I have retold this story to my great amusement on several occasions. There are two very certain responses … confused silence or belly laughter.
Straight from the horses mouth I pass you over to Gramps …
Unfettered by your mother’s good sense and guidance I was adrift in a sea of confusion and chaos and I was applying, sometimes, bizarre ways to deal with household chores. Washing the dog was an example.
Tessa our dog had to be washed for a reason that I can’t recall now. She had probably rolled in some indescribable substance; otherwise I wouldn’t have thought it imperative that she had to be washed. Applying the logic that as I, the owner, needed a shower too, (Just for reasons of normal hygiene, not because of rolling in any indescribable substances) Tessa could join me. This was creative thinking; this would save my clothes from getting drenched, the usual result of dog bathing.
All went well. The bemused dog was shampooed and rinsed along with the happy owner.
The drying was where it all unravelled. Wrapped in a towel and crouching behind Tessa, with my back to the bathroom door I started to vigorously dry the dog and failed to hear the door, which unwisely I hadn’t bolted, swing open.
“Hi Dad! What are you doing?”
I looked round (probably furtively) to see you, my eight year old daughter framed in the doorway. Worse still, your two friends from across the road were standing behind you and I could read in their expressions that this sort of thing didn’t happen in their household.
“Washing the dog.” Me, hopefully stating the bleeding obvious.
“What are you doing?” Me, trying to sound as though everything was quite normal.
“Going to play in the garden”
For days I worried if news of their friend’s father’s perceived peculiar practices had reached the parents. It was a real concern; you had told me tales of how their mother would pounce across the lounge to turn the television off at the merest hint of swearing or inappropriate nudity, indeed any exposure of flesh at all. I could be in deep trouble.
A couple of days later, when in the front garden engaged in some minimalist gardening activity I saw the mother walk out of her drive and set off down the road.
“Hi Margaret!” I called out in a friendly but nervous greeting to her retreating figure.
No reply. “Hi Margaret!” I called again; again no reply. Oh God, I thought, she knows!
I looked down at you and say in a light hearted jocular way “She’s not talking to me”.
“That’s because her name’s not Margaret, Dad.” you reply in that smug way that eight year old daughters speak to their dim fathers.