We are careering into something similar to mania in our house. All ecstatic giggling one minute, slouched misanthropy the next.
"Jack, you're getting a haircut today." "Don't want one." "A good one. I'll take you to that barbers you like, where they have all the photographs of footballers on the wall." "I like my hair as it is...."
[We carry on like this all the way to my mother's, raising the volume as we go.]
...One hour later.
At my mother's house for a quick cup of tea. "I want a Mohican." "You can't have a Mohican." "Why?" "Why can't he have a Mohican if he wants one?" "He'll...you'll look ridiculous with a Mohican." "Why?" "Why?" "Because he, mother,.... because you, Jack, are only eight years old." "I want a Mohican." "Let him have a Mohican if he wants one."
...Forty minutes later, outside the barber shop.
"I want a Mohican." "You can't have a Mohican." "Why?" "He doesn't do Mohicans." "Why?" "Because they went out in the nineties." "I don't care."
...5 minutes later inside the barber shop.
"I want a Mohican." "Stop this or I'll shout." "Why?" "Because you are really getting on my nerves now." "Why?" "Because you keep asking me daft questions when you know I'll say no." "I want a motorbike. Can I have a motorbike?"
...15 minutes later sitting on the barber’s chair.
The bald barber wraps a bib around Jack's neck, it is blue with red giraffes, more suitable for a three year-old than a going on eighteen year-old. Jack looks like he might cry.
"So... what you having mate?"
Jack glances at me. He frowns. I pull that high-eyebrow look, the one where I purse my lips and put my hands on my hip and go, "Egh hum!" like I have a hair caught in my throat, or a nasty bout of catarrh.
"Shaved at the back and sides and a bit spiky on top." "Is that okay with you Mum?" asks the barber. I think he fancies me. He’s far too keen. I say, "That's okay with me."
I think about going to the cash machine and leaving Jack there. Then I catch him giving me that look. The one his real father, who we haven't seen for years, used to give me. The look that means; you're in trouble now. Absent father has shapeshifted into Jack’s face: he has his eyes, and his down-turned mouth.
I pick up The Sunday Sport, feeling like a pervert I set it down again.
I move to sit behind Jack and blow kisses at him in the mirror. Jack ignores me. The barber catches a kiss and winks back.
Sporting smarting eyes and a smart hair-do, we go for Sunday dinner at a pub in Bakewell. It takes us two hours by car to get there, when we find a cosy country pub, all Idris can eat is a portion of chips and boiled frozen vegetables. He ask the barman if the food is homecooked, the barman says everything comes pre-packed, he tells the barman he is vegan, the barman looks like he might clobber him.
"Never mind eh," I smile at Idris. I have my, ‘it's a Sunday trip out' voice on. No matter how awkward anyone is, I'll smile and laugh and chatter in this irritating singy-songy voice.
"Oh look Jack," I sing, "we can have lamb roast and Yorkshire puddings."
We usually have mung bean casserole on a Sunday, so a roasted young animal has me salivating like a wolf.
"Not hungry." "Go on. You can have anything." "Not hungry. Don't want vegetables" "Have some of my dinner then." "Don't want anything." I am cross now: "Don't ruin my Sunday trip out. We've driven two hours to get here."
Other families, nice ones with polite children, are staring.
"We could have gone for a pub meal in Manchester," Jack says, sensibly. “You didn't have to drive for two hours." "You are spoiling my trip out." "It's not your trip out," he enunciates firmly. "It's our trip out. We're all here. Not just you." "But it's a pre-Mothers' Day meal," I lie. "It's cheaper if you go out a couple of weeks before Mothers' Day." This seems like a good and useful lie to me. "But it's not Mothers' Day yet," he barks.
I shoot him another fierce look. He shuts up, for all of one minute, then jabbers on again.
I say, “If you can’t behave nicely, you will have to sit elsewhere.”
Jack happily moves to sit on an empty table where he can throw dirty looks at me and watch teenagers play on the fruit machine. I turn to look out the window. I can just about hear the sound of Idris chunnering on with his parenting advice. You'd think he had a kid, not me. His voice mushes in with rain sploshing from the gutter onto the pavement across the road. I watch walkers stride across the bridge. It is absolutely lashing it down. I think, we’ve lost control of everything. The only time I ever spoke to my mother like this she pulled my pants down and smacked my arse in public. If I smacked Jack, I’d get arrested. I remember being eight and biting big sister Josephine on the arm very, very hard. It felt good. If only I could get away with biting people at 29.
We drive the long way home, cutting out the A6 and taking the M57. We munch on pastries bought at the Pudding Parlour. Idris and Jack think it’s hilarious to make piggy noises at me. I’m a big fat pig, with a big fat bum, oink, oink, oink. Then we start singing old songs, Down at the Old Bull and Bush … then pack up your troubles in your old kit bag and smile, smile, smile... We all smile crazily. Then Idris spoils us rotten with his version of the Welsh National Anthem, in Welsh. There is something about driving which makes him want to burst into patriotic song. He cuts off to add, "Hello love, d'you want a bit o Welsh in ya?" He squeezes my thigh hard.
Around about Junction 1 on the M60 I belt out Bohemian Rhapsody, Idris and Jack clap furiously and insist on an encore. I give them Whitney Houston’s, I Wanna Dance with Somebody, and Girls Aloud's, Jump. I swear, if you were stuck on the M60 looking in on us, you’d see that for those ten minutes, during that Queen meets Whitney, clashes with Cheryl Cole moment, what a happy little family we were.