There is nothing, zilch, nada left in the tank. I have hit a wall of fatigue (no big reason for it beyond a 24 hour period of intense parenting). So I surrender with a slump on the sofa and join my two youngest kids who are watching tv. I reach for my laptop and try to write about my recent trip to Berlin, but like every other night since I’ve been back, the words don’t come or are all jumbled up, because it’s too late and I’m too tired.
I push my computer aside and manage to keep one eye on the tv for a few seconds, before feeling the sweet relief of both eyes closing.
I’m not asleep but I’d like to be. My kids are bickering across me, hurling narky comments to and fro.
I sigh loudly, and shift my head on a too-flat cushion.
“She’s asleep – you’re waking her with your ugly noise!” says one.
“I’m not! And my noise isn’t ugly. You are though.” snaps the other.
I yawn theatrically and extend my arms, pause mid-stretch for dramatic effect, then sink again.
Golden Silence. The kids stop breathing …
Then: “That was your fault – you nearly woke her up. I’m whatsapping Dad.”
And I’m thinking: whatever happened to “I’m telling Dad?”
The arguments and backchat, refusals and irritations drizzle on in a ceaseless stream for yet another hour until my wall of fatigue is built of bricks and eventually I crumble. I actually start to cry.
It’s not been a bad day – there have been flowers and books and hummus …
But it’s been a long day, and now I’m done.
Which is when everything begins to change course.
My eldest son comes home, sees I’m upset and offers me a hug. I stop for a moment and look him in the eye to check he’s all right – this never happens. Gratefully, I accept.
My youngest kids go to bed quietly, with a reasonable degree of humility, and I return to the tv, feeling relieved but defeated.
I listen to Simon Reeve talk about Turkey. I learn about the country’s diversity and politics, and an ancient whistling language that can carry over several kilometres, and is used by villagers in the rugged Black Sea province of Giresun. An endangered ‘bird’ language it evidently is – when two teenagers are happily communicating through whistles, an old woman tells them to stop their nonsense.
After a quick but profound chat with No. 2 son about a show he’s following, which documents Will Millard’s struggle to find an authentically traditional culture in West Papua, I watch a show about Baku, the capital city of Azerbaijan.
I find the presenters ever so slightly annoying, but I like where they are, and the odd facts they uncover: in 2012 a fleet of 1000 London black cabs was purchased by the government so that visiting Eurovision contestants and tourists could be ferried around the city in newly painted purple cars. The taxis were immediately nicknamed “badimçam” – aubergines.
I am feeling restored. It hasn’t really taken much – just a couple of hours of wanderlust-satisfying tv before bedtime (sorry sleep hygiene experts) for my brick wall of fatigue to tower no more.
I go to bed to find on my pillow a sweetly penned note from my daughter, reassuring me that all is okay.
I know it is, and feel a tiny twinge of guilt that I’ve worried her. But then I think about my very pleasant and peaceful evening, and wonder if I should cry more often.
Next stop, if I can keep my eyes open, will be Berlin.
Turkey is not the only home to a whistled language – more here.