Friday, 2 June 2006

Home Alone

A Norfolk couple went on holiday, leaving their teenage son in charge at home. Unfortunately the house blew up. Oh dear. It was an accident, just one of those things and, as they said, no one was hurt.

Dilly and I were talking about our teenage years, when our trusting parents deemed us responsible enough to be left Home Alone. She had overheard a 13-year-old pupil boasting that his mum was going away for a long weekend and he had the house to himself. We hoped this was mere bragging and that in fact a neighbour would be keeping an eye on him at least, but if not, goodness she’s asking for trouble. Does she expect to come home to intact furniture and a single bottle of booze left in the cupboard?

When I was 15, my parents and sister decided to go to Scotland for an Easter holiday. Virtuously, I announced that I couldn’t possibly have a holiday; I would be too busy revising for my GCE O Levels. I was, I’m sure, insufferably smug about my self-sacrifice and studiousness, but I did have a more considerate streak in me, as I didn’t make anything of the fact (immediately apparent to me, as even then I worried a couple of jumps ahead of everyone else) that someone really needed to be at home to look after our seven dogs*. Yup, seven, no wonder we all sat on the floor; the dogs had all the best chairs.

I did study, in my own special way – really work hard on the subjects I liked and wing it on those I didn’t. I cooked proper meals, with vegetables. I walked the dogs – 4 on leads, 3 off and looked after them sensibly. My mother thought I might be nervous on my own so arranged for a neighbour to sleep in (I thought this was babying me somewhat but I didn’t demur as there was no point). After they had left they realised they had left me no money at all and a day later I received the first and only handwritten letter I ever received from my father

“Dear Z.
Herewith cheque for £5 which you can ask J.B. to cash for you.
Yours sincerely
M……... E. H………..”

Darling daddy, he didn’t really write personal letters!

It didn’t occur to me to have friends round, to drink or to throw a party. Now, I feel I was just a bit inadequate. Friends of mine went away last year, leaving their 16-year-old alone for one night only – she had been staying with someone reliable most of the time. Daughter invited her mates round for a bit of a bash. Now, my friends, M & N, had warned daughter O that she was not to consider a party. Not that they didn’t trust her, dah-de-dah-de-dah, but because of the danger of gatecrashers.

They arrived home to stained carpets and a fridge door hanging off its hinges. And black bin bags hidden in the garden, full of empties. I think it was the inadequately hidden debris that really upset them, the girl hadn’t even done a good cover-up and they had thought more of her intelligence. They had to buy new hall carpet and fridge and I don’t know if the whole incident is entirely forgiven, I don’t want to ask.

I relayed the tale of Me and the tale of O to Dilly. “My parents went on holiday when I was 16, they left me and sister P, aged 15, at home alone. The first thing we did was to cook a Sunday roast. We’d never been allowed to do it ourselves and we were really excited about it. It was roast chicken, it was really tasty.”

*Of course you will want to know more about the seven dogs. They were: Simon (Oulton Broad mongrel, incorrigibly randy, assuredly he still has many descendants. Huckleberry, Simon's son, beautiful golden retriever lookalike, sweetest natured dog I have ever known. My next dog will be called Huckleberry. Susie, a black labrador cross and my dog, she became hugely fat but was lovely and lived to 16. Jessica Gee, a border collie type, very needy and loving, to an irritating extent; she was a sweet dog but it wasn't possible to love her as much as she craved; she was also long-lived and survived to 17. Muldoon, Cleopatra and Nefertiti, siblings, offsprings of Simon and Susie. Muldoon was golden lab-ish with spots and he and my mother adored each other. Cleo was black and gentle and Nefi was black and playfully pugnacious; she put her head down and burrowed into you, we called her Battling Joe Frazier, who boxed rather like that.


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