Friday: Sam and I did what Sam and I like doing best, we went to an auction. Sam learnt about lustre, what a button hook was and we argued about a dear littler cruet with wobbly parrots – No granny, they are fish. Sam is developing a good eye. He picks up pieces of pottery, looks for a mark then scans it on his blackberry, he’s already streaks ahead of me. Even the way he picks something up shows an affinity I can’t match.
But that was Friday, gateway to the weekend. Emily had invited an old friend with partner – in our days we called them lovers. Then Grandpa James invites himself, hurragh, he doesn’t come north that often but the beds have run out so its sofas for the boys.
Saturday: An assignation, Sam and I want to go to the car boot sale and compare prices with what we saw at the auction. He’s to ring me after 8.30. At 8.31 he’s on the blower. I arrive as the guests and family are sharing chairs for breakfast, Sam eager to be off. Ollie, his younger brother wants to come too, of course, why not? Grandpa James generously hands out funding and off we go. I try to steer the boys past rubbish but what is crap to me is ‘Come and get me’ to Ollie who darts back at intervals bearing rugby DVD’s and a paper knife to torment his little brother. Sam is careful, he pauses, picks up delicately, spies a medallion complete with initials, are they Latin? It’s worth 50p. Then he sees some flies for fishing – he’s hooked.
I don’t have 21 Grandchildren for nothing. Fleur appears at the car boot sale, flustered, mirth written all over her face, guess what? The dogs have eaten the hamster. Now Fleur also has a house full to over flowing. My oldest daughter is staying chez Fleur’s, with grandchild Daisy, number 19, two dogs and a hamster. Three out of four of her own boys are also home. Before Louise wakes up Fleur is looking for a Hamster and hopes to swap them before anyone notices. Disaster the pet shop does not sell pets. Help! Unknowingly, Grandpa James hopes for a little more peace and quiet and drives over to the chaos.
Daisy, quite justifiably is not amused at having her hamster munched. Louise has woken up and she and Fleur are explaining that the hamster felt nothing. Just a quick gulp. It’s a shaky argument I know. Grandpa James comes to the rescue. A posse sally forth to the market town and look for a real pet shop. And tea at Betty’s of course. Cream cakes, sandwiches and tea help on all occasions. Even Daisy is mollified.
Sunday, Fleur is having about 15 of us to lunch, I’m doing the pudding. We are using the tent as there isn’t room in the house, chairs might be a problem. Is this a typical weekend? Yes, and I love it. I adore my family, my ex, all the dogs, I love to see the higglety pigglety improvisation that’s involved and I am so glad I’ve had six kids even if none of us has a house big enough. Unlike friends, families come in all shapes and sizes, irritations abound, but like a good crossword, finally it all falls into shape.
continued! No, I’m wrong, the bloody hamster wasn’t eaten by the dogs, Cocoa, Dillon, Otis, Gemma or Spice. It escaped their clutches, or teeth if you prefer it, and escaped behind a large cupboard in the boot room. It emerged, hungry and confused in the middle of our family lunch. Now we have Betty, named after the ubiquitous Betty’s of Yorkshire, and Toffee. Sam’s blackberry is quite firm, hamsters are loners, they fight to the death or have 10 babies every few weeks. A laundry basket is turned into an cage, the wretched animal is fed. The adults all say not us, the under tens all say yes and I suddenly realise I have forgotten the pud. I dash back to the bungalow and grab the ingredients, Luckily Eton mess doesn’t require much finesse. All 15 of us sit back in our seats, Meringues and cream are passed round, until someone drops the bowl. The mess hits the floor with the texture of a cow pat, the dogs stop gazing at the hamster and lick up the mess.
Another family weekend is drawing to a close, the washing up kinds of happens, people slough off taking their wretched dogs with them, there’s a good film on telly, I am booted out back to the bungalow and a good post lunch siesta, and life resumes.