17 February 2022

Like little pieces of the sky

The wind has been terrible the last couple of days and sat in the top of the house on Victoria Road, in the loft we converted last year to make enough space for everyone as they got older, I have some uneasy feeling that the whole thing might be blown off. There are also inexplicable sounds when the wind blows. A banging once, for example, what is banging, I wondered, looking up from my phone. Thankfully, these passing concerns are embedded in a much larger constellation of thoughts about how the loft conversion was a brilliant use of funds and solved all the problems it was meant to solve. The builders were trustworthy and there's no real concern about whether everything will stick together, even if you might feel uneasy about it. They were the sort of builders you trust implicitly because you have a sense of their goodness. It's hard to explain. 

The loft conversion, and the fireplace and fence were the key jobs completed last year, and Mike, the man who had done the fence, was meant to come back and replace all the stones of the patio and the walkaway and put in a larger shed after a month or so. Mysteriously though, Mike stopped responding to my texts and WhatsApp messages and even when I called, would not answer the phone. I couldn't tell why this was, if I had offended him in some way, but after a few months I gave up. We got another quote from the guy who did the neighbour's tree, but that quote was, as far as I could tell, the sort of quote that suggested that guy didn't actually want to do the job. It was far too much, and the underlying message was, You're paying mostly for my lack of enthusiasm here. To be fair, I respect this view of work immensely, but I couldn't see spending an additional four thousand pounds, particularly after having had Mike put in my head that it could be much cheaper.

A year passed and our new neighbours had some landscapers around to do some work, James and the lad who isn't really a lad, and I stopped them one morning to ask if I could get a quote. We walked through the garden pointing out this and that, the different options, and I spoke disparagingly about Mike, I said he ghosted me, then regretted it, wondering if Mike and James knew one another and this would get back to Mike. We looked at everything and James said he could work out the quote, if I gave him a minute and I knew I would accept whatever it was, because this working out of the quote on the table in the garden definitely couldn't include the cost of his enthusiasm — that is only added later, at home, when one thinks does one really want this, is it really worth it. And sure enough, it was almost the original Mike cost, and I immediately agreed, with the caveat that I needed to speak to my partner, but she would say yes, she would have to say yes, this was the last piece of the puzzle.

The impending work on the garden means the inevitable has come, the dismantling of our seven-year-old trampoline, the one that Yoko's dad bought in 2015, and which, like all the things your children have, lost interest over time, in a way that you can't notice until it is completely gone. When was the last time it had been used, you wonder — it has been years, potentially. I had the explicable yen to do it in the dark on Tuesday night, and pulled the whole thing apart in thirty minutes before feeling like I'd made a huge mistake: what if they wanted to jump on it one more time, what if we didn't actually want to get rid of it? What if all of this has been a dream and I'll wake up and they'll be six and four and two again. What will I do then.

There are numerous decisions to make with James about the sandstone pavers and the sort of shed to get. For example, should the shed have a window or not: the pros and cons of this one, simple decision could take up a day of consideration. I've not insisted on pressure-treated wood, I'm not willing to pay for it, but of course I should be because in four years it will be like the kitchen, slowly coming undone and I'll think back to 2022 Me, that fool, and wish that he hadn't just made a bunch of quick choices to get it over with. We should have paid £500 more for the limestone if that's what we really wanted, but I still can't seem to believe the future will come, that I will be here in five years from now, that we'll still be in this house, that anything which has gone on and on for all these years will continue to go on. Of course, it will don't be stupid, I say to myself, before making another decision that is meant to only last until 2025, when I seem to think the world will end. I can make it one more month like this, I have been saying to myself for years now. It's just another month. 

This isn't healthy. The girls had some performative sadness about the trampoline, but honestly, I'm not sure how safe it was anymore. I said that to them because I wanted it to pass without a moment of inflexion, where I would have to witness them jumping on it for the last time, where they might be young again and I would see them as young again. It's too much, I'm sorry. I did it in the dark when no one was watching. When I woke up the next day, it was just gone. The new thing is coming now, we'll have new memories to make, we'll eat out there every day. And it too will grow old and the nostalgia will grow in it, like weeds between the cheap sandstone pavers, until in some future world, some other person, maybe me as an older man, will decide again that it's time to change it.