Staring at the stud wall I’m trying to conceal my anxiety.
My daughter asked me to put up a shelf for her some weeks ago but I’m nervous about using the right fixings and making sure it doesn’t fall off again.
“I just need to charge the drill,” I say, playing for time and cursing my father for being hopeless at DIY.
“While we’re waiting can we drive over to Tesco? I’ve got a couple of friends coming over later for drinks in the garden,” my daughter says picking up the car keys.
We go to the car and I try to get the L-Plates to stick.
“That’s not going to stay there,” my daughter says, re-positioning the magnetic square.
“The car’s so dusty it won’t stay on,” I reply, in meagre defence.
Driving up the road she runs through the route with me out loud.
“Which lane do I need to get into when I get to the roundabout?”
“You know which lane to get into.”
We have this every time.
“The only thing that gets in the way of your driving is you,” I tell her.
I think about my recent trip to the newsagent and the boy on a bike that looked too big for him.
His mum holds the back of the seat while he wobbles precariously, letting out great breathy sobs.
I hear her voice first.
“Come on, you wanted a bigger bike, it will be fine, just start peddling.”
There’s a bit of a wail and then I hear him,
“I can’t,” and he elongates the “a” so much that I’m inside the shop before I hear the end of the word.
The man in the shop asks me the price of the newspaper like he does every Sunday before offering a cheery,
“You have a good day.”
I repeat the phrase back like I always do.
Outside I look across at the green to see the boy trundling nervously over the grass, his mother still clinging onto the saddle offering words of encouragement I can’t make out.
They do a turn around the big oak tree and as they come back towards me up the path I can hear the boy’s mother,
“Slay that dragon. Go on, slay that dragon,” she says.
He pedals with more confidence now, faster and faster.
She lets go and he’s off up the path with his mother’s cheers ringing in his ears.
Back in the Tesco car park, we are discussing an article in the news about a man who spent six years parking in every single bay of his local Sainsbury’s.
“I’d just settle for getting into one,” she says.
“I can’t bay park,” is all I’ve heard since we arrived and now we’re around the back where she has her choice of about a dozen, all in a row.
“Come on, slay that dragon,” I say.
My daughter narrows her eyes and looks at me without saying anything, and it strikes me that maybe the words of motivation used for a seven-year-old boy don’t work so well on a woman about to hit twenty.
She turns the wheel and gingerly moves forward into the space.
I open the door to find that she’s right between the lines.
As we head towards the shop she stops for a moment to take a picture of the car in the bay so that she can send it to her instructor.
Back at home, the drill is charged and there’s nowhere left to hide.
I mark up, drill the holes, fix the shelf, and, miraculously, it stays up even when she puts what looks like quite a heavy bottle of perfume on it.
As I’m walking back down the stairs I hear my daughter’s voice ringing behind me.
“Go on, slay that dragon.”