I woke up this morning at 6.30 am to the sound of Fun Radio. Tadpole had evidently been re-tuning the radio again. I don’t know which is worse, shouty disc jockeys playing French RnB (pale and rather dodgy imitation of American RnB) or Mr Frog’s preferred news channel. Someone should conduct a scientific study into the long-term effects of waking up to the word “war” or “corruption” every morning.
I realised that Mr Frog was now beside me, although he hadn’t been when I fell asleep shortly after midnight.
“T’es rentré à quelle heure, finalement?” I mumble.
“Vers deux heures trente” he replies, sheepishly.
I open my eyes. He looks terrible: pale and drawn and ten years older.
I choke back tears of pure rage and bury my head in the pillow. I realise this reaction is not going to make the poor guy feel any better, but I can’t help myself.
I have never been introduced to any of Mr Frog’s bosses at the Agency, even if they are English speakers and we could well have a lot in common. This is, I suspect, because Mr Frog is worried I might bare my teeth and growl at somebody. Or launch myself at them, fists flying (ineffectually).
I simply cannot stand to watch the client walk all over their team, making demands which become ever more unreasonable, basically amounting to “can you just bend over a bit more – yes, that’s right, the angle’s just perfect – so I can shaft you more thoroughly”. (Pardon my French, but I did warn you I was angry.) No-one dares to stand up to the client, to defend their right to a life outside work, to say, “no, what you are asking is just plain impossible, and we cannot do a U-Turn this late in the day.” But no, instead they just line up and drop their trousers.
For the last two weekends Mr Frog has worked. Both in the office, and using a borrowed laptop at home. Almost every morning he has been long gone before Tadpole and I awoke, returning hours after Tadpole’s bedtime. The way things are going this week, he won’t see her until Friday morning. Five days later.
It tears holes in my heart when I wake Tadpole in the morning and one of the first things she says is “Va voir daddy?” in a hopeful little voice. I explain, sighing, that daddy had to leave early today. She nods, but toddles off in her pyjamas to check the bathroom and the bedroom anyway. Once she’s sure I am telling the truth, she says flatly “Daddy gone. Office.”
Yesterday she blew some kisses at the front door. For daddy. Wherever he might be.
This morning was the last straw. Mr Frog had worked from 8.00 am until 2.30am. He was taking the 07.55 Thalys to Brussels, to give a powerpoint presentation about strategy to the client. On four hours sleep, after working 16 consecutive days. I heard him coughing this morning in the bathroom in a telltale way . Nerves.
I have to get him out of there, whatever it takes. Forget buying a flat, forget financial security.
Otherwise they will chew him up and spit him out and I’ll be left picking up the pieces of my broken frog off the floor.