The evening routine stays the same: dinner at 6, do the washing up and then take the dog out.

The route stays the same: down the street, through the estate, out by the shops, once around the field and then home.

The walk follows the same rhythms it normally would: Mum with the dog until he decides to take a dump in one of two spots, then I have the dog the rest of the way – Mum bags and disposes of the waste.

This is our time, our protected time once, maybe twice a day, where hierarchies shift and ‘Mum’ becomes ‘Michaela’. They don’t tell you that you’re just a part of their lives, you learn it – couples’ holiday by couples’ holiday, dinner party by dinner party, walk by walk as Michaela/Mum tells you about her friends, her fears.

The walk follows the same rhythms it normally would, conversations and comfortable silences, habitual pulls in instinctive directions from the dog, the steady start and the pull home. Just me, Michaela and the dog, family, something and everything.

Blood orange pierces the sky and it is clear, which though not common, is not unusual. For once, we can hear the birds (don’t ask me to name them, I can’t.) Every time we see a person with a dog, or even just a person, we cross the road.

We make careful not to touch any surfaces; Michaela told me off when I went on the grass (‘if you step in it, I’m not cleaning it up’). It is almost dark when we get back home. Seven o’clock. An hour to go.

We drink coffee and eat cake. We watch TV. We settle down with the dog. We stare at our phones. We exchange brief comments. In these moments, quietly, we live.


Matthew Ingram