Sunday. I walk into the kitchen hoping for a quiet breakfast brew and an update from the papers on Boris Johnson’s latest falsehoods, fabrications and fibs, only to discover that overnight Netflix have converted my kitchen into the film set for a new version of George Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’.
The place is swarming with young people whom I don’t recognise. Sitting, standing, lounging and generally at ease. Almost as if they own the place. This is the payback for years of overperforming as a welcome-all-comers parent. We’ve been so bloody successful at it the kids and their entourages now take all our parental virtue signalling literally.
‘The Chateau Margaux? Sure, it’s the perfect wine for drinking games. Why not take the whole case? If there’s any left tomorrow, it will go well with your Rice Krispies at breakfast.’
They don’t teach irony anymore.
Dad had a different view of parenting
My father took a different approach to our friends. He refused to speak to anyone he didn’t know over breakfast. In fact, he wasn’t even that keen on speaking to his family, preferring to eat his grapefruit in silence and solitude.
After eight at night, he would answer the front door in a half knee length kimono, which barely covered his crown jewels, clutching a golf club. It was his way of saying: enter at your peril. And, if you are bold enough to come in, remember the game here is played by my rules and rule number one is keep your eyes above my waistline.
Back to the present
All over the kitchen the lights are on despite the bright sun. The Sonos is super sonically woofing. The smell of burnt bacon pervades the room like a crime and the extractor fan is sucking up the acrid smoke like a guilty mosquito trying to cover up the evidence.
There are giggles, grunts and groans, everywhere. Broken eggshells, everywhere. Plates with bacon rind stuck in tomato ketchup, everywhere. Energy, everywhere.
‘Mi casa es su farmyard,’ I mutter to myself, suddenly feeling like a Bolshevik and Old Boomer fused into one Youth hating body. I didn’t spend 40 years selling my soul to global capitalism to have Sunday’s turned into this.
Several groomed youths are gathered at the table. They’re all busy shaking my breakfast cereals into their milk filled bowls, like misers eagerly emptying out someone else’s piggy bank.
‘Are there any Coco Pops left?’ I ask, pointing at a young man with a goatee beard, pouring my Coco Pops into his bowl.
‘Don’t think so?’ he says, as he rattles the box next to his ear. ‘No, none left.’
‘They’re my favourite breakfast cereal,’ I say.
‘Sorry, do you want to share mine?’ he says, as he lowers the tip of his goatee into the bowl of milk and hoists a spoonful of coco pops and chocolate milk towards his waxed and bearded mouth.
‘Not today, thanks,’ I say.
Where can I retire to?
I look around for space to gather my wits. Of course, I don’t mind the children having friends to stay, even though I am feeling pretty cut up about the missing out on the Coco Pops. It’s their liveliness I can’t stand.
All I wanted was 30 quiet minutes to rekindle the fire under my soggy Sunday Boomer metabolism. All I wanted was a little time to myself to unpack the dishwasher, a task which fills me with Puritanical pleasure, a sort of Sunday morning rosary, before which nothing else can happen.
Yeah, before the Dishwasher is cleared, thou shalt not sip from your espresso cup. Nor shall the front page of the Sunday paper be opened until the cutlery drawer is refilled with clean spoons.
As a child, I was taught that you had to earn your rewards, that British Prime Ministers told the truth and that puddings follow a main course like daylight follows the dawn. These old truths no longer apply. The kids have eaten breakfast, but the dishwasher is unloaded, its red light blinking at me saying: ‘Look upon your parenting and despair.’
Do humans evolve?
Is this how they will always live? Like Mongols, forever moving carelessly from one house to the next leaving behind them empty boxes of Rice Krispies, half eaten sausages and unwashed Smoothie blenders?
Suddenly, the juicer, the coffee grinder, the Sonos and the kettle are turned on at the same time. It’s a cacophony of symphonic dimensions. My brain shrivels under the assault of noise like a slug sprinkled with salt.
‘What is that?’ I ask.
‘Jazz funk,’ says the young man standing next to the stove, obviously referring to the loud noise coming from the Sonos.
‘No, you fool, that,’ I say, pointing at four uncooked egg yolks wrapped in cling film which are lying on the kitchen next to a boiling pan of water. They look like the castrated orange testicles of two farm animals.
‘Poached eggs,’ he says.
‘Why not use the poacher?’
‘Because he ran away when he saw us coming,’ he says.
‘That’s a pretty poor joke,’ I say, secretly admiring it. It takes chutzpah to tell jokes that bad in someone else’s house.
‘Sorry,’ he replies and drops the cling filmed eggs into a pan of swirling water.
Poached eggs a go go
‘I’ve been thinking about food,’ I say.
‘So, what’s new,’ says my wife, who has come down to the kitchen to join me and the remaining remnants from the overnight posse.
‘I think we should plan our food better. Spend less on meat. Buy cheaper cuts. Head to toe eating. That sort of thing.’
‘Have you signed up for one of those budgeting lessons with that Tory idiot?’ asks one of the remnants.
‘Lee Anderson MP?’ says my daughter.
‘Yes. I did listen to that idiot. But that’s not what I mean.’
‘Is this ‘thinking’ of yours a specific proposal? Or is it one of your usual ‘ideas’ as in: ‘I’ve been meandering around the Google verse like a village idiot collecting disconnected ideas about environmental policy, food production and our family food budget which I’d now like to disgorge on you like a dumper truck unloading sand at a cement factory?’
‘The former,’ I say.
‘Let’s hear it then,’ she says.
‘This week I shall mainly be eating offal.’
Someone at the far end of the table chokes on their coffee.
‘Is that a line from an old comedy show,’ asks one of the remnants.
The Fast Show is alive and well
‘Yes, the Fast Show,’ I say rather proud that my children have friends who have such strong comic references.
‘Offal?’ says my wife.
‘Like kidneys?’ says my daughter.
‘Or liver?’ asks my son.
‘Or my personal favourite sweetbreads,’ I say.
‘Sweetbreads? Aren’t those essentially testicles,’ says one of the remnants.
‘No. Sweetbreads are the thymus. From the throat or the pancreas.’
‘I’m not keen on pancreas,’ says my daughter.
‘I’d rather go back to being a vegetarian,’ says my son.
‘Offal is cheaper than most meat, nutritious and delicious. It would be a sensible way for us to make a small contribution to reducing our carbon footprint and reducing food waste. Butchers can’t get rid of this stuff these days.’
‘I’m not surprised,’ says my son.
‘Are you sure they’re not testicles,’ asks my daughter again.
‘Certain,’ I say.
‘I’m out,’ says my wife, with a Deborah Meaden, Dragon’s Den look of contempt.
‘I don’t think you’re giving me a fair hearing. I feel like that Lee Anderson,’ I say.
‘You won’t get any sympathy that way,’ says my daughter.
‘It’s an offaly nice idea,’ says my son and the table titters.
I get up and start to unload the dishwasher.
‘Don’t patronise me,’ I say.