‘Mummy, have you and Daddy actually got any friends?’ said Josie, ‘because all my friends’ parents have people to lunch the whole time.’
Showcasing my home-making skills being my absolute favourite activity of a weekend, I arranged a lunch last Sunday - ‘Come to lunch – the lot of you! Yes, do!’
I must not replicate my own mother’s lack of social ease; she was so scared of Grandma coming to stay for Christmas that we ate mince pies from September on, each recipe making mother cry all the more into her sherry bottle.
Of course, there is no food at all in your brain when you have to cook, but A for apple, B for bread got the ball rolling until I’d come up with something strangely similar to what I cooked last time, different salad on the side. The menu, once decided, embedded itself in my psyche, and took on a life of its own, ricocheting out of my mouth when Alan was recounting his day: ‘He’s a funny chap, this bloke, but I said, let’s brainstorm this one-‘ ‘LENTIL SALAD AND SAUSAGES!’ ‘What?’
As the lunch loomed, and I visualised the rolling countryside that our guests call their garden, I bought Geraniums to conceal the paint pots awaiting transportation to the correct recycling centre in Outer Mongolia, but currently adorning our front doorstep, and ripped thistles bare handed from paving stones. I cast an eye over the interior, hoping that pockets of interesting untidiness (gulp) indicated full lives…some half finished sewing (oh, I was just making…’). It was a ghastly mess.
I knew I’d lost control when I found myself at the skirting boards with a toothbrush, while the lentils bubbled and the coucous swelled, but luckily my family came to the rescue: Alan laid the table (‘Where is everything?’); Maddy and Josie kept nice and quiet in bed and bath respectively until 10 minutes before kick-off; Bonnie decorated the garden with purple playdough ‘Look Mummy – d’you like it?’; and Alfie alternated ‘Can I have a sausage?’ with ‘Can you play a game with me?’ for two hours, a joke he did so well I nearly smashed his head in. ‘Does it look like I can?’ I growled, storming into the loo, where something unsavoury had miss-fired. ’ALFIE!!!! CLEAN IT OFF!!’ I yelled, and the toilet brush being a thing revolting enough to be handled only by me, he sensibly put on a glove, picked it up with forefinger and thumb, and swung it at said deposit. ‘Can I have a sausage?’
I was on my knees going at the purple garden with a scratchy sponge when a tap on the head with a mascara indicated that Josie needed my attention. ‘Hey mummy, I used a new shampoo and just look!’ giving a twirl ‘My hair’s all smooth!!’ ‘Goodo. Can you do something to help please?’ I muttered into the gloop.
The doorbell, minor seizure, and we were away! ‘Hello! Come in!’ Lovely afternoon, as it turned out - no friends, my foot!