You Can’t Always Get What You Want
When I was little I used to dream of the time when I would be a mum. In my dreams I was always mother to a loud and unruly brood of at least five kids. My dream home would be chaotic but full of laughter and love. And at the heart of it all would be the rock solid union between me and my husband. (In my dreams he was always slightly chubby, with wavy hair and very musical – I had a bit of a crush on the banjo player from the Dubliners at the time!)
I imagined us all gathering round in the evenings to play music and sing – kind of like the Waltons meets the Osmonds – without the mole and the mountain and the refrigerator-white teeth.
Now before you start wretching from this saccharine vision of perfection – it didn’t turn out like that at all.
I ended up only having one child. And getting divorced. And although I normally love my life there are moments when I do have a pang of longing for that dream family - with all of the kids and the banjo playing husband!
This morning when I was walking my dog I was overwhelmed by a sudden feeling of gloom – had I let my son down? Did he wish he had siblings? And marathon sing-alongs with a banjo?
All morning I felt slightly down. But then a chain of events so random and with hindsight, downright hilarious, happened that it made me think of one of my favourite Rolling Stones songs, ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’.
This morning I did an online interview to promote Dear Dylan. I had another interview booked with a magazine for the afternoon.
At the moment I’m home-schooling my son while we wait for a place to come up in a school. We were about to sit down and do some French when my phone rang. It was my local paper asking if they could also do an interview about the book (I know, interviews are just like buses!). The reporter said she could do it over the phone so I asked her to call back in around 40 minutes.
About 20 minutes later there was a knock on the door.
I ought to explain at this point that I was clad in a pair of shorts, vest top and Ugg boot style slippers – home-schooling has a very relaxed dress code – so when I opened the door to see two women, one with a huge camera around her neck, my reaction was sheer panic.
‘Hi, Siobhan,’ the woman without the camera said. ‘We’ve come to do the interview.’
My first thought was, what interview. Then I thought, it must be the local paper, but they had said they were doing it over the phone -and presumably weren’t able to travel at the speed of sound.
‘For the book,’ the woman continued.
I continued to stare at her blankly. And then the awful truth dawned. A week ago I had got an email asking me if I’d like to be featured in a coffee table book about inspiring writers. I was obviously hugely flattered to be asked – so flattered in fact that in my flustered state I somehow managed to put the wrong date in my diary!
I looked down at my outfit in horror. Then looked at my dog in horror as it set about rounding up the journalist and photographer – he’s a bit of an urban sheep dog.
‘Come in,’ I said weakly. ‘Erm, I’ve just got to go and get changed.’
I raced upstairs, hissing at my son to shut the dog in one of the bedrooms. After a wardrobe change so speedy it would have put Clarke Kent to shame I raced back downstairs to find my guests in my back garden – by far the tidiest room in the house.
While I gabbled on inanely about wrong dates in diaries and how sorry I was, the photographer set to work, arranging me in various positions amongst the nature reserve that is my back garden.
It was while I was crouched over sniffing a tub of lavender in an artistic fashion that I became aware of my next door neighbour peering over the fence. God knows what he thought was going on.
I think it was while I was half submerged in a bush that my phone started to ring – the reporter from the local paper.
I took the call, had to explain that I was now midway through another interview that I had forgotten I had booked and could she ring back later. Thankfully she was very understanding.
Once the interview began I started to relax – things had got a little hairy for a while but now it would all be okay. And it was – until the dog escaped from the bedroom, tore into the room and then lay on the floor – right by the writer’s dictafone – and started chomping really loudly on a bone. God knows what it will sound like when she plays it back to write it up.
Anyway, the interview for the book finished just as the reporter from the local paper rang back, so there was another excruciating scene where I had to usher my first interviewer out of the door whilst beginning my next interview on the phone.
The phone interview went very well and there was at least thirty seconds between me hanging up and the next journalist arriving.
I invited her in. By now my son was also down in the living room, along with the bone-chomping dog, but the woman from the magazine didn’t seem to mind so we got started.
We were about two minutes in when my son asked, ‘Mum, what’s that weird lady doing in our front garden?’
My first (horrified) thought was, not another interview I’ve forgotten about surely. But when I looked out of the window I knew that the woman who had set up some kind of dressing table on my garden wall and was gaily brushing her hair – ON MY GARDEN PATH – could not have been from any publication, unless there’s a magazine out there called Dotty Old Lady Coiffures Monthly.
‘Never mind,’ I replied in what I hoped was a relaxed, there’s nothing weird at all about an old lady doing her hair in my front garden kind of voice.
The journalist didn’t look altogether convinced. But we got back to our chat. Before being rudely interrupted by the doorbell.
Oh God, I thought. It’s the old lady come to borrow my hair straighteners.
But when I opened the door I saw one of my son’s friends from cricket standing there.
‘Can I move in with you please?’ he said, walking straight into the living room and plonking himself on the sofa next to the journalist. ‘I hate my house – we never have any oreos and your family is so cool.’
And you know what, I suppose it is. I might not have got all the kids and the banjo playing dad, but I got the funniest, coolest son in the world – and I got the love and laughter-filled home.
As the Rolling Stones said, ‘You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.’