At 11 p.m. I sneaked away from my boy’s wedding party to my ground-floor accommodation in the hotel to write for an hour. For two days I had been in sole charge of my boy’s two young sons and sneaking away when possible to snatch half an hour here and there to write last week’s column. But with little or no success. The pair were fanatical for my uninterrupted attention and neither would countenance such a ridiculous waste of our precious playing time.
‘Now look here, chaps,’ I’d said to them on day one. ‘Grandad has had enough of playing games and he is going into his office to do his job, which is to write a column for a highly respectable magazine, and now you must amuse yourselves. If Grandad doesn’t write, he will lose his job. If he loses his job, he’ll have no money. And if he has no money, he won’t be able to buy you any more sweets or Lego.’
They were duly solemn, and I went into my so-called writing room, closed the door behind me, set up the iPad and keyboard, and began typing. The next thing I knew, they had insinuated themselves into the room and were playing badminton over me, using my bowed head as the net, sometimes swiping it with their rackets, at first accidentally, then deliberately and hilariously.
From dawn till dusk, two days running, I had been subject to their tyrannical, infantile whims and imperatives. We’d played football, snooker, pool, chess, pick-up sticks, dominoes, snap and memory card games with not a breathing space in between. I’d dressed, washed, groomed, fed and watered them. I had intervened and arbitrated in their incessant disputes and fist-fights and administered first-aid. I had answered a million cretinous questions. There was no escaping. If I sneaked away to the lavatory I was closely followed. By the time I cajoled them into their pyjamas and put them to bed, I was finished. Single mums — I salute you.
Now the wedding party was nearly over. Everyone agreed that the long day had been an unqualified success. My boy had held himself magnificently throughout and I was proud. He had spoken up well in the responses. His after-dinner speech was loving and witty and had pressed all the right buttons with the old guard. My boy’s beautiful bride’s family were devoid of snobbishness and everyone had got along famously. Now we had reached that stage at a wedding party when everyone who liked a drink had had a drink, and those who enjoyed a dance were shaking a leg on the dance floor to ‘One Step Beyond’ by Madness. The elders were collapsed in chairs around the dance floor and looking on affectionately and perhaps nostalgically at the boundless vitality of the young. My two young charges in their lilac and silver waistcoats and bow-ties had proved a popular double act, patronised eagerly by one and all. They had scornfully refused my offer of bed, so I’d left them under the supervision of a young aunt, and nipped away to grab an another hour at the keyboard.
My accommodation was a two-bedroom flat with a living room. In the living room was a leather sofa and a huge TV. I don’t own a television and hadn’t watched one for months. I sank down on to the sofa, switched it on and flicked through the Freeview channels. My mind was giddy from talking to new people and people I hadn’t seen for years. I reasoned that ten minutes telly would be a sort of mouth-rinse for the mind.
I picked a Freeview channel at random. Six white, stark-naked, cheerful women were parading in front of a reserved black man, who was carefully deliberating over which one he wanted to take home with him tonight. He was very picky. Far more picky, for example, than I would have been in his position. He liked that one’s pudendum very much, he mused aloud. The camera obediently trucked forward until it filled the screen. The television was high definition, the pudendum hairless; the black man mildly enthused. He asked her to turn around so he could have a look at her bottom. This too now filled the screen. He pulled a sour face. He’d seen better. If only he could have a woman with this one’s pudendum and that one over there’s bottom, he said miserably.
I switched channels and was confronted by high-definition Celebrity Big Brother. A gay man whose feelings had somehow been trampled was swearing a lot. Then a commercial break, during which we were told the exciting news that next up was a programme called Men Who Wear Mascara.
I switched off, married the iPad to the keyboard wirelessly and flexed my fingers. Then my grandsons rushed in with these big inflatable hammers and started whacking me wildly over the head with them.