David, Matthew and Mackenzie went off at sparrows cough this morning for what is fast becoming a tradition in our household: a round of golf on New Years Eve. Lydia arrived with pastries from Ayres at a slightly more civilised time and to continue where she left off on Christmas Day: refereeing between myself and Amelia. My mother in law, since she got little or no mileage out of picking up random objects and asking me if they should be where they are, has taken to harrumphing loudly and saying “well, if I’m in the way, just tell me!”. Oh, I can almost taste the words forming on my lips.
She’s here until Wednesday when Ginny is arriving to take her home with her for a couple of days. Ginny has the constitution of an ox and managed to completely ignore her mother all day on Christmas Day and much of Boxing Day – I’m thinking of asking her for lessons on how to do that. Lydia and I had just settled in for a good old natter at the kitchen table when the doorbell rang. “I’ll get it!” carolled Amelia, falling over Senior Dog in the hall “It’s only Margaret!”. Margaret?
“You go in there lovie, Margaret and I will be in here. Any chance of some tea or do I have to do everything myself?” Amelia’s voice really grates on me sometimes but my pithy retort was halted by the arrival of an angry looking lady of indeterminable age who plonked herself down at the table, pulled out a packet of B&H and waved them under my nose? “Do you mind?” she asked before lighting up and inhaling half the cigarette in one fell swoop. My answer academic, I asked the obvious question. “Erm, sorry, who are you? Sorry!” I wibbled as if I didn’t have the right to know who the hell was in my house.
It turns out that the angry lady inhaling lungfuls of tar at my kitchen table was Clare, daughter in law of Margaret Casey who was, at that very moment with my own mother in law, sharing horror stories of their Christmases with their respective families. Amelia and Margaret live opposite each other at the residential home in Sevenoaks and are firm friends. It turns out that Amelia, fed up of our company, had rang Margaret on her hefty chunky mobile phone and invited her over. Of course, Margaret had to enlist the help of her daughter in law to get here from Blackheath. And here they both were, one smoking her head off and the other waiting on a nice cup of tea and slice of Christmas cake.
“I’ll have this and I’ll be off. Pick her up about 1-ish, is that okay?” Clare lit up another cigarette and puffed on it with some restraint this time. A bellowing voice from the living room stopped us all in our tracks. “No, you’ll wait here for me, I shan’t be long. Once I’ve had my tea. Is it made yet?” Margaret had spoken. Lydia, obviously thinking along the same lines as me – get the tea made and them out – filled the kettle. “Erm……” I began as Clare stubbed out her cigarette and appeared to be doing some deep breathing exercises. “She’s. Driving. Me. Mad. !!!” she hissed as she exhaled.
Margaret certainly looked harmless enough when I took their tea in – a sweet little old lady in mauve twinset and comfortable brogues with corrugated white hair and a walking stick. But then, the same could be said for Amelia: someone who favours Tweed perfume, snazzy matching outfits, rollered and set silver hair and pudgy little cheeks. But I know that she’s a vicious old bag when the mood takes her so who am I to judge? “I’ve just been telling Margaret about my spa day!” Amelia enthused as I handed over the last of the Christmas cake (that I’d been planning to scoff tomorrow).
I’d struck gold with this years Christmas present. In fact, so good was it, she had literally nothing bad to say about it. But did manage to comment that it was a waste to wrap a plain white envelope with “gaudy shiny paper”. It’s a day for two people, at the local spa in Sevenoaks, with a whole host of deluxe pre-paid treatments. It cost well over a hundred quid but, oh, it was so worth it just to see her have to smile and graciously thank me. David played a blinder too by admitting it was nothing to do with him, and that it was all my idea. “I’m so looking forward to it!” Margaret beamed as she sunk her gnashers into my cake.
Margaret is, to the best of my knowledge, the third person Amelia has “promised” this little jaunt to. I already had words with her on Wednesday when I heard her invite Junie Ellison “I shall make my mind up who to take nearer the time” she had huffed. And now it seems her list has grown. Ah well, I’ve paid for two OAPs to be prodded and poked – any extra ones will have to divvy up on the day. I left them “surfing the interweb” as Amelia showed her the “email site”.
“She’s not on your computer is she?” Clare demanded as I returned to the kitchen. Lydia looked quite scared and was clutching her mug of tea as protection. “Honestly, she’s just taken an internet course and she’s never off the bloody thing. She Google’d something the other day and a load of porn sites came up – I can’t get my Harvey off the sodding thing now. But then he’s at that funny age.”
Still. Things calmed down a bit after that. More tea was made and we heard all about Clare’s Christmas with her MIL. Harvey, her fifteen year old son, was castigated on Christmas Day for dressing “all in black, I suppose you’re one of those Toff’s”. She of course meant Goth, which he is. On Boxing Day he appeared in black jeans and a fluorescent pink T-shirt by way of protest and was accused of “going queer overnight”. As it seemed best to just let Clare ramble on, Lydia and I were fairly redundant but for making tea and providing things for our guests to shovel into their mouths. Lydia gestured that it was coming up to 12noon and that the quiche (a posh Quiche Lorraine) needed to go in the oven. I gestured in no uncertain terms that I was not going to share it with our (unwelcome) visitors and Lydia choked on her tea. Still Clare was ranting. “And it’s not as if I can offload her on the second. She’s here until the 11th – it’s her birthday on the fifth, Harvey’s on the eighth and the anniversary of her husband carking it on the tenth and we’ve all got to go and stand round a bench in the crem. Poor old sod, bet he’s having a whale of a time up there without her.”
We were interrupted by Margaret and Amelia, both flushed and looking guilty. Before I could ask them what the hell they had just Google’d, Margaret clapped her hands together. “Now then!” she said in a piercing voice. “We’re going to Dublin!” Amelia burst out, slapping a hand over her mouth and all but bouncing up and down on the spot. “Dublin?” I said, at the same time as Clare said “When?”.
It transpires that our intrepid mother in laws had found, booked and paid for both flights and accommodation in the time it took us to meander through The Casey Christmas Day Extravaganza (roughly 50 minutes). “What made you suddenly decide to go to Dublin?” Lydia asked as she seemed to be the only one with the power of speech. “It’s not just you young ones that have whims you know, we just decided!” Amelia said, tapping her curls to make sure they hadn’t slipped out of place in all the excitement. “We fly out on the 28th and get back in on the 1st!” Margaret added. “I’ve always wanted to go to Dublin.” Amelia said wistfully as she escorted Margaret out to look for her bag and coat. “Are you going to sit around all day drinking tea or are you going to take me home?” Margaret barked at Clare from the front door. Clare, who was mid muffin and completely unconcerned that her mother in law had booked an Irish mini break, uttered a swear word and stomped out without so much as a thank you.
Our visitors left in a flurry of bickering leaving Amelia giddy with excitement and reaching for her phone to advise all and sundry of her impending trip, me baffled and Lydia putting the quiche in the oven in a dazed fashion. What the hell is David going to say about his 74 year old mother heading over to the Emerald Isle. And do the good people of Dublin’s Fair City know what they’re letting themselves in for?
Happy New Year!!!!