Sunday, 22 February
This morning I put some filter coffee on my ajuga, to see if it would help with the snails. I didn’t put it on my new azalea, though. After checking through my copy of What Garden Pest or Disease is That?, I’ve come to the conclusion that my azalea is suffering from root rot. And I don’t think filter coffee is much use, when it comes to root rot.
‘Root rot?’ said Noah, when I mentioned this over breakfast. ‘Sounds like something out of The V-Book.’
Bridie told Noah not to be disgusting. She ate exactly half a grapefruit, this morning - without sugar - and I blame her friend Yseulte. (Is that how you spell it? Yseulte? She must have had a terrible time when she was a kiddie - no one can even pronounce her name, let alone spell it.) Yseulte’s just a slip of a thing, and she’s obsessed with her looks; Bridie never worried about her weight until Yseulte came along. They’re always comparing themselves to each other, and it’s pointless. Yseulte has no hips or chest to speak of, whereas Bridie has a shape. She can’t wear the kinds of things that Yseulte wears - not without looking like a prostitute. Yseulte doesn’t look like a prostitute, in all those skimpy clothes. She looks like a child dressed up as a prostitute.
Anyway, Bridie wanted to spend the day sun-baking in Yseulte’s garden. I asked her what was wrong with our garden, and she said that our garden was all wrong. The slope out back was too steep, and the front yard was too public. I hate all this sun-baking that Bridie’s been doing, lately (it will ruin her skin) but she ignores me when I try to protest. Yseulte does it, so it must be okay.
All I could wring out of her was a promise that she would keep slathering on sun-screen every four hours. I wrung the same promise out of Noah and Allan. They both left before ten: Allan to help his brother-in-law with a new retaining wall, Noah to visit his friend Aldo. I don’t know what it is with my family. When they’re not biting each other’s heads off, they’re rushing out of the house as fast as their legs can carry them.
Not that I was at home myself, this morning. I had to do my weekly shop. It’s always been difficult, with Noah’s food allergies (I have to take my little additives book with me - the one that translates the flavouring and preservative code numbers), but since Bridie went on a diet, it’s become impossible. She’s so fussy now. I have to buy Lite Bites instead of ordinary cheese crackers, and Weight Watcher’s chocolate mousse instead of the ordinary kind. I’ve pointed out to Bridie that all this stuff is laced with artificial sweetener - the type that gives you fake multiple sclerosis - and that oil is an essential part of the food intake pyramid. I might as well be talking to the wall, however. She insists on tuna in brine, which is almost impossible to locate at the supermarket. I must have spent ten minutes peering at the shelves until I finally found it, skulking amongst the chilli tuna, tuna with onion, tuna with tomato, tuna in spring water, tuna with basil, and all the other tuna-based products that seem to have cropped up during the last few years.
When I finally got home, my ajuga had wilted. It must have been the coffee. As I planted my new rose bushes, I also noticed a strange, orange, powdery coating on the grass. According to What Garden Pest or Disease is That?, it’s a problem called rust. Allan always uses rust converter and epoxy metal repair paste on rust patches, but it’s probably not the same kind of rust. I don’t suppose that lemon and salt will work either, even though they’re wonderful on rust stains.
The pest book recommends more fertiliser. So I guess I’ll have to buy some of that, next time I’m at the shops.
Let’s see - what else happened, today? Oh yes. That’s right. While I was out in the garden, Mr Doyle was mowing his lawn next door. I’m sure he did it for the sole purpose of keeping an eye on me, because he only mowed that lawn a few days ago. Mind you, he’s always mowing his lawn. It seems to be his main hobby in life. The Doyles’ garden is so neat, you can tell that it’s owned by a retired couple. No one else would have the time to keep everything so carefully trimmed. I have to admit that he does a lovely job, though his garden’s a bit bare for my taste. Just grass and cement, and nothing else. They used to have a fruit tree, but Mr Doyle pruned it so hard that it died, poor thing. And when some of my ivy crept under his fence, he left a very nasty note in our letter-box.
He’s a bit like that, I’m afraid - constantly complaining. He complained to the council when his other next-door neighbours left their garbage bin on his bit of the nature strip. He complained to the police when the people across the road parked their car on the footpath. And of course he’s always complaining about Noah. Just because Noah sometimes skateboards on the footpath out front.
The result has been that I hardly ever see Noah any more. He can’t use his skateboard on our driveway (too short) or in our garden (no concrete) or on the footpath (too many complaints), so he spends all his time at Aldo’s house. Aldo’s yard is made of cement and pebblecrete; it’s perfect for skateboards. And Fergus, one of his other friends, has a great big rumpus room. No wonder Noah’s starting to turn up his nose at this house. I was talking to him about his next birthday party the other week, and he said he didn’t want one. Not at home. He said that we wouldn’t be able to ‘fit all his friends’ in.
And then Bridie said ‘All what friends?’, and there was another argument. I wish those two would leave each other alone. They used to get along fine, once - I don’t know what’s happened.
This evening, when Bridie came home, she told me that I’d bought the wrong kind of yoghurt. Apparently I got “Lyte n’ Lovely” instead of “Lite n’ Luscious”. I told her that next time she should write the name down - with the exact spelling - and asked her what kind of sunscreen she’d been wearing, because she was bright red. She denied that she was sunburned, of course. Refused to put on any aloe vera gel or vitamin E cream. My only comfort is that this sunbaking craze won’t last. Bridie’s crazes never do. She’s faddy. That’s what I said to Allan: she’s faddy. ‘Remember the electric keyboard lessons? Remember the horse mania? Remember the jewellery design phase?’ I said. ‘This new friend of Bridie’s is into diets and tans and pedicures, so that’s what Bridie’s into. She’s very suggestible, poor thing. It won’t last. Something new will come along soon - it always does.’
Besides, I can’t blame Bridie. How can I, when I’m faddy myself? There was the tie-dying (before that incident with the microwave). There was the knitting, before I discovered that my hand-knits weren’t being worn. (Hand-knits aren’t cool enough for kids; Allan doesn’t need any more jumpers, because the ones he already has are going to last him for the term of his natural life; and Bridie refuses to let me wear the jumper that I knitted for myself because she says it makes me look like a radioactive wombat.) There was also the flute course (until I was told that no one could stand the noise I made when I practised) and the Latin dance classes (until they interfered with the family schedule).
So it’s hardly Bridie’s fault that she’s a chip off the old block. Especially when you consider her age. Girls of seventeen are always lacking in self-confidence, under all their acting out. They’re faddy because they’re trying to discover who they truly are.
And I just know that Bridie isn’t Yseulte. I can feel it in my bones. No daughter of mine could feel genuinely comfortable having a Brazilian bikini wax.
It’s simply not in our genetic makeup.
© 2007 by Catherine Jinks
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