Coping without Hermione
Ding: 'The curry in fridge. Third shelf down. Behind stuffed olives.' How does she do it? Why does she do it?
Hermione has departed from the bosom of her adoring family to take a holiday without us on some blissful sub-tropical isle. The blessings of cheap air travel allow her to leave the dodgy Irish climate behind to spend a week in the sun with Her Majesty, the mother-in-law. She took off on vacation uttering a firm declaration of her intention to spend her every waking minute in Playa Los Ambrosios devoted to self-indulgent pleasure.
But before marching out the door without a backward glance, our commander-in-chief circulated a printed schedule of all activities due to take place during her absence. The list includes times and dates for all sporting fixtures (both training and matches) as well as for cultural engagements (one concert and two music lessons), plus a medical appointment (an assessment of my bothersome bunion). We who remain at home stand reminded that the bins need to be put out on a Tuesday night while the milkman is paid on Saturday mornings - without fail.
Appended to the schedule is a series of what I understood are called bullet points, comprising items to be checked daily to assist in the smooth running of the household. Bread - tick. Tea bags - tick. Dog litter - tick. Et cetera, et cetera - tick, tick.
Then there is the comprehensive list of phone numbers covering everyone from plumbers and drain un-blockers to the neighbour who has a spare key to the front door. Anyone who might conceivably be required to provide practical back-up or professional assistance is there, including the family solicitor. Which one of us is she most worried will be arrested, we are wondering.
As she trotted off to the airport, she had every reason to believe that all bases were covered and that her family had been given every support to help them survive while she is gone. But Hermione clearly believes no such thing. Why else does she have her phone switched on to send me these messages which keep popping up on my screen?
Ding: 'Clash of colours in match today. Eldrick needs yellow socks.' Cue a frantic search of the Manor for the yellow socks.
Ding: 'Hermione not practising her cello enough. Please assert parental control.' I confess to not even knowing that our daughter played cello.
Ding: 'Weather here perfect. Don't forget bunion consultation.' Thanks for that one, Hermione. I was so busy looking for yellow socks I nearly lost track of the time.
Eldrick is convinced that she has not gone away at all. He feels she is somehow disembodied and watching us all the time, tut-tutting to herself as the breakfast cereal bowls are allowed to sit unwashed all day in the sink or The Pooch goes un-walked.
It may seem like that but surely she cannot be aware of how we catered so very successfully for ourselves over the weekend. Full bellies and a richly varied diet were achieved by the simple ruse of dropping in to the homes of good friends just as dinner was in the offing. Sexist preconceptions about the incompetence of the Irish male when it comes to family catering are rampant among big-hearted Irish females. We ate like lords.
But Monday is not the day of the week on which to call in anywhere unannounced so we were thrown back on our own resources, humming and hawing over what to have for our evening meal. Then the dinger went ding once more, this time with the message pointing to the curry on the third shelf down. How did she achieve such perfect timing from a distance four hours on a commercial jetliner away? It was uncanny and ever so slightly un-nerving. We would probably never have found the curry because none of us likes stuffed olives, so they offer perfect camouflage.
Hermione is due back shortly from the Costa Del Bagabones. We know already what she will have to say about her little break. How she completely switched off for the week. How she relaxed from start to finish. How she was happy not to give a thought to matters domestic.
All fibs, of course.