In many ways I consider myself a sane and normal individual. I’m good natured and generally friendly; I hold down a job and pay my bills on time; I am kind to elderly neighbours; and I give money to several charities (Shelter, British Heart Foundation, the National Association of Prevention of Diabetes in Gerbils).
But something happened the other week that made me wonder if I have a problem.
We have just had an extension at the back of our house. It was Mrs Canavan’s idea as she wanted somewhere to put the children’s toys. I suggested this could be solved by perhaps not buying the children as many toys. I mean, I didn’t get toys as a child and it never did me any harm. For my seventh birthday I remember unwrapping a present from my mother and father to find an empty yoghurt pot with a straw sellotaped to the side. My dad told me it was a walkie-talkie you could use to contact aliens. I looked at him and said, “dad, it’s a Ski yoghurt pot and a straw”. “Nonsense,” he replied, then picked it up and said, “come in Planet Zog, can you read me?”
And that was one of the better presents I received, by far preferable to the Christmas they got me an invisible bike. My kids, on the other hand, seem to own every toy ever manufactured, due in part, I think, to the fact Mrs Canavan is on maternity leave and bored. She can’t help but, at some point during the day, going on the Amazon website and ordering something else.
Recently, for example, she spent £60 on something called a Wobble Board. This is a piece of wood shaped like a semi-circle. Nothing else - no flashing lights, no music - just a piece of wood.
“You spent 60 quid on that?” I splurted, outraged. “Yes,” said Mrs Canavan, sounding astonished and as if she couldn’t believe my reaction. “It helps with your child’s equilibrium”.
I have no idea what she meant, but what I do know is that my two-year-old, Mary, sat on it for a couple of minutes, looked at us quizzically as if she couldn’t believe we had purchased something so rubbish, got off, and hasn’t been near it since.
It’s ironic that despite all these toys she has, the only time Mary is truly happy and content is when she is outside in the back alley dropping stones into a grid. It’s a pity the grid isn’t just a touch wider so we could drop the Wobble Board in there as well. Anyway, returning to what was originally the vague point of writing this column – we’ve had an extension and as a result have had a new kitchen fitted. The builder did everything. I had one job – to purchase a draining board, you know, the thing that you put your pots on after you’ve washed them.
Mrs Canavan offered to do this but she had mentioned getting some posh-sounding make – Joseph Joseph I think it was called, which sounds more like a firm of solicitors – and alarmed at the money this might cost, I said I’d take care of it.
However, what I didn’t bank on was the sheer bewildering array of draining boards on the market. There are two-tier self-draining dish racks, stainless steel deep dish drainer, the extend expandable dish rack, a Classico dish drainer, the sink caddy, a dock cutlery drainer, the U-dry dish drainer, the connect adjustable three-piece dish rack, the inter-design over sink drain board, and around 50 other types that I haven’t got the time to go into here.
Suffice to say there was a lot of choice and if I do possess one quality in life, it is the inability to make a decision. I kid you not when I say that over a two-week period, I spent at least half an hour online daily, googling draining boards and making a list of possible contenders.
I even went so far as to fill in my bank details on various sites but when one click away from purchasing, some nagging doubt (is there enough depth to fit the steamer in? Will the tin opener fit in that cutlery holder? That draining board only holds four pint glasses – what if I have five friends round for dinner?) would kick in and prevent me from completing the order.
All the while Mrs Canavan reminded me it was imperative to get this draining board as soon as possible because the new kitchen worktops we’d had fitted were wooden and they would rot if they got wet. I told her not to be so uptight and put a towel down, saying we could use it as a makeshift draining board to put the wet dishes on until I got the real thing ordered.
This situation went on for two weeks and three days. In this time I had looked at around 240 different draining racks but just couldn’t make my mind up (I’m genuinely not making this up – this is how pathetic my life is). On Tuesday I arrived home to find Mrs Canavan in furious mood. “Look at THIS”, she exploded as I walked through the door.
She led me to the sink area and lifted up the sodden towel I had been using to put the wet pots on. Underneath was an alarmingly large black mouldy rotten mark across our brand new and quite expensive wooden kitchen top.
“Don’t worry, it’ll rub off,” I said, in a brisk and unconcerned manner which suggested she was being unnecessarily dramatic.
“Go on then know-all,” she said, flinging a cloth at me with surprising force, “because I’ve been trying for the last hour and it hasn’t budged.”
Tutting and rolling my eyes at her over-reaction, I picked up the cloth and rubbed at the stain. It didn’t come off. I put a bit more effort in. Nothing. What happened next was that I spent the following hour and a half scrubbing frantically at the surface with absolutely zero success while Mrs Canavan stood close by, glaring, hands on hips, like a modern-day Ena Sharples.
Sweating and sounding like I was about to have a fatal asthma attack, I eventually gave in and admitted the stain was permanent.
She sent me out there and then to buy a draining board, so I drove to Dunelm Mill and ended up – because I was desperate and it was pretty much the only thing there – spending £50 (massively over my proposed budget of £13.50) on a draining board, which we have now covered the huge rotten mouldy stain with. Mrs Canavan has yet to forgive me and, I daresay, never will.