I am incredibly lucky to have three of them still kicking about, and really do thank my lucky stars. My advice is to make the most of them while they’re still with you.
Grandma is now 90 but still full of beans – certainly potty, but compos mentis and wonderful. Dad offers her a drop of the cheapest table wine that money can buy in France. ‘Oh, the merest tot, just to be convivial,’ she says. You can see where I get it from, can’t you?
The electricity then cuts out. This soon sorts out the men from the boys; namby-pambys with microwaves would be doomed, forced out to the chip shop. Not so for the old Davies campaigners. A paraffin lamp happens to be nearby, and there is a good deal of wheeling up wicks, and talk of snuffers. Grandma sneaks off to the kitchen to for a quick cough and to grate some cheese, calling Dad’s mobile phone a ‘microwave’.
Father’s propensity in the cooking department is pretty much the same as mine but we’ve thought ahead. Aunty Gilly – another aunty who falls outside the label of ‘wicked’ – has left us a bolognaise sauce. Surely we can manage that?
I check Grandma hasn’t grated her fingers along with the parmesan, and ask how her piano playing is these days. Over the feedback in her earpiece, she interprets this as, ‘Where’s the telephone?’ Oh dear..
Back at the oven, a good deal of head-scratching ensues. Grandma turns on the gas well before Dad can bend down with a lighted match, which leaves us all shouting urgent, incoherent instructions at each other.
I think Dad is all too aware of that time when his hair actually caught fire while leaning over the Aga. It was priceless to see him dashing upstairs to the bathroom, actually ablaze.
So, even with a pre-prepared meal, it still takes three of us to conjure up something edible: one to hold the torch, one to get in the way, and one to cook. We take turns to hold the middle position.
Returning to my in-tray for a moment, there is a letter from that rascal Grandpa. Yes, there are a few of us left who still correspond by ‘snail mail’. It really is so much nicer to receive a penned account of goings-on in the Umbrian mountains rather than an email.
Actually, there’s little danger of electronic mail from that neck of the woods, because why does he need the internet? He has a fantastic life that would be ruined by those blasted pop-ups and pages ‘freezing’.
Anyway, he still manages to imbue in me a sense of literary inadequacy, and I, by return post, highlight the odd spelling mistake that he tries to mask with an increasingly illegible style of handwriting. This time he harangues me, with references to ‘Mind the Gaffe’, published by Penguin.
I tell you, a family get-together, with Mum and Grandpa, is just a laugh a minute: arguing the finer points of the gerund, that infamous verbal noun ending, over a lentil-based dish. Don’t most families watch the Eastenders omnibus?..
PS. I almost forgot that this is a rock n roll AC/DC blog so: we’re off to Dublin tonight. Guitars, trucks, noise, yeah..