Tim Dowling

Plus Bim Adewunmi

The Guardian - Weekend - - Contents - Tim Dowling

I wake up on Satur­day morn­ing in the dark, to the sound of my wife cack­ling. I can tell that she is read­ing my col­umn on her phone. I can also tell, from the par­tic­u­lar throaty qual­ity of the cackle, t that she is not laugh­ing at the col­umn it­self, but at the com­ments p posted be­neath. She laughs again.

“What?” I say.

“They’re not happy, are they?” she says.

“I don’t know,” I say. “What time is it?”

“It’s early,” she says. “Ha ha!”

“What?” I say.

“Noth­ing,” she says. “Go back to sleep.”

I roll over and stare at the wall. There is some­thing about the look of the wallpaper in the glow from my wife’s phone that makes me think: where am I?

Then I re­mem­ber: I am in the mid­dle of a run of three gigs with the band. My wife at­tended the Bath gig the night be­fore, but I only re­ally saw her af­ter­wards, at the mer­chan­dise stall.

“That was very good,” she’d said, be­fore go­ing on to cri­tique the show in a man­ner that made it clear she’d missed the first half.

We are, I now re­call, stay­ing with the lead singer’s mother-in-law, who lives con­ve­niently nearby and has kindly of­fered to put us up. She is called Susie, and she also takes in B&B guests, which is why there’s a ket­tle and two cups in the room.

“Ha ha!” my wife says. “Oh dear!” “What?” I say.

“Noth­ing,” she says.

By the time I get down­stairs the cof­fee is on, Susie is cook­ing ba­con and the kitchen ta­ble is set for six.

“I’m sorry we’re not eat­ing in the din­ing room this morn­ing,” Susie says.

“That will ob­vi­ously be re­flected in my TripAd­vi­sor re­view,” I say. This strikes me as be­ing hi­lar­i­ous, but also fa­mil­iar. I think I may have used it the last time I was here, and pos­si­bly the time be­fore that.

We are in­vited to stay for lunch, but my wife ex­plains that she needs to re­turn to Lon­don be­cause she has hired our old­est son’s friend Eddy to do some gar­den­ing work, which she must over­see. She tries to blame me, be­cause the gar­den­ing is some­thing I should be do­ing.

“I’m a busi­ness­man,” I say. “I’m on a busi­ness trip.”

At lunch a man called John tells a very good story about be­ing punched at his own

din­ner party. I try to com­mit it to mem­ory be­cause it’s the sort of thing my wife likes, but it’s a com­pli­cated tale with a large cast of char­ac­ters. Af­ter­wards all I re­ally re­mem­ber is the last line, which is, “How could you? We’re fin­ished in Som­er­set.”

The lead singer, the drum­mer and I leave lunch early to meet the rest of the band at the next venue. When we get there it be­comes clear there are prob­lems with the sound equip­ment, prob­lems that will not be solved un­til per­ilously close to show­time. We sit in the dress­ing room, coats on, drink­ing tea and fret­ting. The gig turns out all right in the end, but I am bone weary by the time we get back to Susie’s house in the mid­dle of the night.

The next morn­ing I am up be­fore any­one, ex­cept Susie, who is al­ready in the kitchen.

“It’s only boiled eggs,” she says. “I hope you don’t mind.”

“Not at all,” I say. “As long as you don’t mind three stars out of five.” I think: it still works.

I leave soon af­ter, ea­ger to be home. By the time I’ve dropped off the drums, it’s al­most lunchtime. I find my wife cook­ing in the kitchen. Out­side the win­dow, Eddy is weed­ing on his knees.

I sit at the ta­ble, re­view­ing events.

“How could you?” I say. “We’re fin­ished in Som­er­set.”

“I don’t get it,” my wife says. “Which per­son is even say­ing that?”

“I don’t know,” I say. “I’m so tired.”

“It must be nice for you, com­ing back to this lovely ho­tel,” she says, putting a plate of pasta in front of me.

I think of a hi­lar­i­ous thing to say, and then de­cide not to say it at all

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