So, I've been in the country for ten days. Basically, rehab with pasties.
There's something about the fresh country air (or maybe it's the boredom) that puts you early to bed with barely half a bottle of Lidl plonk inside you.
I've hardly missed smoking - except when watching Poirot with the parents, which is such an orgy of chainsmoking that the effect on me is like the brainwashing scene in Clockwork Orange ("must... not... rape... Eleanor... Bron...").
My reasons for country living are many. For a start, I miss the folks. Then there's a couple of projects to finish off, plus the bonus that being at home for two weeks costs nothing, meaning that I can finally cross "economy drive" off my to-do list (No wonder rural dwellers are addicted to drugs and online poker - there is nothing else to spend it on apart from houses. More of which later).
Finally, of course, my parents REALLY miss the cat. I'm now incidental to their plans. "Oh, are you staying?" my mothers asks as I get through the door. The cat eyes me, smugly, allowing my mother to scoop it up while cooing "Who's mummy's best love? Youare-youare-youare!"
My parents are fascinated about every aspect of the cat in a way that makes me pray it wasn't like this when I was a toddler. They'll comb through her litter tray like it's an episode of Time Team ("ooh, a solid. Isn't she a good girl?").
It's endearingly crackers... only, it turns out my parents are busy being very ill. Naturally, they don't really tell me (as a family, we just don't speak of these things), but their decision to bide out their twilight years on a hill in the middle of nowhere is now threatened by Dad's cataracts and Mum's glaucoma. Legally, neither of them is supposed to be driving.
It's at times like this that I realise what a disappointment I am to them. I'm sure somewhere my Dad has a list (he likes lists) that goes:
- can't play cricket
- didn't join the scouts
- not a lawyer
- not a mason
- failed five driving tests
The fact that I can't drive and they aren't allowed to hasn't stopped us from embarking on a merciless regime of Mr Magoo-style day trips "while we still can". In the last fortnight I've had my fill of stately homes, gardens, and small market towns. My mother's ecstatic "ooh look at that view" now seems oddly poignant, which doesn't help.
We'll get back home with a final crunch of gears and last scrape of car against fence in the late afternoon. Hardly has the rear wheel bumped to a halt against the garage wall than my mother will rush indoors. Just as I have a list of failures, my mother has a list of successes. For the cat. It goes:
- it poos
- it sleeps
- it eats
- it purrs
- it snores
Clearly, after me, she set the bar very low indeed.