we’re more than half-way through the Dadvent Calendar

My husband has been overseas, for work, for nigh on a month. It’s been a busy month, which has been good in some ways – fun, sunny, summery, celebratory – but bad in others, ie : with 3 children in my sole care, each of whom has a packed-out end-of-term calendar, I am exhausted.

To give our children some concept of the time for which he was going to be away, we made what I christened a “Dadvent Calendar” – a series of numbered, decorated envelopes hung with pegs on a string along the length of our hallway. Every evening, the children write on a slip of coloured paper a line or two about what they’ve been up to that day. We kill many birds this way – they get the discipline of regular, journal-style writing, their dad gets a series of off-beat snippets to read when he gets back, so that hopefully he won’t feel that he’s missed out on quite so much and, crucially, I don’t have to answer endless questions of the “When will Daddy be home?” nature, as they are more than capable of counting the un-stuffed envelopes themselves.

Anyway, as I say. We’re on the home stretch. Sorry, did I mention that I was exhausted?

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I took them to see their dad at work

My husband works in film & TV which means that, at best, his hours are erratic; at worst, they’re a pain in the backside, making it difficult to book holidays, plan socialising or make promises about outings and events to the children.

So this current job seemed like a relief, really – 4 weeks of definite Mondays to Fridays, leaving at half six, home for 8ish. No weekends, no all-nighters, no last minute moving of schedules. Rock solid.

Except that, it transpired, the ‘Mondays’ involved in the “Monday to Friday” bit of the arrangement included this one, today: Bank Holiday.

So that was a bit of a bummer, for starters but hey, we’ve had a nice weekend and I’m totally used to being with our 3 kids on my own. The issue was that the talent he’s working with are personalities about whom our children are mildly nuts. How mean would it have been to not take the opportunity to let them visit their dad on set and meet Dick & Dom at the same time?

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Again: not a massive problem. Until the weather forecast said that we’d hit the high ‘teens today. I will admit, I simmered with resentment. “To miss out on the sun to sit in a car for nigh on two hours, all up, simply to be in a vast studio for the sake of an hour or so?” I grumbled inwardly as I sat with the children in the garden this morning, legs out in shorts and browning nicely.

Every time they bickered, it was on the tip of my tongue to say “Right! That’s it! No visiting Daddy for you! Such rotten behaviour! As punishment, you must stay home and get changed into your cossies and run under the sprinkler and have water fights and eat ice cream!”

But I couldn’t, of course I couldn’t. My husband was dying to show off his kids and they were dying to see Daddy, Dick & Dom.

So we went. Yes, the traffic was foul in places and yes, the sun beat down tauntingly, tanning my window arm and little else. But when we got to the studio, everyone – Dick and Dom included! – were totally charming and welcoming, and the excitement our munchkins displayed, not to mention the pride with which my husband puffed up (well, possibly the catering may’ve have a hand in that … lord, these film crews help themselves to big portions!) made it all pretty much worth it.

Besides, it’s going to be 21 degrees tomorrow. And I will be sans the lot of them. 😉

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he was rocking a Mohawk

I could’ve been a bit miserable today. It’s my husband’s birthday, and the amazing day we’d had planned – complete with wonderful, reliable friends stepping up to collect our children from their various places of education, take them home and feed them, in order to give us more time to hang out in this long-awaited warm weather – was scuppered by work commitments. On top of that, it’s Anzac Day, which means that, celebrations (or lack thereof) with my husband aside, I’m more than a little homesick.

I salved my Aussie yearnings somewhat by baking Anzac biscuits rather than a birthday cake yesterday (yes, alright, alright, he’ll get a cake too – on the weekend, okay?) but with the sun blazing down and both of us at work – no child-free, young lovers day to enjoy, nor a game of Two-Up and far too many beers – I had to keep slapping that black dog away from my shoulder.

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And then I saw this chap. I was at Oxford Circus on my way back from work to pick up the children, and he was announcing the arrival of the next Tube service, sporting his high-vis vest, yes, but also a fantastic Mohawk and body art to rival the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. I loved that we were right near Carnaby Street, loved the fact that tourists, hoping, even in the face of all of the uniformity of chains and brands, to suck up a bit of what made that area famous, would’ve relished the sight of him. I loved the way he casually reminded people to “mind the gap” as he himself slouched, one leg up, against the train carriage.

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I miss Sydney every day, but if I have to live somewhere else for now, then he, and all of the theatricality he represented – plus the lovely friends who insisted that my husband & I reschedule his not-curtailed-by-school-hours birthday mooch whenever – made me glad, and grateful, that it’s London.

he is so wonderfully consistent

There’s nothing ungenerous about my husband- in his attitudes to people, his open mindedness, his time and his money, he’s one of the most giving and kind people I’ve ever known. Which is all very well and good, but I’d say he could do with narrowing his focus a bit, because his attention to detail sure could use some work.

On a recent trip back from working abroad, he sought the help of a Duty Free sales assistant, telling her that his wife wanted ‘something to do with touching a pussy.’ By the time they’d established that it was Touche Éclat that he wanted (touch the cat, in his version of Franglais, you see, hence his confusion) the poor women was so flustered, or possibly offended, that they didn’t even bother to discuss the appropriate tone for my colouring and I ended up with the lightest shade: not ideal for my Asian skin.

Today, he’s returned from a week in Miami, bearing a Marc Jacobs bottle. “Well, I figured, you like his clothes, so maybe you’d like his perfume too,” he said. The box looked very blue; some, without meaning to be sexist or cliched, might even say masculine. I sprayed it on my wrist and took a whiff. “Thank you!” I exclaimed. “Thank you for my aftershave!” His response has been one of complete disbelief and incredulity; I’ve had to show him this page, complete with body-confidence-crushing picture from The Truth About Beauty,
to convince him.

He’s off to New Zealand tomorrow, so I’m looking forward to unwrapping a pair of men’s briefs or somesuch on his return. After all, he’s bound to go into a store and ask for a Y-front rather than a B-cup. He’s consistent, my husband , as well as kind and generous. I love that about him. And I’d far rather have a laugh than beauty products anyway.

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I chose the more casual restaurant

Way back in 2000, fresh off the plane from Australia, I wandered the streets of Soho, where I’d found a flat, looking for restaurant work. Within the first day or two, I was offered two jobs – one as a waitress at a very informal Japanese, canteen-style place, Satsuma; the other, at a more upmarket, swanky place as front of house/ hostess. Money-wise, there wasn’t much to choose between them, but perks-wise, Satsuma was offering two free meals a day; the other place, a designer suit to wear.

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I was barely 27, and impressionable. I quite fancied the idea of managing bookings, assigning groups of moneyed (well, moneyed compared to me at least) types to their tables and engaging in a bit of welcome banter. And I very much fancied the idea of the suit. But I was, as I am now, greedy and, as I’m fortunately not now, pretty broke. Two meals a day. Japanese, to boot. Surely I’d avoid the Heathrow fat Injection (the legendary stone that Antipodeans gain when they arrive on these shores) if I took the job at Satsuma?

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So, guess what. I took the job at Satsuma. It was a proper laugh, and the food was fab. I made friends with people I’m still friends with today. And, 13 years ago today, a group of lads walked in to celebrate one of their birthdays. Which is how, in the serving of beer and ramen, I met my husband.

I’m certain, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that he’d never have set foot in the other place. Which, incidentally, is no longer in existence – while Satsuma is still going strong. As, 13 years later, are we.