“I think about money” he announces, as we swing back and forth on the playground’s swing.
We’re the last two in the park today, H went home 20 minutes ago when the sun went down, but we’re waiting on his bus to Tennis class, there isn’t time to go home in between and so he mounts a swing and gets moving (never one to waste a park moment). I’ve barely turned my head and he’s flying, outstretched legs propelling himself at such speeds I immediately understand he won’t be asking me to push him today. Demoted, but with no other kids around at this time of night, I decide to take the neighbouring swing and join in. “Will you fit?” he asks smothering a laugh, “Of course! you cheeky monkey” “You might break it Daddy” and I do genuinely worry for a second that he might have a point, but give my bum a bit of a wriggle and confirm it’s fine, lets go…
It’s pretty chilly and dark but we settle in, in motion. He turns his gaze to the night sky and picks out two planets, and an airplane. I ask him where he imagines the plane is headed? “Narita, or Haneda I guess” he replies, matter of factly. “Of course” I say. After a few swings I ask if he wants to go and wait inside ‘OK Store!’ the supermarket that shadows the park, “we could play on the Gaja Gaja machines” I say. “No Daddy, that’s for babies, I don’t do Gaja Gaja anymore.” OK fair enough Taiga, you’re grown up now but it’s warm inside, “we could sit in the cafe…are you sure?” “Yes Daddy I’m sure. We wasted a lot of money on those machines you know” this comment blindsides me and I react defensively, protesting immediately “But we had so much FUN!” “Yes Daddy, we won all those toys, but we wasted a lot of money and I think about money now you know”
Hard to argue with this as we swing in silence.
“There’s a value in Joy though you know Taiga, you’re allowed to have fun sometimes and whilst you don’t have to spend money to have fun – I don’t regret a penny we spent on the Gaja Gaja machines because I loved doing that with you” “Hmmm” is his thoughtful, quiet response as the soles of his trainers rub against the gravel, he guides himself to a stop and announces it’s time to get his bus.
‘Just putting it out there’ I think to myself as we walk to to the bus stop and we greet his Tennis mate. “Bye Bye Daddy, Love You!” he says in a soft, sweet, but direct voice that signals that it’s time for me to go. And he’s right! almost forgot about my work meeting, I head to the nearest cafe to get on zoom, and mull over this loss of innocence.
The next morning and i’m back at my favourite cafe on the high street to drink some coffee, use the wifi and share these random thoughts. Two dogs greet each other, nose to nose in the bright morning sun. They wriggle and squirm, sniffing and snapping at one another. Such boundless, restless energy makes me feel tired. Oh watch out, the security guards have a spring in their step today! they gallop by, the one with his hand chained to the trolley and the other with the huge glowstick.
A middle aged lady sits on a bench and slowly raises chopsticks to her lips. She has an impressive array of premium picnic paraphernalia.
What’s this? the nursery kids have their own hats on today! is this allowed? I want to go and ask the teachers whats going on, but that would be weird and anyway, I can now see the team of yellow hat wearers playing on the grass in the distance. All is well.
“Now I am determined – i’m gonna get it right” my old friend Eddi sings out from the in house audio system here in Starbucks. Fairground Attraction’s ‘Perfect’ sounding as perfect here this morning in Tokyo, some 35 years and 6,000 miles from it’s conception as it did when I bought the 7” on vinyl at ASDA in 1988. I’m instantly transported to Ely, Cambridgeshire and Boo’s Christmas show in 2017. She invited me up to play this song with her and I bloody loved every minute of it! what a joyful song and crucially, warm and generous vocal delivery. My Dad once told me his radio secret was to smile into the mic, and as I listen it feels like Eddi is smiling at me this morning.
I’m so lucky to have shared those stages with Eddi and her band, grateful to have witnessed her conjure up magic nightly. One thing I learnt from her was the art of saving energy. Not one to faff about and get dragged down with long soundchecks, I’d watch in awe as she glided into the venue moments before stage time, rested and ready to deliver exactly what her audience were thirsting for….those stories and songs, shared with a relaxed, generous and open energy that made you feel she’d invited the entire audience into her living room. Every show unique – a cross between a concert and a house party, and always a ball, thank you Eddi.
Turning my thoughts back to Taiga and our little chat on the swings, it’s fine isn’t it, I expected the unexpected and the unfamiliar. I’ve been away for 7 months and knew everything would be different when I came back. He’s carving out his own sculpture. He’ll take raw material from me, his mother, his teachers, his football coach, but he’s got his own chisel and there’s a beautiful figure emerging.