Oh for the single life

By David Medcalf

Published 27/02/2016 | 00:00

David Medcalf
David Medcalf

Hermione is running late for an early morning meeting. Eldrick has mislaid his gum-shield.

And if young Persephone does not make her packed lunch, then she will likely faint from starvation some time in the middle of double maths. The cat is meowing hideously at the window because she has been excluded from the house, while the Pooch is furiously demanding to be allowed out the door. Such is the bedlam of competing demands and desires which turns up the heat under daily family life. Meanwhile, I just want an uninterrupted run at my bowl of porridge. Peaceful enjoyment of breakfast is not much to ask, surely?

Hermione is simultaneously texting and drinking tea while also seeking approval from all present for the dress she has selected to wear during the imminent confab with influential colleagues. Eldrick is rummaging rowdily through the recycling bin in his search for the missing piece of plastic, tipping the contents out on to the floor in the process. Young Persephone has spattered egg mayonnaise on her school skirt and is loudly proclaiming that she cannot possibly go to school in a dirty uniform. The cat has knocked over a plant pot while the Pooch is chewing on an envelope just delivered by the postwoman, which appears to come from the Revenue Commissioners. I jump up and leave the porridge to congeal, going to the rescue of the tax demand.

It is at times like this that yearning for a return to a single life bubbles into the sub-conscious. Oh, to have the time to finish the crossword. Oh, to be blessed solitude for full appreciation of the radio news. Oh, to have uncontested use of the toaster, with no queue for the bathroom and no squabble over whose turn it is to wash the dishes... And then suddenly, they are gone,

The lot of them vanished from Medders Manor the other day, summoned by Her Majesty (the mother-in-law) to a week-long clan gathering which I am unable to attend. Even the cat disappeared, tail swishing in undisguised contempt as she tip-toed off into the undergrowth. Only the Pooch remains to provide some small measure of companionship.

The quiet, the absolute calm, the peace that passeth all understanding. There are no sounds but the chirping of the birds and the occasional distant (very distant) hooting of car horns. The time has come to catch up on long overlooked chores, to read the paper from cover to cover, to watch the accumulated recordings of 'Match of the Day'. But none of it has happened.

Nothing catches my eye in the paper, apart from the death notices, of course, while the part of the brain reserved for the crossword has shrivelled and all but died during years of under-use. Let's call it anagramnesia. Somehow I cannot persuade myself to tidy the potting shed when there is no one around to admire my industry. I scratch listlessly at one of the potato beds with the spade but never quite complete the job. The only task that raises a sweat is the sawing of some timber needed to feed the stove as a matter of immediate urgency.

Yet somehow the house is never as warm as it is when the gang is here. Indeed, away from a limited hot-spot immediately beside the stove, the Manor is perishing. This bulletin is being written on a Thursday, when I find that I am still wearing Tuesday's shirt, under Wednesday's shirt, under today's shirt, all concealed beneath two jumpers and a hoodie - with the hood up. I wear socks in bed.

It is obviously not worthwhile turning on a whole oven to prepare a meal for a mere one. Accordingly, dinner comes from a tin or the frying pan. The Pooch is pining and refuses to go on the long walks which would offer a refuge from the tedium of enforced solitude. The thought never occurs to head off without him - where would be the point?

I find myself increasingly disoriented, going to bed under a mountain of blankets at seven in the evenings and then rising to wander the eerily unoccupied corridors at four in the mornings. Meanwhile, it turns out that young Persephone is the only member of the family who knows how to work the zapper for the TV recorder, so the long postponed delights of Southampton's victory over Manchester United remain as a closed book to me.

Be very careful what you oh for.

Wexford People

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