In London recently I had the opportunity to go and visit the younger of my two older sisters. I am the baby of the family and no matter how much I pound my chest and proclaim my alpha male status, since our father died some years ago, they still want to baby me. Am I warm enough? Have I eaten enough? Do I need to use the little boy's room? It's quite endearing unless we're in a public place and the wheel of my stroller gets caught or something.
There's no point trying to fight it. And, as a forty-something man travelling without his family it's secretly quite nice. One of the great pleasures of visiting my sister, Patricia, I am reminded about of how much she makes me laugh. She's very offbeat at times.
When we're together we talk of many things, of shoes and ships and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings, but the topic du jour, on this occasion, was chain letters. The normally high functioning educational expert was reduced to a quivering jelly of indecision.
Should she ignore it and risk getting bad luck or worse being attacked by a Flock of Seagulls, the 80s band not the seabirds. Should she forward the email to family and friends and risk excommunication? I offered to delete it for her. We went to walk the dog and I got pooped on by a passing bird. I wasn't going to look at what sort, just in case.
Patricia loves dogs and as far as I can remember has always had one. Her dogs always seem to have come from the slightly loopy side of the litter however. Her particularly favourite breed is the Labrador, probably because as children we were parented by one when we were pups. A big bull of a golden Labrador rather pragmatically called, Dog. We all loved Dog.
Back from an invigorating walk in the English rain and squelching rather a lot, I decided to empty the puddle water from my shoes outside. Patricia's dog, Salty, has an unnerving knack of watching everything you do. My sister says she has to report back to her mother ship, why else is she watching if not to learn. She gave me an example.
As Patricia was putting in her contact lenses that morning Salty was watching closely, she follows my sister everywhere, usually in the hope of food. She has tried most things and not all of them have agreed with her metabolism, such as the jar of jalapeños that was dropped on the floor. She had eaten half the jar before she realised what they were and started yelping. I understand her movements were a little loose after that escapade. I was spared the full details.
Patricia makes a meal of putting her contact lenses in, she's never been comfortable with it and regularly pokes herself in the eye, but when she dropped one of them Salty made a meal of it too. In one slurp the contact lens was gone and Salty was looking at Patricia to see if there was any more on the way, because that lens alone was not going to fill her up. There was one lens left but that went in the real garbage. She was threatened with Battersea Dog's Home, but Salty knew there was little substance to the threat.
That evening I had offered to help my sister prepare Mexican food, Patricia makes a very excellent and authentic guacamole, she told me. Having never been to Mexico I?d be easy to hoodwink.
My sister and I are joined at the hip during my visits and we walk to the storeroom together to collect the avocados that Patricia keeps with her collection of winter vegetables. To her horror, and annoyance, as we hadn't long returned from buying groceries, mice, I thought rats but kept quiet had eaten all the avocados after sorting through everything and leaving the winter vegetables.
"Since when do English mice eat Central American fruit?" My sister shouted at the top her voice. Salty came running from the house as she thought this meant food for her. She was blinking and I wondered if she hadn't eaten the contact lens but was trying it out before she reported back to the mother ship.
My sister on the other hand was not finished shouting at the probably long departed, er, mice. "Not only that," she added. "They left the bloody root vegetables that I don't need until I do the roast on Sunday."
"Shall we go and have a cup of tea?" I asked. This solves most problems for residents of England. "Oh no," says Patricia. "You've done enough for today. You rest up and we'll have takeaway tonight instead."
I love visiting with my sister. Any cares, or worries, I may have just float off into thin air as I am babied and cosseted and wrapped in cotton wool. The visits always end too soon.
Copyright Peregrine Nation 2007