I have this idea that how I start my day matters, that I don’t stumble or launch into it, but instead lie there for a few moments and notice the touch of the breath, and how my body feels, that I hear the sounds of the house, and the sounds outside. I have this idea of stepping gracefully into the day.
This morning I wake and turn onto my back. I open the fridge door, scan the shelves, check the salad drawers. I rummage in the freezer and pull out a block of purple stuff. ‘That’ll do. They won’t like it much, but it needs using up.’
‘What’s that,’ says W, in my head. ‘Beetroot curry? Her sweat and blood went into this,’ he quotes from ‘Matilda’. Miss Trunchbull looms in close, Cook wipes her nose on her hand, Brucie pushes fistfuls of cake into his mouth.
‘The breath, remember? Yes, yes, in a minute. As soon as I’ve worked this out. I’ll defrost the block of orange stuff as well. They’ll like it better. Add lettuce. Couscous. Sorted.’
‘All these years. Still trying to manoeuvre food into mouths.’ A spoon flying high above the dinner table. ‘It’s a gannet. It’s caught a juicy mackerel. It’s looking for a hungry baby bird.’ The spoon dives. W as a small boy opens his mouth.
W as a grown-up says, ‘What’s that, butternut squash?’ ‘Yes,’ I say, ‘or sweet potato, or possibly swede.’ ‘Mum, that’s why you label things!’ I’m laughing, remembering Christmas, a present wrapped at the last minute. He’s weighing it in his hands. Doesn’t yet know it’s the swede we found squatting again in the veg box.
‘Oh no, it’s veg box day. I haven’t used up last weeks. There’ll be beetroot, I know it. What can I make that they’ll eat? Beetroot and chocolate cake? Beetroot roasted with garlic and rosemary? That’s actually quite nice, though Maurice wouldn’t think so.’
‘We ate whole bulbs of garlic, roasted and delicious, in Barcelona. We’re sorry you missed out. We’re doing it for lunch.’ Uncle Maurice, appalled, laughing, ‘No no no, I’ll pass on that.’ So much fun to press his buttons.
‘What am I doing, rattling on? Like one of those wind-up toys.’ Jittering up and down or marching on the spot or turning circles, busy going nowhere.
‘The breath, remember?’ In. Out. Tummy up. Down. Roar of the heating. Gurgle of the radiator. Tick of the clock. Swoosh of cars. ‘This is nice. Simple. Restful.’
‘Hear those tyres? The road’s wet. Was rain even forecast? I’m sure it wasn’t. Not another wet dog walk. Flooded fields and mud, so much sticky mud. I could go to the hills. There’s less mud there, a different sort, sloppy and black. I could go to the woods, where the mud is sawdusty with leaf litter.’
Breath forgotten, I’m out of bed, launched into the day in search of a better sort of mud.