So, Mike, how are you?

1. Look, is it OK if I whinge for a bit? Because I’m feeling a bit flat, if truth be told. I’ve been in a state of constant tiredness for the last few days; a sort of trashed-out fuzziness, both physical and mental. It’s been getting in the way of life, leaving me feeling lethargic and unenthusiastic, viewing every small action as a major chore.

2. I know where it’s come from: I’ve been keeping overly irregular hours. Too many late drinks (oh go on, just one more), late nights (I’ll just swing by the study and check my mail), grudging early starts, just-another-half-hour lie-ins… no pattern, no discipline. Manageable for a while, but ultimately unsustainable.

3. It’s a Nottingham thing, as well. The one snag with escaping to the cottage every weekend is the shadow that this casts over the rest of the week. And with three nights over there to four nights over here, there’s little spare time/energy/motivation for improving things here. To-do lists stay undone; the paper mountain in the kitchen stacks up; whole evenings are glumly mooched away, parked in front of the telly, on the uncomfortable leather sofa, in the stark, gloomy, high-walled, awkwardly-shaped sitting room that we’ve never managed to get quite right.

4. We should move, of course. We know that. We’ve been here far too long already: almost thirteen years, and we only ever meant to stay for five. What looked fresh and new in 1992 now looks tired and stale in 2005. Things have got tatty round the edges. Walls need painting; fixtures need fixing; clutter needs clearing. (All that accumulated detritus: too old to need, too good to chuck.) With all of our entertaining taking place at weekends, nobody comes round any more. Not ever. So why bother, when no-one even sees the place?

5. We should move, of course. But the timing is never right. Can’t do this until this happens. The flood-damaged flooring still needs replacing, but progress is slow. Dithering over what to do in the abandoned and overgrown yards outside, which would put anybody off before they’d even made it through the door. Waiting until things settle down with K’s new company, so we can plan ahead with confidence. Trying to work out what we want – how much or how little space, what price range, what area – looking around, but never finding anything that feels right. Because, underneath it all, we’ve grown weary of Nottingham itself – and no smart new gaff is going to change any of that.

6. Ten years ago, at the height of my mad-fer-it hedonistic days, I lived for the freedom and release of the weekend. Ten years on, with pre-occupations and priorities so radically revised, I find myself slipping back into an oddly familiar dichotomy. For every Friday night, when the car gets the other side of Derby, and we bear left onto the minor road, instantly swapping pinched suburbia for lush open countryside, I feel my entire sense of self shifting. And by the time we get past Carsington Water and onto the tiny, winding Bradbourne road, and the hills start rising around us in the early evening light – reassuringly familiar and yet stimulatingly different, as we take in all the subtle seasonal developments, unseen since the previous week – I have shed my city skin entirely, giving my Nottingham life barely another thought until Monday morning rolls around again.

7. Sorry, what was I saying earlier on? Oh, that. Well, never mind about all of that now. There are clothes to be folded, bags to be packed, a boot to load up, our journalist friend to pick up… and we don’t want to hang around any later than we have to. Perhaps we’ll call in for a quick pit-stop pint at The Gate along the way. Anyway, nearly there now. Nearly there.

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