It's 7.30 on Sunday morning and I am in bed. This is very rare. I had to do a deal with my husband to achieve it. I usually wake first in our house. How I love that moment. I am awake and they are all asleep. It is peaceful. I can hear birds and the vague hum that the house makes but which is generally lost in the cacophony of sound that surrounds it. Immediately there is a problem though. I cannot lie here enjoying my solitude. I need to be somewhere where I can move around, read, make coffee. I need to get downstairs.
This is easier said than done. Getting out of my bedroom without waking my husband is easy enough. But I have to pass the four bedroom doors of the children to get to the top of the stairs. The doors in our house have latches rather than handles and no matter how gently I lift the brass, it always gives a metallic tap as it hits the top of its keep. Generally there is a scampering of feet at this point. The little ones are not allowed out of bed unless they hear someone else so their ears are highly tuned to pick up any sign of movement.
Assuming I can get out of my bedroom without alerting anyone, I then have to work my way along the landing. This is reminiscent of my teenage days when I knew precisely which floorboard could be relied upon to take my weight without creaking and giving me away. Even if I can pass, ghost like along the corridor, there is always the chance these days that a joint will click loudly. A knee or an ankle showing its displeasure at early morning movement by shouting out in protest.
I stand still and listen hard. The latch, the floorboards and errant body parts are all dealt with and still I am alone. Down the stairs one at a time, avoiding those that complain. A little rush of movement at the bottom to disable the burglar alarm before it gives the game away. And then, occasionally, rarely, I am downstairs and they are all still asleep upstairs. I shut the kitchen door gently, brew coffee as quietly as is possible and set myself up on the sofa with my mug and a magazine for as long as I am allowed to get away with my solitude.
Of course, such mornings are rare. Generally the little ones are awake at the first hint of a noise and we all go down together leaving the big ones and husband to sleep on. And then, even though they are at the opposite end of the house, my curl up on the sofa is not quite so relaxing. I have to make drinks all round before I can get to my own coffee and my magazine perusal is interrupted at regular intervals by requests for assistance or to mediate in disputes.
So last night I made a deal. Although I would wake up first, my husband could get up and deal with the children. I brought my lap top upstairs in anticipation. Nothing spontaneous about this plan. Of course, as it turned out I had to shepherd the little ones downstairs, sort the sky box to a suitable channel and then gently kick my husband to wake him so that he could keep what was left of his side of the bargain. But the net result is the same. I am in bed, with coffee and it is peaceful. The sky is clear and bright. It's going to be a beautiful day.