Happy New Year!

So, as I survived a phenomenon known as “Blue Monday” in the UK this week, allegedly a Monday so vile that it is the most depressing date to dominate the calendar, I feel compelled to share this breakfast vignette with you. See, I had been reading Arthur Miller’s All My Sons before going to bed on Blue Monday Eve, most gloomy of all the eves, and for some reason the next day my experience of breakfast itself formulated itself in my brain in his style …

The kitchen in a large basement flat in London. A staircase Stage Left leads upwards. Morning, but still dark. David Bowie circa 1970 plays from portable sound system. A microwave bings. Mother, a blonde woman in her forties moves about the kitchen preparing breakfast.

Mother: Boys?
Mother: (opening instant porridge sachets) It’s time to get up …
Mother: Tom? Geography… you need to get up and complete it, can you please get up now, we’re already behind schedule. Tom. Tom?
(A muffled groan from offstage. A Whatsapp notification bings on phone momentarily interrupting the Bowie. Mother checks).
Mother: @Dynamic Dinky says something about a project on Angola due in 2 days. 2 days, 2 sides. Why didn’t you mention Angola? Tom? Tom. (moves towards staircase).
Tom: (emerges from bedroom in crumpled pyjamas clutching a deck of cards) Can I show you a magic trick?
Mother: No.
Tom: (muttering) I wish you’d delete Whatsapp.
(Slumps at bench)

Another child emerges. This is Jack, very tired.

Mother: Good morning.
Jack: Blah.
Mother: (peering at his face) Ooh. I can see from your eyes you got some proper sleep – they are clear and shiny.
Jack: (climbing onto the breakfast bar stool, elegantly slender in undersized pyjamas at breakfast bar, resting chin in hand). God, I hate school, it’s so BORING and POINTLESS
Mother: (laughs) You say that as though you’re the first person to have ever expressed the sentiment. Funny. (Shakes head and smiles, then presses a button on the coffee machine – it splutters to life loudly, competing with Bowie). Now … porridge?
Jack: No! I HATE porridge. It’s so bland.
Tom: (shuffling cards) Speak your mind, Jack.
Mother: But you don’t understand. (She spoons bland looking yoghurt into her own porridge). It’s January, and that means all the adults HAVE to eat bland food and drink tap water and basically not do anything fun at all. Well, that’s what the papers tell us and, as long as we’re here, we may as well observe the custom … (Has a mouthful of porridge and screws up face) … strange as it may be. Personally, I think if you’re going to detox yourself and “beditate” and DENY yourself, you should do it in December when everyone’s in a good mood to buoy you along. In January it’s as though someone got a giant syringe and sucked all the joy and sparkle and all the … baubles out of the city – if there was ever a time you ever needed a cookie the size of your head in London, it’s January. (Resumes eating her porridge standing up at bench).
Jack: That yoghurt looks Victorian. It has bits of river in it.

Tom: Pick a card.
Mother: If it’s the three of clubs again … (Sighs and checks time on phone) Angola remember? What’s the capital again?
Tom: Luanda
Mother: Porridge?
Tom: I’ll have a banana. (Looks up from under long floppy fringe) I told you I’d been selected for the Aqua-thon, right?
Mother: I’m proud. But let me guess, it requires a new outfit of some sort? A biathlon suit?
Tom: You can order them on Amazon.
Mother: No. (Puts porridge down in front of him). Will you eat this shit if I put custard on top of it? A bit of Christmas cheer mixed in with January gloom?
Tom: (reluctantly) I guess so. With a banana.
Jack: (announcing) I will just have custard for breakfast.
Mother: (sipping coffee and checking time on phone) Yes. Okay. We’re going to be late.
(Moves stage left and calls up stairs) Edie? It’s time to get up, can you get up, you’ll be late. (Comes back to kitchen). Eat your breakfast. Get dressed. Time to go soon.
Jack: (squinting outside at darkness) Are you sure it’s morning? It looks like when I get up in the middle of the night to play your computer.
Mother: (spinning round) But you didn’t do that last night? I hid the computer. (Looks to where computer usually sits on the bench, and sags with relief realising it is still hidden).
Jack: (airily) No, not last night. But … it looks like night. Are you sure it’s day?
Mother: (sighs) It’s day. We have to go.