“The man watched him. Real life is pretty bad?
What do you think?
Well, I think we’re still here.
A lot of bad things have happened but we’re still here.
You don’t think that’s so great.
It’s okay.― Cormac McCarthy, The Road
Being an inferior cook to James came with its advantages, mainly that where choice was offered, the kids would always choose for him to make and serve their meals. Sometimes it’s glorious being rubbish at stuff. So as a joke when he was at work and I was doling out their gruel, I would accompany this with a ditty of some sort, like a condiment as it made the food more fun. I usually sang ‘The Worst pies in London’ taking care to really slow down and time the line: ‘Is that just revolting? All greasy and gritty. It looks like it’s molting and tastes like… well pity”, Just as I was dishing out what was actually pretty good cottage pie.
If I had enough energy I would add an entrée in the form of a dance and so the kids forgot that they were eating something from the understudy, as their mother was dancing like a dervish around the kitchen swaying invisible rolls of my Victorian cloth to the tune. They loved this. It seems like my last performance was quite some time ago as Flynn asked me the other day -“Why don’t you sing that disgusting song anymore Mum?” I thought long and hard about this. I’m still thinking about this. It may have had something to do with not feeling strong enough at the time, in the early days.
A few weeks after James died, I took the children back to Ireland for the first time, I did it by myself. I think we can now all assume that James had always previously booked the flights, got us to the airport and taken control of the passports. (The one time I took over we went to the wrong airport minus the passports, see being rubbish at stuff rocks, you don’t even have to hold your own passport).
I didn’t realise that I needed to check bags in on-line so I got a shock when I was told at the Aerlingus check in desk that I now had to pay £80 for the tiniest suitcase in the world. But my shock was nothing compared to the poor desk clerk when she saw my reaction to the news. I cried…. a lot. I mean full on sobbing, even I was shocked and I couldn’t stop really and truly. I have no idea why this wounded me the way it did but I felt like the whole world was out to get me.
Poor Flynn and Celeste had seen my tears before this- I felt it was important that they always see my grief and more importantly that I recover from it- but this was on another scale. I had done most of my grieving in private. I think I cried for a solid hour. They stood beside me like sentries, one on each side. They were like dragons. I felt like Daenerys Targaryen. The poor girl was apologising like her life depended on it and begging me to stop crying.
At Heathrow baggage reclaim we waited, not for long. The first case that came out was mine, with this massive sticker on it. There’s a lesson here somewhere.
The reason I don’t sing The Worst Pies in London anymore is because it would have made me sad, as sad as I was in that airport. The reason being, that is part of my past. We need to create new traditions now, ones that don’t hurt. New songs. That must be our new priority.
For Julia Simons.