Nice lazy weekend with Lily after all that jobhunting. I am at the computer, still in my nightie and Lily’s pink fluffy dressing gown with the sleeves up to my elbows, which I put on to make her laugh after finding it on the bathroom floor. She’s playing Rhapsody in Blue on the saxophone. I’m so hungry that I can’t make a decision – do I wash my hair? Get dressed? Take Dusty for a walk? Finish downloading photos and answering unanswered emails? Make breakfast? I settle for making lunch.
‘I don’t like this salad with those things in it,’ says Lily. ‘It’s too fishy.’
‘But they’re those little anchovies that you normally love.’
‘Did you put them in the plastic thingy?’
‘What do you mean?’
‘Usually you have to put them in that plastic thingy with the lid yourself.’
She’s so fly. I know what she’s getting at. Are they fresh is what she’s getting at, or did you pick some manky old ready-packed ones? ’No,’ I say crisply, ‘they came already in the plastic thingy.’
There’s a pause while I eat and she picks.
‘You normally like them,’ I add.
‘Well I don’t like these. They’re too fishy.’
‘Well take them out and eat the rest of the salad.’
She glances up and catches me with baby leaf stalks sprouting out of my mouth like whiskers. ‘Mum!’ exclaims Lily. ‘Don’t put so much food in your mouth! Hypocrite.’
She has recently become the police, fighting back against hypocrisy, corruption and lawlessness in the home.
‘Mum! Look where you’re putting your feet!’ she said to me this morning as I tripped over the computer cable while looking at the iPhone as I walked to the window where I could get reception. ‘Hypocrite!’
You must get an early night, tonight, I said to Lily yesterday as we drove home from Waitrose.
‘Mum! You must go to bed early and not stay up till 3am watching television!’ she retorted, her eyes wild and laughing. ‘Hypocrite!’
I separate the salad from the fish. The trouble is, she’s always right. These are not only ready-packed anchovies. These are old anchovies. They were clearly end of batch, shovelled into cartons and reduced. Plus they’ve been in the fridge since last week. I thought they’d last because they’re practically pickled, but they taste chewy and acidic. I put the rejects in a bowl for Dusty, who laps them up.
‘There. Dusty doesn’t think they’re too fishy.’
‘She’s a dog!’ says Lily scornfully.
I am sitting in the empty bath, washing my hair under the rubber hose, when the nozzle flies off the hot tap and boiling water pours on my foot. I shriek.
‘What?’ calls Lily from the kitchen. She has taken over the housekeeping and is making chilli con carne for supper.
‘I just burned my foot.’
‘Oooh,’ Lily sucks in her breath sympathetically.
As I dry myself I spot the loo roll, soaking wet, clearly sprayed by Lily when she washed her hair earlier.
I march into the kitchen swathed in towels. ‘I hate it when the loo roll gets wet!’ I accuse, plonking the offending item on the Rayburn.
‘So, it’s 4 o’clock and you’ve finally decided to get up,’ remarks Lily, lifting the Le Creuset lid to stir the chilli.
‘Don’t be mean.’
‘I’m only saying!’
It’s all Gitface’s fault. If he’d stayed and acted like a proper father, Lily would have been a child. Instead she’s my sibling rival. As well as my other half. I read it all online today in an article about SPOCs. Single Parent Only Child. It’s apparently typical for SPOC parents and children to bicker like siblings. It’s also typical for adult-child boundaries to become blurred and SPOC children to think they’re on a level with their parents.
Lily interrupts my thought processes. ‘Mummy! You’re delaying Dusty’s walk.’
Did it mention SPOC children actually taking over the parenting?
Ah. It’s good to be out. Spring really seems to have sprung. Everything is humming with summeriness, with that haze hanging over the earth, even though it’s bloody cold. The fields are golden green and the sky is a sparkling blue and there are dear little pink piglets and the most darling, spindly-legged newborn lambs frolicking across the field. Two early swallows dart down the track at ankle height, flit into the air as they reach me, then swoop down to continue their low-level reconnaissance. What a delightful time of year to be in the country!
Bloody hell! The irritating thing about being in the country is these bloody tractors who come up here at a rate of knots.
Why does Dusty keep stopping? What is her problem? She’s never done a refusal before. Come on Dusty! Maybe it’s because I’m talking to myself. She thinks I’ve turned into a witch or something.
I make it to the top of the hill before Lily flits into my mind. I left her in charge of a Le Creuset. What if she puts it in the oven, then takes it out of the oven, then forgets it’s been in the oven, picks up the cast-iron lid with her bare hand, drops it on her foot and is now standing there with third-degree burns and a broken toe?
‘Come on Dusty,’ I turn and jog down the hill. The pigs stop to stare at me.
Lily looks up from the sofa where she is watching Calamity Jane. I glance at the Rayburn. The Le Creuset is on the simmering plate. No burning smells or lid bouncing and hissing.
‘Have you checked it’s not burning?’ I ask.
‘Yes,’ she says, getting up calmly to check again. ‘Fine,’ she says replacing the lid and returning to her relaxation station.
Everyone I know is calm, cool, collected, guilt-free. I, however, am like a swallow, flitting hither and thither, achieving nothing but a massive guilt complex.