It was a peaceful, grown up day. I went to the tiny organic market (after a year,the woman on the fruit and veg stall has shifted from open hostility to grudging acceptance of my custom, as long as I don't make trouble by, for instance, having the temerity to pick up an avocado myself. Today she even asked about whether there was something wrong with the dog's ears. I am choosing to view this as a stab at friendly conversation), walked the dog (the park café is reopening! This is very exciting. In its previous incarnation they gave you a tiny chocolate mousse with your coffee, which was the height of decadence, and still spoken of in hushed tones in the neighbourhood), worked, and got sidetracked into researching the various horrors of Léopold II (turns out he really did bring 200 odd people from Congo across to the Universal Exhibition in 1897, and 7 of them really did die of exposure), had a croque monsieur and fifteen pints of coffee, played the piano a bit, cleaned. I'm getting better at being on my own (but partly because I'm doing less of it, which makes it far easier to appreciate).
Then at half past four the boys arrived in an explosion of brightly coloured plastic trailing 14 carrier bags and talking over each other, standing on chairs to empty the kitchen cupboards. We weaved haphazardly to the park, falling over each other and the thrilled dog, my pockets stuffed with biscuits they preemptorily insisted I carry. After several muddy and inept knee skids down the hill we ran into one of Fingers's friends and his mother and the three of them ran off with the dog. We chatted briefly, trying to ignore the boys as they tried to ride a scooter down a sheer sandy drop towards the fetid pond.
"Ah, c'est le pied" she said, enviously as I explained our joint custody arrangements. "That's brilliant".
I never quite know what to say to this, or to its opposite, the murmurmed pained condolences, the "Really? I don't think I could..". I don't know, really. It works, sort of, it has brilliantly good bits and sad, painful or lonely bits. It can be quite salutory to have time to miss your kids, to realise how very much you like their company and sure, getting a weekend lie in is an extraordinary feeling when you're used to having your eyelids prised open well before 7 with demands for the kinds of cereals that catapult you straight into type 2 diabetes.
I don't have anything profound to say about it tonight, I'm just glad to have them back, with their finely trodden carpet of crisps across the floor, and the pointy single Lego pieces sown discreetly across the floor for maximum impact, and the packets of chocolate buttons I have had to remove from their secret hiding place and the last ditch calls for water at twenty past bedtime.
And here's a giant pumpkin.