The day began with the clock radio bursting into life, and filling utter dross. I squinted my eyes open and watched the seconds and minutes pass on the bedside clock, wondering how long I might lay there before somebody might consider there was something wrong with me. Minutes? Hours? I’m guessing we’ll never find out, because the curious instinct to “not waste the weekend” kicked in, and carried me downstairs for a shower.
After having a shower, and accidentally drowning quite possibly the biggest garden spider in the known universe, I woke Miss 17, and opened her curtains – flooding the room in light as Dr Van Helsing might to kill a vampire. She squinted at me, and rolled away to face the wall.
“You need to get up and take your tablets”
“Hrrmmmff” (she probably said something, it was hard to tell)
I almost fell over when she emerged from her room a few minutes later, looking not entirely unlike Hella – Thor’s sister. I made mention of this, and she grinned perhaps the most mischeivous grin I’ve ever seen.
The younger children were already in the lounge watching a children’s TV drama called “The Dumping Ground” – about a care home for troubled children. While half watching, I propositioned Miss 17;
“If you go and have a shower, I’ll take you to Starbucks for a late breakfast.”
She looked at the ceiling, and came out with this monologue, which is accurate as far as I can remember…
“When are you going to stop! You march into my room every bloody morning, like it’s the happiest day ever, you throw my curtains open, and you say ‘Time to get up! It’s a wonderful day outside’ – and then you ask me if I’ve brushed my sodding teeth, ask me if I’ve had a shower… you just don’t bloody stop!”
I stood for a moment, kind of stunned.
“It’s my job. I’m Dad.”
She didn’t seem to have an answer. Miss 13 did though.
“Are we going to Starbucks?!”
Miss 13 loves Starbucks. Actually – I’ll correct that – she loves going anywhere with anybody, as long as she can come along.
Two hours later (TWO SODDING HOURS!), we were ready to leave the house. I took a photo as we wandered towards town – recording that this had actually happened, lest I convince myself that it had all been a dream. After two weeks spent indoors on a cocktails of drugs, we had managed to extract Miss 17 from the house, and – surprise surprise – the fresh air appeared to be doing her wonders. Until Miss 13 held her arm out and started comparing her suntan with her sister.
“I’m more tan than you, because you never go out.”
I didn’t listen to the rest of the slanging match between them. I suppose it was all good natured really – throwing horrific barbed comments at each other in only the way that sisters can. I was eventually roused from my daydream state by Miss 17 asking a question.
“Are we going to Costa, or Starbucks?”
“I don’t mind – but you have to make your mind up in the next thirty seconds, because we either turn left to Starbucks, or right to Costa”.
After a high speed deliberation between 13 and 17, involving a run-down of menu choices, and it being a hot day, and not having been there for a while, they chose Costa. Imagine my delight and dread two minutes later when we crossed the high-street in the direction of Costa Coffee, only to discover that it no longer existed. A group of workmen were busy re-painting the facade, and hanging signs labelled “Horizon Books”.
Starbucks it was then.
While walking down the road, a silent anger grew inside me. After not having a bookstore for ten years, a couple of years ago a new independent bookstore had opened – fifty yards from the new(er) one. The people of the town had really taken the new bookstore to their heart, and so had I – often forgoing the Kindle option to support their existence, and buy paper books. The children had also figured out my blind-spot, and will often raid the “bank of Dad” if they manage to arm-twist me in the direction of the store. Being entirely honest, it’s usually me that “thinks of going to the bookshop” (har har).
I was angry. Knowing the way this town works, and how incestuous and corrupt it has been in the past, I can almost guarantee that the new bookshop is the result of rich spouses running a hobby shop at a colossal loss. As soon as I saw it, I suggested to the kids “let’s go to the bookshop – the PROPER bookshop”.
After stopping at Starbucks, we wandered back along the high street, and spent perhaps half an hour quietly looking at books. While I perused the neat tables festooned with the latest paperback fiction, and the rabbit-warren shelves of neatly ordered classics, the kids vanished silently from sight – following their noses to that which might interest them.
Diclaimer – I love books – and I love bookshops. Particularly second hand bookshops, because the smell of old books is indescribable. There’s something eccentric, even romantic, about a second hand bookshop.
Both Miss 13 and 17 appeared as I went looking for them, wielding books – one about a naughty school girl, and the other about a troubled teen. While waiting to pay Miss 17 breathlessly volunteered the story of the first few pages she had read, and I grinned – doing an imaginary fist-pump. It’s amazing how the kids will often choose a movie over a book, but when a book really grabs them, my word does it.
We eventually got home – via the supermarket – because who can walk into town without visiting the supermarket – and I found myself making lunch for everybody. By now my other half and Miss 14 had returned from their morning adventures too. While buttering bread, cutting up fruit, and doing whatever else, I listened to Miss 13 telling her Mum about the book she had chosen, and smiled.