Lucy sends Harriet a message on Facebook; “Why are you in Mum’s diary so much more than me?” with one of those sad little faces at the end of it. (Who would have thought that the combination of a colon and a bracket could be so poignant?) “Because I’m hilarious of course,” Harriet posts back, in that goading way that younger sisters always adopt when safely out of reach of older sisters. “Well, I’m going to start planning some ‘wacky antics’ of my own,” replies Lucy, loftily. This sounds ominous. Even though my children have left home, they’re still fighting for my attention. I intervene (before things get out of hand and it all ends in tears) and send a reassuring Facebook message to Lucy; “It’s just because I see more of Harriet! She’s always hanging around here, drinking vodka and cluttering up the sofa with her boyfriend! Save your wacky antics until after your exams!” This backfires. “Always drinking vodka?” Harriet is clearly hurt. “Not a fair statement, mother!” Lucy is now on her side. “Ha! Yes, mother!” I tell them I was exaggerating for comic effect, for goodness sake! – before remembering belatedly that I was never a very successful peacemaker when they were younger. “Anyway,” I post, in a cunning attempt to change the subject and reassert my maternal authority, “all three of us appear to be on Facebook at the same time.Why aren’t any of us doing anything more productive?”
This seems to shut them up. Even though I must be performing a sort of Facebook version of falling on my sword by admitting that I don’t have anything more productive to do either. Oh, the sacrifices a mother has to make.
24 May At a cost so prohibitive that I cannot bring myself to write it down because I would do some serious damage to my finger joint by tapping the ‘0′ key so many times, we are having all our windows ‘done’. ‘Done’ means having all the wooden frames repaired, cracked panes replaced, all the crumbling stonework restored, and everything undercoated and repainted. It’s one of those dull, dull, dull grownup expenses that you have to pay out for when you own your own home, but is never really exciting enough to show off about. It’s not like buying a new pair of shoes. Unless you have really peculiar friends, they are never going to say “Oooooh! Just look at that shiny new white window sill!! Oooooh! I’m SO jealous!” But at least Archie’s enjoying himself. So far, he’s run off with the workmen’s lunchbox twice, eaten one of their sausage rolls, chewed off the end of their vacuum nozzle, destroyed a brand new piece of wooden moulding, and given one of their brushes a hiding it will never forget.
28 May Very excitingly, Mr Young and I are going down to London for the evening to have dinner with Lucy’s boyfriend Robbie’s parents. I am hoping that she doesn’t choose this particular occasion to carry out a Wacky Antic. (I have bought some new white jeans especially, and a Wacky Antic might involve a nasty stain that won’t wash out.)
Coincidentally, Harriet and three of her friends are also on our train. Good-humouredly, they insist that Mr Young and I sit across the aisle from them. They are drinking Carlsberg and singing and taking pictures of each other. They are, in fact, exactly the sort of people I usually do my best to avoid when finding a seat on a train. However, family loyalty demands that I make an exception. I entertain myself by regularly shouting across at them to keep quiet, which impresses the rest of my fellow passengers. (I can see them all nudging each other and whispering “Good for her! That’s telling them! Honestly, youngsters today….”etc.) Of course, the culprits take no notice of me. One of Harriet’s friends even tells me to “Pipe down, Penny!” at one point. The Carlsberg has clearly worked its frothy magic on her (I can tell because she can’t pronounce ‘linen’ properly; apparently, she is wearing ‘lillin’ trousers) so I feel just superior enough to take it all in good spirit. But, hey, that’s just the sort of cool grownup I am.
We have a fabulous meal in a very sophisticated Londony sort of restaurant (not a Two Mains For £9.99! type place at all). Fortunately, Lucy appears to have completely forgotten about her Wacky Antic strategy. But then, faced with a pressed terrine of confit chicken, foie gras and globe artichoke, I guess that even the most determined offspring would have fallen at the first Wacky Antic hurdle.
Good food and fine wine are treacherous time-stealers so Mr Young and I find ourselves hurtling aboard the 22.53 from King’s Cross with only seconds to spare. But Hurray! for First Capital Connect who have had the foresight to put on two whole carriages for the five thousand football and rugby fans who are also hurtling aboard the train with only seconds to spare. (Did you catch the irony there? Did you? If you didn’t, have another look. It’s definitely in there somewhere. I know, because I put it there deliberately.)
But at least our travelling companions also appear to be lovers of good food and fine wine, I think, as I stare into the sullen eyes of a potato-faced Manchester United fan who is munching out of a grease-stained Burger King bag and belching lager fumes into the six inches of air that separate us. (Ooh, there it is again! That little touch of irony!)
Mr Young is somewhere to my right, hanging onto an overhead rail and doing his manful staring-off-into-the-distance-at-something-really-interesting look. He catches my eye and mouths, “Don’t worry – they’ll all get off at Stevenage.” They don’t, of course. They are all going to Peterborough. But that, I believe, is just complying with the law conceived by Mr Samuel Sod.
29 May It is chilly, windy and threatening to rain, and so we decide to have a barbecue.
I think it’s about time The Dragonfly was introduced to the patio (see 20 May).
It’s been on the chest of drawers since last Saturday, although I notice that Mr Young has placed a large bottle of body lotion in front of it, presumably so that its beady glass eyes don’t put him off when he is lying in bed playing with his iPad. (Don’t be disgusting! Of course that’s not a euphemism!) We light the tealight inside its blue-green glass body and place it on the table where it sneers disdainfully down at my couscous salad and Mr Young’s charred sausages. (Again, no euphemism! If you’re after smutty innuendoes, go and read someone else’s diary!) With the help of my sister Janny’s champagne and the best Bakewell Tart I’ve ever made in my life, it is a very successful barbecue, even though we do have to put extra cardigans on. Well, it wouldn’t be a proper British barbecue without layers, would it?
30 May It’s a bank holiday, so of course it’s raining very, very hard.
One of my three children arrives home this afternoon. As pleased as I am to see him/her, in light of the recent lack of Wacky Antics from a certain oldest child, I find myself in a quandary; if I mention this particular child, do I risk causing a further outburst of sibling rivalry because one has been referred to more than the others?
Honestly, there’s never a super-injunction about when you need one, is there?