The day is shimmeringly hot. So hot that the birdsong is muted and time has become disconnected. The electric blue sky descends into hazy heat near the horizon. A jet scores the perfect blueness with twin vapour trails, which quickly blur and fade like a healing scar. The only things moving are something in the flowerbed and the shade creeping around the garden in slow motion. A frond trembles, then a rustle, then silence.
It’s afternoon and the lunch plates lie on the table outside in the stillness. We’re sitting on the grass in deckchairs. Our daughter is sitting in a paddling pool I found in the shed, covered in snail trails and earth, and hosed down. She’s splashing, and singing as usual. We’re all lost in the light and the heat.
An end of holiday air hangs heavy. I have the feeling that I’m going back to school, or I’ve finished a term. We’re going home to London tomorrow. My wife is starting back at work and with nursery still closed for another week I’m returning to a week with my daughter.
I mention something about our return to my wife.
“OH!” says my daughter.
She’s taken to saying this recently in a Brief Encounter sort of accent, to denote her permanent state of surprise.
“Are we going home tomorrow?” she asks, aghast.
“Yes, mummy’s going back to work.”
“But what will I do?”
“You’re still on holiday next week.”
“But what about mummy?”
“She’s going back to work.”
She is sitting up to her waist in warm water in a candy-striped pink swimming costume and pink lacy hat. She looks intently at something not there in the bottom of the pool and the corners of her mouth turn down.
“It’s ok, I’ll be on holiday too…” I say, to forestall tears.
“OH!” she says, without relish, still looking into the water.
Everywhere I look I see finality. Things will not be like this again. We will be older. Our daughter will be older. The season will be different. The light. The heat. Perhaps what I’m feeling is the end of normality. The return to being a stay at home dad.