It’s easy to find my son when he hides, because he squeaks, growls or laughs. Of course, I pretend I don’t know where he is: I ignore the hump under the duvet, or the legs sticking out from behind the sofa. He is three, and fun is easy.
What is not so fun is when I genuinely can’t find something. Laptops or iPads that I’ve hidden from my daughter, because – when I’ve confiscated her phone – she smuggles anything electronic she can find into her bedroom for late night Snapchat. If I hide these things in normal places she finds them. I have to think of tricky nooks: under mattresses, inside shoe-boxes, sandwiched inbetween pairs of knickers (big knickers in my drawer, which I think is pretty crafty, because she finds my underwear drawer abhorrent).
The only problem is, when I need these things I can’t remember where I’ve hidden them. I try FIND MY DEVICE on my phone but then realise I never activated it in the first place.
And then there are all the virtual things I lose. Emails. Important work ones, sent to me marked with a yellow star that means “LOOK AT ME AND FILE ME SOMEWHERE SAFE.” Within hours they are sucked up into the ether like errant socks that leave a basket full of partner-less odds behind in my laundry basket. “My Gmail is fucked!” I tell everyone. But it’s no good blaming Google when everyone knows I’m the problem.
“Folders are the answer,” says my husband. But my brain is rubbish at sorting things into categories. PERSONAL, for example. Isn’t everything that relates to me personal? Should a smear appointment reminder go into the same folder as a British Gas man coming to take a reading?
There are certain crossovers, and the folder marked SHOPPING might have a holiday booking in it, which let’s face it should go in HOLIDAY. But might it not also go into FUN? It could, of course, include plane tickets, which could fit into multiple folders: FUN, HOLIDAY, RECEIPTS or SHOPPING. And what about the folder marked CHILDREN and SCHOOLS. Should they go together? Should emails from the school attendance officer asking why my teenager is at school only 68% of the time also go into the same folder as my reminder for Nit Presentation Day? Fun, games, money, work and deadly serious issues are all so hard to separate. And so I end up deleting them all, or scrunching up the letters.
Contacts are also something I need to tackle. I have yet to create an online address book. I rely on the computer remembering, so when I type in the recipient bar it comes up with multiple options of people I’ve previously emailed. There are problems here, of course. There are so many Catherines, Kates and Rachels in my email list and I’m not familiar with all of their surnames. Sending emails to the right person is often a guessing game.
The day after the birth of my last child – when I was still fuzzy-headed, euphoric and flitting between thinking I’d been born again or was about to die – I sent an email to a woman named Sarah, who I believed was the midwife who had just delivered my son. She’d asked if I could send her some photos of the birth so she could keep them on file for reference.
“Here we go!” I typed, pressing send. In all the photos attached I looked like a Woodstock woolly mammoth, the kind of woman you see in books called things like “Childbirth – the natural way’. My husband, who incidentally looked as hairy as I did (though he was thankfully dressed, unlike some of the men in the ‘70s black and white childbirth books) was supporting me on all fours. All fine for a midwife. They’ve seen big bushes, baby’s heads crowning, women mooing and partners grimacing loads of times.
A couple of hours later I got an email back from Sarah. “I think you sent these to the wrong person.” I looked at the address and realised that she was someone I’d once emailed about a quote for sofa re-upholstery. How could I apologise for the weirdness? Or for the fact that she probably opened the attachments in an open-plan office, and the photos, as they appeared slowly like the uncovering of some weird porn, became more and more gruesome. And then I thought about how she might have explained the photos – the pendulous breasts, the matted hair, the blood – to anyone looking over her shoulder.
“Whoops! Sorry! Wrong Sarah!” I emailed in reply as if it was an everyday mistake, because explaining seemed far too difficult.
Fuck the resolutions, God, but teach me how to use Gmail. Take me to Muji on a shopping splurge and I will be your concubine forever. I can stock up on Japanese Perspex, and that will turn me into a very organised person who wears oatmeal loungewear accessorised with the odd flash of pleasing, tasteful neon (pants, socks, hairband); a woman who takes bento boxes to work with last night’s photogenic salad in, who manages to have just the right amount of organised clutter in their home (ie. barely any). A woman who manages not just to keep her children’s faces clean, but her pubic hair trim in winter, and everyone’s socks together. When I fantasise about changing my life, I first think about how I can buy into the lifestyle.
But before Muji, I want to go to John Lewis. It is time. My bedsheets are embarrassing. Nail varnish and foundation have made them fit for an Emin instillation. (Who puts on foundation on in bed? Answer: my teenage daughter.) The bed-linen is not good enough for animals, let alone guests. Instead of asking a visitor whether they want the en-suite or the garden view when they come to stay (ie the view of the housing estate or a mattress on the floor of the room closest to the only bathroom in the house), I can say, “Do you want the dark orange stain on your sheets, or the fuchsia one? I’d go for fuchsia personally, as it doesn’t look like any sort of bodily fluid. The foundation is on the dark side, and in certain lights it looks like shit.”
The sheets I can buy. There’s a sale on now. But organisation may take a lifetime. Now please excuse me while I delete some more emails.