8 January There are a few things that Mr Young is very good at, and making a proper cooked breakfast is one of them. I allow him to do this for me every Saturday morning: streaky bacon, fried mushrooms and cherry tomatoes with two-minute poached eggs on toast and filter coffee. He is also allowed to eat at the table with me while I entertain him with stories about my exciting week and give him his list of chores for the day. Then we struggle with the crossword for half an hour while Archie lies on our feet and chews something unidentifiable under the table.
I hadn’t been aware of just how middle-aged and conventional we seem to have become, though, until Harriet called from York a few weeks ago. “What are you doing?” she asked. “Oh, just having our usual cooked breakfast and doing the crossword,” I said. “Ahhh!” she said. She didn’t also say “How sweet!” but she might as well have done. “What are you doing?” I said, quite rattled by this new vision of myself as an elderly parent locked into a safely routine lifestyle. “Just chilling,” she said. “A bit hungover, actually. Didn’t get home until three.” I wanted to retaliate with a tale of our own dissolute lifestyle but watching House until 10.30 and then going to bed and reading for half an hour didn’t sound anywhere near as exciting, even if we did daringly leave the kitchen light on by mistake.
I must remember to ask Mr Young to try doing scrambled eggs for a change next week. We really shouldn’t get too set in our ways. I don’t know why it is but every time I sort out a dark wash to take downstairs to the utility room, there is always a sock left on the stairs. Just one. And every time I sort out the dry socks to put away, there is always an odd sock left over which is never the brother/sister of the single stair sock.
I know I am not alone in this. Ask any woman (strangely, not any man; they will look at you blankly and say “Washing machine?”) and she will have her own assortment of lonely socks, all hopefully waiting for their wayward other half to turn up, like a mismatched queue at a bus stop. I never like to actually throw them away, though, because I’m sure that the moment I do, the Prodigal Sock will reappear, with a triumphant “Fooled you!” expression on its little 82% cotton face. It’s the sort of domestic mystery that is common to every household. Along with the disappearance of scissors and fully functioning Biros, the fact that every pack of playing cards always has just one card missing, the torch that flickers feebly for only thirty seconds no matter how recently you replaced the batteries, and an ever-decreasing supply of teaspoons.
Mr Young is watching Arsenal play Leeds. “Do you know something?” he asks me.
Obviously I do know lots of things, but it might not be this particular thing, so I say No. “That’s always a good sign that you’re getting older,” he says. “What is?” I say. “When the players you’re watching are the sons of players you used to watch when you were younger,” he says.
I don’t like to tell him that the reading glasses on a cord round his neck and the fact that he’s just made himself a comforting bowl of porridge would probably be enough to give his age away.
Harriet is going back to York after spending Christmas at home. She got in at three this morning and has been wandering about in her pyjamas since eleven, looking for binbags and stray items of clothing. She tells me that she is exhausted. “Well, never mind. You can have a nice early night tonight,” I tell her. “No, I think we’re going to a rave,” she says, then asks me what we are planning to do this evening. “Oh, we’re probably going to cook something from Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals and watch a film,” I say.
“Aahh!” she says fondly. “That’s nice, Mum.”
I need to look for my reading glasses. I’m sure I can find a really exciting recipe for scrambled eggs somewhere.