There is a text from the Middle of the Darling Daughters waiting for me when I finally surface this morning: “Do you fancy a couple of visitors for Sunday lunch tomorrow?” I text back straightaway: “Ooh,
I love having visitors. They brighten up the day. Not that our days aren’t, generally, bright enough, as days go – Mr B and
I make splendid company for each other – but it’s such fun to have people drop by. Especially those who can be classified, according to Kipling in the Just So stories, as our “Best Beloved.”
Some of our Best Beloved come and stay for up to a week at a time. Those are the times when we have to make sure that we did change the sheets on the spare beds after they left last time; that we have checked which cereal
the small fry are eating nowadays; that we raid the shelves of the Co-op for croissants and pain au chocolat; that there’s a notice on the bedroom door announcing “The Baldwins are Back” or “Girls Just Wanna have Fun”; and
that the Penguin is dressed up in his finery and is stationed on the front door step awaiting The Arrival.
Some of the younger generation come on their own but
Team Baldwin usually come with their mum, the Youngest of the Darling Daughters. This is not because she doesn’t trust me with her precious ones (at least I don’t think so, perhaps I’d better check?) but because she simply doesn’t want
to miss out on anything. She was like that as a child, I seem to remember. She has never completely forgiven her father for taking her older sisters to see Abba in concert but decreeing that she was too young. Waterloo was nothing compared with the battle
we had over that...
When it’s the Middle of the Darling Daughters and her fella who are coming to visit, Mr B goes into Meat Overdrive. The Son-in-Law
has a healthy appetite and considers Mr B’s Roast Beef Dinners to be the nearest thing to Culinary Perfection that exists. Mr B, for his part, is happy to oblige. Given sufficient warning and he will be down at our butcher’s (you remember,
I told you about them, the National Sausage Champions) asking for a good-sized piece of “Corner Cut Top-Side” to be put aside for the weekend. On the one occasion when for some reason I had to go down to the butcher to place the order, the
butcher enquired: “You’re not Brian’s wife, by any chance, are you?” Mr B is clearly famous in butchering circles.
No sooner had I relayed
the content of our daughter’s text to Mr B this morning than he was plotting his visit to the butcher’s. Probably no chance of Corner Cut Top-Side, he told me, but he would do his best. He set off, for all the world like Captain Oates, to do his
duty, come what might.
He came back with a lovely piece of beef. The Son-in-Law will be well-fed tomorrow. Mr B will ply him with meat and roast potatoes
and all kinds of vegetables. The Son-in-Law will wait until we have all eaten our fill and then he will go for “seconds”, methodically emptying the remaining food from every single serving dish onto his plate. “One day I’ll beat
you!” Mr B will say. And he will await, with pleasure, the accolades which the Son-in-Law will surely shower on him.
From this you will gather that Mr B
sees his main duty to visitors as being to ensure they are well fed. Just as soon as he knows anyone is coming – for the day, for the week, whatever – he has his pen poised over a post-it note ready to write a shopping list. On the top of
the list, if the Baldwins are coming, he will write “Beano.” Mr B has been buying Jack and Hazel the Beano for more years than I care to remember. He used to buy the Dandy too, until the publishers decided to call it a day. It’s probably
only Mr B that kept Desperate Dan and Co going for so long. So now Jack and Hazel have to share the Beano between them – but it’s OK because Mr B tends to buy it every week and save up all the issues for when we see them.
I have a vision of them at the age of, say, thirty, coming to visit and Mr B standing there, smiling on the door-step, with a year’s worth of Beanos held out in greeting.
Like all visitors, their welcome will be assured!