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MAN ON A MISSION A hunt for nativity costumes sends Jonathan to some dark places…


n occasions, husbands set out to prove their wives wrong – yet find out, as husbands often do, that the wife is quite right. While the children’s mother and I never quite managed to tie the knot, it is a salutary lesson I’d do well to grasp. She arrives with Holly, Huck, a bag of handover items and a few instructions. I take a moment to be thankful for recently discouraging the children’s desire for a pet. On that day, Mum telephoned me from a pet shop and asked if a guinea pig could accompany each handover. I heard the beseeching cries of Holly and Huck in the background, to which mum then said: “Children, would you like a guinea pig?” I briefly lost vision as my eyes rolled to the top of my head in despair. I waited for a pause in their deafening excitement, the children’s utter delight (and now, expectation) unequivocal as they suggested names for their favourite. “I think that’s a tentative ‘yes’ from the children,” I offered. “But I don’t think it’s a very…” I got no further. Mum waxed pithy about the positive influence pets have upon children and that it was almost heretical for me to

suggest otherwise. “A guinea pig is for life, not just for Christmas,” I explained, before adding, “What’s more, the happiness the children have from buying a pet is unlikely to last as long as the pet itself.” I felt I had counselled wisely. “Daddy says no.” But, I digress. Today’s handover completes with a reminder from Mum to buy outfits for the children’s school nativity play and that the children are with her this Christmas Day. A wave of sadness catches me briefly off-guard. I force a smile and nod. “Go to Primark,” she casually suggests. “The nativity information is in Holly’s book-bag.” I wince, for my one and only Primark experience didn’t end well and I vowed ‘never again’. The general layout is confusing; things are in a weird order; it is so busy you feel you’re in everyone’s way and those same people deliver a withering stare that says ‘you are doing everything wrong’. “Don’t be a snob.” “Hey, I’m man-of-the-people enough to go to Primark!” I exclaim. The nativity list, concertina-ed in the bottom of the book-bag, outlines the clothing suggestions for an innkeeper and a star. How hard can this be? It’s not as though I need to find a festive octopus outfit, à la Love Actually. Holly, Huck and I start with a few favourite shops. By the time we get to John Lewis, I’m starting to lose the will, and sit down heavily, not quite knowing what lesson to draw from this. A text from Mum: ‘How are you getting on?’ I ignore it. A persistent text soon follows: ‘You didn’t go, did you?’ It’s getting easier to ignore the messages. It is less easy to ignore the impatient children. So we enter Primark. Immediately, I feel as if I’m shopping upstream against the natural run of things… so it comes as a shock to find that everything we need is here. A swift text to Mum: ‘Sorted’. The exhilaration of accomplishing something outside my comfort-zone dwarfs the comically large shopping bag I now carry. We meet Mum, who looks at the bag, then at me, her face full with the satisfaction of a woman who knows the answer (which is, in fact, the same look I get when she’s withholding an answer). She raises her eyebrow. “In retrospect,” I concede, “Yes. We should’ve gone to Primark first, but hindsight is 20/20.” Jonathan Taylor is a single dad-of-two based in St Leonards, Exeter. For more, Facebook: @aol3t I EXETER LIVING I 17

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Exeter Living – Issue 220  

Exeter Living – Issue 220