Cripes - the girls are at a Pop Festival!! With Daddy, though. ‘Oh all right then, I’ll take you to Latitude’, he said, his voice squeaky with excitement, but keeping a straight face. A weekend away with the girls? That must mean serious brownie points! ‘Why don’t you bring a few friends too?’ he said, getting carried away now – but no, this would ensure the girls would want nothing to do with him once he’d shelled out the dosh and he’d be free to get down, baby! Three-day pop festival!! Whoo-hoo!
Both of us insanely busy - him with his big job, me with my whisk - the organisation of the trip left a little to be desired; we’d hatched a plan to think about it later, but later came before the thinking, and suddenly it was time to go! I just got Alan up to speed on his responsibilities (‘child x is having an asthma attack and calls you from somewhere in the festival. Her credit runs out. What do you do?’ ‘um, put some more pasta on?’), threw 48 toilet rolls and a packet of dried soup in the car and they were gone.
Back at the ranch (!) I was up with the lark the next morning, and (absence making the heart grow fonder) I was looking around for little memories of my love. The shrunk shirts (‘thirty degree wash’ he’d said quietly); the massively over-filled cat bowl, for he scolds me for not feeding them – as if there’s a chance, with him leapfrogging the banisters every morning, grasping the GoCat: ‘There! Empty again!’; oh and his tomato puree tubes all lined up: ‘you can never have too much tomato puree!’ Bless.
Just in case Alfie and Bonnie resented being stuck at home with me, instead of camping with friends and non-stop entertainment, I had planned a varied and interesting day: we could enjoy fresh air, ethnic delicacies and the arts too! Blood was drawn over breakfast (something to do with the milk lid) but luckily our lift to football training arrived and it was time for Fresh air and Exercise! I stood on the touchline - I was Dad today! - and aped the other Dads, ‘Push Up! Back! Back!!’ and shook my fist urgently at random players. Was Alan getting any exercise? Twirling the poi? Exploring the martial arts? - one leg cocked, stock still on t’other? Kaftan-clad? Bandanna-ed? He has been under an awful lot of stress lately.
Lunch time approached. I knew for sure that Alan would be stuffing as much chips, beer and jelly-babies as he could without falling over, but for Maddy it would be 'Stop eating junk, Maddy, and try a bean and tofu fancy.' Well, we were going to sample Chinese Cuisine - Crispy Roast Duck in China Town, which I garrotted down the middle before you could say ‘that’s not fair’, so that Alfie and Bonnie could share it without sharing. We were getting along famously so it was time for the sting in the tale: the National Portrait Gallery where I happened to know a match that! We were going to print a T-shirt inspired by the Collection! (‘Mum, can we just go now?’)
But at the desk we discovered there was a misprint in the pamphlet! No Free Family Event! No T-shirt inspired by the Collection! I looked the assistant sternly in the eye – ‘this is really bad’ I said, ‘we’ve come all the way from...London’. ‘Madam, I am so sorry you have wasted your journey but you are holding the Programme of Free Family Events for July 2009. I stared at my 2009 pamphlet and muttered cantankerously that it was nearly the same colour as the new 2010 one.... Alfie spluttered with mirth and relief in equal measure and my phone ding donged a text from Alan saying he’d just watched Michael Bourne’s Swan Lake across the lake at Latitude to which I didn’t reply.
Well we were here now, so we stomped around the BP Portrait Competition 2010, critiquing the art loudly, impressionistic getting the thumbs down (‘that’s really messy!’), Alfie winding me up by pointing at the pictures very very closely (‘ don’t touch!’). There were child friendly captions: ‘This artist was interested in putting patterns side by side! Can you find another pattern in this room??’ ‘Na’ he said, ‘let’s go.’
The texts from Latitude dwindled to nothing the next day...he’s in a drunken stupor or having his hair braided by some young lovely who looks him in the eye, instead of in the stomach and says ‘shift over, I need to get to the sink’. But probably not – he’s too tired, like me.