Castle Pillock: No Place Like Home
Posted by airyfairy on Sun, 28 Jan 2018
Over Christmas, the Scion casually announced that he and Girlfriend had been talking babies.
I thought I coped rather well. He and I were in the kitchen at the time, making cups of tea for the assembled masses, and I didn’t drop the kettle and scream, ‘You can barely feed and clothe yourself, let alone a poor defenceless child!’. Instead I kept the boiling water within the parameters of the pot and said mildly, ‘Do you think that’s a good idea at the moment?’
‘Oh not right now. When she’s finished her PhD.’
Girlfriend is cleverer than the rest of us put together. When she first came on the scene, I had to congratulate the Scion on following that advice they always give you about applying for jobs: Go for the one you want, not the one you’re qualified for.
Girlfriend has only just started her PhD, so I decided it was safe to breathe again.
‘But we thought we might get a cat. When we move.’
The Scion and Girlfriend have sorted out a new place for April. A very nice new place, with no damp, views over the river, and a spare bedroom. And permission to have a cat.
Girlfriend is actually allergic to cats, but this doesn’t stop her loving them with a dedication and passion that even an old cat lady like me can’t hope to match. She’s always very kind to my two, who are proper Sally-from-the-alley mogs, but she was brought up with Maine Coons, beautiful fluffy American things with pedigrees. She is prepared to take antihistamines and any other medication necessary so that she can have a cat. Last time they looked, though, a baby definitely came in cheaper than a Maine Coon.
They’re both very excited about the new place. The flat belongs to one of Girlfriend’s colleagues, who is off to America for the foreseeable future, so they’ve got it at a cheaper rent and with no credit check. The Scion showed me the pictures. It’s beautifully furnished, the owner will get it professionally cleaned before they move in, and the Scion talks in knowledgeable terms about average bills and the Council Tax band.
‘It’s what we need,’ he said. ‘It’s more of a proper home.’
This time last year, they were just thrilled to get somewhere they could crash and have sex without worrying about housemates. I mean, that’s not what they said, but I was their age and looking for my own first flat, once. They’d both lived away from home for some time, but those places were always just places, not home.
It’s odd little things that catch your attention. The Scion was apparently wrestling with the microwave the other day.
‘What are you doing?’
‘Oh, I get it. I forgot. Yours is different from ours.’
I’ve had that microwave for a lot more years than I should. But now it’s ‘yours’ and the one in their place is ‘ours’.
‘Would you like a cup of tea now you’ve completed negotiations with the microwave?’
‘It’s after five o’clock. Have you got any green tea?’
‘You know damn well the only green thing I ever drink is Chartreuse.’
‘You ought to drink green tea. We always have green tea in the evenings.’
‘Well, Sainsbury’s Kenyan is the most sophisticated you’ll get here.’
‘I’ve forgotten. Which of these remotes is for the telly?’
I thought back to when I first started living with their father, umpety years ago. You arrive with your own assumptions about living, about food, about how often you change the sheets, about whether you chuck out the whole block of cheese or just chop off the mouldy bits. For quite a while it feels like playing grown-ups, and then suddenly it doesn’t. It’s life. And when you go to your mother’s, for a couple of hours or the weekend, her microwave doesn’t work the way yours does, and however glad you are to see her, it’s nice to get home to your own green tea.
And then you start talking babies, however far in the future.
I’m pleased and excited about the new flat for them. I’m delighted that the Scion has found someone lovely to share green tea with, and nothing would please me more than for it all to work out long term, with cats, offspring, or whatever. But still, I’m allowed a little pang that it’s no longer ‘the’ microwave, it’s ‘your’ microwave, and that the base line for normal home life is no longer what goes on in my house. I’m lucky, of course, that the Scion and Girlfriend can actually afford somewhere to live, and get the chance to establish their own life. I’m doubly lucky that they’re close enough for me to still be a small part of it. Girlfriend is Swedish, and it’s a lot more complicated for her parents.
And, of course, I’m lucky I still have the Princess, for whom my house is still home, even if only during uni vacations. And who never, ever forgets which remote is which. And who can operate two of them at once while Facetiming with one hand and Instagramming with the other.
I suppose one day I’ll look back on that with fondness, too.