ADMITTEDLY, it’s been nice having all four of them home for the summer, with the older two returning from university.
The downside, of course, is that we’ve accumulated twice the mess again. It’s piled up to the extent that Steptoe’s backyard looks positively tidy compared to our house.
Hannah, 19, still has another two years to complete at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance in Leeds so she didn’t bring too much back with her.
But Christopher, 21, – The Big Friendly Giant – has been lucky enough to get a job near home so he’s back living with us for the foreseeable future.
I had to help him move a large vanload of stuff, including his didgeridoo, back from Hull.
I know it’s our own fault for not instilling more discipline into them when they were smaller, but they leave everything scattered on the floor, including plates, glasses, CDs, DVDs (most of them out of their covers) magazines, books, thousands of socks and chargers for an assortment of gadgets.
“The Quiet Room” is the worst.
This is the downstairs room which used to be reserved for story-reading when they were little, but is now the place where they play their computer games and generally make more noise than a space shuttle taking off.
The other day, while they were all out, I could take it no longer and had a massive clean-up. I hired one of those carpet cleaners to get rid of some of the boot-marks and drink stains, tidied a huge collection of bits and pieces into their rightful places, and dumped as much as possible in the bin.
It took me a whole day and I was dripping with sweat by the time I’d finished, but it had to be done. My wife was really pleased with me (a rare occurrence indeed), but the boys were appalled.
“How are we supposed to find anything?”
groaned Max, 14. “It’s ridiculous.”
Jack was even crosser and, before long, he was crashing round the house, looking under cushions, on top of shelves, and behind cupboards.
Jack’s 18 next week – he’s officially about to become a man – but he’s going through the grumpiest time of his life.
“Oh for God’s sake, where is it?” he grumped.
I was relaxing in front of the telly in the lounge after my big clean-up so I just ignored him and let him to carry on wallowing in his bad mood.
“I can’t find it!” he shouted, out of sight in The Quiet Room.
Jack does his best to avoid engaging with me because I’m not cool but, in the end, he had no choice.
“OK, Dad, have you seen my new Arctic Monkeys CD?”
“I can’t remember,” I sighed. It was true – I couldn’t remember. I’d tackled so much rubbish in a whirlwind of tidying that I couldn’t be expected to remember where I’d put everything.
“Well, I’ve looked all over and I can’t find it,” he whined.
I lost my patience, jumped up off the settee, looked in the CD cabinet – and there was his blessed CD.
“Here it is – under ‘A’ for chuffing Arctic Monkeys!” I yelled.
“Well, how was I supposed to find it there?” he snapped before stomping off upstairs.
THE THINGS THEY SAY
AT a meeting of Norton Women’s Institute, Margaret Scanlan remembered the time she brought her first boyfriend home. He was wearing his Royal Navy uniform and Margaret’s little brother Kenneth, three, examined him carefully before piping up: “Why are you wearing your bib at the back?”
HELEN Goodhart remembered being a teaching assistant at Hardwick Primary School in Stockton and a little boy asked the delicate question: “Miss, if Queen Elizabeth is Elizabeth The Gina, why isn’t it Charles Penis?”
AT a meeting of the International Women’s Club in Hartburn, a member who asked to remain anonymous, remembered the time family heirlooms were being discussed around the lunch-table.
“When I go, you can have my gold watch,” grandad said to grandsons Mark and Stephen.
There was a pause before Stephen replied: “Grandad, when are you thinking of going?”