SWB on back to school and Tilly’s ‘gotcha day’

The children have gone BACK TO SCHOOL! Oh Happy Day. Thank absolute f**k, because I was starting to go more than a wee bit funny. Do you know what was becoming awkward? Thinking of anything new to say to my husband. In Louis De Bernières book ‘Birds Without Wings’, one of the main characters is a shepherd. Wiling away the hours on the Greek hillside with just his goats for company, he comes to know all their different baas and bleats. Each one is distinct, indicating, hunger, fear or playfulness. There is another bleat though, which has a flatness to it. It is the bleat when there is nothing to say, just a random noise emitted for the craic alone, just for sake of it.  LSB is well familiar with this sort of random noise. He’ll be going around, trying to do his work, or watch TV, or nodding off to sleep, when I suddenly say ‘HELLOOOO!’

By saying ‘HELLO’, I just want to alert him to my presence, or indicate that I might need some attention. Sometimes I may feel the need for some interaction from another adult, and not just a child asking for the fiftieth time that day, what’s for lunch.

We have this habit, still, a year into lockdown, of saying to each other ‘So, what’s the craic?’ Like, in all serious, what’s the craic? The craic is zero, zilch, deader than it was the last time you asked me, I want to say, the change to is that I’ve had a pee in the downstairs toilet rather than the upstairs one, just for hell of it.

Thank God we got the dog because she provides many a conversation starter; it’s a bit like when we first had children, when we would just stare at them, mesmerised by their tiny wee hands and soft cheeks. Now we do the same with Tilly, while she sprawls on our bed, admiring her matching white socks, her silky ears and long snoot. It’s a gentle sort of a way to pass the time. We got her a year ago today, motoring out to Ballyclare with two crabbed children giving off: they weren’t a bit keen to be bundled into the car for a random drive. All the complaining ceased when we met Tilly though: she put two paws up on LSB’s shoulders, and that was it. ‘Will we bring Tilly home?’ he said to the girls, and they readily agreed.

The next day though, I had a total and utter meltdown. We listened to Boris’ announcement and I thought ‘What have we done?’ Suddenly I imagined not being able to walk her enough and having police challenge us for leaving the house. I felt stupid and irresponsible- my anxiety spiralled out of control as it is won’t to do. I wondered could I have managed to have got us all infected by Covid even on the short trip to get her.  Clean berserk I went, remembering the last time I’d got a dog and the havoc that experience had  wreaked in the house. I rang the woman from the shelter: she must have thought I was an absolute nutter. ‘Can we return Tilly?’ I said, tears tripping me. She wondered if the dog had done something dreadful. No I explained, other than a piddle in the house and a wee bit of excitement upon seeing the cat the first time (Izzy swiftly demonstrated the she was the boss in the house) she had been perfect. ‘It’s just the lockdown,’ I said. ‘ I didn’t release it was all going to go so mad. The woman was brilliant, giving me some tips on how to manage and promising that if it all went to shit she wouldn’t see me stuck. I am so, is glad we stuck it out. Given Tilly’s backstory of abuse and neglect, it is she the one who should have needed therapy, but instead it’s us who have been comforted and supported by her.

So today was a good day. A year after the first lockdown, the children went back in to school, singing and chatting on their way down the road, with wee Tilly wagging her tail alongside.  I know it’s a crazy fecking world out there, but please God, can things please be on the turn.




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