I’ve spent the last five days in a storm-lashed caravan at the bottom of my parents’ garden. It’s given me time to think and read the papers (did you know one Indian village attacked another recently, believing them to have killed a cow for a feast? They were wrong, but three people died).
There have also been a few spells of mindless DIY (taking out double glazing – my mother prefers the potato sacks we’ve boarded up with). DIY is roughly how I communicate with my parents. If you drew a Venn Diagram around what we have in common, it would pretty much be DIY, gout and crisps.
For instance, I’ve realised my parents still don’t really know what it is I do. They know I make a website. They think it should be available on Ceefax (and therefore a Good Thing). They know the website is for a TV programme. But, sometimes, they seem to think I actually make the programme. “Why weren’t you on the National Television Awards last week?” demanded my mother.
Clearly, we have moved on from the days when merely working for the BBC was enough to make my parents proud.
I am not alone in the parental career confusion. A colleague, who edited the BBC’s Buffy website, was alarmed to discover his mother had assured the local hairdresser that her son produced the programme. The hairdresser was much impressed, and also hopeful that the end credits would soon include “Hair by Sparkles of Working”.
Of course, I kind of envy his relationship with his mother – she demanded to be taken to see the Firefly film recently. The only time I've ever been to the cinema with parents is when my dad took me to see my first ever film. Which was Condorman, if you're curious.
I guess parent-envy is part of growing older. Like flats, pets and jobs, I love what I have, but that doesn’t stop me from bouts of envy.
I envy mothers who ring up with saucy gossip from the Cistene Chapel where they’re sketching. I envy fathers who criticize their son-in-law’s joint-rolling. I envy a mother who starts offering relationship advice to gay pole dancers on nights out with their son. I even envy parents who leave their children hungover.
The set of parents I have though, are fantastic. Yes, I wish I could actually have a conversation with them. I yearn to be able to tell my mother that her fantastic cooking poisons me (I got busted with a bottle of PeptoBismol this time – fallout almost as bad as when I came out). I wish I could do something to win their approval beyond stripping the wallpaper in the downstairs loo.
But, it’s their grumpiness that I adore the most. Whenever the phrase “Push the red button” appears on TV my father repeats it, loudly and slowly. “Push. The. Red. Button.” It’s the same tone of disdain he uses for “Labour Government” and “Child Molester.”