Today we are having breakfast outside. I’ve had a good night’s sleep, have a holiday booked and the sun is shining.
I set the bowls of porridge on our picnic bench and unfold the camping highchair for Vita. It’s not the most picturesque setting, sandwiched between Doctor Nick’s Volvo V60 and our rusty wreck, but any outside space in London is prized, and to be out in the sun in England feels like a treat. I look at the dry stonewall in front of the General’s house and feel an intense connection to it. We are both in the wrong place. We need to be out in the green fields with the sound of cows mooing, the buzz of a passing bumble bee and the Spring chatter of a skylark above, but instead I have Airbus 360s in the skies above, the roars of arseholes on their motorbikes and the beep beep of the effing green man at the nearby crossing.
I kiss my little ones as we eat our fruit and porridge and then another sound is added to the cacophony, a distant dog barking. Or perhaps a very small one nearby? Basil the dachshund is yelping from the General’s house and no-one appears to be in.
We watch the morning bustle on the patch with Mummys rushing their children to school and military personnel off to work on foot, on moped or by bike. Doctor Nick exits his house dressed in lurid yellow lycra (somehow still managing to look alluring), he opens his garage door, takes out his road bike, jumps on and is off to save lives at Charing Cross Hospital.
“Morning,” he says riding past. “Nessa, the wall’s really messing with my OCD. I’m with the General on this one.” And with that he waves and is gone. I watch his buns and hard thighs as he pedals and forgive him for being a brown-noser.
Mandy totters out of her door, fully made up, dressed in a pretty floral blouse, skirt and heels with baby Mia strapped to her chest. She waves. “Good luck,” I shout.
She trots over and gives me a hug. “I really don’t want to go back. “
“You’ll be fine,” I say.
Sienna: “Where’s Aunty Mandy going?”
“Back to work,” I say. But poor Mandy’s not mentally ready to go back fulltime and this morning she’ll be trying to negotiate a three-day week with her law firm who see it rather differently, ie, they’ve financed two sets of maternity leave and now they want their pound of flesh.
I cover the table with newspaper, don Sienna in an apron and she dips her hands in bowls of paint to make hand prints, her sister Vita looks on munching on a second round of porridge and fruit.
Over an hour later, we have a dozen masterpieces drying on a makeshift line tied to the wing-mirror of the Volvo and a lamppost outside our house. Basil is still whinging across the way and it’s beginning to bug me. I hope he’s not been left. He sounds very unhappy and the house is in total darkness – no one is in.
I stare at the General’s front door pondering what to do, when Simon walks into view. “Daddy!” Sienna runs over, covered in paint, and jumps into his arms. My face breaks into a smile.
He pops Sienna down and we kiss. “This is unexpected,” I say.
Si: “I’ve been trying to call you.”
And then I remember. I don’t know where my phone is, I haven’t seen it since I called him ‘dick cheese’ yesterday. Has he come back because of that?
Si: “No – meeting at the MoD.”
I call my phone from the landline but we can’t find it anywhere. And then I look at my two year old. “Where’s my phone, Sienna?”
“It’s on holiday.” She says.
“No, no, no, it’s not on holiday we need to find it. Now.” Because when things go on Sienna holidays, they fail to return. Ever.
I march my toddler into the sitting room and softly interrogate her about my iPhone, whilst Simon irons a shirt for his meeting. If Sienna knew the phrase ‘no comment’ she would be using it, but instead we have creative suggestions like, maybe it’s in the toaster, maybe the ‘Go Jetters’ have it, maybe Vita put it down the loo. Even though Vita’s only 7 months old and not crawling, I check anyway and return downstairs to find Sienna now playing with the landline. “Stop playing with the phone, any phone!” I say getting cross. I REALLY need my phone back. Sienna keeps pounding numbers into the landline. “9-9-9,” says Sienna.
Me: “I said no!” I move the phone onto the stairs, out of reach, then take some Haribo out of my pocket and ask again, “Where’s my phone?” Sienna is hypnotized by the jellied stars and fried eggs – she cannot resist.
“In my oven,” she confesses. She fetches the phone from her toy kitchen and puts her hand out for the Haribo. “No more phones.” She nods and I give her one sweetie.
Si is now dressed in a suit. He has to go NOW. We have a kiss, a really nice gentle one. He hugs me and says, “I love you.” And I love him too. “This holiday is exactly what we need – you’re right and I can’t wait to get you away Mrs. Wilde and do lots of naughty things again.” We enjoy another cuddle. It’s been well over year since we’ve had a proper saucy time so it’s no wonder we’ve been grouchy!
I put baby Beelezebub down for a nap and drink a coffee outside, while Sienna plays on her scooter. Basil is still barking.
Mandy totters round the corner of the close. She is smiling. “Four days in the office and Fridays from home. It’s still sh*t but at least it sounds a bit better.”
I tell her about Basil barking and she’s concerned too. She grabs the spare key from her kitchen cupboard so we can let him out for a quick wee. I unlock the door and Basil races out into the sunshine. Sienna runs over to pet him as he widdles on the lawn under the cherry tree.
“Poor chap. You needed a wee, didn’t you?” I say turning to let him back in and there is Fiona standing in the doorway, arms folded, dressed in running kit. “What on earth are you doing?”
F**k!!!! I internally scream.
Me: “I heard Basil yelping and thought something was wrong so I asked Mandy for the key to check on him.”
Fiona: “I have my backdoors open, but the stupid boy keeps wanting to go out the front, don’t you Basil?” she says picking him up. “And please stop sending those text messages. We don’t know what they mean but seeing as there are knives and bombs we are logging them as threats.”
Me: “What messages?” I look at my phone. There is row up on row of picture texts all to Fiona. I show Sienna.
Sienna: “I sent them to Granny to make her happy.”
Me: “No, you didn’t poppet.”
I scroll down. “It’s not all knives and bombs – look, there are flowers, smiley faces and hearts.”
Fiona: “Black ones.”
Suddenly a police car swings into the close, a little too fast. I grab Sienna, pull her on to the grass and glower at Fiona. “This is too much. She’s two-and-a-half! You can’t go calling the police every time…”
A copper gets out. “Mrs. Wilde?”
“Someone called 999.”
“999? Fiona?!” I say fiercely.
Fiona: “I didn’t call anyone.”
And then the penny drops very slowly. “Sienna!!!!” She has scarpered and is now hiding in the Wendy House and won’t come out.
Me: “I am so sorry,” I jabber to the Met Police Officer. “It was my two-and-a-half year old.”
Fiona: “Her excuse for everything today,” she says closing the door. “What a family!”
The policemen are stern, they have better things to do like dealing with the unseasonably high murder rate in the capital. I keep apologising to them as I walk away and kneel beside the Wendy House begging for a tearful Sienna to come out. I make a grab for her through the pink plastic door, but she’s too quick and huddles in the corner.
“Darling, I just need you to come out and say sorry to the nice policemen because they’ve come all this way… Because when you dial 999 the police actually come, which is fine if you need them but it’s not if you don’t. Do you understand?” She shakes her head. “Please come out.” I say trying to crawl in to catch her, without exposing my bum in my jeans. One of the policemen peers in through the green window and Sienna starts screaming again.
Losing my patience, I grab her by the jumper and yank her out. I ask her to say sorry again, but she refuses. She’s had a longstanding fear of pirates and to her these men were Metropolitan Swashbucklers.
Officer: “How about a high five?” Sienna relents and does a quick high five, before begging me for a cuddle.
We wave off the policeman, Sienna races into the house and I am about to follow when I see Simon walking into the close. He is in a black mood. “That General arsehole has got me all the way from Wiltshire to dismantle his wall and he’s made a complaint about me. Well, I’m going to have him investigated for wasting resources. (pause) Why were the police here?”
“Just passing through,” I say deciding to tell him later. Vita is awake and howling from her cot and I don’t have the bandwidth to explain.
Hours later, Simon is hard at work dismantling the beautifully ‘semi-dressed’ stonewall, Fiona observing from her bedroom window. He is happy to be working outside in the sunshine, rather than cooped up in a lecture hall and as he removes each stone, he plots his revenge.
My phone rings loudly. What’s Sienna done now? But this time it’s a number that makes my heart pound with adrenalin – it’s Humphery Hurtwood, my elderly ex. What the hell does he want?