Late morning, once my hangover has receded to the neuropathic equivalent of someone using a piledriver three streets away, we go to the nearest Aldi as a family. Doing the Big Shop together has become something of a ritual, and in truth I’ve never known anyone love shopping as much as him. In fact I’ve sometimes felt guilty at depriving him of trips to the Metro Centre and Ikea due to my own personal aversion to the arseholes who tend to gather in such places. Gender roles have never loomed large in our relationship.
We have a stupid little spat in the carpark when I tell him he needs to move the car a bit because the woman next to us can’t get into hers, but it’s quickly resolved when I point out that it isn’t his parking that’s at fault, it’s because she’s pregnant and therefore a wide load. When I run into the shop to get change for the trolley I also buy him a bag of Maltesers and lob them at his head and call him a stroppy bastard. He agrees, apologises, and that is that.
I loosely link my fingers through his on the trolley handle as we buy food for the week ahead – kind of roughly planning each day in the knowledge that it will depend entirely on what I feel like cooking that will ultimately decide the menu. He prepares meals occasionally, but is sensible enough to let me do my thing in the kitchen. As usual, by the time we get to the tills, there is a pile of sweets and biscuits in the trolley that I hadn’t even noticed building up and I know they’ll be demolished by the time the week is out.
Back at home my hangover makes a brief resurgence and I take a couple of aspirin and go to bed for an hour whilst he dozes on the sofa downstairs, covered with adoring cats and dogs.
When I wake up my head is clear and I’m hungry, and I don’t want let go of the weekend just yet. I suggest ordering an Indian takeaway, because I’m still hankering after the coconut pilau from the night before. I place the order and then go and mix drinks: a gin and titanic for me and the usual Jack Daniels and Coke for him, both of them in half-litre glasses filled with ice. In terms of pub measures, I reckon we both get a quintuple. It’s Sunday, the sun is shining, and it’s a perfect time to chill. Even the cats think so: I take a picture of our ginger cat as he stretches out next to his beloved human.
I sit at the dining table with my laptop and alternately drop words into my latest book document (as an activity it’s not a sufficiently focused to earn the title ‘writing’, but at least it makes it a few letters longer than it was the day before) and mooch on Facebook. He’s at the other end of the room watching an Abba documentary. The child is on the other sofa, busily absorbing her dad’s love of music. We do Sundays well. Companionable silence interspersed with general banter, and the knowledge that we’re a content if slightly quirky unit.
He takes a drink of his JD and Coke. “Just so you know,” he says, “this is the best one you’ve ever mixed. Just try and remember the ratio for next time.” I laugh and promise that I’ll try, or at least keep practising. I return to my laptop. All is good.
Five minutes later he sits forward and clutches his lower back. He’s frowning and it looks like something hurts. “Do you want a hand up?” I ask, and he shakes his head.
“No. Ambulance,” he mutters through clenched teeth.
The child stands up and looks at me, worried. “Do it,” I order but she’s already doing it because she’s smart and brave, and all other probabilities silently fall away as I realise that something bad and bigger than all of us is starting to happen. She picks up the phone and dials as he starts to roar in pain.
Time helpfully slows down, and I bring up the document in my head that gives me the complete instructions on What To Do Now. I’ve got this. All will be well, because frankly, the alternative isn’t worth thinking about.