year forgetting that summer tends to come in autumn these days. We would have marched in the rain or a gale or in sleet, but as it happened, Manchester was tropical, and the anti-austerity march felt like carnival.

Was I indoctrinating my nine-year-old son by taking him on a political march? I had this out with myself before we went to the first rally after the election in May but decided, eventually, that everyone presents their children with the beliefs that they think are right, which is why I spent every Sunday morning of my childhood in church. Tom’s nine years have soared past in a colourful blur; in the same amount of time again, he’ll be an adult and massively affected by what the Tories are doing now. So we marched, with Tom blowing a horn and waving a banner, everyone in the crowd being carried along by the kinetic energy and feeling a solidarity that almost extinguished the fury. Town was full of people who felt the same. And the odd sheepish-looking person in a blue lanyard. If I’d had the grisly figure I jut found out in my head, I’d  have shouted so much louder.

“I’ll be able to vote in two elections,” Tom said, on the way home, “I don’t know if I’ll vote Labour or Green.”

“You might vote for the Conservatives,” I said, squeezing his hand tight as we strode across the pelican crossing.

“I will NEVER do that.”

“You might, you know. You won’t always agree with everything I say. I just tell you what I think is best, you will make your own mind up when you’re an adult.”

“But how could I vote for a party that makes poor people poorer and rich people richer? I just never can.”

I squeezed his hand tightly again, even though we were safely across the road and on the pavement on the other side.

If you’re affected by this, or even if you’re not and you think it is abysmal, please sign this, make a noise, don’t take it, because it really, really can’t happen.

 

 

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Report Day

Posted by on Jul 14, 2013 in The Every Day | 5 comments

He comes out of school squinting beneath the rim of his battered sun hat, his cheeks touched by lunchtime sun. His white polo shirt looks like it’s been used to wipe the floor, a job it is destined for after today.

“I’ve got my report,” he says, holding up his book bag.

“Oh, no,” I say, stuffing the bag in my bike basket, “we’d better sit down.”

This summer will be imprinted boldly in his mind. The sun lights memories up, giving them a unique longevity and vividness. I remember the hot summers best: daisy chains, hosepipe bans, Neapolitan ice cream eaten in the garden on a scratchy brown and orange tartan rug. We haven’t had one as good as this for a while… Not since he was a baby and I pushed my pram around in circles, wondering what would happen next. Or the one before, much of which I spent sobbing in bed on account of the fact I was pregnant and therefore doomed.

We walk to the park he toddled through with some friends of mine when he was just learning to walk. There’s another sunny memory: him cherubic in a blue striped romper suit and a pair of grown-up’s sunglasses, kissing everybody, making us laugh.

My bike won’t fit through the gate into the picnic area, so we sit down in the long grass and I open the brown envelope.  He moved schools earlier this year, so I don’t expect it to be perfect, but I know he’s been trying his best. When I flip open the bright white A4, I can’t believe what I see. Those neat rows of black blocks fill me with a pride that freezes me, so I have to look and look again.

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I ring Mum and I read the teacher’s comments out while I’ve got one arm wrapped tightly around him and I’m crying and I hope no one comes. Tom and I carry on sitting in the grass going through the levels and the comments for every section, both of us plucking at grass seeds and sprinkling them over the paper and letting them fall. Something comes and bites me and leaves a stinging red mark on the back of my arm, but it doesn’t matter. Tom asks if he can climb the baby oak tree close to us and I tell him he can. He gets up to a high branch and pretends to surf on it while I read the report another two or three times.

“Watch yourself surfing on that branch, a broken arm would really ruin this moment.”

“What’s the best thing about this moment? The sunshine or my school report?”

“The school report, closely followed by the sun.”

“Look Mum I am surfing, surfing USA.”

“Yeah but get down will you?”

“Why?”

“Because I want to hug you and buy you a blummin’ celebratory ice cream.”

I don’t think he realises how good it is so I tell him how important today is, how proud I am am and how he must never forget it.

We’ve all seen the reports about children being raised without fathers. There was one out last month, timed beautifully a few days before Fathers’ Day, warning of a ‘tsunami’ of family breakdown. What those articles say, in a roundabout way, is that single mothers are doing a crap job and are partly responsible for the demise of Britain (never mind the ones who run away; they’re well out of the picture.)

 

So, in response to all those reports, here’s a different kind of report, straight from a “fractured family” / “man desert”. What those press releases need to say is that single mothers are actually trying their hardest. Even though we’re knackered and making it up as we go along and we might be going prematurely grey, most of us are doing a bloody good job. It’s been said before, obviously, but it needs to keep being said, because the other, misogynist stuff about single mums goes on. It’s why there’s a place for boasting, sometimes.

(After this we went home and I felt like I had run a marathon, fell deeply asleep while he was watching telly, then woke up and blearily ordered us a pizza, which we ate straight from the box in the back yard.)

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Neon Green

Posted by on Apr 22, 2013 in The Every Day | 2 comments

I bought Tom a new bike for his birthday. It was orange, because that’s his favourite colour. It took me ages to find one in his size that was also orange. It came and I hid it under my bed for a week until the night before his birthday, when I pulled it out and tried to assemble it and realised that I couldn’t screw on the effin left pedal or even get close to attaching the front wheel. I cried and had what may or may not have been a panic attack on the living room floor, surrounded by bike parts and packaging.

“The pedal the pole the pedal the pole the ppppp pole pedal,” etc, I said to Mum on the phone, who was asking me if I had a paper bag handy.

It meant so much to me that Tom would come down in the morning and see his beribboned, orange bike and I was so pissed off with myself that I hadn’t managed to assemble it.

“Close your eyes,” I said the next morning, wheeling it into the living room on its back wheel with the front wheel in my hand, “I’ve got you a present but I am afraid I couldn’t put it together so I am going to have to get someone else to do that. OK open your eyes now.”

“A new bike, thanks Mum!”

“Yeah but it is not put together.”

“That’s fine, I don’t mind.”

I went upstairs to get dressed, then on the way to school, Tom said “Mum, you know the left pedal on my new bike?”

And I said “Yeah I know it won’t screw on. I tried for ages last night and I think they have sent me a pedal with a hole too small to fit on the pole because no matter how hard I tried it just wouldn’t bite and it kept falling off on to the floor and it got really late and in the end I just gave up and I’m sorry but I think it is the wrong part.”

“But Mum, I did it while you were getting dressed. I just screwed it on.”

And he had.

The orange bike was destined for the returns van. Not only had I managed to tangle the brake cables up in the handlebars (“You f*cking idiot,” said my charming and tactful friend when he realised this) but the brakes were crap anyway and after a meeting with some brambles on a bleak day, it was time for it to go back in the box (with great difficulty.)

So, we went to a “proper bike shop” and I headed straight to the orange bikes and the orange bikes only because I was still in orange bike hunting mode, like a bower bird on a mission (if you don’t know what a bower bird is, watch this. Ace eh? Anyway…)

“But Mum, have you seen this one?” Tom said, pointing to a neon green number, “This is the coolest bike in the shop.”

“I thought you’d want orange, because it’s your favourite colour.”

“Yeah but the neon green bike is way cooler.”

Fast forward a couple of weeks and the neon green bike has been delivered. We’ve also got a new sofa bed, from our very kind neighbours. It’s beautiful and comfortable but  I decide it could do with brightening it up and purchase several boxes of ‘Bahama Blue’ dye, which, as the name suggests, looks like the colour of tropical sea. I might not be going anywhere hot anywhere soon but at least I’ll be able to dive on to my Bahama Blue couch and dream, I think.

Except it didn’t go Bahama Blue, did it? It went Incredible Hulk green. And because I was impatient and shoved the whole lot in one wash, it is sort of tie-dyed / marbled with a mustard yellow. I haven’t got a working camera or phone these days to post a picture here and that’s probably a good thing.

I actually felt really, genuinely disappointed in myself for wrecking the couch. Why couldn’t I have just left it alone? I went to Gladstone’s Library again a couple of weeks ago (more on that soon) and enjoyed the luxury of solitude and few worries and time to read and write. Since I got back, things keep going wrong and I’ve been a bit fed up.

“I’ve ruined the sofa,” I said to Tom at home time.

“Oh, Mum.”

But then:

“WOW THAT IS THE COOLEST SOFA COLOUR EVER IT’S LIKE MY NEON GREEN BIKE!”

“Speaking of your neon green bike, let’s take it for a spin.”

I really didn’t feel like going out, such was my fed upness. But I did. And as I was wheeling the bike to the park, I got an urge to sit on it. So I did. I did and I pedalled really fast and raced Tom to the park and it felt ace, even though my knees were in my armpits. About three people saw me and cheered me on.

“Mum, I loved it when you rode my bike to the park. You’re a great girl,” he said later.

He always says ‘girl’ in scouse.

The sofa still looks like a tree frog.

 

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When Writing’s Frightening

Posted by on Dec 30, 2012 in The Every Day | 11 comments

Writing a book when you have a job and a child is hard. My job comes first. It has to: I am the breadwinner and I’m lucky enough to have a job that uses words and my creativity. This is great, but it means there are no long days to sit at my desk writing. I read articles of writers’ tips and they talk about writing eight or more hours per day and it just isn’t possible when you have got to go to work. And if your job involves sitting at a laptop, typing all day, by the time you have collected your child from school and fed them and listened to them read and bathed them and read them a bedtime story and showered yourself and dried your hair and done the washing up and made sure the uniform’s all ready for the morning, the last thing you feel like doing is sitting down at a laptop and writing again. You can’t just go “oh, I’m going to be really creative between 9 and 10pm tonight” because if your brain’s done in, it won’t happen.

The other, perhaps bigger issue here is confidence. Over the years, in sporadic late night weekend sessions, I’ve got thousands of words down; more than enough to fill a book. But for a long time, I have been frightened of it. A lot of the book is about being pregnant. I know people like reading my blog posts because of the sweet things Tom says and the way it all turned out OK in the end. Tom isn’t talking when he is a foetus and I’m an angry, frightened individual, so it’s nowhere near as lovely. But it did happen and it does happen and that’s why I set out to write about it. People have read what I’ve written so far and told me it’s great, but I’m plagued by what ifs. What if it gets bad reviews? What if I end up wanting to recall every copy and rip it up? What if people say ‘big deal – women get pregnant every day?’ (Elsewhere on the web, I’ve been criticised and even though I knew not to listen to those internet troll types, I’m afraid they got me.) I dreaded people going “How’s the book?” because I didn’t know. I actually got to a point a couple of months ago when I lay in bed thinking about it and decided I’d have to stop.

But all of this is anxiety; an anxiety that festers when you’re on your own a lot. Of course, it is directly comparable to the moving situation (and very closely linked to it.) It felt safe to stay put and it felt safe to forget the book. But I needed to get brave again. What happened to the woman who was mortified when she got pregnant by a man who’d promised her it couldn’t happen then vanished when it did, the woman who had her baby and went back to university and then went back again to do an MA and then set up her own business in her bedroom then took her baby to Australia and then made a career as a writer off the back of it all? She has been sitting in her house, getting scared of things that weren’t there and letting life go stagnant. That’s not me. I have got something to write about, I’ve got a contract with an excellent publisher and I need to get it out there. When you have something to say, the words just flow. And do you know what? I hammered this post out in minutes.

I just need to get this move out of the way and then the book’s coming. And if you’re a writer and you’re scared, stop being scared. (And find the time, if you can.)

This brilliant post inspired me to write today. Back to the boxes.

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Boxing Day

Posted by on Dec 28, 2012 in The Every Day | 0 comments

It’s Boxing Day. Day of the bloody boxes.

Tom got a lot of boxes for Christmas: a chocolate lolly-making kit, 3D puzzles, Scrabble and Don’t Laugh. Don’t Laugh is a board game involving crap jokes and a microphone that farts. It’s hilarious, if you’re six. Tom is six and he looks like a cute thug with his new gummy gap at the front (he got fed up of people asking him to sing that song after about two goes.)
Anyway, I’m not with Tom and his boxes at Mum’s house; I’m not playing Scrabble or Don’t Laugh or eating too many Pringles because I am here, back in our house, surrounded by banana boxes and crying.
I cancelled the move last week. The council don’t think I’ll get Tom into a school near the new house. I felt like I was hanging off the edge of a slippery precipice and I froze and I couldn’t go. The landlord came round to do my moving out inventory and I got scared.
“I don’t actually think I can move any more,” I said.
“Go on, tell me all about it.”
I sat down and spilled all my fears in front of the landlord. He admitted that it would be in his interests for me to stay put, but said that education is really important and if I did decide to stay, he’d decorate and get me a new carpet for free, even though I spilt blue sun cream on the current one.
So I rang the letting agent and told them I was cancelling, because it feels safe here. And because making massive decisions as a parent is really, really hard. At least we have a warm house and a good landlord and the school, I thought. God, it was going to be a wrench to leave the school. I’d just watched Tom play the lead role in the nativity and he won chocolate for making a card for a pterodactyl (“Have a pterrific birthday”.)
But I dreamt about our new house that night and the rooms inside and our friends nearby. What if it’s the worst move ever and everything goes wrong? But what if it’s the best and things get better and we never look back? I thought back to how frightened I was when I was pregnant and how I wish I’d known how it would turn out so I could have got excited about what was happening.
By the time I woke the next morning, I knew if I didn’t leap while there was a ‘To Let’ board flapping on the front of our house, I never would. And I’d always wonder how things would have turned out if I’d just been a bit braver. So, I adopted the brace position and rang my mum to tell her I’d changed my mind. Again. Thankfully, I hadn’t missed out on the house. And when Tom and I went to visit it again and met lots of friendly people, I knew I’d made the right decision.
But back here, on my own on Boxing Day, the fear keeps seeping in. I think it’s because I miss Tom and I need to know everything will be OK with the school. Until it is, we’re going to commute to the old one. It’s not going to be easy, but no one says ‘that was worth it’ about anything that was a doddle.
The other thing that is not easy is packing your entire life into Fyffes boxes. What to do with the crinkly wax crayon masterpieces from summer 2008? Anna just whizzed in with a roll of parcel tape and a Sharpie, ruthlessly shouting “BIN! BIN! BIN!”
I’m only allowing myself out for New Year if this is done. Which is keeping me going. That and the thought of us in a few weeks, in our new house, playing Scrabble and Don’t Laugh, watching as the big teeth appear and spring begins.
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Getting Into Stretch Marks

Posted by on Dec 16, 2012 in The Every Day | 2 comments

I’ve never written about stretch marks before, probably because it was the one thing I hadn’t managed to sort out. Nappies and potties: far more manageable than I imagined. Brilliant little boy: sorted. Forging a career: done. Providing a roof over our heads and lots of happy memories: yep. Not detesting the sight of my own torso: still on the to-do list. For years.

It seems vain and trivial to go on about aesthetics. But, unless you’re one of the lucky ones, pregnancy and birth take a massive toll on your body and for many, that’s a big deal. It’s especially bad if you haven’t got a partner who witnessed you give birth and thinks you’re amazing and understands that the way your body has changed is part and parcel of the fact you are now a family. (I realise it’s not that idyllic for everyone but I have seen this sort of stuff on forums: “Hubby loves mine LOL!!!!!! he calls them my baby stripes LOL 🙂 🙂 :)”.)

I had a caesarean, which was what I wanted (although I went through days of labour beforehand.) I was absolutely petrified of giving birth naturally – it seemed like this awful, brutal thing that I just didn’t want to do. Even thinking about it made me angry, but I was generally angry back then and also a lot younger than I realised. These days, I believe all the stuff the midwives tried telling me when I was sticking my fingers in my ears and going ‘la la la’: Your body’s designed to do it, you’ll feel on top of the world when it’s over, you’ll forget how much it hurts.

The trouble with a caesarean, especially if you have stopped caring and regularly eaten family-sized bars of chocolate for the preceding nine months, is that there’s a lot of extra skin hanging around. Literally. Before I got pregnant, my tummy was my redeeming feature. I had a massive arse and thighs but my abdomen always stayed miraculously flat no matter how big the rest of me got. After a caesarean, people say: ‘can you see the scar?’ and you can’t because there’s a bloody great mass of shrivelled skin hanging over the top of it. When I was pregnant and reading up on caesareans, I saw it described as an ‘apron’ and wondered what the eff that meant. A few months later, I knew.

So, I carried around the apron for years, hardly able to look at it myself, never mind let anyone else see it. It made me cold and clunky in situations with blokes. I rarely let anyone near me and when I did, I just kept thinking of how horrifying the sight of the apron would be and how they would run away or be sick or something. Over the years, I lost weight and the apron shrunk but it was still there – and it still is, although loads smaller than it once was. And the rest of my tummy is so stripy it’s ridiculous: completely covered in these little s shapes and wrinkles and undulating lines.

Just as it took me years to realise the midwives were right about giving birth, it’s taken me years to realise the other stuff people have been telling me is true: Most blokes really aren’t that bothered about the texture of your abdomen, any bloke who is bothered about the texture of your abdomen probably isn’t a good catch and (most of all) your scars are there because you’ve got your son. And there’s no way I’d swap him for a flat stomach.

“Mum, what are those wiggly lines all over your tummy?” he said in the changing rooms after swimming last week.

“They’re stretch marks, from when I was pregnant.”

“Do you like them?”

“I didn’t used to, but now I think they’re alright.”

“I think they look quite fashionable.”

“Thanks.”

So if you’re reading this and you’re not quite there yet, just get into your stretch marks. Untie the apron strings and let it go. They are pretty in a funny way. And also less painful than getting a tattoo of your child’s name.

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Let’s Just Do It

Posted by on Nov 27, 2012 in The Every Day | 4 comments

What’s that saying? It’s better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.

I don’t think it counts in the case of a single parent. I always think it must be easier to be alone from day one than to know what it’s like to have someone else around and then for them to be gone.

It took a long time for me to notice the gap, because it had always been there and it’s all I’ve ever known. I just sort of floated through my early twenties thinking phrases off naff fridge magnets such as “everything will be OK in the end and if it’s not OK yet it’s not the end yet.”

And then you get a bit older and it feels like ‘the end’ or the ‘happy ever after’ or whatever it is should actually be happening by now and you start to think in a not-wanting-to-sound-like-Bridget-Jones-but-it’s-inevitable-sort-of-way: shit.

Sometimes, increasingly more frequently,the gap makes itself known: when every (evil, impossible, expensive, high-up, halogen) light bulb in the house has gone, when I have had a good weekend surrounded by friends and then I am here at my desk, just like always, craving company, when I pluck up the courage to open a bill and imagine it halved. And most of all, when I need to make big decisions.

That’s the toughest bit of all: the decision-making, especially those that pertain to a child’s future. What if you get it wrong and your child is sad and there’s no one to blame but yourself? Wouldn’t it be great to be able to talk to someone else about it and hold hands and leap together?

For a long time I’ve not been happy where we live. It’s OK. I mean, there’s frequently dog turd on the doorstep and the street stinks of skunk (“Mummy, what is that smell?”) but it could be a lot worse. I want to live somewhere where there’s a bit more going on though, where I know more people and there’s a community.

I worried about it for ages. I went on about it on Twitter for years. Then I started to talk to Tom about it.

“All the good schools are full, so you might have to go in one that’s nowhere near as lovely or nearby as the one you go to now.”

“It’s fine Mum, honestly.”

“But won’t you miss your friends?”

“No, I mean I do like them, but I’d actually like to meet some new ones.”

“What if you have to go on a waiting list for swimming lessons?”

“That’s fine. I love swimming, but it is a bit of a pain having to walk home from the pool in the winter.”

“What if, what if, what if?”

“It’s fine Mum, getting stressed is not the way to do stuff. Just relax and it’s all OK.”

Good mantra for a fridge magnet, maybe?

“Honestly Mum, let’s just do it.”

So, we got to the stage where we were viewing houses and visiting lovely families we know who live nearby. Tom was very impressed by all the cats.

“Let’s just move here, it’s like Cat Land,” he said.

Then we found the one, the house, but the back yard was tiny.

“There’s no garden, what will you do in the summer?”

“I’ll sit outside and read a book, maybe make a picnic for my toys. It’s fine.”

And he says it all in the most grown-up, laid-back voice.

So we’re off, we’re doing it. It’s all go, go, go. We’re moving into our new house early next year.

I just wish I’d remembered to check whether the light bulbs were evil, impossible expensive, high-up, halogen.

 

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Tea and Empathy

Posted by on Oct 30, 2012 in The Every Day | 2 comments

As well as spending the week off doing fun stuff like art, parks and sliding through snow, it’s a good chance to sort out house the house. While I painted Frankenstein’s head, cleaned the kitchen and cooked a proper tea (chilli), Tom did a very good job of filling a charity sack with toys he no longer plays with (he put Buzz Lightyear in there – I thought he’d be around for… years.)

“I’d give this infinity out of a hundred,” Tom said of the chilli at the dinner table. (We don’t eat at enough.)

“Cheers. Infinity and beyond,” I said, “That’s what Buzz Lightyear says. How come you don’t want him any more?”

“I don’t play with him,” he shrugged, “and another person would like to play with him so they might as well have him.”

After tea, we were sitting cross-legged on Tom’s bedroom floor; me sorting his clothes into piles and Tom trying to match up odd socks.

“What are these doing in here?” he said, pulling a pair of tiny mittens out of his sock drawer.

“I’ve got no idea,” I said, “They’re baby-sized. You probably wore them not that long ago though.”

“Charity bag!” We both said at the same time.

I watched him from the side while he concentrated on the socks, thinking about how grown-up he’s looking.

“This is nice,” I said.

“What’s nice?”

“Just having some time to sit together in your room and make it tidy, instead of hurrying you into bed and reading your story a bit too fast and having to go downstairs and think about reading records and school uniform and washing up and an early night.”

“What will you do tonight?”

“I’ll probably leave the washing up from tea.”

“Yeah, don’t worry about that. Then what?”

“I’ll work on my book. I can’t write in the evenings when I’ve been working because my brain is full of work stuff and I’ve spent all day sitting at a computer already. Sometimes it feels like I’ll never finish, but this week, I think I will.”

“Even though I have never had that experience, I sort of understand.”

“Really?”

“Yeah: at school we get extra time to finish our work at break or lunch if we want to. And you would finish your book if it was just a little story like the ones I write at school, but yours is actually a great big proper book and you only get little patches of time.”

He made the little patches of time with his forefingers and thumbs.

“That’s it. Little patches of time, a.k.a. fits and starts.”

“You’ll do it though, Mum. You’re the best thing in the entire history.”

And even though he’s a bit biased, his wise words are speeding me through tonight.

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