No Regrets Tour Week 1
Düsseldorf - April 1st 2023
I had a dream last night. Must have been the lack of weed. And the stress.
I was walking Olive around rainy Düsseldorf, and a gang of lads approached us. They looked like the um, greasers from Grease, as dressed by Alexander Wang. Trés chic. Trés intimidante.
They circled and went to kick the shit out of us both. I grabbed Ol off the ground and hugged her close to protect her. Things went hazy and I woke up just as they had us on the ground, big and little spoon, kicking us as hard as they can.
It wouldn’t take an analyst to tell me what this means. I’m worried about our fur baby, how she’ll cope with being in a new place with new people (plus puppy), especially when we leave. She’s hardy and has been fine this whole trip, but she’s been with us, and like Zoë said, where we are and she is, that’s home. But what about when we’re not around to protect her?
England - April 2nd 2023
We made it! Across 5 countries in 2 days, a 3 person, 1 dog mission to get us and our remaining belongings from Germany to the UK, base camp one.
We couldn’t have done it without Zoë’s family. They’re letting us crash for a month before we fly back to America, and maybe longer when we get back. They haven’t asked us about our plans – we’re welcome here as long as we need to be.
Olive’s going to stay here while we’re away, and we know she’ll be well looked after. It’s a big ask, taking care of an elderly French Bulldog with a heart condition, on top of your own dog – and your own child – but my sister- and brother-in-law just said “Of course, anything you need.”
On top of that, the really incredible thing was Zo’s sister driving 10 hours door-to-door to pick us up in France. Because Brexit, dropping off a German hire car in the UK is prohibitively expensive. So the cheapest, easiest option (for us) was leaving it in Dunkirk, transferring the contents to her sister’s car, and her driving us back through the channel tunnel and across the UK to her house.
So she finished a shift as an emergency doctor at 10pm, woke up super early, drove for 5 hours by herself, boarded a train under the ocean (which she did not like) and drove on the other side of the road to collect us. Before turning around to drive the rest of the way back, getting in at 8pm at night.
What a star. Everyone we told about this said “My family wouldn’t do that for me.” I don’t think mine would, or that I’d do it for them. And fair enough, it’s A LOT to ask. Relaying this to Zoë’s family, they’re shocked. It wouldn’t cross their mind to say “no”. To not drive to another country to get us, to not host us – and our dog – indefinitely. Zo’s lucky to have a family that would literally do anything for her, and I’m lucky to have married into it.
We’re going to try and reciprocate this generosity, and get into the general tight family vibe. It doesn’t come naturally, for me at least. I like my own company, I like my quiet, and honestly, I like not having to worry about too many people other than myself. But now I’m trying my best to be a good uncle, a dog walker, home help, handyman, chef, and an active member of a family.
I’m out of practice. Wish me luck!
England - April 3rd 2023
Marcia says the best way to work out if want a kid or not is to look after one full for an extended period. Makes total sense to me!
I’ve just spent 2 hours looking after my nephew, and 2 days in his company. And I’ve had a glimpse of the good and bad of parenting. It’s super rewarding playing with him, seeing how he learns and solves problems, and taking part in his development. But it’s intense, and requires a ton of commitment and dedication to do it as your permanent, primary role.
Now I’m in a quiet room with Olive and my sister-in-law’s dog, Jeff. We’re all just sitting silently, reserving our energy. That’s something I can’t live without. Like a lot of people in our community, I’m an introvert, and I would shrink without my own personal space to fill. And like even the childfree extroverts I know, I need to be able to clock out of these responsibilities at times.
My nephew’s a great kid, super well behaved, compassionate and eager to learn. Even so, he doesn’t stop until he practically passes out from tiredness. He’s nearly 5 years old, and has 2 modes – go and stop. And he only stops long enough to sleep. During go time, you don’t have time to pay attention to anything else, which is both good and bad.
If I was a parent, I wouldn’t be able to dwell on my own bullshit, which might feel freeing. But I wouldn’t be able to work on myself either, which would be ultimately harmful. I don’t know how it is for actual parents, but I know what I need, and I know that this isn’t for me.
So if you’re feeling unsure about whether parenting is for you, road test a child today!
England - April 5th 2023
OK, it’s finally hit me – what the fuck are we doing?
I miss my old life.
Not Berlin, not exactly. And not the people… yet.
But I miss the solitude, the space, the peace and quiet.
I miss waking up to an empty house, and starting my day with a coffee, a stretch and a workout.
I don’t like having to find time to journal, even though some days I welcome the distractions from my thoughts,
Above all, I find being it overwhelming being “in family”, as in being here for people, being literally present, 24/7. I need some space, some distance, an excuse to not “be able” to be around for folks.
It sounds selfish to admit, but I’ve always been this way. I was a quiet child, perfectly content with my own company. I have fond memories of being with my siblings, and just as many of being alone, drawing, reading, writing. And when family life got too intense. I’d escape to my room, to my music, my thoughts.
I wonder how much of this is at the heart of my childfree choice. My brother has deep nostalgia for his childhood, golden years where he had no responsibilities, no major problems – and he’s always wanted to be a dad. My sister was born to be a mum, a teacher, a carer and role model. I was born to be me, no add-ons, no amends.
That’s what I choose a life with no capital “f” Family, at least in the traditional sense. It’s why I choose a quiet life with just my life, our work and our dog. And it’s why my current choice to live embedded in a complete biological family is a struggle. I appreciate their support, I enjoy their company… and I’ve half an eye on the calendar for when I can escape.
Photos by Zoë Noble
Words by James Glazebrook