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Monday, February 21, 2011

Disappointed Dad

In preparation for Dad coming to stay I wish I could say that I cleaned the house from top to bottom but of course I didn’t – I just paid a Polish person to do it for me.

Point being, Dad was coming to stay and in arriving to a clean house, I wanted him to come to the conclusion that this was how I lived my life – clean and tidy. Therefore he could only conclude that I’m a successful offspring and he can be proud.

But he hadn’t been with us a day when I realised that if I really wanted to give my father the impression my life was sorted and he need not worry about me, I shouldn’t have cleaned the flat, I should have double checked every tool he’d ever given me was lined up in alphabetical order in the toolbox he also gave me and that the toolbox he gave me was under no circumstances gathering dust at the back of a hard to reach cupboard.

By day two, Dad was standing in the sitting room trying to Fix Something – one of the many things Dad noticed was broken but I had not. ‘Where’s the spanner?’ he asked, rummaging the toolbox. ‘Where’s the multimeter?’ he asked, getting more frustrated.

‘Oh Kim’ he said wearily, in a tone of voice which screams disappointment in who I’ve turned out to be. ‘You knew I was coming. Why didn’t you make sure you had all your tools in order?’

Oh dear. I am a tool. I didn’t think! I didn’t think Dad would be testing me on the knowledge of the many tools he has insisted on buying me over the years. I tried to divert his attention, show him my tidy kitchen, but alas he was determined to install a new airing cupboard complete with dehumidifier and hanging rail and he would not rest until installation was complete.

The multimeter, of course, had been untouched since he gave it to me in about 1997. I was never quite sure what it was for but just knew I should keep it handy because he’d placed so much importance on my ownership of said device. Apparently it was an essential addition to my toolkit.

Multimeters test batteries and fuses for life, by the way. They look like this little fella.

As a girl currently captivated by the determination to master ‘Casualty – the theme tune’  on my shiny new piano, I don’t have time to check the life in my fuses. The time or the inclination, I might add.

But I knew Dad was coming to stay and I should have at least pretended I use all the tools he gave me and am constantly rewiring the house, just because I can. (I can’t.) At least then Dad would think I’m the wonderful daughter that I’m not and would bestow upon me the great praise in my abilities I’m always seeking and constantly being denied.

The multimeter was not in the toolbox. After much searching, it was found in Gareth’s man drawer. Dad was hugely disappointed to see that we had long since robbed the battery from the back of the battery tester and it was therefore redundant.

After a few trips to B and Q, my toolbox was up to scratch. Multimeter had battery. Dad was once again being led to believe I could tell my earth from my live wire.

The funny thing is that I’m so keen for him to think I have an engineer’s brain, like his – that I’m also a maths whizz and really keen on physics and how my house is put together. And yet that’s not me. My house works – bonus. If my house breaks, I’ll call someone out to fix it. Apparently letting dad know that I’m never going to take apart a toaster just to see what makes it toast would be like telling him that I’ve quit my job and am going on the game.

Actually, he probably wouldn’t mind that nearly as much. As long as I did my own accounts and didn’t expect a pimp to rewire my brothel.

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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Time to be on time.

The thing about having a parent come to stay is that you realise just where all your tics and delightful mannerisms (eccentricities and annoying habits) come from.

I like to be on time. Left to my own devices, I will always be on time, if not early.

Now that I have Gareth dragging me down, I am often even as much as seven minutes late. And when I am, my friends, it’s not a pretty sight.

When, as a result of Gareth’s more relaxed attitude to punctuality, I can foresee that I will be late for something, an anxious cloud of fear starts swirling in my chest. I can actually feel it. My palms start sweating. I develop palpitations. I get grumpy. Monosyllabic.

Then, I go and wait at the bottom of the stairs for him. It’s the best place for me, I have decided. It shows I am ready, I am not the one holding us up, and hopefully encourages him to get a bloody move on.

But Gareth has taken to likening me to a dog that knows it’s about to get walked. You show it the lead and it bounds over to the front door, waiting dutifully for its master to let it out into the world.

Ha ha, Gareth. Ha ha.

He can mock me if he wants, but I get the last laugh because I arrive on time to stuff. I’m punctual. Punctuality is a good thing.

So we’ve had Dad to stay for a week.

And watching him go to wait at the bottom of the stairs as we prepare to leave the house, it suddenly hit me. A) it’s quite annoying and B) he is why I’m so terrified of tardiness.

Childhood memories came flooding back.

Dad would shout: ‘THREE MINUTES” at me three minutes before he wanted to leave anywhere, then go and sit in the car.

I learned not just to tell the time like most really clever five year olds, but one better. I learned military time. ‘We’ll be there at 1500 hours.’ Dad would say. And we always were. If not earlier.

It’s not all his fault. I also went to boarding school – an institution so strict that a deafening bell would chime every five minutes to remind you where you were supposed to be. If you weren’t in the right place, you were in trouble.

Now, my 7am alarm goes off. One second later I’m up and the 100M sprint that is my day begins. I have to be in the shower by 07.10 and at my desk by 07.30 or else the whole world will come to a devastating end. Presumably.

Gareth, on the other hand, gives the snooze button a jolly good seeing to before rising when he feels like it.

Those palpitations I mentioned earlier would sky rocket if I dared stay in bed a minute past 7am. I mean, can you imagine what would happen? Crikey, it doesn’t bear thinking about. Sometimes Gareth tries to pin me to the bed just to see what will happen. I sometimes wonder if I might spontaneously combust from the nervous energy that generates as the fear of lateness sets in.

So should I change, I ask myself? Of course it’s not very nice for Gareth when he’s trying to make himself look beautiful before we go out for an evening and I’m stomping around getting frustrated in prelude to being late.

Or maybe Gareth should change. Maybe when we’ve planned to leave the house at 7pm, he should get in the shower a little earlier than 6.55pm.

I suppose you’re thinking we should both compromise. You’re probably right. As long as the compromise we come to gets us there on time.

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