Mother is having a problem with her new phone or rather with the people who are calling her on it. She thinks she’s the victim of a sustained hoax.
‘Ever since I moved in with you, the only people who call me talk in strange foreign accents. I don’t understand a word they say.’
‘It’s your long-lost Irish cousins calling. Their Irish brogue is confusing you,’ I say.
‘Don’t be stupid, darling. They’re all dead or beyond caring about me,’ she replies contemptuously.
I can’t work out why anyone calling Mother would pretend to be foreign unless RADA have introduced a new course called ‘English with a Funny Foreign Accent’ and mischievous trainee actors are rehearsing on her. Perhaps she has accidentally agreed to be an oral examiner for the course?
‘It’s that new phone you put in my room. It doesn’t work. I told you we should have kept the old one in my flat’ she says.
The old one was 30 years old and its twisted wires a death trap according to the electrician. But rather than debate this again, I promise to launch an investigation into the problem. Investigations are my new knee jerk response to Mother’s complaints, which are increasing in number and complexity since she moved in. Like a politician, I know that launching an investigation will allow me to kick the can down the road until the problem disappears or is forgotten.
‘It’s probably the doctor calling her about an appointment,’ says my Wife, later that day.
‘Or Extinction Rebellion threatening her to turn her electric fan heater off,’ says my Son.
‘No. I think it might actually be the new BT Rotary phone I bought her. The reviews on Amazon weren’t very good,’ I say sheepishly.
‘Have you ruled out demonic possession?’ says my Son.
‘No. The phone. In horror movies spirits or demons use phones to communicate from beyond the grave with the living.’
‘I’d like to reassure the people of Midsomer that I have ruled demonic activity from my investigation,’ I say in my best DCI Burnaby impersonation.
This aimless boyish banter is annoying my Wife.
‘Do you mean to say that you bought her a duff phone even though you’ve just splashed out on a subscription to ‘Which?’ magazine?’
‘It was only £25. That’s hardly splashing out.’
‘But you’ve just admitted the reviews were poor. What’s the point of subscribing to ‘Which’ magazine if you then ignore the reviews?’
Pointless subscriptions are one of my Wife’s hobby horses. Impractical husbands are another. Fearing that she may be about to turn the spotlight on him, my Son puts in his earplugs and exits the conversation. I am wondering if I can escape, too. Preferably with my dignity intact, like the retreat Dunkirk, when Mother appears in the kitchen doorway to save me.
‘The phone’s sorted,’ she says triumphantly. ‘I listened to the ansaphone. There were five messages on it from Specsavers about my appointment for a hearing test. They’re so diligent aren’t they?’
‘So the phone works?’ I ask.
‘Of course, I just needed to turn the volume up. It’s much better than the old one at the flat. Actually, it reminds me of the one your father and I had in our first flat all those years ago.’
Mother has handed me the Dunkirk miracle I was hoping for. Out of the corner of my eye, I can see Wife reaching for a large frying pan. For a moment, I am not quite sure what she is going to do with it.
‘Anyone fancy an omelette for supper?’ she asks sweetly.