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Life is starting to return to normal now, but for a while there, things were looking hairy. The family left Harry and I home alone for eight days, and I think we have collectively agreed that was about 5 days too long for all our mental health. For some, the learning was that banking on kiwi summer weather is a bad thing. For Harry, it was a reminder of why I am not his favourite human. I'm not sure what my learning was, if anyone can figure it out, feel free to let me know.

Day 1 – Departure

Everyone is awake and racing around the house like a scene from any given Home Alone film. Harry the dog knows that any time the suitcases appear, his world is going to become a lot more lonely, so he lies in the middle of the floor. We are in a hurry to get to the airport so that I can still get to work at a reasonable time, and the excitement carries me along, even though I know I will have to leave the better part of me behind before long. I’m not great with goodbyes so when the time comes I’m full of “catch you later”s and “have fun”s as I run to work. I decide that being busy will be my antidote to this goodbye; busy at work, and busy when I get home. I spend the evening cleaning and tidying the house until I’m sweating and exhausted before taking a long bath and collapsing into bed for a Skype call with home.

Day 2 – Ride Night

I’ve done the maths; the only way I can get to work on time and still walk Harry is if we run. I’m not entirely sure this is a good plan, but right now, it’s all I’ve got. The dog is even less convinced and spends the entire 1.6 miles trying to throw himself under my feet or drag my down the road. I start to doubt that tying his lead to my waist with a belt was a good move. I’m excited for my evening because it’s Lita meet up night and, thanks to the “Summer weather”, we are planning to meet up for drinks and pool instead. I’m also excited for my weekly chip dinner and wonder whether I should start making notes about where to get the best curly fries Vs Kumara wedges. The beer is good, and the banter is better and by the time I get home, I’m ready for my bed. I have a maudlin moment as I walk into a dark house that immediately vanishes when I turn on the lights. It’s been 24 hours and the novelty of walking into a clean and tidy house has definitely not worn off yet.

Day 3 – Painting

My busy work for this evening is naked ceiling painting, red wine and adventure riding videos on YouTube: The first made possible by the others. But first I have a small problem to deal with in the shape of a mouse infestation. I’m not entirely sure whether we have one very brave mouse, whether I am caught in a Matrix-like glitch, or whether a family of grey mice have moved in for the winter. All I do know is that I am spending altogether too much time looking up to see a mouse crossing the floor which the hound does precisely nothing about it. OK, maybe that’s not entirely fair. He caught and killed one of them at breakfast, and he spends most of the evening eyeballing one he has trapped in the Singer unit. I am left in something of a moral crisis over the correct vegan response to the prospect of mice shitting all through my kitchen until spring, which is why I don’t notice that I’m low on paint until it is too late. I run out with one small finger of ceiling left to paint, and I know that it will bug the crap out of me for the rest of the week.

Day 4 – Work Drinks

I have to be in Palmeston North for meetings today, so I build Harry a little den on the front deck and wish him well against the weather. He regards me with utter disgust before turning his back on me and walking away. I get back into town and head straight out for work drinks, with that feeling of a reward well-earned that you get after an especially hard week. There’s a really good vibe about the group this evening, and I find a beer that is way more drinkable than is healthy. Eager to blow off some steam, I end up leaving the work drinks and going to some house parties, one of which makes me feel unbelievable old and sober, the other which is exactly the chilled end to the week I was looking for. Harry won’t even look at me when I get back home to him, and stalks past me to his bed. Just as I shut his door, a mouse runs across the floor and into the kitchen. I’ll give them credit for a good sense of comic timing.

Day 5 – Mooching

It’s the weekend. I open my eyes and get a small reminder of how fabulous life was back when I was able to have a lie in. Immediately feel guilty for having a lie in and get up to Make Most Of Day. Decide that my first call will be The Beach Kiosk for brunch with my book. Run down to the car only to remember that the car hasn’t been started in several days and that Keith had grumbled about needing a new battery before he left. Utter prayer to the God of Small Pleasures as I turn the key and the car chunters into life. Decide day will involve a decent drive to get some charge back into the battery and that while I’m there, I may as well pop into a bike shop to see if they have anything I want to test ride. I order brunch, and, as I open my book surrounded by a wall of human chatter, I am suddenly overcome with an unbearable sadness that spears my heart and makes my head ache. I miss them. Luckily my food arrives fast and I am distracted by a great story and even better food and walk out ready to go another round with the truculent car. After an abortive trip to the bike shops, I find myself in the centre of town with nothing to do, and the rain coming in sideways. So I do something I have promised myself for the longest time and go to Te Papa to walk slowly and reverently around the Gallipoli exhibition. Seems like everyone else has had a similar idea and the place is slammed, but I wait, before blubbering the whole way around the exhibition. I leave feeling raw and duck into a few favourite shops to buy myself something yummy for dinner. It does the trick.

Day 6 – Spanner Day

I’m excited about the idea of getting all up and greasy with my friends and their motorbikes today right up until the point I open the curtains and survey Armageddon in weather form. Meh. I treat myself to hot “buttered” toast and my biggest mug to tea and contemplate what to do with my day. I decide that weather this bleak is the perfect excuse for comfort food and put a slow cook chickpea curry on for later. Somewhere around lunchtime, the rain stops long enough for one of The Litas to paddle her way over to mine. We spend the rest of the afternoon abusing both her bike (and the Haynes manual) while streams of oil run up our arms and we fish lost bolts out of the frame with flexible magnets. I can’t remember the last time I was so happy. I hadn’t even realised how much I enjoyed working on cars and bikes until now. I make a silent vow to spend more time in the garages henceforth. Around dinner time, we are joined by another awesome Lita and spend the evening chilling with curry. Harry decides that his life has taken a distinct turn for the better when one of the Litas takes a shine to him.

Day 7 – Exhaustion

Today was not a good day. As always happens with me, I feel like I have to push myself to fill my time in a useful way, and completely forget to chill the fuck out and take care of myself in the process. My limbs are full of lead, but somehow I manage to muster the energy to order some pizza. I decide that the only remedy is to forget the To Do list that I have dutifully stuck to the fridge, forget the mouse problem, forget everything in favour of a super long soak in the bath with a beer and my book. I don’t get very far with the book because having been quiet for most of the week, Keith decides to make this The Evening of Much Communication. I’m glad of the company even if it is text based and full of longing. It’s small comfort that we have some exciting stuff planned for when the fam get home because there are still two long days to wait. Two days; it might as well be two years. 

Day 8 – Malaise

I’m done. The dog is done. We have taken to lying forlornly in the lounge allowing the mice to run around the house and claim it as their own. The weather is amazing, and we are treated to a glorious sunset that we both regard with a jaded side eye. Life has no meaning without the family, food has no taste, sunsets no beauty. Where is our noise, our chaotic meals, our trail of discarded dirty clothes? How can it be that I haven’t had to repeat myself in over a week? Harry and I trudge down the road for one last evening walk together. When another dog passes us, Harry doesn’t even have sufficient fucks left to bark at him. We both get an early night.

Day 9 - Homecoming

I’m obnoxiously excited, almost giddy. Harry senses my mood and bounces down the road on his morning walk, causing me to call him a cow bag when he trips me up for the umpteenth time. I head out to work in a new outfit but before I close the door, I take one last look at the clean and orderly house. Next time I see this place it will be trailing in the wake of three walking mess bombs, but somehow, I can’t bring myself to care. I have come to the realisation that having a tidy house is a poor substitute for having the family around. I leave work early to go to the airport and I’m so full of nervous energy, I’m crackling. I stand at the gate eager to see my babies and desperate to kiss my husband. The moment is only slightly tarnished when they bundle through the gate arguing at full volume. All those quips about missing the peace and quiet come flooding back as they walk towards me and I wonder whether there is such a thing as a timeshare for families.

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