My parents have arrived for a visit. The arches are still not ready and they cannot manage stairs so they are staying in a friend's holiday cottage down the road. I say they cannot manage stairs. This is their first visit since we moved back in. I showed them round the downstairs and said: "I won't show you upstairs because you won't be able to manage the stairs." I completed the last bit of this sentence to their backs as they disappeared up the staircase they cannot manage and down the landing. I trailed up after them. I said: "You can't manage stairs. Remember? That's why we're having the arches built. So you can have a downstairs bedroom and a bathroom." "Yes, that's right, we can't manage stairs," my mother said, pushing me gently to one side as she went to inspect the en suite.
Everything measured up to their high standards so I do not have to move again immediately, thank God. My mother said: "It is everything I ever hoped you would have." This is not entirely true. At one time, she would have liked me to marry Prince Charles and she would have preferred me to be a doctor. She sat back in my cream leather sofa in the kitchen. She said: "Would it be a good idea if I gave you a china cabinet?" "No," I said. She got tougher. "But there is a china cabinet sitting in our front bedroom's bow window and it doesn't belong in there. There isn't room for it." I said: "Have you just looked round my nice empty house to find where I can put all your old tat?" Her game was up. "I do not want a china cabinet. I do not want that little head of a Scotsman in a glass with a fly in his eye." (Don't ask.) She changed tack again. "But if you don't want it, I shall have to give it all away." She had been in the house less than 30 minutes before she put the knife to my throat: take the tat or lose your childhood memories. I cannot remember all that is in the china cabinet. As a child, I thought them marvels and would extract them, one by one, to carefully, and with clean hands, admire them: the silver model of the shrine of Lourdes which plays a hymn to the Virgin Mary if you wind a key, a little clockwork Russian doll with red bobbles on her hat who does a goosestep and at least one flamenco dancer, complete with castanets. My mother is a firm believer in decluttering providing she is the one doing the decluttering. I shall take the china cabinet. I think when the arches are complete, I shall find a place for it in their bedroom.