In the beginning, there was ‘The Archers’.
In order to ‘achieve’ The Archers, Operation ‘Boy Bedtime’ had to start – on the dot – at 6pm. Played and fed, I would stow one baby on the left hip, hold the toddler’s hand with my right, and march them upstairs, hoping that Sensible Son would follow on obediently behind. Baths, pyjamas, books, (for one) boob, then bed.
‘’Nother story… pleazzze,’ Sensible Son would plead, pushing his luck each and every night.
I’d eye the clock, knowing that indulging would seriously jeopardise the all-important intro. ‘Not now, my sweet, more stories tomorrow,’ I’d say, pulling his door to, and preparing to flee.
‘My ’ungry!’ Binary Boy would announce, as if this was anything new.
Once again, I’d look anxiously at the clock, before racing to the kitchen to grab a banana. Thrusting it at my hollow-legged son, I’d kiss him on the cheek before retreating once more in the direction of the landing.
‘Waah!’ Feisty Fellow would wail, even though he had, officially, already been put down. Breaking all the rules, I’d race to his cot, give him a two minute top up to zonk him back out, before cat-burg’ling away, and out of his room. He’d snuffle, sated; arms above head like a surrendering soldier.
And so, I’d make it, with not a second to spare. Adopting the position (horizontal) I’d stretch out on my bed, switch on the radio to indulge in the latest Ambridge shock horror. My decadent reward for another manic MOB day.
I can’t remember the first time I missed Linda Snell. Like so many aspects of motherhood, it’s all a bit of a blur. It just happened, I suppose, one day: the inevitable.
As the boys became a little bit older, Operation ‘Boy Bedtime’ took a little longer than before. With the addition of daily doses of Biff and Chip (even the books without words seemed to take some time), with Binary Boy needing pre-bed pees, and with Feisty Fellow on solids, no longer ‘on tap’, there came the fateful evening when I switched on the Archers to find it all over. I’d missed the vital compost cliffhanger; there was no point tuning in tomorrow. I’d trudged downstairs and watched East Enders instead.
Now, of course, with the boys ten, nine and seven years old, the Archers, and even East Enders, are programmes of the past. Operation ‘Boy Bedtime’ has become reluctant sporadic showers – ‘Yes I know you’re not visibly dirty but you still need to wash’ – followed by copious comings and goings up and down stairs.
Feisty Fellow, on the whole, still abides by routine, and with a fair wind, and on a good day, is in bed before eight. Binary Boy, on the whole, will take himself off after eight, to burrow in a book. ‘Have you still got your light on?’ I shout up the stairs, sometime after nine. There’s a shuffling, then a click and it all goes dark.
Sensible Son, however, teetering on the edge of morning ‘can’t get out of bed’, stays up later and later at night. ‘But mum,’ he moans, ‘none of my friends go to bed before ten. And anyway,’ he plays his Top Trump, ‘I want to watch the News.’
Admitting that at least his entertainment is educational, I leave Sensible Son to it, and take myself to bed.