Senior daughter sits at the dining room table brushing up on her newly acquired skill; Portuguese. Six months in Williamstown Maschusettes, has been more than half a year as far as I'm concerned. I hover between her, her smaller siblings and the kitchen. I don't want to disturb her studies. I need an excuse to interrupt.
“So, what do you fancy for supper then?” I ask nonchalantly. I immediately have her undivided attention.
“Hmm,” she muses, “curry?”
“I can make it today but it will taste better tomorrow.” At the mention of supper, her little sister bounces into the kitchen, all ears, to check whether our choices
fits into her narrow menu.
“True. What have we got? Homity pie?” Senior son follows his sister like a shadow. His little brother is a reflection, hovering in case he needs to duck for cover.
“Yours for the asking dear,” I beam.
“What it is?”
“What is what dear?”
“No, not hominy,' hominid!'”
“No, she means homonym, don't you mum?”
“Actually neither. It's just 'Homity' pie, it's vegetarian.”
A universal scream of agony emanates at the mention of 'vegetables.'
“Er not much progress on the food front in six months then?” adds the wanderer, as junior staggers from the room amid retching noises. The other two run off wailing, one copying the other though I'm not sure who is copying whom?
“I know! How about fish pie!” she says to me, now that we are alone. I drift off into visions of glossy bÃ©chamel sauce coating the back of a wooden spoon, fluffy potatoes with crisp brown peaks, succulent flakes of tender white fish, a hint of Bayleaf and powdering of allspice. “Well?” she queries as I fail to respond. I drag myself away from rising visions of anchovies, kippers, roll mop herring and fish cakes, “could do, but I'll have to nip out to the shops.”
“Tell you what, you whiz off and I'll manage the little tikes.”
“O.k., you keep the two big uns and I'll take the screamer.”
“Oh no, that's not fair!”
“It's o.k. I can manage one screamer in the shops, it's when I've got all of them that it damages my nerve endings.”
With the plan in place I take him 'with the lungs' and his pair of shoes out to the garage, “no fishing, I hate the fishing, fishing is bad.”
At the supermarket, at the fish counter I stand close to my youngest son as he lies on the tiled floor flapping like a beached salmon. I give my order to the clerk. I am impressed that the chiller cabinet works effectively and that as a result, the odour of fish is virtually undetectable. I ignore the cries of “I am dying, the smell is killing my nose, oh no, my nose is falling off, agh, agh, agh.”
As he hands me my brown wrapped package, the clerk nods in the direction of the salmon, who is still rolling and flapping on the floor, “is he gonna be o.k.?”
“Oh yes, he'll be fine, he doesn't have to actually eat it, just stay in the same room. This is like a trial run.”
“Can he stay in the same shop within a two yard radius of me whilst I buy the fish?” The checker tweaks his white brimmed hat but says nothing as we depart.
A complete success really.