Sunday, 8 August 2010

National Book Day. Or Not.

I am going to have to block outgoing calls on our home phone again. It's a pain in the arse, as last time I did it, Max and I both promptly forgot what the code was and ended up at least as inconvenienced as Josh. However, needs must.

Today, Connie loses her temper as she wants to phone her best friend to arrange to go to the cinema tonight, and Josh is hogging the phone. She comes stomping into the living room, and says,

"Mum, can you please get Josh off the bloody phone? Now!"

"Well, I'm sure he won't be long," I say. I am endeavouring to be more reasonable and less prone to hasty acts, since my email to Johnny after Annoying Ellen's party.

"He's been on it for hours already," says Connie. "Do something."

"Well, use your mobile, if it's so urgent," I say. I really can't be bothered to get off the sofa and trek upstairs to where Josh must be using the extension.

"I'm out of credit. Please, Mum. You're always telling him to keep the bills down, anyway."

Given my aversion to hypocrisy, and my uncaring response to Connie's complaints yesterday, I suppose I had better be seen to make some effort. I do wish Max wasn't able to sleep through everything, though. He hasn't stirred since dozing off straight after lunch.

I walk into the hall, and shout upstairs in the vague hope that I will be heard over the hideous sound of screamo. This so-called music is emanating from Josh's room, along with shouts of laughter from Josh, Robbie and God knows how many of the other lads. It's like Grand Central Station in our house these days.

"Josh? Josh!" No answer. Bloody hell. "Josh!" (This last was worthy of Miss Chambers.)


"Get off the phone. Connie needs to use it."

"Okay, Mum. In a sec."

I return to the important business of doing nothing and am just reaching that attractive pre-snooze drooling state, when Connie comes back into the room, picks up the phone, then slams it down and glares at me.

"He's still on the bloody thing!"

Honestly, Josh would try the patience of a saint. I am not going upstairs again, so I just pick up the phone instead. Someone is speaking, but it isn't Josh. It's Robbie. I have no idea what makes me listen, instead of saying something - but I wish I hadn't.

"So, Sir, as I was saying," Robbie says. "With it being National Book Week, Bonjour Books will donate a pound to a charity of your choice for every minute that you listen to one of our authors reading from one of their best-selling works. "

"Sounds a good idea," says the man at the other end of the phone.

"Today, we have Joshua O'Nyon-Quavers reading from his book, Strange Things On The Shore. I will put him on now. Take it away, Joshua."

I am transfixed by curiosity. Isn't that shameful? Instead of yelling, I carry on listening. I am a very bad mother.

"Chapter One. As I walked slowly along the seashore, the shells crunching under my feet like crisps -" Josh sounds almost exactly like Robert Webb. It's unnerving.

Josh's odd story continues for quite some time until the crunchy snack metaphors become so excessive that I finally get a grip. I replace the handset, then sprint upstairs where I march into Josh's room, clamber over various skinny-jean clad legs and reach over to unplug the extension. Robbie and the others start giggling, while Josh misses the point, as always:

"But I remembered to put 141 in before I dialled this time!"

So this is what my inadequate parenting skills have achieved - a son whose notion of an excuse for his appalling behaviour is that he did everything he could to avoid being caught. My analogy with Grand Central Station was more apt than even I  - the Mystic Meg of Northwick - could have predicted: I certainly feel like sitting down and weeping now.

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