Morning wake up. Too little sleep last night. Downstairs, my recently widowed grandmother has a cold and is coughing horribly. I am sleeping in my grandfather’s house since he died because she cannot sleep nights by herself. I shall probably catch the cold too, eventually. She is wrapped up tightly in a bright budgerigar yellow shawl which she knitted for herself. I have a small conversation with her, then walk over to my parents’ house. My little nephew runs into my arms and wants to be paraded around the house. My other little nephew refuses to shake hands with me and runs off to his mother.
I drink some juice then go up to the loft, get cleaned up. Read a little. Then I check my emails. My dad wants the laptop – it’s not mine but my brother’s from work and the only one connected up to the wireless. I finish what I’m doing and then go downstairs, play with the kids a little. It’s about half nine. I walk down to Barking station and then the District Line, the Central Line and then Oxford Circus and University.
After studying a little while, I take a walk around London while eating my lunch – from Oxford Street to Leicester square and then round Goodge Street back to university. It’s a neat little circle. On the way there, I meet a fundraiser from Concern. I used to work at the place. He approaches me for a donation. I try to walk past. Not interested, he asks, resignedly. I look at him. It’s not that, I say, apologetically. I tell him I used to work there at Head Office. He sounds interested. Oh, so where did you move on from that, he asks. He’s a very tall Black guy with gloves on. I suppose he wants to move up from his position. I tell him I’m a student now, that I’m doing a PhD. He doesn’t really know what that is, I can tell. He tells me the old place burnt down four years ago. That really is horrible. I ask him about Abigail who I used to work with, and what she did after she had the baby. He’s a nice guy. We talk a little while and then I shake hands and tell him I’ll leave him to it – getting the donations that is.
I do some more studying and then at about sevenish, I make for home. A group of very attractive brunettes on the way to the station ask me if I know where Horseferry Road is in an accent I can’t recognise. I want to help them and feel a bit sad when I can’t. The one that asked me has very big, soft black eyes, like the eyes on a butterfly’s wing. At home, I play around with the kids a little. My younger nephew falls off a chair which he’s playing on and my mum has hysterics. He could have snapped his spine because he fell backwards. He is fine though, and stops crying in a second because his favourite commercial is on TV, with the vulgar music and the bright colours and everything.
I play a spot of snooker in my outhouse with my brother. I lose three games in a row and, for some inexplicable reason, in the first game, I keep on potting the white as a rebound. He gloats when he wins.
We have dinner. Prawns soaked in honey and mustard dressing with mushrooms over pasta shells for me. Everyone else is eating vegetable curries, which I cannot stand. For dessert I eat a double chocolate cookie loaded with triple chocolate ice-cream – my favourite dessert of all. My oldest nephew, now just past two, comes and sits next to me at the table, which is something he’s started doing just recently. He won’t eat any of the cookie I offer him.
I go to wash up and behind the door, next to the dishwasher, there’s a great big fox nosing around on the ground. It’s the only time in my life that I’ve ever seen a fox in a house. There used to be woodlands around here in Barking, but with just the parks left now, some of the creatures have started urbanising. At night, when my dad is driving, he often mentions seeing them. Someone left the outside door ajar, that’s how he got in. He’s been skulking around in the back garden the last few days. I don’t think it’s a good idea to have a fox around with babies in the house though. I go to slide open the door (it’s made out of glass), we share a look for a very long moment and then the fox speeds off. Two eyes become four. No-one else sees the fox. It reminds me of a poem by Ted Hughes.
I clean up and walk down to my grandmother’s house with my laptop in my bag. I’m going to work on my novel. But I can’t. I lie around for a while thinking about the fox nosing at the dishwasher and the door, all rusty and tragic and out of place.