Saturday 25 July 2009

Exhaustion takes a grip

14st 10lb, 5.9 units. It seems like a lifetime since I worked in financial PR in London. But I have not forgotten that I used to feel permanently on edge, and that my weekends were usually a write-off because I was too exhausted to do anything. People would helpfully suggest that this might have something to do with my peripatetic lifestyle, and that perhaps the last thing I needed after a week in the office (plus assorted restaurants and opera houses) was a 320-mile train and car journey home on a Friday night. But then from time to time I used to spend the weekend in my small flat in Pimlico, and I was often too shattered to do more than move myself from my bed to the sitting room sofa. I remember eating rather poorly because I could not face staggering further than the ill-favoured convenience store in the adjacent arcade, rather than making a major expedition of all of half a mile to Tesco or Sainsbury’s. With hindsight, this probably did nothing to help on the obesity front. There was a much readier supply of crisps than of salads.

I mention all this because yesterday, for the first time since 2004, I became so stressed that this morning I recaptured that same weekend feeling of utter exhaustion and incapability. Mrs H was not in a significantly better state, and a short debate about whether either of us had the energy to walk to the butcher’s for some bacon led swiftly to the brainwave that we could buy a couple of ready-made bacon sandwiches from the shop on the corner of the street. And very welcome they were, too, once we had had the supplementary discussion about which of us actually felt strong enough to leave the house at all. Mrs H blinked first.

It is a good indication of how tired I was that I did not even bother to go and investigate the loud commotion outside after lunch. Mrs H, who returned from a visit to her parents’ shortly afterwards, informed me that it was caused by a major punch-up between a man and his wife outside the Scratters’ Arms, which she described as being fully up to Coronation Street standards. I was sorry to have missed it, though disappointed to hear that the other denizens of the pub were apparently trying to pull the combatants apart, rather than taking bets and egging them on. This is not the sort of behaviour I expect from Grade 1 scratters.

The good news was that my mother-in-law had spotted that her elder daughter was suffering from a bad case of exhaustion, and volunteered to look after The Baby overnight. So we had our first evening alone together since he was born on 18 June. It seemed appropriate to take advantage of the opportunity to go out for a meal. Being in the midst of the worst recession for a century, we naturally found Mrs H’s first two choices of restaurant absolutely heaving with customers, and unable to offer us even the hope of a table for at least three quarters of an hour. But luckily we somehow summoned up the energy to keep walking until we found a French bistro-like establishment lurking up a side street, and were able to enjoy two perfectly serviceable steak frites and a bottle of very good Australian red. The pudding of a shared chocolate fondue was perhaps rather over the top, but the bill was still very reasonable and the service motherly and comforting. In fact, my one and only reservation about the place was the fact that all its other customers were obviously completely pissed. This meant that the management felt obliged to keep the windows fully open in an attempt to dissipate what might otherwise have become a rather overpowering smell of stale lager. As a result, it was a rather chilly evening in its latter stages. But, on the other hand, we had all the fun of making bets on where the forks full of food being elevated on neighbouring tables were likely to end up, since few of the fork operators were in any condition to find their own mouths or, indeed, any other parts of their bodies that one might have tried naming to them. I have seen better co-ordination from The Baby at five weeks, giving me a warm glow of paternal pride in his abilities and prospects.

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