ONE day, when they’re all gone, the house will be tidy. That’s how we console ourselves when we look around and see the mess they create: the dirty marks on the cream wallpaper, the smudge marks on the windows, the plates left on the floor, the computer game boxes scattered everywhere, the half-full jars littering the kitchen, the muddy stains on the carpets, the mountain of shoes flung haphazardly in the hall, the coats hung on the backs of chairs.
The boys are by far the worst, of course. I’ve stopped looking in their bedrooms because it’s far too terrifying.
If a bomb had gone off, the devastation couldn’t be much worse.
Hannah, 19 – our only girl – keeps her room tidy. She even does housework when she’s home from dance school, making sure everything’s neat and tidy when we come home from work.
That would never happen with the boys. The word “tidy” doesn’t appear in their vocabulary – they have to be threatened with eviction before they lift a finger.
If you tell them to tidy their rooms, they say “Why?” or “What for?”
Max, the biggest offender of the lot, once replied: “I can’t because I won’t know where anything is if it’s tidy.”
But last week, on a glorious day I know I’ll never forget, I was privileged to witness a sight as rare as anything David Attenborough has seen on his travels in search of the natural wonders of the world. He may have spied golden eagles soaring with salmon wriggling desperately in their talons. He may have seen polar bears ingeniously hunting seals in the frozen wastes. He may have seen endangered gorillas mating in the dwindling rain forests.
But that’s nothing – I saw our Jack vacuuming.
My wife and I came in after our Saturday morning tennis to hear the drone of the Dyson and to find the hall carpet had been done. Hannah wasn’t home, so how could it be?
There, nozzle in hand, was Jack, 18, finishing off the stairs before starting on the landing. Engrossed in his work, he didn’t see me watching and I stared in disbelief as he then proceeded to open his bedroom door and gave his carpet a once-over.
To my amazement, his room looked quite tidy. I even saw him take a tissue out of his pocket and rub away at a stubborn grey mark on his doorframe.
My wife and I looked at each other in bafflement. Had our third-born suffered a bang on the head? Was he on drugs? Then the Penny dropped… Jack has got himself a girlfriend.
When we put it to Jack that this sudden outbreak of tidiness was down to the fact that his girlfriend must be coming round, he flatly denied it. But sure enough, there she was, ringing the doorbell little more than an hour later.
All we need to do now is find girlfriends for the other two and we’ve cracked it.
THE THINGS THEY SAY
AT Hartburn Village Women’s Institute, Irene Hood told of the time her grandson Joe, aged, four, was having his dinner at the Endeavour restaurant in Stockton, which she owned at the time.
Irene’s friend said to Joe: “What a good lad you are – you’ve eaten all your sprouts. Do you like sprouts?”
“Yes,” replied Joe in front of all the customers, “but they make me pump like a donkey.”
IRENE also told of the time she was living in Spain, was running a Christmas concert, and had persuaded her partner to be Santa Claus.
A little boy marched up, announced: “Yes, I have been a good boy,” and then promptly kicked Santa in the shin.
“That’s naughty – why did you do that?” asked Father Christmas.
“Because you didn’t bring me my red car last year,” replied the boy.
PAT Pattison remembered how she used to play schools with her cousin Barbara, who was a year older and always pulled rank.
Barbara always insisted on being the teacher and Pat had to be the pupil.
One day, Pat decided to put her foot down: “I want to be the teacher for a change,” she declared.
“Well all right then,” replied Barbara.
“But I’ll be the headmistress.”