Regular readers may recall my mother’s role as a student landlady, in which she believes all the tenants are simple (see My Mother… and the Simple Students). She regularly peddles round on her bicycle to impart advice such as, ‘Put the bins out – and don’t forget to lock the back gate!’, and ‘Drinking at this hour? It’s a wonder you ever get any studying done!’.
After the departure of last year’s batch of simpletons, my mother set about her annual summer cleaning of our student house.
But as she hoovered away at the carpet with her trusty ‘little vac’ (the Dyson rendered ‘utterly useless’), she kept feeling holes in the floor of the lounge: holes that my father had been blithely ignoring for the last few years (bringing with it a very literal meaning to brushing them under the carpet).
Finally pulling back the carpet, my mother was alarmed to find large areas of the floorboards has been devoured by a particularly voracious strain of woodworm – a grim discovery that brought about her new saying of the summer, ‘The floorboards were like WEETABIX!’
Rather than immediately consult with a woodworm expert, my 65-year-old mother decided to venture into the bowels of the house herself, squeezing down a tiny hatch she found in the corner of the lounge. On her hands and knees, she managed to crawl, caterpillar-style, the entire length of the underbelly of the property, to inspect the extent of the damage with a torch.
Re-appearing, covered in soot, my mother – the pot-holing pensioner – claimed that no-body over 5ft2 would even make it down there.
My father’s role in this was to investigate a solution. He apparently managed to operate Google and read up on some super-strength woodworm killer, although given the scale of his internet ineptitude (see My Parents… and the World Wide Web), I’m not sure how this was possible.
After weighing the job up at length, the parents decided it probably was time to call in a joiner, who arrived to replace the Weetabix floorboards and told my mother he had replaced part of a joist underneath the house too.
Not content with just taking his word for it, my mother then ventured back down the hatch and slithered underneath the house – torch poised – to see if he really had replaced a joist. Luckily for him, he had.
This September brought with it a new batch of students and further parental eccentricity. I told my mother that I had organised for two Polish girls to move in and she was to meet them at the house on Friday.
My father began making noises about collecting them in person from Liverpool airport. He said it wouldn’t be any trouble. But, in the end, they settled for a ‘meet and greet’ service at Preston train station, and a personal taxi service to the student house. Contracts duly signed, normal landlords would probably wish them well and be on their way.
But not the parents. Oh no… their concierge service continued. When I phoned my mother to ask how it had gone, she said that they had pretty much spent the whole day with the Polish girls.
Apparently, they drove them to the University library and actually waited in the car for them while they registered. The girls were then ‘terribly hungry’ – hadn’t eaten for 17 hours, in fact. Ever the hostess, my mother toyed with the idea of taking them back to their house for dinner but instead she settled for dropping them off at Aldi to do some food shopping. She thought they’d feel at home in Aldi, she said, because of its continental connections.
In the midst of this madness, my father – the chauffeur – had produced one of his infamous maps with a highlighted route and instructions on how to get from the house to the University on foot.
They left the Polish girls happily ensconced back at the house, munching on an Aldi pizza and watching X-Box (I think she meant X-Factor).
At the end of this tale, I asked my mother what the Polish girls were like.
‘One of them seems quite sharp,’ she said. ‘Pidgin English – but definitely all there.
‘But the other one is terribly feeble. She barely spoke.’
I just knew what was coming next.
‘In fact, she seemed a bit… simple.’