It is breakfast time and, as usual, I am late. Also as usual the cat pungently evacuates while I am making the lunch-box sandwiches. I pad outside into the freezing half light and scour the litter tray with the leaky garden hose and I return, soggy slippered, to the loaf. The second cat emits last night's dinner, poised acrobatically on the rim of the litter tray and the litter tray capsizes, flinging cat, turd and rolling wooden pellets all over the kitchen floor.
The children descend. They squabble over the last slice of white bread and over who should lever the toast up out of the Dualit. The Vicar hurries in. He wants to know what he could thrust down the finger of a rubber glove to make it stiff. I hand him a carrot. The children begin battling over the single unscarred desert spoon. The Vicar wants to know what he could stick down the rest of the Marigold to make it into a fist. I hand him a knot of carrier bags.
A cat leaps onto the breakfast table to sample Rice Krispies and Small Son jumps up screaming from his chair in case the cat starts on him for afters. Daughter screams at Small Son for screaming and the cat makes a terrified exit, upending the litter tray in its wake. The Vicar, flexing the now stiff rubber finger to see if it will suitably express the ecclesiastical message he wants to convey in Sunday's sermon, also exits and I clear up spilt cereal and spilt litter and spilt tears and marshal my small convoy to the front door for school.
Dimly, I remember other breakfasts. Long-ago breakfasts in my bachelor flat with still-hot toast, the morning paper and the Today programme wafting wisdom in the corner. And after breakfast an orderly departure to the station for an orderly day at the office.
In the middle of my rememberings my mother rings. We've spent a clamorous weekend with her and she is pining. 'Breakfasts are the worst,' she laments. 'It's so quiet without the children.'
There's a Truth here that I do not have the energy to acknowledge. But, come supper time, when my twosome are fitting carrot sticks into the wrong (facial) hole, I fancy I detect the faintest echo from the future. Embrace stress and noise and neediness, it urges me, for the sound of Silence, when they are spent, is not always as fulfilling as memory pretends.