Monday, 5 November 2012

November Monday

There's something almost illicit about a day off work with no plans. The hours stretch out ahead, with none of the normal markers of the day, no early alarm clock, no rushed commute to the office. It's almost as though we've bunked off school, and don't know what to do without a timetable.

I spend an hour in the garden raking up leaves. The sun is shining and the exercise soon warms me, I take pleasure in the rhythmic sweeping, the rustling sound of the leaves as I pull through them and flick them onto a growing pile. I look back to where I've cleared, glad to see the green of grass where I've reclaimed it from the wet brown leaves. It's a bit like a game of colouring-in.

We eat a late breakfast, pain au raisin warmed through in the oven, a pot of coffee, milk in a jug instead of straight from the bottle. I look around the kitchen, thinking what it would be like if I painted the walls a different colour. For a while I think about the difference it would make if we knocked out a bigger doorway to the garden, but I can't work out where we'd put the fridge-freezer, so I add that to the ever-growing list in my mind of things to think about one day.

Some time later we drive into Tunbridge Wells. The road itself is much quieter than our normal Saturday visits to town, but the pavement on each side is full of teenagers. They walk in groups of two and three, munching on chips, biting at sandwiches straight from the wrapper. When I was at school we were never allowed out at lunchtime; dinner ladies patrolled the gates with eagle eyes, waiting to pounce on any miscreant who stepped too near the outside world. All these years later, in the midst of all these school kids, it's as though I've finally made my escape.

It's an unhurried shopping trip. Philip needs a new phone, and though he knows just the one he wants, he takes his time to talk through the relative benefits of a dozen different tariffs. I want a lamp for my new writing desk and though we find one really quickly we spend a while comparing the colours; trying to pick one that will go with the room as it is now, but still match it in some distant future once we've redecorated.

Today, even shopping for vegetables feels different; Philip exalts over fresh turmeric, while I smile at the strangeness of yellow beetroot and the pink-striped beauty of graffiti-aubergines. When we're finally done, we trudge back up the hill to the car, shifting bags from hand to hand, chatting all the way.

As we drive home, back along the way we came, the streets are filling with school kids again. This time they're queuing outside the sweet shop, lining up to wait for their buses home. I realise the whole afternoon has slipped away while we've been shopping; I hope their lessons have sped by as quickly. 

We pull up at some traffic lights and I watch a young couple walking towards us, their arms wrapped around each other tightly.  Just as they get to the car, he begins to laugh and she joins in, when they stop, they look at each other and smile, the biggest broadest sunniest smiles, straight at each other, only for each other. 

And just when I'd been beginning to think that a November Monday couldn't get much better, I suddenly realise that it has.