Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Squeezed Middle

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Squeezed Middle

Article excerpt

Across the wide stretch of shingle, Larry crouches with his fishing net. It is a strange warm and sunny winter's afternoon and we are on an out-of-season holiday in Dorset. Larry is wearing just his wellies and a jumper, his trousers having met with a rock pool earlier. He looks like Christopher Robin, all ruddy-cheeked and wholesome.

I sit on a rock, warming my hands on a polystyrene cup of tea. It's a novelty to observe Larry at a distance. In London, he is constantly under my feet. He trips me up in the kitchen; watches me intently as I sit on the loo; wakes me up by shouting "porridgetime!" just millimetres from my ear. When I think of him, it is always in close-up, like my own hand or foot.

Now, right over there on the other side of the beach, he could almost be somebody else's child. He is content and absorbed. He looks like his own person. I take in a deep breath of salty air and sigh it out again. I feel like my own person, too.

We hadn't got out of London in ages. Every time we do, I swear to myself that we won't leave it so long next time, but then once we're back it all feels like too much effort and expense, and I forget why I ever felt the need to get away from the concrete and fumes and rubbish and hordes upon hordes of grey shuffling people. I only remember again once we have turned off the M25, leaving the skyscrapers behind on the horizon like a row of cracked teeth, and the sky reveals its true hugeness and I feel a physical sensation of relief, as if I can stretch out to my full height and stop holding my breath. …

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