At 8.00am on Saturday I was in the kitchen cooking bacon, when Lara strolled in. I looked at the clock in mock-shock and opened my mouth wide. Normally we don’t see her until lunchtime at the weekend. She slammed a magazine down on the kitchen table and pointed to the headline. ‘Have you seen this?’ she growled, as though I was the subject of the article.
I picked up the magazine. ‘Polar bears in trouble as ice pack melts.’ I read.
‘It’s sad isn’t it?’ I sympathised.
‘It’s not sad, it’s disgusting, that’s what it is.’ Lara flicked through a couple of pages and pointed to another article. ‘Whaling,’ she continued. ‘Aren’t you ashamed? The fleets catch more and more each year, soon there’ll be none left.’
‘Whaling is bad too,’ I agreed.
Lara fixed me with a glare. ‘It’s your fault.’
‘My fault? Why is ...’
‘Your generation’s fault then. You allowed it to happen on your watch. You’ve
sat back and done nothing for years, now it’s probably too late.’
sat back and done nothing for years, now it’s probably too late.’
‘That’s not really fair, Lara,’ I said quietly, trying to take the heat out of the situation. I always give to the animal charity collectors when they come round, and I joined the RSPB.’
Lara wasn’t appeased. ‘So, you stick 50p in a tin and think you’ve done enough to save the planet? Look around you Mum, animals are suffering.’
I looked round the kitchen. Spencer was attempting to get the last atoms of dog food from his bowl and Slasher was washing her face after eating a breakfast of tuna chunks. ‘Doesn’t seem to be much in the way of suffering here,’ I joked.
Lara grabbed two sandwiches, slapped them onto a plate and stormed out of the kitchen.
‘That’s right, make a joke of it,’ she spluttered through a mouthful of bacon sandwich. ‘You just don’t care what happens to animals, do you?’
I followed her into the hallway to remind her what she was eating, but was distracted by the postman ringing the doorbell.
‘Hello gorgeous,’ he said, looking me up and down.
‘Hello, Reg,’ I replied. I looked up at the stunning blue sky. ‘Nice day for it.’
Reg winked. ‘Any day would be a nice day for it, rain, snow, fog, just name the time and place.’
I feigned shock. ‘Your wife would throttle you if she knew how you talked to the women on your round.’
Reg shook his head sadly. ‘She wouldn’t care. She’s hoping I’ll kop off with someone. Do you know when the last time we had ...’
‘Got to rush,’ I lied. ‘Bacon’s burning, see you Monday Reg.’
I closed the door, carried The Grumps’s package to the lounge and tossed it onto the sofa next to him. Gary took a quick look, grunted, and went back to reading his paper. Lara sat in a chair by the TV, in full buttering up mode.
‘You know Dad, if you did something different with your hair you could take years off.’
The Grump looked up from his paper, suddenly interested. ‘You think so?’
Lara took a bite from her sandwich and nodded. ‘Years,’ she repeated.
Gary ran his fingers through his tangled mop. ‘I could use a haircut I suppose.’
‘Get it done, Dad,’ urged Lara. You’ll look old before your time if you don’t get with it.’
The Grump walked over to the mirror and studied it intently. Lara warmed to her task.
‘If you get it cut really short at the back and sides but leave it a bit longer on top you could spike it up with gel or wax.’
‘Gel, hmm. Aren’t I too old for gel and wax?’
‘You’re as old as you feel, Dad. I think you could take ten years off if you had a decent cut.’ Lara walked over to Gary and studied him like a photographer lining up a shot. ‘If you grew a bit of stubble and wore a white T-shirt and jeans, you’d look a bit like George Michael.’
The Grump laughed. ‘Now you’re being silly.’
‘Suit yourself,’ said Lara. ‘I don’t want an old looking Dad, but if that’s what you want to look like ...’ Lara returned to her sandwich.
Gary walked back to the sofa and picked up his paper. ‘I’ll think about it.’
Lara shrugged and said nothing. They sat in silence for a few seconds.
‘Where’s the best place to go, if I did decide to get it cut?’
‘Not skin ‘em alive Clive’s where you usually go, that’s for sure,’ said Lara haughtily. ‘There’s a good one in the precinct called Croppers, that’s where Tom... er, that’s where a lot of young people go.’
The Grump folded up his paper and leant back on the sofa. ‘Thanks Lara. You’ve given me something to think about there.’
Lara smiled her best smile. ‘Dad?’
‘I know you said I was grounded, but Kylie’s got some birthday money to spend and she texted me this morning to ask if I’ll go to town with her to buy some new clothes.’
‘Can’t she go with Madonna?’ asked Gary.
‘No she’s away for the weekend, I’m it or she can’t go,’ replied Lara with a pout.
The Grump hesitated. ‘Can’t she go on her own?’
Lara moved in for the kill. She sat the sofa next to Gary, and snuggled up to him.
‘No silly, girls can’t shop on their own, how would they know if the clothes look any good?’
Gary put his arm round Lara’s shoulder. ‘They could look in a mirror?’
Lara laughed as though it was the funniest joke she’d ever heard. ‘Oh Dad, you just don’t understand women do you?’
The Grump shook his head. ‘You’re not wrong there, Lara. Okay then, I’ll let you off this time, but no more snogging Tommy Tosspot.’
Lara looked away. ‘Troppo,’ she muttered through clenched teeth. When she turned back to Gary she was all smiles. ‘Thanks, Dad, you’re not bad for an old codger.’
‘Old codg ... I can still change my mind you know.’
Lara laughed again. ‘Only kidding, Dad.’ She was silent for a moment, then came the coup de grass. ‘Dad, could you lend me a tenner? I’m skint after giving Kylie money for her birthday.’
‘Oh, I don’t know, Lara. Do you really deserve it?’
‘Please Dad, I’ve seen a gorgeous top in Envy’s, it’s only £9.99, half price.’
The Grump thought about it. ‘I suppose it’s all right. We can’t have you miss out on a bargain like that, can we? My wallet’s on the hall table, take ten pounds.’
Lara kissed Gary on the cheek and skipped out of the lounge. As she passed me in the doorway she tossed her head and whispered, ‘flattery will get you everywhere.’
When I looked back into the lounge The Grump was stood in front of the mirror again. He sucked in his tummy, stuck out his chest and brushed his hand through his hair. ‘George Michael, he muttered.’I shook my head, walked to the hall cupboard and dragged out the vacuum cleaner. ‘Hi ho silver, away.’ I called.
Gary walked out of the lounge carrying his parcel.
‘What have you been buying now?’ I asked. ‘Not another webcam?’ Gary was the gadget king.
‘It’s not for me,’ he replied sulkily.
‘Is it a surprise for me?’ I was shocked.
‘Don’t be daft, Isla. It’s something Oggy asked me to get him from the Internet. It’s a surprise for his wife.’
I shuddered. I could imagine the sort of thing Oggy would want to give as a gift.
‘Are you going to the football this afternoon?' I asked.
‘Yep, I’m meeting the lads in the Crown at 1 30. I’m going to get a haircut first though?’
‘Oh good,’ I said. ‘Can you nip into the hardware store next to Clive’s and get me a pack of vacuum bags? This one has had it.’
‘Err, I’m not going to Clive’s, I thought I’d try that place in the precinct.’
‘Croppers! That’s a bit expensive for you isn’t it? I thought you said you’d cut it yourself sooner than pay those prices?’
‘I feel like a change, that’s all,’ sniffed Gary. ‘Anyway, I can’t cart a pack of vacuum bags around with me all afternoon.’
‘Right, that does it. I snapped. ‘If you can’t be bothered to get me some bloody vacuum bags I’ll get a machine that doesn’t need them. This clapped out old thing can go to the great sucker’s yard in the sky.’
‘Okay, I’ll get you some bloody va...’
‘No, don’t worry about it, Gary. I’ll go into town this afternoon and buy a new one. One that doesn’t need bags, then you won’t have to lug the things around with you twice a bloody year.’
‘There’s no need for that is there? This one’s got years left in it yet.’
‘How would you know? You’ve never so much as switched it on.’
He knew when he was beaten. ‘Okay, get a new one, but don’t go spending a fortune on it.’
The Grump went up for a shower while I punched the air with delight. Two minutes later I was on the Internet studying all the different models. I settled on a Dyson Animal. Yes, it was expensive, but you couldn’t describe it as costing a ‘fortune.’ It was all relative, alongside a car it was dirt cheap.
I tied up the old vacuum with its cord and dragged it out to the shed. Gary could drop that off at the dump the next time he went. I walked back to the house with a spring in my step. I could feel a shopping trip coming on.