Released On 17th Jan 2018
Freddy's blog: Graceland
In the most privileged way possible, my daughter is currently homeless. (“Somebody sing hello, hello, hello”.)
3 1/2 years ago we left London looking for some square feet for our money and got a nice modern duplex flat. And then we added a baby and started to think about another, so we're moving even further north looking for a big Victorian house, a little bit ramshackle, with a walled garden, a (small) gravel drive. That’s what we’ve found anyway, and from showing my friends the pictures online I've discovered a walled garden is very desirable. It’s a Graceland. The big edifice into which I’ve always wanted to retreat with my family - and meet a different fate to Elvis of course.
But the chain didn't quite work out and we spent Christmas in very festive accommodation (a converted stable) at my in-laws. And a month after arriving, we’re still there. We knew this would happen, really. The problem is, we couldn’t imagine it and had no idea how to handle it until it was happening.
The commute is (relatively) brutal for a couple who used to walk for five minutes to the station for a 30 minute train journey. Now we have to scrape the ice off the car and set off when it’s dark, wondering when we’ll hit the traffic. We haven't got most of our stuff. We haven't quite got enough of our own space. A big one for me: there's no chance of getting a pizza delivered; they don't even live in a village. (“Somebody cry why, why, why?”)
Our daughter has a brand new “routine” with pre-school (next blog) three mornings a week, a twice a week train commute back to where we used to live to see the nanny (with breakfast and dinner on the train) and far less time with her favourite friends (the real ones, not the imaginary ones) and in her favourite playgrounds.
Does she care?
No. She’s looking after all of us. Making sure we’re getting to the train on time, taking to her first week of school better than I take to work every Monday morning, helping her Grandma with the jobs in the garden, sleeping until nearly 8am on weekends. (That’s the best one!).
And we’re enjoying the extended Christmas holiday. Ok, my mother-in-law does listen to The Archers. But she irons my shirts at the same time, even though I have told her she doesn't need to (although I haven't pushed the point too hard). And she helps us get the porridge and toast ready for the train. We have bonfires and barbecues on the weekend (you can’t stop me even in January). My father in law opens a bottle of red every night (I didn’t consider dry January for a second). And did I mention my mother-in-law irons my shirts.
There are hopefully only another three or four weeks until we get our own Graceland but my wife and I both know it will be a bruise and a relief in equal measure when we finally do. Not just because of the shirts (and the cleaning, and the meal on the table when I get home from work). But because this has been a family time like no other I’ve experienced in about 18 years (which means, since I was 18).
So despite being “homeless” and with a triple-length commute I’ve never felt less domestically stressed and I’ve never felt luckier. It teaches you what’s really worth worrying about.
(“Moonlight sleeping on a midnight lake.”)
And for when we do get our house, I've discovered a Polish pizzeria (you read that correctly) in our new town.
(“Esanqoba phakathi e England”)
Freddy works a nine-day fortnight as a kind of deluxe jack-of-all-trades for a trade association in the City. On his day off he and his bright, happy daughter read books about animals, play with animal stickers and go to look at animals!