As I get older I realise that there’s no such thing as “normal” – just varying degrees of “weird”.
Things got off to a bad start due to the normal miscommunication anyone with children will be very familiar with. It doesn’t get any better… get used to it. I’m 48 now, and my parents understand me no better today than when I was a teenager bristling with attitude and bad skin. I’d spoken briefly with my father over in Blighty on Friday and he’d said my mum was very keen to chat via Skype, as we hadn’t spoken for several weeks. (Now well into retirement, they make good use of their abundant free time and travel extensively around the UK and Europe.) This was also father-speak for “I’m uncomfortable speaking to you, male offspring, so I’ll leave that to your mother – and she’s not here right now.”
So anyway, I’d reminded him that BC is -8hrs from Yorkshire (well, 8 hours behind, and a few centuries ahead, all at the same time), and that if she really wanted to call me on Sunday, please make it after 4pm their time, which is 8am in BC. So anyway, at 8:15am the phone rang, and with bleary eyes I answered. My mum said she was surprised I’d wanted her to call so early, and wouldn’t it have been better to call a bit later?
“After 8am” had become “at 8am” somewhere along the way. No matter. I made arrangements to reconvene on Skype – keeping emigrant offspring connected to long-distance parents, the world over – and blundered my way downstairs to be regaled with tales of my sister’s exploits in Spain, and her concern at my nephew travelling to Italy with his girlfriend. (He’s almost 21 now, and she seemed to think he was in imminent danger of getting engaged.)
Mrs E rescued me from falling asleep by delivering me my morning tea at the PC. Morning tea – a ritual that, should it be missed, can result in near-fatal consequences for those around me. It’s not so much a mug of tea, as a small bucket. Anyway, once my mum had run out of things to tell me, and failed to ask me anything at all about events in BC, we hung up and my day began in earnest. Well, not really. I had some thick sliced toast and marmalade, got washed, shaved, and tried to look human, then watched a film (something I’ve not done in too long).
I had a tasty, but lingering Mexican bean salad for lunch (it’s the raw onion… overdone a little), and generally wasted my limited time on this spinning globe. After lunch, we offloaded half a garage worth of empty bottles and cans at the recycling, and went “barbecue shopping” on the proceeds.
This became quite stressful as Mrs E forgot the first cardinal rule, and considered it the same as normal shopping. Barbecue shopping is the sacred domain of the male of the species. It is when he pretends that he knows all about home economics, and good choices in nutrition. Or not. A wise woman will find her “happy place” and just let the moment pass. Mrs E, on the other hand questioned why I was looking at peppered goat’s cheese. I was merely interested in it as a product, with no particular interest in actually purchasing it, I might add. And then the blue touch-paper was lit: “It’s a bit expensive, isn’t it?” Despite the fact that I had no real interest in purchasing the goat’s cheese in the first place, this was breaking the second cardinal rule “barbecues are not a particularly cost-effective way of feeding a family of four (or five with an absentee student), so ignore all the price tags”.
Knowing that calm is often restored to my fetid mind by taking photos, I took my trusty Canon for a walk. Together we perused the neighbourhood. Its gardens, its shopping centre… and its cricket match. Yup… there was a full on Sunday league match in full swing. Oh – and a beach volley ball game.
Finally it was time to start the barbie, and the womenfolk had figured it was best just to keep out of the way, since sharp objects and flames were involved. Not a bad little spread really. Grilled veggies (red peppers, sliced portabello mushrooms [OK, not technically a vegetable], courgettes, red onion), steamed sweetcorn, burgers, bangers, Maui marinaded steak and chicken. Garlic bread of course, and ciabatta for stopping the meat burning your fingers.
The dog surprised me by asking most politely for a sweetcorn of her own, and I resisted alcohol preferring instead fizzy water with a few squirts of angostura bitters.
So I sit here now drinking “False Creek Raspberry Ale” from Granville Island Brewing Co., (having sworn that beer and fruit should never mix – don’t tell anyone I know… it’s actually quite passable at 4.5%), and listening to “Que de Vent” by “Les Cowboys Fringants” from Quebec.
Now tell me that’s not odd…