There are streetlights behind me in the dark, which cast my bicycling shadow onto the road in front. The shadow bicycle is huge, and stretches all the way to the STOP sign up ahead, then swings around to the right and repeats, over and over. Shadows on top of shadows.

I quite like cycling on dark, quiet roads without cars.

My hands are freezing cold though. I need gloves for cycling. Gloves and some high vis clothes and reflective strips. Also I need someone to explain to me what EXCEPT FOR CYCLES actually means when you turn left at the bottom of Longbrook Street, because, if you turn left on a bicycle, like it says you can, then there are pedestrians crossing in the road in front of you, ignoring the red man (don’t cross!) Am I reading traffic lights all wrong? Do I go when it’s red too?

I bumped into my brother on the other side of that junction, on Paris Street – not today, months ago now – and met my new baby nephew there on the pavement. Bus station on one side, underground passages on the other, we hurried off to the cinema. I haven’t seen them since.

With pedestrians safely crossed over the road to John Lewis or Waterstones, I carry on home. Bike in garage, I come into the house and find two of my children already in bed. Partly I am glad that bedtime is done and partly I am sad not to see them, but mostly I am starving and relieved it is the weekend.

E is still up. She shows me their plates which are back from the pottery: the kiln has fired up the colours good and bright.

Family

P

She talks about herself in the third person. ‘She’s too big to go in the pushchair,’ ‘she doesn’t want to go to school,’ ‘she wants a cuddle.’ She has tantrums, oh man, those tantrums that draw people who are practically-strangers to offer their help. Tantrums that – though I am technically stronger and could forcibly strap her into the pushchair, if I really really tried – make me practically-weep with gratitude, yes, please.

E

She is defying middle child syndrome by making herself known, I think. She draws and practices handwriting – swirly curly tails are her current thing – and is great, apart from when she is not. When she screams and screams until I think I am going to pass out. ‘I’ll have my own melodrama thanks E,’ tempts me. As does fleeing the house, asking, what the f did I do to my life? And then, I don’t know, I don’t go anywhere and she brushes my hair or requests another cuddle, please, please, and I’ll be glad, whatever the f it is I have done to my life.

H

We used to drag him from his secret places, climbed into toy chests, behind cupboard doors, screaming ‘no, I don’t want to go.’ We forced him into the swimming pool, aged three, chanting ‘wibble wobble jelly on a plate’ from the side of the pool as stern teachers tipped him off a big float into the water.

‘He must learn,’ we said. We dragged him to birthday parties where he would not do the thing. Go Karts, bouncy castles, bowling. Now he wants to go to it, whatever it is. Football and school and can other people come over all the time to play? Still, at bedtime, a kiss, cuddle, and a pat. 7 years and 51 weeks old.

Family