Friday, September 28, 2007


Domestic misunderstandings

Sometimes it’s a mistake to imagine your cosy coupledom means you understand each other. You establish your own special little euphemisms, but just when you think you know exactly what the other one means, the rules change and you’re thrown into confusion. It happened the other day when my loved one came home after meeting an acquaintance at a lunch and we had this bizarre conversation:

Him: Ann’s husband’s a banker
Me: Oh, why?
Him: I don’t know
Me: Well, why didn’t you like him, what did he do to annoy you?
Him: Nothing, I did like him
Me: So why is a wanker
Him: He’s not, he’s a banker, really.

Friday, September 21, 2007


Hold the halo

A man goes into a motorway service station and orders 2 cups of tea, a sandwich and a scone and says “I‘m sorry, I‘ve only got a £20 note”. The assistant says “don‘t worry, just put back the scone“. That was a joke until I spent a few days travelling on the motorways and realised that it now needs to be a £50 note to be funny.

Our trip up north to bring back Mary, an elderly relative who's taken to falling over quite a lot lately and Billy, her middle-aged autistic son could hardly be touted as the holiday of a lifetime: experience the thrills of congestion-dodging on the M6 motorway as it takes you on your 200 mile journey north, savour the exciting regional cuisine in the picturesque motorway restaurants, marvel at how your money magically disappears without trace and after a well-earned rest, complete the 800 mile round trip with the exhilarating journey in reverse 5 days later - but it still brought on a particularly virulent strain of some kind of -itis, characterised by boredom and general champing at the bit to get on and do something and although it was touch and go at times, with even a short spell on the critical list, I survived.

We’ve done this trip a few times and we know that Billy gets anxious if we don’t stop half a dozen times for a pee and has a phobia about dogs so must always be within running distance of the open car, but this trip proved what I already knew - I’m not cut out for sainthood. It isn’t the looking after that drove me mad - the behind the scenes stuff of making up beds, preparing meals, or even specific requests, is easy - but the uncertainty of what’s expected of you, the hanging about not quite knowing what to do. Are you allowed to sneak off for a quick read, phone call or blog entry or are you doomed to keep them company on the settee or the lawn with your scintillating conversation, which becomes anything but? And if they’re not very responsive to gestures, should you be doing more? And what to do when they get carried away with the minutiae of a story, especially as I’ve never had the courage not to listen when people go on and on, because I’m too scared I’ll be caught out with a test question at the end. My loved one has no such difficulty and having more tricks than a circus pony, managed to snatch a few minutes reverie and cunningly escape detection by answering, when asked “haven’t you noticed that’s what he does?” “ah well, he has an unusual way of looking at things.“ I’d have labelled myself a pessimist until we took a trip out and I put two hours on the parking meter. Our walk lasted 10 minutes, as I should have known it would, as Mary stepped onto the cricket-pitch smooth field and complained that the grass was too uneven for her to walk on and Billy saw a dog (on a lead and heading in the opposite direction). So we went home where Billy could indulge in his compulsive repetitive action of opening and banging shut the door every few minutes, although at night when the front door is locked, he transfers the activity upstairs, when I suspect he waits for the sound of steady breathing to show that sleep is almost upon us to go to the bathroom, banging the door both on his way in and out. One day I met my loved one on the stairs saying he was just popping out to the shop to buy something Mary had asked for. “Give me the car keys” I hissed, “I’ll go, you went out yesterday”. He looked hurt and replied “yes, but it was only to post a letter and I took Billy with me” and pulled another brilliant trick out of his bag by announcing that he ought to go in any case as he’d loaded the garden waste into the car and he was taking it to the tip. Why does he take all the best jobs for himself? Mostly, it’s impossible to tell what’s going on in Billy’s head, except when alcohol or ice-cream are involved, which brings on a broad smile. Although he doesn’t like to communicate, always speaking in a whisper, when asked a question, especially “what do you say?” he answers endearingly “more beer please” and we sometimes forget that he takes everything literally so a request to put an empty wine bottle in the kitchen results in it being placed plumb in the middle of the floor. But when we got back Mary rang and thanked us charmingly, saying “it was more than I dreamed of”. Oh the guilt.

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