September 19, 2008
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On Sunday evening, about 14 hours before I returned to work, I got a call from my auntie in Leeds. It doesn't happen very often, but even changing my landline and then only giving the new number to one other person doesn't seem to have prevented this occasional, landmark occurence.
(Frankly the quality of the family rumour network astounds me – I don't have that many relatives, I keep in touch with even fewer and probably have things in common with still fewer – and yet my aunt still manages to winkle out odd, timely, details of my life. Actually it's probably just my Dad blabbing like a monkey, but I'm still surprised that the state of my mental health is discussed amongst the conservative-minded of Yorkshire. I thought such things were suitable only for hushed whispers on doorsteps, accompanied by intakes of breath, sucked teeth and meaningful looks. Perhaps "stress" has become acceptable since I left.)
So, my auntie phones. We chat, she asks about going back to work, she manages to hint yet again about me moving back to Leeds and I manage to choke down the gales of laughter. She talks about Heritage Day in Leeds and their trip round the town hall. I might have been reminded of London Open House and got a bit excited about all the fabulous buildings here (that I never go to) and she may have interpreted that as a slight. We discuss my parents planning to spend all next August in the UK – they've experienced two Augusts on the Spanish coast now, and the humidity and sudden influx of people is doing their heads in – and my aunt does a little intake of breath and probably gives a meaningful look. "Well," she says. "It's what they wanted."
Yes. Because truly, my parents must silently suffer the wrath of the Northern gods – and anything they may find uncomfortable and irritating – for daring to break the moulds of local conformity and leave the hallowed Yorkshire ground. Oh no, wait; they're grown ups and are perfectly entitled to go wherever the fuck they want to, whenever they want to. My aunt never approved of their emigration, in a similar way that she never approved of me going off for a university education and moving to London and getting a high falutin' job…
Wait a moment. I wonder – in quieter family moments, does she ever discuss my sick leave with my uncle or my cousin? Do they agree that it's shocking how someone should be worked to the point of exhaustion and collapse? Do they pause to contemplate the essential differences between people's modes of living? And then does she suck her teeth, draw breath and say – "Well, it's what she wanted"?