Why oh why oh why won’t my body re-program itself to “lie-in” instead of “wake-up-ridiculously-early-to-tend-to-little-person”? I’m in Paris, on my own, rehearsing for an Oscar Wilde play in which I’m replacing one of the actresses. I’m having fun. I get to play a slightly crazy but gorgeous young fiancée in a red dress who dances and pushes young Lord Arthur Saville around and undresses him onstage. Apparently the character was far more demeure beforehand; this new version seems to be unsettling Lord Arthur who now spends a lot of his time onstage breaking out into a cold sweat. I also play a ridiculous, guffawing Lady Bracknell on tiptoe, a gung-ho flying-karate-expert Russian count, and a drugged up, cross-eyed Pestle the chemist who sells Lord Arthur a poisonous capsule and then has one himself. Yesterday this involved me biting off a piece of chalk. Yes, there are no limits I won’t break through for Art. Pure art, Pestle the chemist. But back to the subject : it’s our day off and I was looking forward to sleeping in until 10 or 11 a.m. like back in the good old days, but no – my body won’t have any of it and is stubbornly waking up at 7 a.m. sharp, and pointy. My little boy has reprogrammed me to be alert, ready to make porridge and play fire engines at dawn.
I do miss him. I’m fine while I’m rehearsing, or in the cinema, or out with friends in the evening, but when I come home to Dame Trot’s flat in the 14ème, I suddenly wish I was home with a warm bundle of toddler to cuddle. I phone him regularly and for the first day that was fine; he chattered on about how I would be coming home “tomorrow Mummy – Mummy comin’ on a train see Tommy tomorrow” and how I would then be bringing him back up to Paris to see “big boys and Mummy show”. I tried telling him it wasn’t tomorrow that I’d be coming home but he clearly wasn’t having any of it. Last night the truth of the matter sunk in. Mummy will be away for longer than 24 hours. He went silent and apparently stuck his thumb in his mouth and his other hand down his t-shirt to hold onto his nipple (well, if Mummy’s nipple isn’t there …). And then he started sniffing, and then crying, and then wailing, and L’Homme thought it best to hang up fast to spare both Tommy and I any more distress. I cursed modern science for not having yet invented teletransportation and went back to the flat feeling like a rotten Mummy. So much for ‘freedom’.
It’s now the next morning. I just opened the French window blind in this flat and discovered there’s a little balcony out the back that gives onto a garden. It’s sunny, I’ve got a day of costume shopping to do and friends to see and a computer to repair (it really is on its last legs now) – I’m off to melt into the metro crowds and shove a croissant down my face.