15 August 2015

Dusk as a Cambridge author

As British summer, the elongation of the day, ends, dusk now is stretching out, easing us into the autumn. I had some tobacco from my birthday, or just before my birthday, for father's day, that I smoked all July. I kept it, brandy flavoured and bought in the arcade off Colemore Row, in a chocolate box I pulled out of a hedge on a walk, Yoko looking at me like I was mad. It was a sweet tobacco, and burned evenly — I could light the pipe and walk down Victoria Road to Vicarage, and then up towards the church, getting light-headed and thinking that the street lamps were now on: they hadn't been on the last couple of walks.

After my father came, I finally ordered the smart phone I have wanted for a year, the top of the line budget phone that came in the mail and was, the way new electronics are, wrapped in plastic and perfect to the touch. I ran with it the first day, thinking about my father and how he had encouraged me to get it and how the support of a parent is something we desire, despite being thirty three, the age Jesus died, and on the other side of the world. As I thought this, I was running through the field behind Asda on my way to Newman, and suddenly, inexplicably, the phone jumped out of my pocket, clattering on the pavement, and I thought, yes, this is to be expected.

The phone survived, thankfully, although part of me had hoped it would be broken beyond repair. It would have served me right. Instead, it was only very slightly marked on the screen and edges, a reminder to me that the reason we can't have nice things is me, and my bloody hands. Not the children.

We've spent the summer holiday doing little more than the things the girls had written on their 'Ten Things We Want To Do On Holiday' list. My plans were big and untenable: going to France and drinking wine from PET bottles while sitting on the beach. They just wanted to go hiking and the movies and stay in a hotel one night. So we've been crossing those tasks off, one by one. We hiked and had a picnic in the woods, the British rain coming right as we set out to eat boiled eggs. We saw a film, a movie, that Mia sat nervously through, trying to focus and be a big girl. Next week we will go to Kent, I told one of the school friend mothers when we bumped into her at Waitrose, and she scowled: The traffic will be awful. 

Going to the park was on the list too, so last Thursday we walked around Canon Hill Park and Naomi cried because she couldn't decide on which ice cream to get and Mia cried because she ate all of her ice cream and then it was gone and Yoko was cross because I was cross with the children for crying about their ice cream. When we spent enough time wandering on the grass past all the Asian families having picnics in the sun and looking at the flowers, we got in the car and drove up to the Tesco at Five Ways, which is going out of business, expecting to find soap and frozen things on sale. The store was largely empty, though there were still no rock bottom prices. Yoko asked me where I'd heard that things were on sale, and I was embarrassed to say on the Internet, on Reddit, so I just shrugged and pulled out my new phone to disappear in the cola aisle and look busy.

The phone struggled to connect to the Internet, and I had a moment of frustration and smugness thinking, in the past I would have wondered if it was my phone that was shit or the wifi that was shit, but now I know it is just the wifi that's shit, certainly not my new phone. I finally connected to an open network and waited, then connected again, and an icon I'd been subconsciously waiting for popped up.
I am delighted to be able to tell you that on Friday, 7th August, the Press Syndicate gladly agreed to offer you a contract to publish your monograph with Cambridge University Press.  I am very pleased to be able to welcome you as a Cambridge author...
I shrieked, and looked around for someone to show the screen to. A Cambridge author: did you see that? I found Yoko and told her and she punched me in the chest like you would punch a person who had just hit a home run. 'Look at that!' I beamed and the children, confused in a happy way, danced around. Let's celebrate with more ice cream.

We went home, and Yoko took the girls to swimming. I stayed to send e-mails to people who I suspected were annoyed with my self-aggrandisement, but feigned happiness: at least he'll be content for the weekend. I kept repeating Cambridge in case people missed it: it's a place even my American parents would recognise. I'll have a book with Cambridge, both annoyed with the lack of enthusiasm in responses and hating myself for being so excited about it.

I wore myself out, finally retreating to a more menial task of making a list of things to do over the next two weeks, including a new sub-list titled 'Book'. Yoko and the girls came home, and I asked, as I do every night, if they wanted to join me on my walk. The tobacco's gone now, so there's no worry that they will see me smoking and they always say no anyway. I'm free to have my moment, my fifteen minutes, alone. Naomi, though, said yes, this time and we pulled on our shoes and set out, holding hands until she ran out ahead of me. We walked up Vicarage Road, towards the nine o'clock chiming of the bells at St Peter's. Naomi is eight now: in ten years, she will be gone. We chatted about her swimming, about the next year of school, and about the ice cream she had and will have on holiday. We came down the road back to the house: it was a short walk, and time for bed, of course. Mia was crying, Mei insisting on sleeping naked. I insisted on sleeping as a Cambridge author, something I can, despite this year of failure, be proud of, the darkness of the bedroom lighting up one last time so I can scroll to the e-mail and reread the words, before falling asleep.