Waiting for coffee in the café at Fremington Quay I had a sharp sense of finality, of leaving behind, that reminded me of other occasions I couldn’t quite place. The windows were laced with steam, and an elderly man with uneven stubble in baggy trousers and a fishing jumper drilled holes in the wooden door, fixing something. Staff passed between the till and the kitchen. There was a calmness that I knew I would miss. As I watched the workman Mr Bojangles played quietly somewhere above:
I knew a man Bojangles and he danced for you
In worn out shoes;
With silver hair, a ragged shirt, and baggy pants…
That’s the problem with holidays. You have to come back. Back to the grey and the rain. But city grey and rain is not the same as country grey and rain. When I listened to the cockerel crowing at the farm I was sure it sounded different in the rain. Or was it just me?
As he spoke right out
He talked of life, he talked of life,
He laugh-slapped his leg a step.
We arrive back in London, push open the grimy front door and pile all the bags in the kitchen. My wife sits on a chair looking unhappy to be back. Our daughter sits on her lap, thumb in mouth, gazing across the room. I sit down too. I feel completely certain that we are all thinking different things, but share a sadness that we will be going our separate ways in the week ahead: work, nursery, home.
Later when my daughter is brushing her teeth she realizes that she no longer needs the plastic step that has been accompanying her around the bathroom for the past few months. She is overjoyed. I am not convinced. I’m not sure I’m ready for all these endings.