Half-term beckons and we are off to the smoke to stay with my parents.
There will be dark mutterings afoot regarding the large piles of paper Father cannot throw away. When asked to sort them they move, but they never get any smaller. Mother is no more interested in cleaning than her daughter, but she’d like to present a tidy front.
Father’s complete failure to do any household chores has long been a bone of contention. As a teenager I was very aware, when I was home from boarding school, of just how rebellious Mother was feeling. Married in the late 1950s, and to an Army Officer, she gave up paid work to follow the drum. By the early 70s, with her children away at school, stuck in Germany expected to help run the wives club and entertain all and sundry, she was understandably kicking against her world. Her reading material reflected the times, I remember, and I’ll confess now to some concern for their marriage (they’ve done over 50 years now). She and I muttered about men in general – my brothers were equally lax in their contribution to household chores, despite pocket money incentives and tick charts. (Not surprising really when their bossy big sister made the charts and did most of the nagging.) What a goody goody they must have thought me taking on cleaning jobs, the family ironing and, the one I actually enjoyed, helping with the cooking. I have a vivid memory of piping cooked mashed egg yoke mixed with tomato ketchup into the halved hard boiled whites to serve at a buffet supper party – we had very sophisticated tastes in 1972.
There’ll be fish pie for supper when we get home, it’s tradition. My Granny made it with fresh coley. Mother makes it with fish in parsley sauce. I use frozen cod and make my own sauce. But the result is pretty similar.
It is ironic that it is only now, as I contemplate how the time I have with my girls will come to an end of sorts when they fly the nest, that I realise how my parents might feel. Do they mind that we’ve all gone, or are they proud that they managed it… of course they might just be glad to be rid of us and be pretty grumpy because they (well, Mother) feel bound to tidy up and make fish pie.