Next ad break
Eldrick's epitaph is already composed: 'Next ad break'...
We all have our signature phrases, of course. As she attempts to lick the shirkers with whom she shares her home into shape, fair, fragrant Hermione's most used expression is 'Do you want to…..'.
Believe me, you won't want to. Whenever she catches the eye and comes out with the dread four word sequence, then stand by to be assigned a task which was the furthest thing from your mind.
'Do you want to hang out the laundry?' The question mark is deployed out of respect for good grammar but this is not a question. It is an order. Though it comes disguised as a polite query, it has the force of a benign imperial decree. You (whoever you may be) would much prefer to continue reading the newspaper or simply staring into space. Yet you soon find yourself grappling with the collapsible clothes' horse and riffling through other people's knickers.
'Do you want to mow the grass?' Mowing the grass may be your idea of hell. You may have notions of growing a crop of hay rather than keeping the lawn close cut. You may have ideological grounds to oppose the burning of fossil fuels for the sake of mere ornamental landscaping. Never mind, you will still put in your shift on the mower. Hermione has spoken.
Young Persephone does her best to dodge the workload by simply not being to hand whenever the tasks are being assigned and the call echoes around the corridors of Medders Manor:
'Do you want to help pluck the chicken?' No reply.
'Persephone! Do you want to help pluck the chicken?' Still no sign of her.
'Persephone! Do you want to help me pluck the chicken, please?' Please? Never was the word uttered with such menace.
Eventually, the reluctant chicken plucker is run to earth in a state of trance reading Victorian poetry in the conservatory or scattering rose petals around her bedroom where she insists that she never heard the call to arms.
Selective deafness having failed, Persephone's second line of defence is an attempt to pour scorn on the chore in prospect. She declares herself allergic to feathers. She passes on apocalyptic warnings of salmonella, botulism and Burmese bird flu picked up during a domestic hygiene session in home economics class. She reveals that she has become a vegetarian overnight and insists that any attempt to have her handle dead animals is a breach of human rights.
Hermione replies by telling her that she is now too old for Childline and the United Nations is too busy trying to sort out the Middle East to take any interest in her plight. The alleged vegetarian is soon to be found in the kitchen discussing recipes for chicken casserole with her maternal oppressor over the carcase of the unfortunate poultry.
The only one occasionally capable of deflecting Hermione is Eldrick. He has cultivated a knack of allowing the summonses issued by the mistress of the Manor pass over his head. The trick, apparently, is not to ignore but rather to deflect.
'Do you want to come and dead-head the roses?' Hermione pokes her head around the door of the living room where her first born is watching television.
'Uh! Yeah! Whah?' is the mumbled reply, his eyes never leaving the TV screen.
'Do you want to come and dead-head the roses? I'll teach you how.' She waves a pair of clippers from the doorway.
'Sounds good, Ma.' The gaze remains unwaveringly locked on some ancient episode of 'Only Fools' or 'The Simpsons' being regurgitated on a satellite daytime channel for the specific benefit of those who would rather not dead-head roses or clear out garages.
'Now would be good,' suggests Hermione in an attempt to assert authority. So he turns to his tormentor and gives her a wink: 'Next ad break' before resuming his telly vigil.
And she falls for it every time, pottering off to attend to the roses on her own. If she happens to notice that the apprentice dead header has not turned up, then she will find that he has switched to the BBC.
Where they don't do ad breaks.