Today’s Jake’s first football match with the school team – he’s nervous but a bit excited. He was up before us today. This never happens. Not even at weekends. Thomas, the boy next door to me, is known for somersaulting out of bed within a second of waking up (usually about 2 hours before his parents want him to) with a smile on his face, ready for the day. Not so Jake. Jake is definitely that bloke out of the Cornflakes’ advert who improves over time and can become functional about an hour after breakfast. Even in the summer holidays he’s still in bed at eleven if you leave him sleeping. And believe me, that often feels like an option. However, I realised too much sleep is as bad as too little, and I took to waking him up. You have to time this just right. Too early, he’s moody. Too late, he’s moody. It’s a fine art. So to be out of bed at 8:00 on a friday morning – something’s afoot. Hopefully he’ll win and be proud. He’s actually really good at physical stuff. Last night he did a headstand first try (though the handstand eluded him)
“Jake did something today – something really hard – and he did it first time!” I said, as a warm-up.
“It wasn’t hard!” Jake argued (he likes to do this – whatever you say, it’s the opposite)
“Well, it is and you did it first time!” I said.
“I am Jake. That’s what I do!” he replied, matter-of-fact. I love him for that. He’s a real sweetheart. He hates getting things wrong – it’s almost pathological – and even when he’s right, he thinks it’s for some unknown reason, rather than him just being good at it.
Following the triumph of the headstand, it was a good time to broach France with him again. He veers from ‘I don’t want to go’ to being interested. I don’t think he has any concept of how big it is. However, having listened to his demands, I think we can indulge him. It’s a big move and we’re both really, really conscious that he’ll find it hard. It’s somewhat better that his cousins are moving to Scotland and that we’ve promised him the school holidays can be filled with old friends, but I’m secretly hoping he’ll get into it really easily and spend the summer with his new friends.
His list of needs is as follows:
- the biggest bedroom (or possibly two of the smaller ones) – reasonable; all the rooms are huge.
- an 80cc motorbike – reasonable; he’ll be able to ride it about, much to the annoyance of the neighbours. Is it a bad thing the petrol station is not 24/7 and only 10/4.5??! I can forsee the ‘oh, I’m so sorry! There’s no petrol!’
- a tree house
- a weekly visit to McDonalds in Angouleme – easy enough, since the supermarket’s right by it, as is Mr Bricolage.
Jake’s also worried about what he will eat. Bless. He lives off a diet of tuna-and-sweetcorn jacket potatoes, pizza, coco pops and chicken nuggets. If left to his own nutritional devices, he’d live off chocolate, lucozade, sour sweets, McDonalds and take-away. Not sure which of those things he doesn’t think France has, but nonetheless, I reassured him. He was satisfied that they have chicken kiev.
I’ve also suggested a webcam (which Steve seemed to think was for the purpose of doing stripteases with towels…. I’m not sure he really gets using it to just chat to people, not for ‘adult’ fun) and a laptop. What with Skype and MSN and a webcam and a microphone, it should make communication that much easier. Steve won’t use it (except for striptease with towels. Be warned, if he invites you to a webchat), I probably won’t (since my stripping-with-towel-days are over) and Jake might for about 2 minutes, since he’s a boy and they generally run out of things to say to one another after a minute and a half.
But we have a ‘kind of’ date in mind. Easter falls early April next year, so tying it in with the end of the tax year, the holidays and general family members being free around that time, I thought it’d be a good idea.
“I checked out when Easter is,” I said, to Steve’s back. He was playing Locked Up. “I think it’d be good if you could finish work on April 1st.”
That got his attention.
He turned around.
“Those are the words I’ve been wanting to hear all my life!”
Seems like I have a way of sweet-talking people and giving them what they want to hear. To some, it’s the promise of a medium three-piece chicken select meal with a chocolate milkshake; to others, it’s the promise of a date they can quit their jobs.
The idea will be that Steve goes out with an army of half-wits, family members, slackers and ne’er-do-wells to do the plumbing and the electrics. He’ll come back in May and we’ll stay in England for a couple of months, going over at half term and then again once Jake finishes school. Who knows – we might finish him early. As a teacher, I can hear my headteacher saying ‘use the last week productively!’ and I can also hear the scramble for the DVD booking sheet. I know which sound is louder. So, educationally, if he missed the last week, it wouldn’t be an ordeal.
Seems like a long time, but I bet it goes unnaturally quickly….