Four Is not a Charm

My husband’s phone is not advanced, but it does have the polyphonic ring tones that I remember heralding the start of the brave new world of mobile phones, shortly before they became smart.

It was these polyphonic tones that shattered the black morning last week as we slept. I was due to get up in a couple of hours but my husband had a day off. In fact, he had more than one day. His roster has a quirk which is that every seven weeks, he gets six days off in a row. Given that we are at the tail end of a winter and we have not been on holiday for ages, he had marked himself ‘unavailable’ during those six days, meaning that he did not want to be offered any shifts that came up.

Apparently the word, ‘unavailable’ means something different where he works, because the call was not as we had first thought, his alarm that he had forgotten to switch off, it was his work asking him not only to come in, but to come in and travel away overnight and work back.

Disappointed as I was for him, my first impulse was to try and keep sleeping, but it soon became clear that this would be futile. He needed to pack a case, get ready and he would need a lift in to work. I decided to bite the bullet and get up for a cup of tea. It had just gone 4 am.

When I travel away for work, I like to eat out and try something different. For some weird reason, my husband, who can go for days without food, always likes to take food with him – like a domestic life jacket. This is the reason that as he was ironing shirts and folding clothes into a case, I found myself boiling eggs and pasta. It was 4.30 am.

The dogs, naturally were pretty excited by all this. As much as they love routine, they also get super excited by something different happening, a ripple in the fabric of their universe. They sat in the living room, from where they could keep an eye on my husband moving between bathroom and bedroom and me swallowing down mugs of hot tea as I cooked in the kitchen.

Just before 6 am, we piled into the car. My husband, who had been looking forward to a lie-in after I went to work, in his steel caps and just over 1400 kms away from the next lie-in he could enjoy in his own bed, the dogs in their walking harnesses. I dropped him off and we got to the park just as the light from the sunrise was beginning to lighten the sky behind pillows of soot coloured clouds.  The dogs walked in front of me, Lucy skipping excitedly across the damp grass and Archie, nose to the ground on his lead. As the sun slowly began its ascent, their outlines became clearer with their faces emerging gradually like a photograph image in a dark room and by the time we had completed our circuit, it was light.

I decided that the best course of action was to keep moving and so left for work early and was at my desk by 7.30 am. Unlike my husband, I have fairly flexible working hours, meaning that I can get in early and leave early, or arrive late and stay later. Sometimes when we are busy, it can also mean early starts and late finishes, but that suits me fine. Unlike my dogs, I have a pathological hatred of routine.

The dogs had no such problems with their day. Even though they had no idea I would be back earlier than normal, they had already had more than enough excitement for one day. By 7 am, they were walked, had eaten breakfast and were back fast asleep on the couch.

I scattered a few treats around the house and left to start my day. It was seven o clock and already felt close to lunchtime. It was going to be a long day.

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