David was glum and a bit down when we finally got to bed on the Sunday night – he thinks he’s a failure on the home front - "the dogs ignore me and Mac keeps holding you up as a paragon of virtue."
You don’t technically get jetlag from Ibiza but I was suffering slightly from plane stress and was tired anyway but I propped open my eyes, stifled my yawns and encouraged him to talk it through.
His feelings of inadequacy came about partly because the dogs have always had a blatant general disregard for David’s authority in this house. On Thursday they were extremely confused, he said, when I was nowhere to be seen (having left the house at 4am that morning) when it was time to collect Mac from nursery. Junior Dog had set up camp by the front door waiting for me and Senior Dog had purloined an old scarf of mine and had his head on it in his basket as if I’d been gone for a week. They cheered up when David mentioned “park”. They usually see David as the person who throws them the occasional ball in the garden, offers them the occasional pat and shouts at them for getting in the way of the TV, usually as a crucial goal is being scored/run being made so, he said, there were some suspicious looks being exchanged between the three hounds. He was watching them in the rear view mirror as they drove to Dulwich Park.
Despite my list of instructions (almost as thick as the Order of Service for The Wedding), David decided to let all three off the lead at the same time. This was his second mistake. His first was taking them to the park in the first place. Mac just stood there in horror at what he’d done. “Mummy never does that!” he said, hands on hips. David now appeared mortified at this especially as phrases similar to that one kept coming out of Mac’s mouth all weekend, “mummy will be cross” being the favourite.
There are strict rules to walking all three of the dogs at once. First, Senior Dog has some time off the lead while the other two trot alongside me quite happy in the knowledge that their time will come. Once Senior Dog starts lagging behind a bit, he goes on the lead as Middle Dog comes off it. Middle Dog has a mad moment and when his tongue reaches the floor, Junior Dog is released into the green wilderness. Then myself and SD and MD have a sit down on a bench to get our breath back whilst JD charges around like a lunatic. David knew all of this, it was in the list of instructions.
David said all three were initially stunned at all being off the lead at the same time. And then all three ran off. In different directions. At this point in the tale, David covered his face with his hands. “Mac had to get them back. My three year old son.” he whispered into the pillow SD had a face full of pollen from nuzzling the flowers, MD had disturbed a courting couple in the rhododendrons and JD had gone for a swim in the lake. There was, said David, a distinct frostiness in the car on the way home.
Pizza Hut was a moderate success, David reported. Mac rarely gets the chance to indulge in fast food so when he does he makes it an experience. “£2.50 for a bowl of salad!” David reported. Mac had a Super Supreme Italian crust pizza with added mushrooms and then built an amazing tower of icecream decorated with smarties and jellie tots and sprinkles. David said that half way through he went green but refused to stop eating it. Popcorn was off the menu that evening, as was David’s choice of DVD. He wanted The Sopranos, Mac wanted Over the Hedge. Mac won – “I’m not sure that mummy would approve” he said loftily, chucking The Sopranos to one side and settling down for some animated fun, disturbed only by a phone call from David’s cousin who wondered if, having been left to their own devices, he and Mac fancied visiting them at their mobile home in Brighton on Sunday.
Saturday was better apparently – David read through the paper on a hillock whilst Mac was in the saddle and then both of my boys went off to play golf in the afternoon “just the nine holes and I got a buggy”. All three dogs, despite having a “comfort break” visit between riding and golf, were rebelling at a) being abandoned by their pack leader (me) and b) being abandoned by the guy who “lost” them in the park and so, when the sports junkies returned, the house was a tip. Junior Dog had obviously gone off on one of his slalom runs, usually halted by my good self with an “Oi!” at a pre-arranged decibel level. Either Senior or Middle Dog had decided that I was never going to get those boots re-heeled so they might as well be chewed and Middle Dog had clearly been lying all over the sofa, chairs and beds.
By the time they’d cleared all the mess up, with Mac repeating “Mummy will be cross” over and over again, it was time for Casualty and some dinner. Into the oven went a chicken that would be ready at ten to ten. By quarter past, they were sitting down to roast chicken, potatoes and broccoli. Mac fell asleep in his plate and had to be carried, gravy spattered with broccoli in his hair, up to bed.
Sunday, the day of rest. Whilst I was sitting poolside in Ibiza eating pineapple, David, Mac and all three dogs were beetling along the A23 to Brighton and Cousin Ian’s mobile home. It was amazing, David said, two miles from the beach and the site had a pool, shop, launderette, kids play park (that explains Mac’s grazed knees) and onsite entertainment for the children. It was, David added, a bit forced to be honest. Smiling camp entertainers wandering round trying to entice the kiddiwinks to go off for musical statues or bowling in the ballroom. Most of the kiddiwinks (very depressing to see such knowledgeable nine year olds David said) told the poor man to eff off. Mac was quite keen to stay with his dad but Ian’s six year old daughter went off with nary a word – the dogs were also quite keen to go but David kept them all on a short lead, literally. Mac was sick on the way home, as was Senior Dog who had been scoffing grass at an alarming rate. Mopping up vomit whilst other drivers sped past him, David was counting the hours until my return.
Apart from all that, the washing machine is “awkward and hard to fathom”, the tumble drier “has a mind of its own” and don’t get him started on the oven. “How was I to know the grill would go out if I shut the door to it?” – he found this out when he got the bacon out to go in his sandwich, it was practically still oinking.
After I reassured him (twice) that he wasn’t a failure and that I, Mac and the dogs appreciated his efforts over the weekend he seemed a bit happier. True, Mac had dragged his sleepy body down the stairs for a cuddle, the dogs had woofed the entire Avenue awake but David was first in line for a welcome home hug. The reins have well and truly been handed back to me. And, a week later, I wouldn’t have it any other way.