Brassica was collecting the twins from St Birinus Middle School. The Autumn term was frantic. She had so much bottling and preserving to do in the afternoons, even though there was a dearth of some fruits after the rainy early summer. It was also a real nuisance that EU legislation was making it very difficult to sell her jams and jellies in the table top sales on behalf of the Parents Who Care Association. What was the world coming to when a member of airline security had fairly recently confiscated her damson jelly, with its pretty calligraphy label, which she had specifically made for an ex-pat friend? She felt as though she was being treated as a terrorist.
But it isn’t liquid- look! It has set beautifully.
The security frisker had looked as if she should take the argument no further.
Hello, anybody! Do you want a free jar of jelly?
There were no takers and she had to watch the jar being consigned to a transparent bin. Privately she bet that, as soon as the shift was over, the staff would be having lovely jam on their airport croissants. Or maybe they would be too afraid of being poisoned. Really! She thought of the school bully’s nickname for Castor, but then put it out of her mind.
She had been out early that morning, walking the family Border and had discovered some hugely plump sloes, so she filled her mini-trug with them and hid them under a new packet of poo bags, just in case she met anyone else and it gave the game away as to the spiny bushes’ location.
By three o’clock, they had been pricked with a thorn; sugar had been measured and they were added to some cheap gin – not from Pop My Cork! That would have been too expensive. The bottles were now laid down in the cellar, awaiting festive consumption.
The FT had re-assured her that she was ahead of trend yet again. An article discussed how gin sales had risen by 27% over the past year or so and, in particular, boutique or craft gins.
She had been puzzled by these neologisms, but then the penny dropped: these were the good, old hedgerow tipples that she had been making for years, to her grandma’s recipes.
She felt that Kirstie Allsopp would have approved of her thrift, but then she wondered why that should matter.
As she drove around the semi-circular school drive, which was one-way, she glared at John’s mother’s Volvo. John was sticking his tongue out at the twins.
Is that boy still bullying you? she asked.
Yes-no. We don’t mind. Actually he is very funny. He got into trouble today in Assembly.
Oh, why? asked Brassie, genuinely pleased.
He was singing:
All things wise and wonderful
The Big Bang made them all..
He had to write an punishment essay at lunchbreak, which he said violated his human rights, especially as he has learning disabilities, but Caligula, we mean Mr Milford-Haven said that it was, nevertheless, an A*.
A*! Humph! grunted Brassie, almost making contact with the car in front’s bumper, which just happened to be the same Volvo which we described previously.
John said that there was an expandable universe before the Big Bang and then it bounced, just like a cricket ball. Then there was infinite expansion, said Castor.
Infinite expansion of that child’s ego! muttered Brassie. He simply stole all of that from ‘Horizon’ I saw it the other night. Mr Milford-Haven should mention the dangers of plagiarism in his end of term report.
But sometimes boys that get very poor reports end up getting the Nobel Prize, do they not, Mum?
Don’t you two assume anything. Daddy and I expect wonderful reports about you or else.. She couldn’t think of any sanction, but then.. or else, she repeated, no new cricket pads.
We are both second top equal for Science.
Brassie dumped their satchels in the hall, along with the flugelhorn case.
Who’s top? she tried to sound nonchalant.
Don’t worry: Ferdy. John’s third.
There was a puddle in the hall which she had to step over. Wretched Border!
Mind out! she cautioned and went down to the cellar to fetch a bucket and mop.
The twins heard a cry of dismay. They climbed down the steps. There had been a Big Bang in the cellar. The sloe gin had exploded and there was glass and chaos everywhere.
Oh, Mum, that’s just what John said. Infinite expansion, commented Pollux.
You should have left some room at the top of the bottles, lectured Castor.
Brassie could have consigned them both to a Black Hole. She stepped back into the puddle:
Shut up and go and do your prep!
And that was because she was a Very Bad Parent.