She finishes the tea for 5.45pm. Veg on the verge of wilting. Kids banging spoons on the table waiting for Daddy to finish work. He loves his job. She puts the tea on the plates, hands the girl's theirs. The key jangles in the doorway. Just in time.
"Hya love." He puts a huge plastic box full of yellow school books in the middle of the floor, and
plonks a back pack full of lesson plans on the couch. He takes his place at the table, weary eyes, tie twisted at the shirt collar, glad to be off his feet.
They talk at the table. They talk about their days. The girls have been good. One is star of the week in school, one has learned a new word but was chastised for climbing on the furniture, one ate feta cheese for the first time.
After tea they clear away the dishes together, have a hot drink while the children make noise and talk over each other. She a coffee, he a tea. The children are bathed, stories are read and then to bed. She showers as he re-acquaints himself with the box of books left in the room. At 8.30pm he removes them from the box in piles, heaping them up to the dining table. He loves his job. They would have had an office but the high cost of living and mortgage rates prevented them from moving to a bigger house. The dining table doubles as a desk as he picks up his pen and begins his mammoth task.
She comes downstairs and prepares for the next day. She makes the packed lunches. She laments the fact that the children don't get free school meals. And yet to pay for their school meals every day would be an impossibility. She butters the bread and juliennes the raw carrot for the packed lunches. She hears the sound of a pen marking - quickly, concisely, thoughtful comments at the end of each set assignment.
At 9.00pm she sets out the children's clothes for the next day. Leggings and plain tops, nothing special. They do painting and messy play in nursery. She sighs thinking about next week. The fees would still leave the bank account, although he was off work for half term and available to look after the children. You pay to hold the place, not just for the childcare. The words torment her as she sets out her own clothes for work the next day.
At 10.00pm she returns downstairs. Smiles at him as he still sits, ticking boxes and writing with his red pen. Do you want a brew? She puts the kettle on. She decides to fill the car up at night while the petrol station is quiet. She shakes her head at the price of petrol. £1.30 a litre. Her heart breaks just a little bit when she realises how much it costs to work for a living.
10.30pm. He is still sat marking. He has a meeting tomorrow with the Principal. An appraisal to determine whether he deserves the performance related pay. Has he performed well enough? How do we measure this? It is unclear. She asks how long he will be. A shrug of the shoulders and a point to the pile of books says it all. She pours a glass of red and settles at her laptop.
She recalls reading Michael Gove's words.
"We are all in favour of longer school days and shorter summer holidays."
She sips her wine and reads her textbook. 11.00pm. You coming to bed? She has to be up at 5.30am to set off for work. She wakes him just before she leaves so he can dress the kids and get sorted. I'll be up shortly.
She brushes her teeth and climbs into bed thinking about a time when there will be no more work. When the day will be their own. Where they can talk. Travel. Eat together, drink together. Relax. But he will be working until he is almost 70. And when retirement does come, there will be less money, even though there is more money leaving his wage for his pension every month. She nods off.
1.30am - He pulls back the quilt and gets into bed next to her. She puts her arm around him and they sleep.
She has left for work at 6.15am. He feeds, dresses and drops the children at nursery to be in work for 8.00am. He carries the plastic box filled with the marked books, empties one load into the cupboard. Replaces the box with another load to be completed that night. He loves his job.