Thursday, 10 June 2010


“Enough!” bellowed Hubby one evening over dinner, thumping his fist on the table, “Do I bloody look like Hugh Dennis?”.
His family put their cutlery down and peered back, scrutinising him. The ensuing silence was eerie.
“Well dad,” offered our son, pulling one earphone out of his ear, “You’re tall”.
“But not as funny” added the 14 year old.
“Thanks for that but I wasn’t thinking of the persona on Mock the Week, but more the poor sod of a father in Outnumbered. I don’t remember him cracking jokes. In fact he spends his time walking around as though in shock and awe”
“Wassup?” asked our son, “You sound grieved”.
“Grieved is a good word for the way I feel. This isn’t dinner. This is snack time in Babel. It literally confounds me. God alone knows what you are all talking about.”
“Well I’m pretending to be the princess”, offered the eight year old, an old skirt of mine belted around her chest, a bra of mine acting as a crown.
“Yeah and I’m the frog”, added the Red-Head, “We are talking ribbit-ribbit language”.
As if that explained it, Hubby then asked, “And you two?” of the teenagers.
“I was texting Laura”, said one.
“And I was singing some lyrics” said the other.
“And you?” Hubby asked me.
“I was just talking to myself”.
“Dinner”, said Hubby, “should be a time when the breadwinner is rewarded for his efforts. A time when he sits at the head of the table after a busy day and eats in peace, his family awed into silence by his very presence. This newspaper”, he waggled the paper under his plate, “ought to be for me to read in quiet, to catch up on world events and not, as a place-mat to shield me from the paintings and sequins that lie beneath it”.
“Sorry”, I said huffily, “But we’ve been for a long walk today and since I’ve got back, I’ve unloaded and reloaded the dishwasher, unblocked the bathroom sink of PlayDoh...”
“You promised you wouldn’t tell”, whined the eight year old.
“..Put away the laundry, put a white shirt of yours to soak”, I looked pointedly at the Red-Head, “and made dinner. I’m sorry that I didn’t quite manage to clear the dining table as well. I have just tried to adapt and overcome.”
“Would it be too much to ask of you all, if I were offered just a modicum of respect? A hiatus in the day when we all just eat in peace and I can think and digest without feeling the need for Gaviscon afterwards. Can’t you revere my authority from time to time?”
“God dad, you sound like a character from a DH Lawrence novel”.
“Sooner that than a besieged character from a BBC sitcom”.
“Have you ever laughed Dad?” asked the Red-Head.
“Of course I have”, answered Hubby stunned, “What a preposterous question”.
“I’ve never seen you” and she nonchalantly popped an olive into her mouth. I looked at Hubby and shrugged my shoulders. There was a certain resemblance between him and Hugh Dennis; I think it lay in the grim, straight line of a mouth, grey skin and furrowed brow. I think most modern fathers would recognise this expression and agree that is less a facial look but more the effects of a syndrome of living in a large family where one’s authority has been eroded over the years by self-assured children who have rewritten the ‘seen and not heard’ idiom into, seldom seen yet always heard.
It was with great relief that Hubby went to work the following morning. Stepping into his uniform, I could sense his growing confidence, as if by donning gold stripes it gave him a super hero quality, a sense of ‘no-one messes with me now’, because at work, hundreds of young people, many younger than his son, quake in their boots when they see him approaching. No wonder dinner in a chaotic household is such an adjustment to him.
“Have a good day Commander”, I said as he leant over to kiss me goodbye, “What are you up to today?”
“V.I.Ps up the ying-yang. Divisions. You name it. You?” A Red-Head popped her head out from under our duvet.
“Can we go to this guard?”, she asked.
“This guard what? The Guard? You can see ‘the guard’ on the parade ground”. Then he whispered, “Please don’t bring them to divisions Alice”.
I was very confused.
“What is this guard?” I asked our daughter.
“You know where we go swimming”. Oh. Liskeard.
Later that evening after a full day of half term activities, I lay on my bed. Pooped. Hubby came bounding up the stairs.
“Hey gorgeous”, he said, throwing himself onto me, “This is where I like to find you. Where is everyone?”
“The eldest are at various parties and the youngest playing in the garden”.
“Friday evening, kids all busy, best time” he said, nuzzling expectantly into my neck. Before I was able to respond one way or another, the eight year old appeared around the door holding a Waitrose carrier bag.
“I found a dead mouse”, she said, indicating to a lifeless creature inside the plastic bag.
“Oh my God”, said Hubby. Suddenly I saw water dripping onto my bedroom carpet.
“Why is the bag dripping?”, I yelped.
“Because I rinsed the mouse out. It was covered in blood”. Child, bag and dead, wet, mouse were deposited outside the house within seconds all thoughts of amorousness booted out with them.
“See what I mean Alice?”
“The Hugh Dennis thing?”. He nodded. I squeezed his hand. There was nothing I could say, we are, literally outnumbered.


DL said...

Loved it! As usual, just like reading my own autobiography not-yet-written. Also, shades of poor beleaguered Mr Banks, the David Tomlinson character in Mary Poppins.

Very best wishes,
D. x

It's just me said...

Bless. I've got to respect my folks more as I've aged and listen to them now.

Unfortunately they can't usually remember what they wanted to say at thier age, so there you go!

Anonymous said...

i feel for 'it's just me' - I try and listen to my folks but mostly I have to tell them where they are and why.

Sally said...

I was once in a panto with hugh Dennis. he was Pete then... Very funny though even then. Yes - we have the outnumbered thing. The the mouse incident cracked me up!