Our daughter comes home for a few days this week. Hair longer and blonder than I can remember. Eyes bright as she enthuses about the new job. She says she needs to catch up on some serious sleep. She eats as if if she has not been fed for a fortnight.
She also has a three-page list of things needed for her flat – and this is the time when you wish you had not been quite so ruthless about all that worn bedding; all those scratched non-stick pots and pans which could have lived to fight another day.
What has been the charity shop’s gain is now her loss. No matter. We are once more together as a family. The pack is back in all its Armstrong MacGregor fullness – and the MacNaughties dance round. Their sister is, after all, an excellent neck scratcher. Plus she has brought biscuits.
They savour titbits and attention and the chief and I get a boost as a youthful spirit lifts the house. But time flies and all too soon we find ourselves at Dundee airport. She is catching the London flight. ‘Call me when you get in’, I say.
So she does. And the story goes thus. When it comes to food and drink I am notoriously thrifty. I am the one who stands the bottle of cooking oil on its end to rescue the last few precious drops. I cut the mould off the cheese and cook with what’s left. I am quite happy to ignore a sell-by date and I make sandwiches for car journeys so we don’t have to make pit stops at pricey service stations.
It is a waste not want not philosophy. It is looking after the pennies. So the thought of buying a single can of something fizzy for a pound when you can get eight of them for £2.50 is unbearable.
“Here, take this. Airline drinks are expensive,’ I say as I open a multipack and push a diet coke onto her. She sighs and squeezes the thing into her already overloaded case. What ensues is not pretty.
She is minding her own business in the airport departure lounge when her name is called over the loudspeaker. She is then sternly taken to a side room where brown liquid fizzes from her bag. For some reason, the can has exploded and she must deal with the mess.
She returns to the departure lounge. She has coke-stained hands and fellow passengers are viewing her with some suspicion. ‘It’s alright,’ she explains. ‘It’s a can that exploded.’ ‘Explosion?!’ Those furthest away have not heard correctly and there is panic in their eyes. There is muttering and mistrust and folk are backing away. She sits ashamed and alone on the flight back south.
She is Billy no-mates and, of course, it is my fault. Then there are the ruined clothes. I make a half-hearted offer about sending something towards new ones and suggest she comes by train next time. She sighs. ‘Oh mum!….’