Five days before Christmas. The Beloved Daughter had arrived home from university.
She covered the kitchen floor in unwashed hockey kit and demanded to know what was for dinner.
“Dunno,” I said. “Mum’s been collecting you; I’ve been at work.”
“Right,” she said. “I’ll cook risotto.” She scribbled a list on the back of my bank statement, refused to give me any money and sent me to the corner shop.
And you know what? It wasn’t bad. Maybe could have done with a bit more colour (I think I’ll put that bit in a very small font...) but it tasted fine.
“Don’t worry, darling,” I said as we pushed the plates to one side and Tom kindly offered to finish the wine, “I’ll tidy the kitchen.”
Eventually I came to the wok. Hmmm... It definitely hadn’t started the day with a thick crust of Arborio rice.
Still, a wooden spoon removed most of it.
Now there was just a thin crust. And there it stayed.
Soaking, more soaking, good old-fashioned elbow grease. Nothing shifted it.
I pointed this out to Jessica the next morning. Yes, of course I did it gently and tactfully.
I still received a reply that would have delighted Master Ramsay.
Apparently it was my fault for buying a defective wok in the first place.
How stupid of me not to realise.
“And buy one that’s really non-stick next time.”
“The wok’s been fine for the last year,” I grumbled to my wife.
“Well it clearly isn’t now. Keep quiet and buy a new one.”
“Shall I wrap it up and give it to her as a present?”
“Maybe. How much do you want a black eye for Christmas?”
Jane was right. It was a triumph for tact and diplomacy.
Jessica was a superhero over the holidays. Helping with Christmas dinner, constantly advising Jane and me where we were going wrong... Enjoy it while you can, Nigella; she’s coming for you.
“Fajitas,” Jessica boldly announced on the day before Tom went back to uni and I could finally stop my armed patrols in front of the wine rack.
“No problem,” I said. “Would you like me to help?”
“Not really,” she said. I took that as a yes and started dicing the chicken.
Five seconds later Jessica pointed out that I was doing it all wrong but – sigh – if I had to help then I might just be competent enough to slice an onion.
“Not there,” she screeched. “That’s where I’m working.”
I was duly banished to the outer reaches of the kitchen.
Hang on. Jessica was cooking the chicken before the onion.
“Aren’t you going to wait for the onion and soften that first?”
“Dad. Do you want to do it? If so just tell me.”
“No, no. I just thought - ”
I turned my attention back to the onion – just as a sharp pain exploded in my knee.
I hadn’t noticed Jane come in. And she’d kicked me.
“If Jessica’s cooking then let her cook.”
“Yeah, dad. And hurry up with that onion.”
I was so flustered by this wife/daughter pincer movement that I lost concentration.
The knife slipped cheerfully off the onion and into my finger.
“Nice one, dad,” my daughter said sarcastically and finished the job herself.
Fortunately I was well enough to eat. But not to drink.
“I’ve just opened the last beer,” Tom said.
“We need some more from the shop.”
“Don’t look at me, mate,” I replied triumphantly. “Your mother’s injured me.”
For the first and last time over Christmas it was Tom’s round. And for the only time in our marriage I thanked my wife for kicking me...