It was a quarter to eight when I checked the weekly staffing rota and noticed that the next member of staff would be coming in at eight-thirty, not nine. I busied myself getting ready half an hour faster than I would ordinarily and lo and behold! My opposite number, a young woman I’d never clapped eyes on before, arrived at 08:20. I asked whether she needed a long handover or anything and when she said no, I explained that there was only one bus per hour from work-to-home and it was at half-past the hour. I was at the bus stop – with all the detritus from a sleepover in a foreign town – for half-past and on the bus by 08:35.
I whiled away the time, watching the countryside speed by, yittering on twitter and listening to the Nocturnal Emissions’ ‘Dyskinesia’ LP. I was at home for 09:05. It was only when I stuck my hand in my pocket for my keys, I thought, “Christ, these have put on a bit of weight.”
I’d not only come home with the work keys, but my own would have been hanging on the wee hook where these should’ve been.
I climbed the three flights to HQ, only to discover #3 offspring wasn’t in. so began the trudge – still carrying all my bags – all the way back to the coalface.
At the bus stop, I was surprised and delighted to learn that the next bus back to work wasn’t until 09:50 (sigh) there was a bus as far as Kirkcaldy in about five minutes. A text. My new colleague, asking shyly if I knew where all the keys for the house were as – silly her – she couldn’t find them. I was composing a suitably contrite reply when the phone rang. It was her.
I explained the situation – while welcoming her to the wonderful and terrifying world of my career-stupidity – and that I was on my way back, telling her I’d be there by half-ten at the latest. She seemed pleased with this, my bus came and I watched all the same countryside pour past in reverse order this time.
I got out at Kirkcaldy bus station and ten minutes later I was on another bus, texting my colleague and waiting for the driver to smoke up and start driving.
I was back at the coalface for 10:15, did the John Le Carre thing with the keys and stopped my colleague, who was apologising for ‘being so much trouble’. I explained that I was looking forward to the day when my senility reached the heights of incontinence, when it would become someone else’s problem. I headed back to the bus stop.
I caught a bus back to the bus station, where I self-medicated with coffee and a massive apple turnover in the hopes I’d be violently sick as that was one of the few mishaps I hadn’t so far experienced today.
I caught what would have been the 10:33 from work, home. It was much like the 08:33, except two hours later and with the countryside going the right way round again. My phone was almost dead, what with all the use it’d had since I originally tried to leave work, all those hours ago. I started reading Sara Gruen’s ‘Water for elephants’ and had to stop as my eyes were filling with tears and my nose was clogging up. Nothing to do with my day-from-hell, more because it was bringing back the film – and this was just the prologue and the first couple of pages of the first chapter.
I stared out the window like a dying time-traveller, unsure by now whether I was watching the countryside unfurl in reverse order or not.
When I got home – at 11:15, I was surprised to find #3 offspring, still festering in his pit. Apparently, he hadn’t noticed me banging the door and shrieking his name like a damned soul, two hours previously.
Oh, if only we’d had safe and reliable contraceptives available in the 1980s. Or, as my own parents used to say, in the 1960s.

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