Amelia rang yesterday evening to invite herself over for the weekend. She caught me off guard, I hesitated for just a few seconds and – bang! She was in. “I’ll get the train first thing and so will be with you just before nine thirty.” she said, live and exclusive from Sevenoaks, asking me what that funny noise was. That funny noise was me choking. There was very little I could do, it has been a while since she were here so I couldn’t even trot out my usual line of “why don’t you leave it a few weeks so that Mac has even more to tell you?”. Mac was itching to tell Granny all about his holiday and immediately went upstairs to get all of his mementos together to show her. The dogs, picking up on my mood, skulked out to sunbathe on the patio. David was resigned to his fate and promised to keep her occupied. His hangdog expression matched that of Middle Dog. My weekend fate was sealed
Imagine then, my horror when the doorbell rang at twenty five to ten this morning and Amelia was standing on the doorstep. She did not look in a good mood. “Erm, I thought we said Saturday” I said weakly as I took her (rather heavy) suitcase. Apparently I don’t listen to a word she said, she specifically said Friday and why I am being so awkward? There was very little I could say to that so I put the kettle on. She had issues with every single person she had met that morning – but especially the businessman on the train that held a long and loud conversation on his mobile. Mobile phones, according to Amelia, are the devils own work. Yorkshire tea bags were taken from her hand bag “I can’t stomach that stuff you drink, it gives me heartburn”. Just as I had settled her into her favourite armchair, tea and custard creams by her side and a nice nature programme on the television, David rang.
“No!” he said when I informed him that Amelia had arrived through clenched teeth and fake smile (I was in the same room as her). “Yes!” I said firmly. There was a sound like David was slapping himself on the forehead and he promised to be home as soon as he could. I felt the need to rally the troops – there really is safety in numbers. Calls to Charlie and Saskia were fruitless – Charlie’s too far away to pop in for lunch and Saskia has a job interview this afternoon. Lydia openly laughed at my fate and said she’d try and come over but that she’s really busy at work. Bea offered to send Enormous Au Pair. I could have rung Katie but I wasn’t that desperate (she’s only ringing twice a day now, mid morning to discuss Jeremy Kyle’s programme and about 8.30pm cos she’s been stuck into the vodka since six and is crying). I went for broke and rang Janey. She and her five month old bump would be with my by “half one, I’ll bring a stun gun”.
But I had three and a half hours to kill before then. So I did what I had planned to do today. I was going to be brave and stand up for myself. I was an adult in my own house. I was going to clean the house with Amelia standing judgement on me. I got a raspberry brulee cheesecake out of the freezer – if I was going over the top I needed something to fall back on. I tried to do it quietly and without letting her know. But she caught the whiff of lemon Cif and joined me in the kitchen where she sneered at my surfaces, mocked my microwave and openly slated my hob. Apparently, if I cleaned every day it “wouldn’t build up to the state it’s in now”. I wasn’t sure what aspect she was talking about so I took it to mean the whole house. I was right.
My hall carpet would come up much cleaner if I banned the dogs from the house and put some runners down. My paintwork wouldn’t look so dingy if I had paid for it to be painted properly instead of doing it myself. The bathroom wouldn’t smell so “damp” if I opened the window after each time it was used. Mac’s bedroom wouldn’t be “such a tip” if I encouraged him to help me tidy it instead of doing it myself. She nearly had a seizure in my bedroom.
Laminate flooring makes a room “cold”. The wardrobes were “far too flimsy, how do you not worry about them collapsing”. Voile curtain panels offered “no privacy” – here she gave me a Look to suggest that privacy was essential. David’s drawer space fell woefully short of “what he’s used to”. Oh, and flowers in a bedroom suggested “slatternly tendencies”. Coupled with my voile curtain panels, my bedroom was telling my mother-in-law I was a complete trollope. I sat down on the edge of the bed to get my head round the assault on my home. Amelia prodded the mattress and sniffed “you should get a coil sprung one”
By the time Janey arrived I was on my knees. My cousin was dressed in skinny jeans, skimpy white T-shirt and spindly heels, her bare baby bump proudly displayed along with several platters of sushi. Amelia later described her as “an angel dressed as a tart”. “I’m craving weird things” she said as she shovelled half of one platter down her neck. Junior Dog is partial to a bit of salmon skin roll and hung around hopefully. Amelia railed against raw fish and said you couldn’t beat a nice kipper. I took this to mean that she’s been rummaging around the fridge and had found the kippers I myself planned to have for lunch. While I cooked them for her (I had to give them to her, I’d never be able to forget it otherwise) Janey had a moan about her overprotective family – her mum Ivy is ringing her twice daily for updates - “I’ve started making stuff up now, just to get her off my back. Darren’s mum’s just as bad”. Lou, it seems is planning a tattoo in honour of her grandchild and is designing it herself. “Have you thought of names?” Amelia asked, as she upended a bottle of vinegar onto the poor kippers. All three dogs were salivating. “Cassia Scarlett James Anastasia, it’s a girl” Janey said. Amelia looked down her nose and burped delicately. “What are you having? A baby or a Z list celebrity?”
Things got worse. Janey wanted to abandon me and go and collect Mac from nursery. Amelia thought this was quite sweet but she wanted to go and collect Mac from nursery. I agreed that they were both very good ideas, bundled them both out of the door and attempted to get my breathing back to normal. They were back within five minutes having failed to find the nursery – Janey screeching “Remind me where it is again?” from the drivers seat of her new car. I clambered into the car with them and told her to go to the end of the road and turn round. “Nah, I’ll do a three point turn” she said, throwing her Focus here, there and everywhere. She hit the tree and didn’t even seem to notice. Mac was overjoyed to see his Granny and Cousin Janey and started to talk nineteen to the dozen to both of them, only stopping when Janey cut in front of a White Van Man and proceeded to yell abuse out of the window at him. “Can’t these people drive?” she asked me as she zoomed away from the lights with a squeal of brakes. We arrived home shaken and were deposited on the pavement before Janey zoomed off to have her nails done. It was at this point that I remembered I had no door keys with me.
I could describe the agony of ringing the doorbell of Jack Next Door, climbing over the fence, ripping my linen skirt on a rogue nail, opening up the back door only to be leapt on by several snarling hounds who thought I was a burglar, fighting them off and coming face to face with a disapproving Amelia who had been let in through the front door by my husband who had arrived to rescue me.
But I won’t.