Wednesday, 2 July 2014

The Comforts of Saturdays

Happy Families

John has a recurring nightmare, one with an effect so disturbing it comes to him while he has his eyes wide open. It involves an unlikely situation that we might find ourselves one day contentedly lounging inside an English conservatory in a quiet suburban neighbourhood with its perfectly trimmed hedges, hosting dinner parties for the same set of friends over the years and heading off to the same holiday destination annually. This is not inverted snobbery, there is nothing wrong with this kind of life of course. At the end of the day, we all seek to find our own comfortable place in this world and the sense of security that comes with it. But his unfounded horrors stem from his fears that we might get too cosy with the happy conventions of middle class Britain and its affluent predictability that we might forget our dreams of the more romantic lifestyle of less wealthy Southern Europe where one day is different from the next, or so it's supposed to be.

Occasionally though I remind him that there is something joyful about the rituals that we impose upon ourselves. Even the simple habit of sipping a cup of tea brewed from the same brand of dried black leaves first thing every morning, taking time to rouse ourselves from an evening's rest, can set the course of the day. Not unlike the way we look forward to our weekends, spent in the easy company of the people we so dearly love, doing the same hardly exciting and yet comforting things that gives us immeasurable pleasure.

Our Saturdays are sacred, whiled away in a pattern that is close to being called a tradition. Having a baby meant we have to some extent become creatures of habit in our attempt to help the little one slowly understand this world that we have borne him into. Not that he was ever allowed to dictate his terms, no it is our fundamental duty as parents to teach our children the right way to do things. Starting for example with the importance of having a good night's sleep, which as adults we require at least eight hours of and for children should not be less than ten hours at night. This is a lesson we have successfully imparted in the last few months although occasionally it does require reinforcement. So our human alarm clock, brought up in customised controlled crying, knows that any time before six o'clock is not a good time to break the silence of the night and that during weekends it is better to let his parents have a lie in for an hour longer.

The early part of the morning is my 'me-time', spent sweating in the treadmill at the nearby Hillsborough Leisure Centre, my mere attempt at maintaining fitness. Two hours later, I emerge from the double sliding doors with a healthier glow on my cheeks, ready to meet my boys at the park just across the double carriageway. I usually find them by the lake, with the little one happily squealing at the sight of his feathered friends, the team of ducks and the flock of geese which were racing each other for the feast of crumbs that his dad is throwing in the water.

This hearty commune with nature is followed by a leisurely stroll in the park, sharing smiles with the now familiar faces of dog walkers, pram pushers, cyclists and runners, turning towards the direction of the shops along Middlewood Road already busy with weekend shoppers who keep the local traders and charity shops in business.

We pick up a copy of the Saturday Times from the news agents and sit ourselves comfortably by the fireplace inside Rawson Springs, a Wetherspoons pub housed inside a Neo-baroque stone building built in 1926 that was once known as Walkley and Hillsborough District Baths. This is a popular retreat amongst the locals, it is always packed and the high roof and wide open space meant that the frustrated whimpering of a child would hardly be noticed. We always order two cups of bean-to-cup Lavazza (100% Rainforest-Alliance-certified) coffee and a plate of toast with preserves to share, all for £2.89, less than what we would normally pay for a small latte in the Costa cafe right across the road.

With my weekly dose of Caitlin Moran satisfied over a warm cup of coffee, we are ready to tackle our weekly shopping which includes a trip to the green grocer's who greets us 'Kumusta ka?' or 'Magandang umaga' (the owner having worked with Filipinos 20 odd years ago in the Middle East), the butchers whose faces light up at the sight of us and the Polish bakers who happily tell us about a new artisan loaf that we should try out, along with piece of delectable cake for our afternoon tea.

By midday we are back home, left to spend the rest of the afternoon on more leisurely endeavours. So yes, sometimes the things that bring us exuberant happiness do not have to be grand or exciting, but they are still enough to make us feel blessed nonetheless. 

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