Tuesday 14 July 2009

The all-conquering hero returns

It's been a lonely old week...last week. The boy has been away on Army Cadet Camp. I've got used to rattling around the ghostly corridors and returning to the bad eating habits of a singleton. But don't get me wrong, I ventured out for a couple of evenings with friends and some well-desreved (in my mind) me-time.

Some of his time was spent in the hills above Folkestone and some of the time was spent in France...exactly when he was on the continent and when he was in England I'm not really sure, but I worked on the basis that the army generally looks after its cadets pretty well so I didn't need to be worried.

Unfortunately he couldn't remember when he was returning home, and neither could I; I assumed it was Monday evening, but in the end it turned out to be mid-morning; not convenient for any working parent...and to add to the complication, I'd been called away to a meeting in Stockport, so it needed a few panicky calls to friends and neighbours ensured he wasn't left on the doorstep.

Whenever he's away I never hear a peep...no doubt I'm forgotten in the excitement of freedom, and I'm a great believer that it's good to have a holiday from each other. Some of the Mums think that's odd, and no doubt spent the week ringing their beloved offspring on a daily basis. On this occasion, I got a couple of messages...it would have been one message and one phone call, but I couldn't work out how to answer the phone as I previously mentioned...he rang to say he'd won a 'Best Cadet' Award which he was delighted with, and indeed so am I. So long as he doesn't let it go to his head and remembers that he's not allowed to follow a military career.

I've always said that my job is to get him successfully to the end of his education and then he is free to do whatever he likes. Obviously that's nonsense as I'm discovering, and I'll have to disinherit him if he becomes a soldier or a pimp, or anything else that I randomly decide is inappropriate.

His enthusiasm for encouraging me to share in his experience meant that I got to enjoy the delights of powdered white tea, chicken stock drink and chilli beef paste. Let me assure you here and now that if you're ever tempted by army rations, don't be. You're better off rumaging through the bin. Not that I'm not grateful for the opportunity of trying the experience. Thank you my boy. We also got to play with matches that once lit won't go out...just like those trick birthday candles...and these should come in handy when we next light the bbq.

He took with him a very large rucksack (Duke of Edinburgh approved, although I doubt the Duke himself would know one from a bagpipe) and a large sports bag. And I'm pleased to report he returned with both. I know he did, because they are both in the middle of the sitting room floor, with their contents liberally spewed around the room.

He has indeed returned the conquering hero, to re-conquer his home and shape it in the way he likes.

On the naughty step

A few weeks ago we had the pleasure of visiting the Temple of Consumerism. Lakeside shopping centre. This is, as I'm sure you will know, not as posh as Bluewater or even Westside, but it certainly makes up for quantity what it lacks in quality. I wish I could remember why we went there, but I just can't. I'm confident though that whatever we went for we must have got. For the simple reason that like Harrods, anything that can be bought, can be bought there. One of the things though that we didn't buy was a set of towels that I saw and rather fancied in House of Fraser. Not that I have some sort of strange fetish for towels, it's just that we need new towels because the ones we have are old verging on the vintage if not ancient. And we don't have many of them. So when we have guests, we're rooting round for something they can dry their hands on (lord help us if they stay over, shower and then need to dry their other bits). The boy didn't like these towels, so inspite of pleading like a five year old who's just gone into the sweet shop, I was told firmly they were awful and we couldn't have them. I sulked for ages, dragging my feet along as we walked round and round in ever decreasing circles. I didn't want to go there in the first place.

At this point I will go off on a little detour and admit that we do still have a beach towel acquired by Grandma in Cyprus with Green Shield stamps when I was half the size the boy is now; like the Turin Shroud it rarely comes out, and I'm hopeful that if we keep it long enough I may be able to do a turn on Antiques Roadshow, feigning surprise and modesty when it is revealed to be a priceless classic worth many quidzillions.

In the boy's absence over the last week, I became a little bored at the weekend and ended up wandering around Habitat, spying some towels remarkably similar to the HoF ones. But different, obviously. So like a naughty school boy I purchased them, hoping upon hope that all would be ok and I would get away with it.

At home I immediately put them on the towel rail, thinking that they might just sneak in unnoticed. I know you're supposed to wash them first, but that's so boring and I didn't want to get them wet. You'll be telling me next to wash my fruit before eating it next.

Sure enough, I was out when the boy sauntered through the front door and made his way to the bathroom. I got a message left on my mobile, "Not convinced by the towels. I told you not to get them, so I'm very annoyed."

My "Aren't I clever? Look what I've done and I'm so damned smart I've got away with it" feeling evaporated, knowing for certain I would be spending some long time sat on the naughty step.