Today I took delivery of 20 large, sturdy, matching storage boxes in which to store all the 20 categories of crap in my house, thereby fulfilling a lifetime’s ambition of having 20 large, sturdy, matching storage boxes in which to store all the 20 categories of crap in my house.
I also set up a shelving unit above the washing machine and transferred all the dish cloths, dish towels, hand towels, loo paper and kitchen roll on to it. Then I sent a card containing two envelopes of seeds harvested from my garden to my godmother, and another to a friend who has done his back in. Then I took an old toothbrush to all the grimy nooks and crannies in the house that I’ve been meaning to get to for months – and by months I mean years.
In short, I have unlocked a new level of middle age. It feels great. This is the age I was born for. Some people are good at being children, some light up the sky with their teenage breakneck energy and enthusiasm. Ambitious types thrive in their 20s and 30s. I did none of those things. I have basically been waiting until life slows to the seed-gathering, crap-sifting, back-twinging speed that is my natural tempo. I could not be happier.
What is this? A strange phenomenon is upon us. A sort of … loose water is falling from the sky. Drops, drips and splashing sounds abound. Puddles are forming. Wait, I remember now! It’s rain! I stand in the rapidly hydrating garden letting the liquid gold run down my face and sluice away for just a few precious minutes my throbbing fear of the climate crisis, my ceaseless fury at the privatised water companies who let billions of gallons of literal life force leak away rather than cut minutely into profits to maintain their pipes, and my enduring bafflement in the face of people who don’t turn their taps off while cleaning their teeth.
Then I am recalled to myself and rush to bring out my storage boxes (still empty – I am not made of spare time), flip the lids off and bunch all 20 of the 48-litre treasures on the lawn to gather the good stuff. “Cometh the hour, cometh the woman and her perfectly timed life goals fulfilled!” I scream at the sky and the husband, who reacted with an incredulity bordering on contempt when the first pallet arrived. My parched soul drinks deep of the satisfaction.
Well, that was quick. My son is now taller than me. I find this very rude. I went to all the trouble of making him, and then the much, much greater trouble of giving birth to him – for which he has still not properly thanked me – and now he has overtaken me in the height stakes after just 11 years. Rude, I tell you. Rude.
People of average or above-average height do not know how fragile a hold we shortarses have on normal life. I need heels to be part of any conversational orbit at a party. I have no chance of getting served at a bar. I can’t reach the top cabinet shelves in any kitchen. And I simply have no natural authority anywhere. Except, briefly, over my son – as his mother, but far more potently as someone taller than him. You don’t realise quite how powerful a weapon it is in the parental arsenal until it’s gone. Now when I issue commands he can literally look me in the eye as he decides whether or not to comply. Generally, being a fundamentally accommodating individual, he does as he’s told. But he’s only 11. By the time the hormonal storm begins he will be nine feet above me and essentially ungovernable. A friend of mine has twin boys and from the time they turned 13, whenever she started shouting at them, they would simply lift her up and deposit her outside the room. I used to laugh my head off whenever I heard about it. Not any more.
A-level results day. What a godawful Proustian rush it is. I took mine 30 years ago and I still have nightmares about them. Literally. I turn up for my exam – English, usually, Spanish sometimes – and realise I’ve forgotten to go to any classes for the previous two years. I wake up in a lashing sweat.
They are the worst exams you’ll ever do in your life, dear youngsters, and I speak as one who trained as a solicitor and once had to take one in land law, with questions such as: “When does a constructive trust arise over a properitarily estopped right of easement without equitable title but with an entailed fee simple and a cherry on top? Give reasons for your answer in the original Norman French, upon whose mad mutterings the entire system is based” scattered lavishly across its pages.
They measure only two things: your maturity (ie how well you’ve been able to resist every natural urge and stay in to revise instead) and your ability to function under stress. Obviously the first comes only with age, and the second one is a gift you have either been handed by the genetic gods or not. Grade F, the lot of them.
I feel a deep sense of peace – or at least the closest thing to it that is possible now, a kind of … desperate acceptance? Forcible resignation? Coma of the soul? – now that Brexiters have nearly achieved their goal. Not of leaving the EU or restoring British sovereignty or whatever gloss they put on it, but of returning us to the wartime state that was, they know with the feverish certainty of all ideologues, when We Were Best.
For we hover, surely, on the cusp of rationing of all kinds. Water (hosepipe bans are at last appearing), fuel, food, healthcare, travel – all are in effect becoming more and more unavailable to more and more people. Eventually, formal arrangements will have to be made and coupons allocated. I promise you, it is this, ration books rather than blue passports, that they have truly wanted. They want to live in the glorious past for a bit, even if it’s not their own, and experience what they have always imagined is the best of British, writ in Spam.
And then – and THEN – it will be out of their systems. They can heave a sigh of satisfaction and/or realise that privation isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and start romanticising a future of plenty, involving free and steady trade with other countries, jaunts abroad, drugs and hospital beds, petrol at the pumps and all sorts of other exciting things that, if you’re an idiot, you don’t miss till they’re gone.
And then this frothing madness will subside and we can go on with our lives. Just give them the coupons, ASAP.