Jonathan Dodd‘s latest column. Guest opinion articles do not necessarily reflect the views of the publication. Ed
We’ve had visitors. The usual end-of-summer long-weekend stay by various young persons making their ways in the world and coming home to roost for a few days before the weather turns and various commitments start in earnest again.
They’ve gone, two who stayed for a few days and one who came for the day. It was great, but utterly exhausting. The house looks like an explosion in a fast-food store, there are enough aluminium cans to build an aeroplane, the sofa cushions look like they’ll never regain anything like their previous shape, there are drifts of sweet wrappers just out of foot-range from the sofa in areas of the living room, and every kind of food that could be carried has been consumed.
They played with their phones and talked constantly
We’ve endured watching such movie classics as ‘Olympus Has Fallen’, while both of them played with their phones and talked constantly all the way through and then asked questions like – ‘Who was that? I haven’t seen him before!’ I was reminded of my mother, bless her, who was never able to hold a plot, especially whilst knitting. She would pipe up with occasional gems like – ‘Is he a goodie or a baddie?’.
I’m also reminded of my father, bless him. When I was young and living at home he used to burst into the living room where I was listening to music, and invariably say – ‘What’s this rubbish?’ Nowadays I have very catholic tastes in music, ranging from all over the world and many different eras. If I happen to be listening to something any of my children might come into the room and shout – ‘What’s this awful noise?’ Somehow I seem to have got the sharp end of both sticks.
Butter rolled in crumbs
We played Pirate Golf in the rain and ate out far too often, and the poor old car wheezed around the Island with five bodies squashed in it. There were unmade temporary beds everywhere, piles of damp towels on the bathroom floor, toast-crumb-sprinkled butter and jam smears on the kitchen worktops, and the butter looked like it had been rolled in crumbs.
We’ve just discovered all the fresh food out of date and at the back of the fridge but there isn’t a biscuit or uneaten bag of crisps anywhere. There’ll be plaintive phone calls soon, asking desperately for missing items, usually door keys or wallets left behind, but never mobile phones, funnily enough. And odd socks or even worse will turn up inside or under or behind pieces of furniture for months.
‘It wasn’t me!’
Worst of all, my television and DVD settings are shot. Somehow the remotes have been made to do an impossible thing. The volume on the surround-sound speakers has disappeared. They don’t make a sound. All the volume is coming from the television. But if I turn off the DVD player the television sound dies as well. The separate boxes were supposed to work instantaneously and blissfully together but it’s a nightmare getting everything set up and turned on properly, and it’s going to be a couple of weeks before I get it right again.
When I asked how on earth this feat was managed, all I got was – ‘It wasn’t me!’ I do know I shouldn’t shout, and I don’t ever really, but I did on this occasion. I don’t mind if someone messes up and apologises, but the denial thing is just so obviously flagrant and soaked in the essence of adolescence.
Usually late adolescence
I never understood why this sort of thing always happens. But I’ve realised that probably all so-called children do this. When they revisit their parental home, no matter how old or successful or independent they are, they all seem to revert to exactly the way they were just before they left that home – usually late adolescence. They stop getting up in the morning and become incapable of cooking or washing or being polite or shopping or paying for anything.
I have to say right here and now that I can remember vividly doing exactly this same thing to my parents for years and years. Sorry Mum and Dad. I assume they felt exactly the same about me, so perhaps it’s normal.
Perhaps perversely, we enjoy their visits
I expect we’ll spend some time getting the house back together and resetting the electronic equipment and then we’ll look forward to having them again, because, perhaps perversely, we enjoy their visits. For my part I like their company for short periods, although I can’t explain why. I also become filled with gratitude that all that is now behind me except for brief reminders when they visit.
And I’m also comforted by the idea that one day they might have children of their own, who will grow up and leave home and then return for visits themselves.
If you have been, thank you for reading this.