Friday, April 08, 2005

Bollocks!

This is a steam valve post, asbestos clothing recommended.

Not last night, but the night before, we had a power cut. It happened at midnight long after my husband had gone to bed (he's not really an old fart - he gets up at 5) and as I was doing a last few things on the web, very slowly and stupidly, because by that time of night I usually have my eyelids propped open with matchsticks.

I forgot to mention - if Gary gets up at five, I am up by five thirty, as his idea of tiptoeing round is to find six or seven reasons to come back into the bedroom, half of them requiring the light on and a lot of under-the-breath grumbling.

He also leaves all the other lights on, washes his hair, bangs around in the kitchen and watches a bit of Breakfast TV news 'quietly', and if that doesnt grate on my nerves until I get up, then he has the knack of leaving the bedroom door 'almost shut', you know, that position where the latch hits gently against its casing with no perceptible rhythm. Its like chinese water torture or that moment in some TV shows when they announce the winners after a looooong pause. It drives me mad. Just as I am beginning to relax and think it wont happen again - tap!

Funny thing about me - I am great in a crisis, I'm a real gumboots girl, the bigger the disaster the better I cope; practical, optimistic, caring, a whirlwind of positive activity and support. Its the little things that turn me into the demon bitch from hell.

Anyhow, the powercut; the lights, the computer, everything went off with a pop at midnight, on a very dark night. This is a family home (well thats a nice way of putting it) and its the Easter holidays and this is not the sort of place, at the moment, that I would invite anyone to. OAPs and the blind wouldn't stand a chance. My left thumb is still sore, probably from fumbling in the dark for a wall corner that was closer than I thought, but how my insteps survived plugs and plastic toys is anybody's guess.

Mercifully there were smelly tea lights left out on the fireplace (there are a few strange advantages to not putting things away, it seems) but with all the streetlights off and the total darkness, it was a game getting there. I only have ceramic tealight holders and it was too far to go to the kitchen for a saucer, so the light I managed to create was very dim indeed and, held close, seemed to being a better job of scorching my corneas that casting any illumination on the room.

It was at this point, in absolute silence, that my ten year old son woke, crept to the front room and walked straight into me. I have never been so terrified in my life.

So, with him sticking close in a move-your-elbow-and-he'll-have-concussion sort of a way, and by the light of a quarter inch flame deep in a china pot, I found the electricity cupboard which doubles as the coat cupboard, checked the readout on the meter at the furthest darkest most flammably packed corner, ascertained that there was no power coming in to the house (before realising, doh, that the streetlights weren't on, so I could have guessed without checking), fumbled to the other end of the house, found the phone book, found the emergency number, rang it very slowly using the keypad like braille, got an automated message giving me another number, rang that, and found out that 'men were on their way but no-one had any idea how long it would be'.

Oh great.

By this time its about twelve thirty, so I take the limpet slowly back to bed, tuck him in, have a short, urgent, whispered argument with him about why I can't leave a naked flame in his bedroom just to make him feel better; trip, stumble and fumble my way out of his personal plastic soldier bombsite and into my own room, half wake the other half to let him know his alarm clock isnt working (he's really good at waking up without it, so long as he knows he's without it) and collapse gratefully into the beckoning pit. The last irritation, I believed, was the waxy scent of the tea light after I blew it out, which remained right beside me on the bedside table, just in case, along with my lighter.

You know that glorious, overtired feeling when there seems to be an age between ticks of the clock, and in each space muscles rush to unwind and meld with the bed, sleep hormones flood your body so that breath by breath there is less of it still feeling like its attached to you..... bliss.

Tick...spine unlocks,....tock...warmth sweeps over,.....tick....legs are asleep,.....tock.....head goes fuzzy, ...tick....."Mum?"

"Er, mum?"

"What"

"I'm scared"

(in gruff, slurry voice) "Don't be daft, go to sleep"

...Tick...

"Mum?"

"What?"

"Someones outside with a torch.......... I think we've got burglars"

So what did I do? I got up, of course, went to the window and had a look. No torches, no burglars, but a (battery operated?) burglar alarm on the house opposite is dolorously winking a tiny white light, normally completely unnoticeable. Gentle conversation ensues, whilst husband lightly snores and occasionally adds to the suspense by appearing to be about to grunt or snort instead.

Waking Gary up is NOT a good idea. Once he's awake, he's awake and he lets you know about it, all night. He could enter the world championships for solo prostrate mattress trampolining, and the grunts would make a weighlifter proud.

This is going on a bit, so, anyway, settle son down, settle self down, count to ten and start again.
"Mum?"

End result: at five to one in the morning even Gary (who's half awake impressions of Father Jack ought to be legendary; fuck, bollocks, grrr....) agrees to let the sprog share our bed for the night, for the sake of reduced peace rather than none at all. So I'm lying there waving one arm about in the air and using my lighter like a Barry Manilow fan so that son can crash and stumble toward the light. He gets into our bed by climbing over the end and walking up the middle.

Five minutes later the lights come on.

This ought to be the end of the story, except that the house was immediately lit up like Battersea Power Station and involved me (who else?) getting up and going round turning things off.

Son goes back to his own bed.
Son decides he's still a bit scared of the dark now, gets back up and turns his bedroom light back on.
I lie there trying desperately not to notice the warm yellow glow from the hallway,
And the power goes off again.

When it was finally repaired at coming up for 2 am we were back to three in a bed, son and husband both sideways trampolining in the search for space and me clinging to the mercifully solid edge of the mattress like a spare plank.

5.30 am yesterday morning I woke to find Gary fumbling for socks, one overheated child making his unconscious way to the middle of my pillow away from the cold patch where his dad threw the blankets back, and the cat on my head, or rather nested at the top of same pillow, pretty much in my hair. I didnt even have an inch of space to roll over.

Yesterday wasn't so bad, considering. OK I was on auto pilot, a few million more braincells than usual refused to fire up, I probably made some serious bloopers and I was aware of a slight shiver of muscular fatigue, all day. Being a mother strips you of all pride however, particulalry pride in your ability to function as a member of society, so I slipped back in to new-mother-zombie-mode (once learned, never forgotten) without a flicker of guilt or shame at functioning at the level of a mental patient.

Catch 22 with autopilot, for me anyhow, is that my body clock defaults to the previous day's settings, in other words last night I was wide awake until 1 am and half awake until sometime around 2, again, and today I am a little more irascible, a little more inclined to feel that the world and I should be back up to speed, when we're so obviously not.

Perhaps this wasnt the best morning to decide to answer an email I had tactfully ignored until now. Perhaps today would be a good day to remember that I have the capacity to kill people and destroy lives and relationships with the demure lifting of a single eyebrow, and put a conscious effort into refraining from exercising it, irrespective of the feel-good factor.

On the other hand theres an eclipse today, which my friend Annie says is like a full moon with knobs on, so maybe we are all a bit twitchy and my own private meltdown will go unnoticed amongst everybody elses.

Eclipses are to full moons as guys are to women.

Get it?

After all, they're just big girls, with knobs on.

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