Summer Brightness

I asked ” Do you really want your parents there?”. Lucy replied ”Of course. You made me. It’s right that you are here. All my friends invite their parents to their eighteenth.” Well I didn’t, I thought.


    For once the phrase was not overworked. Lucy and her party were a joy to behold. Her mother had really scored with the frock – pink and white gingham over a flouncy train. Little House on the Prairie meets via La Pigalle via Jean Claude Gautier. Lucy and I had our photograph taken under a tree. I said next time it will be your marriage and she squeezed me and laughed and said yes.

    For her eighteenth I had given Lucy an old banger (which she loves and has christened Louis) and Julie gave her a party. Lucy had decided the theme – Summer Brightness – and we all pitched in to make it happen. Along the Goldhawk road Lucy and I chose lengths of coloured cloth and returned to dress the garden with swathes and cushions, candles and torches. Typically I was fretting: had I bought enough yardage? how long would the torches last?. Lucy was not in the least concerned but was delighted at the way things were looking. She dabbed at old furniture from a pot of gold paint and said ”Dad, really the garden speaks for itself’ and I am suddenly giddy with pride because what I designed she is so casually proud of.

    We emptied tins of beers into dustbins of ice. In silver tureens we stirred vodka and juice, Moscow Mules and Sea Breeze, to say to everyone on arrival ”welcome, let’s get high”. On a long table we lit gas burners under copper dishes to receive food from our favourite Thai eatery in the Askew Road. From a Persian patisserie, baking its wares amidst the fumes of Shepherd’s Bush Green, I smuggled in a large sticky-sweet chocolate cake. Rockets – chosen for their pink and silver stars – were secretly installed in the builder’s yard behind the house for the cake cutting moment. Dark suited Philipinos, distantly related to Tess, took up bouncer postions at the front door. The air bore the smells of both kinds of grass. There were clouds and a light wind but it was June and the consensus was clear: we had a little bit of Ibiza in London W.12.

    And in a corner behind the decks, Azi, Lucy’s lanky love object, no longer an unempoyed roofer but an employed fork-lift truck driver, of whom we have all become a little fond. Tonight he is no longer the gauche seventeen year old with dreamy eyes. Behind his decks he is a different man, he is moving with confidence and purpose, he is weaving music. I tell Lucy that tonight I see Azi as a fish in water – natural, fast and fluent – and she agrees. She sees his gaucheness, his gentleness, his skills and a lot else I have not begun to glimpse. I remember the word fellatio is written large on her bedroom wall and decide to end this train of thought. She has her goat and there are some things I do not want to know.

    Lucy invited eighty people and they all came: her friends, her siblings, her cousins, her mother and father. ” Do you really want your parents there?” I asked. Lucy replied ”Of course. You made me. It’s right that you are here. All my friends invite their parents to their eighteenth.” Well I didn’t, I thought. I told Lucy I would stay for the beginning but then I would leave. She eased this decision, she said that was fine, she had wanted me to take part and to meet her closest friends, her fellow Dolphins, and I had done so. As we undertook the preparations I had seen this evening for what it was. This was Julie’s show for her daughter and my staying would have made things awkward. Julie would monitor the party but I knew she would join in and it would be too weird for me to party again with Julie in that way in that house. After all we all knew that in a barge, tethered along the Regent’s canal, I had my goat.

    Lucy maneourered our life-size Spiderman statue atop the structure that crowns the garden and from time to time I caught sight of her up there, a gorgeous girl hanging upon a superhero, a strip cartoon brought to life. Later she told her mother how it moved her to see how well the two of us had worked together. ”And we would not have done were we still married” Julie asserted.

    The fact is that the house where my children live is a place where everyone is allowed to have their feelings. We all felt it and none of us brushed it aside or made a fuss. Lucy, our first child to be reared to adulthood, felt what I felt, what Julie felt. We felt sadness as a slender thread, as a shimmer, in the brightest bolt of cloth ever to settle on Shepherd’s Bush on a summer night.