27 February Harriet is home this weekend in a flurry of hair straighteners, abandoned cereal bowls and three-in-the-morning taxis. “Mmm,” she says, chewing thoughtfully, just before flying out of the door to see yet another friend. “Do you know what, Mum? M&Ms go really well with toothpaste.” “Well, I suppose it’s a sort of After Eight effect,” I call after her. But too late. She’s gone again.
Back in the kitchen, Mr Young is wrestling with the waste disposal unit. Once a month, I deliberately sabotage it with a few bulky cabbage leaves just so that I can laugh while I watch him fiddle about under the sink, swearing and banging his head at regular intervals. At least, that’s what he seems to believe. In actual fact, this time it was just a few innocent carrot shavings that have caused the blockage, and I wouldn’t dream of openly laughing about the situation. As a helpful wife and committed member of Team Young, I am extremely apologetic and helpful. “I can be your plumber’s mate,” I offer. “No,” he says. “But I could pass you tools and the torch and buckets and things.” “No,” he says again and swears as he bangs his head. Archie and I retreat to the other side of the kitchen and offer supportive advice until Mr Young tells us to go away. There’s no I in Team, I want to tell him, but think perhaps I’ll wait until later.
There is a strange buzzing noise in the house, which I can’t at first track down; for once, it’s not our unpredictable dishwasher, the waste disposal is too exhausted after yesterday’s skirmish with Mr Young, and the washing machine is silent. I simultaneously realise two things; one, Archie is nowhere to be seen, and two, the strange buzzing noise is coming from upstairs. I find the electric toothbrush lying on the landing, vibrating furiously. There are telltale teethmarks all over the plastic handle. It looks as if it was flung about so hard by an enthusiastic terrier that the On button was activated. Archie is hiding behind the bed. It’s very hard to look cross when you’re laughing.
1 March Ms C invites me to something called Philosophy in the Park; it’s held monthly, with a different intellectually challenging topic each time. And it’s literally held in the Park, in the cafe where all the pensioners go to drink tea and admire the crocuses and small children run around with melting ice creams. I really want to go. I do so like the idea of myself as an intellectual person, bursting with philosophical thoughts. Unfortunately, I shall miss this Saturday’s. I shall be in Oxford, for Tom’s graduation in Maths and Philosophy, so I shall at least be indulging in a little vicarious philosophy. And I too have an aptitude for maths and philosophy; I think therefore I am good at my times tables. Perhaps I should run my own group. Philosophy and Maths in the Utility Room. Topic: is there still life in a shirt after fifty five washes? So very deep.
2 March My new iron is performing well, but I’m feeling guilty about my old iron, which is still lying in the wastebin, looking up at me reproachfully. I can’t bring myself to throw it away after all its years of service.
What a shame that household implements can’t be credited with maturity on their CVs; 2005-2010 Domestic slave in Young household Tasks: daily pressing, steaming, gurgling and dribbling. Strengths: survived three topples from ironing board to floor, causing minimal carpet scorches and using initiative to retaliate with indelible rust-coloured stains
3 March Harriet tells me that her friend Kat has called me a bantersaurus. “It’s a compliment,” she says. “It means you’re witty.” I’m not so sure. I think a bantersaurus implies something ancient and lumbering, probably with useless little arms that can’t vacuum properly or reach things on high shelves.
I am going up to see Harriet in York next week because it’s her 21st birthday. I actually feel quite tearful about this; my youngest child, my baby will be all grown up. What is the point of me now? I ask myself pathetically in the bathroom mirror. What use am I as a mother now? I weep as I pace round the kitchen, trying to empty the dishwasher with my useless little bantersaurus arms. Does this mean my children no longer need me? I ask my new iron, but there is no reply. (My old iron, I think wistfully, would at least have gurgled back encouragingly.)
4 March Tom rings to ask if any of his suit trousers are somewhere in the house. Apparently, he has plenty of jackets but no trousers. I pretend to be exasperated, especially when I find them in a crumpled heap in the wardrobe with what look like jam stains down one leg. But secretly I am pleased. “Aha!” I tell myself triumphantly as I scrub at the jam stains with my little bantersaurus hands. “So there is still a point to me.”
Now, that’s philosophy for you.