Grunting Teen’s had too many questions recently. Maybe it’s because of the way certain decisions have impacted his own life.
‘So, no France now, mum? Even though we were encouraged to book trips abroad to support the travel industry?’ he asks.
‘Be quiet,’ I hiss, ‘don’t mention the H-word. It’ll upset your dad.’ And indeed, the Nearly Beloved has spiralled into deep despair. Our French holiday’s been cancelled and he’s spent the first three days off work ‘on hold’ with the insurance company.
My attempts at booking a last-minute break in the UK have also been unsuccessful as thousands of other France refuseniks have beaten me to it. According to the online websites, 98% of accommodation’s already sold out and the remaining 2% is either country estates with butler service or cut-price deals in emergency-measures Aberdeen.
But I’m determined to create a memorable family summer, even if it means staying put. I know we’ve been locked-down here since March but things are opening up now so, surely, we can find some activities to do?
The Yorkshire Sculpture Park ticks the culture box, although Grunting Teen seems more interested in the sheep grazing by the sculptures than the art itself. The purple-heathered moors with vistas of Lady Bower reservoir provide us with exercise, natural beauty and fresh air. And, instead of ‘boules’, we make do with ten-pin-bowling, which brings out both boys’ competitive spirit, finally putting a smile on the Nearly-Beloved’s ‘face of a champion’.
As for me, a holiday involves a respite from cooking, so thank goodness for the ‘eat out to help out’ scheme. ‘Makes a nice change from your corned beef surprise,’ says my other half, looking almost cheerful after two pints of his favourite bitter.
‘This is great, mum,’ agrees the teenager, tucking into his second portion of fries ‘but why are we being encouraged to eat more when I thought we were supposed to be eating less?’
Why indeed, I wonder, as he helps himself to an extra spare rib and the remains of the garlic bread. But the food has fuelled his brain cells and he’s being unusually talkative for a boy whose default setting is grunt mode.
‘Doesn’t Covid affect the overweight and unfit the most?’ he continues between bites, ‘I mean, shouldn’t the government be prioritising the opening of all swimming pools and sports facilities instead?’
I nod, not wanting to discourage his newly found communicative enthusiasm whilst at the same time wishing I had some logical answers to give.
‘See, it’s great I can go climbing again,’ he tells us, ‘But Ponds Forge is still shut. And my mates who love diving are really fed up. It doesn’t seem fair.’
I nod again and offer him some of my baguette in the hope of distracting him. But he’s in flow now.
‘In fact, mum,’ he splutters, inhaling rather than ingesting the bread, ‘my generation’s copping for it far more than you oldies! And that doesn’t seem fair at all.’ Resting his case, he takes a swig of coke to wash down the last crumbs of his meal.
And, indeed, the question of fairness raises its head again after exam results drop through the letterbox. Thank goodness that the expertise of teachers has triumphed over algorithms, and that we forced Grunting Teen to attend the optional after-school GCSE sessions in March. ‘Told you, it pays to do the right thing,’ says his father with the satisfaction of the righteous.
‘Yes, and soon you’ll be back at school and able to concentrate on the subjects you’re taking next year,’ I remind him. He scowls and I wonder if it’s because the PlayStation isn’t yet on the curriculum.
‘Don’t you want to go back?’ I ask.
‘Yeah, actually, I do,’ he replies, ‘it’s just I’m worried about next year’s exams. Some schools did online classes all day. But we didn’t. How’s that fair?’
Having no satisfactory response, I divert his attention with the promise of buying him an exam gift and celebratory coffee and cake.’
But even then, the questions don’t stop.
‘How come we were the only customers in that shop and had to wear a face covering but now we’re next door in a café full of people, unmasked?’ he says, ‘It doesn’t make sense! Is government science different from ordinary science?’
I sigh. Thank God school’s starting soon and the teachers can answer his questions instead.