Grunting Teen is learning that people don’t always practise what they preach.
‘Mum, why do you say you’ve spent ages putting the shopping away, when that’s clearly not true?’
I raise an eyebrow as he opens the fridge and an avalanche of dairy products cascades to the floor.
‘And, how come out-of-date yoghourts are fine for me to eat, when you never touch them?’
‘Plus, you’ve put the cooked meat above the raw, which would have you shut down if the inspectors came’ he continues, adding to my growing list of Health and Safety violations.
I resist the urge to poke him in the eye. I mean, it’s great that, thanks to his summer job, he’s in possession of a Food Preparation Level 2 certificate. Unfortunately, he now considers himself the fount of knowledge on all subjects kitchen-related.
So, he’s refusing to towel-dry any pots and pans, deeming it deeply unhygienic. Of course, the science proves he’s right. But as the Nearly-Beloved won’t buy a dishwasher, and Grunting Teen gets through an entire dinner service with his incessant snacking, then airdrying isn’t an option. Still, whilst it’s a welcome change to be worrying about non-Covid bugs, I haven’t got the time or energy to pre-wash, wash, disinfect and rinse every plate. After all, surely hardened Fairy Liquid counteracts caked-on ketchup? And his siblings survived to adulthood despite the house being a hotbed of salmonella…
Unbeknownst to him, I’ve done Knife Skills Level 1 which includes a section on filleting irritating know-it-alls. But instead, taking a deep breath and resolving to be a better role model, I enquire about his plans for the day.
‘Just hanging with some mates,’ he says. ‘And don’t forget you promised me pancakes after my shift.’
Did I now? He’ll be lucky! However, he has been working hard. So, I hide my annoyance and offer him a lift. He looks unimpressed.
‘Global warming. I’m not the G7. I don’t need a private jet to get around. You’ve got to walk the walk, innit?’
I nod, albeit thinking that his speedy refusal probably has less to do with climate change and more to do with not wanting his mother to find out what he’s up to. And sure enough, he’s been hiding something from us. But no need for security cameras when you have a ‘mum radar’. It turns out the ‘mates’ he’s been ‘hanging with’ are singular and female.
‘You’re going to have to have the talk.’ I tell the Nearly-Beloved when I break the news. ‘Bit too late for that,’ replies my husband.
I nearly drop the bowl I’m drying. Is this a page one scoop? Is my boy going to have to resign from Sixth Form? And how did the chief-in-command find out before me? He’s usually the last to know. Unless he’s part of the cover-up…
But the Nearly-Beloved carries on unperturbed, ‘Yes, breaching social distancing rules. Not staying in his school bubble. Disgraceful. But to be honest, even I have given up now! If it’s okay for the health minister, then we can’t really object, can we?’
Later that day Grunting Teen returns from his job with a spring in his step and the news that his ‘friend’ is going to start at the restaurant too. ‘Oh, has she had an interview then?’ I ask. ‘Nah,’ he replies, tapping his nose, ‘Chumocracy, innit? Good wages too. Hopefully I’ll make enough money for that trip to Amsterdam in the autumn.’
He’s looking forward to visiting his brother, who’s offered him a post GCSEs, parent-free break there. ‘Don’t get too excited,’ I tell him, ‘The Netherlands are still on the amber list, so you’d have to quarantine.’
‘Really?’ he says, ‘But those football VIPs haven’t quarantined, have they?’
I shrug my shoulders as no sensible answer comes to mind. So, to distract him from the topic and any further Health and Safety infractions, I serve him up his favourite pancakes.
‘I thought you might not make these, mum’ he grins, ice cream and chocolate sauce dripping down his chin.
And yes, it did cross my mind. But, like a good citizen, I always deliver on my promises.