Saturday, 2 February 2008

Grit goes alone

I am sticking with this Independent no diet, even though it means shrugging yourself off the sofa, moving out of your comfort zone, and shifting your legs down the road in a quick march brisk walk.

So at 7.30 am, lured by the thought of a shapely behind that could be mine if only I would move it, I manage to lever myself out of bed, reluctantly drape myself all around with a brown skirt and not the black jeans covered in yesterday's clay, and then, smartly dressed for a Grit on a Saturday morning at 9.30, get in the car and drive to Northampton.

Now I know this comes as a bit of a shock to Shark, Squirrel and Tiger, who are used to the comfort zone of having a mamma in scruffy black jeans routinely squeeze 6 feet into 3 pairs of tennis shoes and arrange them in a line to cross the road to the courts at 9.59 for the lesson which starts at 10. Yes, we live that close, and yes, it is bloody marvellous, because on winter Saturday mornings I can still be wearing pyjamas under my coat and holding a cup of coffee in a spot of weekend comfort zoning.

But not today. I'm uncertain about going, about navigating the wilds of Northampton without small fingers to fasten onto, but I'm determined. I think Grit's imminent disappearance takes Dig by surprise too, as I stare at his bare feet in the kitchen, while jangling keys and saying 'I'm going to Northampton. I don't know when I'll be back. Look after the children. Tennis at 10'.

And all this because I am determined to get out of my comfort zone and into Northampton where there is an archaeologists outing. I know I am not an archaeologist, but it doesn't stop me going to their meetings. In fact I broke through that particular comfort zone a couple of years ago when, resenting the imposition of a long-term prison sentence while Dig wandered again about the Middle East, and despairing that I would ever get out of the house alone before the year 2010, I spotted the local archaeology society skulking about the web and joined on the spot.

Come to think of it, I probably challenge their comfort zones too, but now I reckon that is a good thing. I used to think Thank God! The archaeology meeting! It's an excuse to escape the house once a month on a Mondays between 7.30pm and 9pm and not be accompanied by small people minding and criticising and arguing over every decision and footfall. Thank goodness I can walk down a road without glancing nervously behind me to see if anyone needs their hand holding. Marvellous to be free of the terrorist rages that can strike a seven-year old who has not seen the colour green first that morning, so making it a Bad Day when Bad Things must happen.

So Grit is free. And transformed. She drives to Northampton with no one squealing. She parks the car with no one arguing, and pays the machine without worrying about the order the coins go in. Then she sets off with all the walk-about striding energy of a single woman wearing a skirt, who has no one's feet but her own to take charge of. She walks briskly and purposefully to the museum, thinking this is once how she walked everywhere in any urban townscape, and into the museum she strides. This is a museum we know quite well, and have visited over the years, and this is probably the first time Grit has visited it alone.

Mature enough not to hang around in doorways, peeping out behind sculptures to see if her party has arrived, she directs herself straight to the top floor and the archaeological finds, reasoning this is where a party of archaeologists are bound to congregate. And sure enough, they're here. No messing. No weeping on the stairs because someone else put their foot on them first, no complaining about the stairs, no arguing on Level 1 or shouting down the stairs to someone who won't come up them. What's more, I go straight past the toilets, so there's no lingering wait here - two toilets and three children - and no need to play with the hot tap for ten minutes before deciding it really is too hot, let's try the cold, then filling the basin with water and pretending our fingers are fish.

Grit's party of archaeologists shift slightly out of their comfort zone to speak in words of slow syllables to a member of the general public who won't go away. Throughout, Grit has a wonderfully rewarding time, liberated from interruptions and arguments or excited pictures of dolphins and horses, and is able to talk in a mature and dignified way. Not once do any of the archeologists lie down on the floor and cry. None squeal loudly or deliberately lean against the glass to block the view of someone else. Neither does anyone lift up Grit's skirt in what is fast becoming a very irritating and undignified game, even if Grit inadvertently did start it the other day to see if Squirrel was wearing any knickers.

After a couple of hours Grit steps out of the museum, full of enthusiasm for archaeology and vowing to become one in a different life, and even perhaps stop Northampton from falling into the hideous mess that it has become. Still liberated, with an hour left on the parking ticket, I then take advantage of freedom, and buy a new outfit too. Hey ho, with this amount of freedom, I might just fantasise about hiring a nanny and staying out late.

But, as if independence is all too much, I spoil it at the very end in the electrical department of Beatties. I pause to consider Shark's hungry tummy. Dutifully, I buy a slow cooker for the days we're out at the safari park, and there's no time to do the dishes from breakfast before embarking on preparing tea.

And when I get home, I shall probably regretfully change out of the skirt too.

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