Easing the car to a stop in the garage I say, ‘Right, here we are. Let’s now just have a quick chore frenzy.’ Claire nods or smiles or laughs. Or all three.
We’ve enjoyed an hour at the pub, sometimes The Broady, sometimes not. My favourite time of the week is when we’re home and undertake the tasks necessary prior to relaxing. It’s the transition from workday to weekend.
There’s great comfort in the routine.
Is there a sweeter expression of civic and domestic pride than strolling to your curb, grabbing a red, green or yellow plastic handle, surveying up and down the street, nodding at a distant neighbour, and happily walking your bins into the garage? Does anything signal contentedness and community with such affirming simplicity?
No, of course not.
Setting an industrious and effervescent tone, this gets us off to a bright start. Meanwhile, in her office Claire is dropping off her work basket and dumping the day’s detritus. She’s also disengaging from her professional labour.
I check the letterbox. No friendly cards, but no nasty windows either. Whew.
Our happy transmogrification demands a change of uniform to complete the purge, so I peel off my office attire and pop on a pair of shorts and a polo shirt. It’s what Buddha would do.
Work shoes are slid away, and I consider my thongs. No, instead I get out my volleys, each with the inescapable hole, just by the little toe. What if someone bought a pair of volleys and they didn’t develop these holes? The absence of holes would itself make a psychological hole. Could you bring legal action against Dunlop over their failure to provide this expected longitudinal failure?
Open doors and windows allow the beachy breeze to explore the house, and it’s now time to practise my modest bartending skills. A robust tumbler, an ice cube, brandy and coke. Tumbler is an evocative term conjuring coastal afternoons and picnic race meetings. With careful tuition, Claire has taught me how to prepare this most important beverage. In these matters, I’m a model student. Tink, tink, tink. I give it a stir, as tutored.
Heading to the patio, I light a candle. I’ve also learnt that regardless of weather or time of day, these can lend a gentle and welcoming light to a space. I switch on the water feature and enjoy its faint tintinnabulation as there’s a cascading down and across the pebbles.
Our evening is stretching out.
I then swing open the garage fridge, home to good beer (the real stuff), bad beer (light ale as urged by the authorities) and other assorted love songs. Like a babe grabbing a rattle I grasp a sparkling ale longneck and flip off the top with an ancient rusty opener or church key as called by my old friend Richard. The frosty bottle is delivered to the patio table with Michelin star restaurant aplomb.
Glassware is important here too. I often pick my Southwark mug, Tasmanian cider glass or an old English imperial pint. Variety is key in this although overthinking is avoided.
Both Claire’s brandy and my old-fashioned big bottle speak of a distant time. These seem like post-war drinks, or the tipples of our grandparents or props from the original set of Don’s Party. As Lafayette County, Mississippi’s finest writer William Faulkner claimed, ‘The past is never dead. It’s not even past.’
Our early evening soundtrack must be nostalgic. Something from the easy past that suggests innocence and unprickly escapism. It’s often Hot August Night and Claire’s favourite is the stirring instrumental that opens the album. We agree that ‘Girl You’ll Be a Woman Soon’ has a beautiful melody but creepy lyrics. ‘Play Me’ is another romantic highlight. Inspired by a chat with a colleague, tonight we listen to the Bee Gees’ live record One Night Only.
Then, we sit and talk for an hour or so. It’s my favourite part of the week. Claire asks, ‘So, what are our plans for tomorrow?’
A lone Piping Shrike bobs about on our darkening lawn. Gazing out, I take a moment to consider the possibilities.