Our friends Stuart, Charlotte and their toddler Bernie came round on Sunday for lunch. While Tom and Stuart were outside being all manly in sub-zero temperatures, chopping wood and digging up frozen parsnips, I cooked the roast. I tried to really go to town on it and whip up a feast à la Jamie Oliver. This was to make up for the last time they came over for a roast, when it took us two hours to serve up a watery chilli con carne with half the ingredients omitted and partially cooked rice.
I was busy making the mint sauce and swooning over Jamie’s alluring terminology when Tom entered the kitchen, chest puffed out, and proudly wielding some outsized parsnips caked in mud. ‘I think I can safely say that with that crop I have out there, I have managed to completely slash our parsnip bill this year my darling’ he said, before placing them on my clean work surface and practically skipping out of the kitchen.
After a few last minute tantrums over the gravy and undercooked parsnips, we eventually all sat down to eat. Betty spent the entire lunch being very loyal and saying ‘yum yum’ after every mouthful. She was being such a little treasure that I even managed to put on a brave face when she swiped the last piece of Yorkshire pudding from my plate (the bit that I was saving til last), and before eating it she held it up, looked at me and forcefully said ‘Betty’s? Betty’s?’ Once she had finished theatrically devouring it she then looked for other forms of entertainment. She began taking the peas, one by one, from my plate and dropping them onto the floor and every so often would hold up her little forefinger and say: ‘One more?’ After the fifth ‘one more’ I told her not to put anymore of my lunch in her mouth or on the floor and that it was very naughty. To which she promptly said ‘one more?’ picked up a pea and dropped it onto the floor. She then smirked at little Bernie and they both had hysterics. This was new. I was the butt of their joke. She was laughing at me with her little friend.
Some time after lunch Tom announced that he was going to make some flapjacks (his latest fad) for pudding, and although our guests were trying to leave at this point he assured them that they would be ready in 30 minutes and that they really would be worth staying for. They politely obliged, and while Tom got baking and I washed up, Betty saw it as her responsibility to keep our guests entertained. She began singing with impressive vigour and expression, using a tool from her doctor’s kit as a microphone, whilst swirling dramatically round the room. I had never seen such a performance from Betty and could only attribute it to her watching too much of The X Factor. She then disappeared for a few minutes and came back dragging Tom’s two guitars behind her. She handed one to Stuart and one to Charlotte before resuming her performance and urging them to join in with her.
One hour and 40 minutes later, Tom appeared with his flapjacks, and Betty, who hadn’t stopped for the duration, looked visibly relieved, as did everyone else. ‘Sorry they took so long’ he said nervously, ‘I ran out of oats and so had to use Ready Brek instead, and then they wouldn’t set, and then I put them outside in the garden for half an hour to harden…’