Considering how unpredictable and varied my working hours can be, it’s not surprising that I often forget to eat. You’ll know when it happens. I go silent, slightly distracted and touchy. If I’m on my own I never work out what’s going on until some hours later when I start shaking. Close friends in the past have marched me to the nearest food outlet long before I’ve noticed I’m hungry. “Al. You’re hungry. Eat something.” “I’m not hungry.” “You’re hungry.” “I’m not.” “Eat!” “Ok! I’ll humour you! But I’m fine. *munchmunch* Fuck I was starving.” “Yep. Told you.”
I was glad to witness today through a 3 year old that I’m not alone. I went to see my friend Flavia. The excuse was to borrow a cat box. But really I wanted good company and tasty food. She’s a single mum to a three year old. She works in theatre PR. We had to agree beforehand that we definitely weren’t going to drink wine.
Over fifteen years ago Flavia met drunk Al at a party. She was going out with a mate of his. She told him she was auditioning for drama school. Drunk Al hauled her out for not having worked out what she was going to do for audition speeches. He ended up getting her to come meet sober Al after Guildall the next day with at least two speeches chosen. Amazingly she showed up, sober Al helped unlock some confidence and she got into drama school. We’ve been great friends ever since.
Her three year old was hungry when I arrived and I totally recognised it. He was hangry. The goddamn screws had gone missing from goddamn yellow van. It was broken and ruined and the world was going to end and the only way to push back the fog of doom was to howl like a drunk dumped student who dropped his kebab. Worse still we couldn’t find all the screws. One remains missing even now. It is with a heavy heart that I even suggest this, but perhaps it could have ended up in the hoover? Either way, it was a disaster of unmitigated proportions for Ivo.
While this Screw-van Missing Crisis was unfolding, Flavia, who had been working all day, comforted her son, fed him and us beautifully, shared pickles and stories, and got me a towel for the shower. (If you see me these days I WILL try to clean myself in your home.) Then she got a cat box to lend me. It put me to shame. All I’ve done today is book some flights to Amsterdam, try on a robot costume in southwest London and learn some lines. In order to make myself vaguely useful I did Flavia’s washing up. That’s been a tradition since just after Ivo was born and I was so in awe of her ability to make people that I needed to ground myself. She’s growing an adult for god’s sake.
Once he’d eaten he calmed down and returned to innocent childlike games. We sat together as he repeatedly decapitated George Harrison, all the while muttering “No! No! What are you doing!” But not in a Liverpool accent.
It’s amazing how close kids that age are to their emotions. Ivo would decide he wanted something, find out he couldn’t get it, shout and scream in the hopes that would change things, and actually make himself genuinely upset through what started as a conscious manipulation. He would check me out under his mother’s arm to see if I was buying it, and redouble his attempts if he saw I wasn’t. I learnt to keep a straight face rather than smile, as I was worried he’d hurt his throat when I found it funny. He’s a great kid. We’ve always played nicely together. It makes me want to go to Sussex to see my little godson Hal who I renounced satan for. Must. Make. Time.