Our summer break seems longer than usual, perhaps because we have no big holiday organised. The news was greeted with dismay by our daughter Margaret, in much the same way as you'd expect of any 10-year-old: "That stinks, Dad!". But Gail and I decided that circumstances would not allow major expense, although we have still to fulfil Margaret's promised second trip to Florida Disney World.
Frankly, the thought of such a venture with a 15-month child in tow would fill me with dread, even if Fraser were a compliant child. Unfortunately, he still displays significant signs that he might be the natural descendant of "Rosemary's Baby", although Gail assures me that his outrageous sleeping patterns and tantrums are caused by the longest bout of teething troubles in dental history.
I keep checking the top of his head for any unusual especially numerical skin patterns.
Another reason for our parsimonious approach to the holiday season has been the gradual erosion of our salaries since our "McCrone award", and I am glad to notice the stirrings of unrest in our latest union newsletter. Frankly, it's time our leaders took more of a proactive approach in securing a professional wage.
Mind you, there's always someone worse off than yourself. Into which category falls Patricia Laing, a probationer at Gail's school who finds herself without a job, despite an excellent report and all assurances to the contrary when she started training.
"What I don't understand," Gail commented on her return from a girls' night out this evening, "is how we've got a teacher shortage on the one hand and Pat can't get a job on the other."
"It's outrageous!" I agreed. "If she's gone through four years to fulfil a teacher shortage that's still as bad as the day she signed up, and then delivered exceptional performance in Year One, she should be guaranteed a job!"
"You'd think so," she shrugged. "But the executive could teach breweries a thing or two about organising piss-ups when it comes to teacher recruitment promises."
This morning I noticed two small dents in the roof of our S-registration Punto and am convinced that the children in our neighbourhood are to blame, with their ceaseless games of football and basketball. Unfortunately there is little hard evidence, so I satisfied myself with having a quiet word with Findlay, one of the more approachable seven-year-olds on the estate.
"Now, I'm not saying it was you or your friends, Findlay," I patted him on the shoulder, "but that dent looks very like the size of the football that you and your friends play with, so I'm just asking you to be careful in case the ball gets kicked too high and lands on our car again."
He shrugged his shoulders: "Aye. OK," and walked away.
Two hours later, his mother was at the door, portraying all the attributes of the Valkyries in their famous ride only with slightly more violent intent.
"Whit the hell d'ye think yur daen', touchin' ma boay, and' accusin' him o' vandalisin' yur caur?" she prodded me with her forefinger. "Findlay's nivir bin neer your effin' caur..."
"Mrs Finlay!" I protested. "I never said that... "
"Well, he sez ye did!" she retorted, "an' if youse think ye kin get away wi' that, then yous've goat anither think cummin'!"
She turned on her heel and strode away. I shut the door and went to the drinks cabinet.
More dents in the Punto roof this morning, and one on the bonnet. I have to confess that the damage must have occurred after 11pm last night, when I put out the recycling boxes, so it does seem unlikely that Findlay Finlay and his friends are to blame. But I'm not telling his ruddy mother that.
Today, I organised a family excursion on the Waverley paddle-steamer for a trip down the Clyde. Admittedly, it didn't quite make up for a Disney holiday in Margaret's eyes, but she accepted it as a welcome diversion from watching Friends re-runs.
Unfortunately, it rained all morning and we spent a fairly miserable time ensconced in the forward passenger lounge. Fraser was his usual inconsolable and ear-splitting self, so by the time we reached Dunoon, most of our fellow passengers and Margaret had made their feelings clear by moving as far away as possible. So it was with understandable ennui that I subsequently ventured below to enjoy my traditional visit to the engines and found myself the object of Margaret's ire for visiting the adjoining bar during the next two hours I tried to respond to her outburst, but was unable to string more than three words together as we or, rather, I staggered down the gangplank.
When the taxi brought us home, I was horrified to discover the real reason for the dents in our Punto roof, as we witnessed an assortment of teenagers practising "car-walking" across our cherished vehicle, by racing towards the front, jumping on the bonnet, then launching themselves across the roof in two, sometimes three, steps, and bouncing on to the pavement again.
They scattered but I was too emotionally drained to chase them. Instead, I turned and slurred a promise to Margaret and Gail and even yes, God help me, to Fraser that this time, next year, "we are goin' to Dishney World Florida I promish..."
There might be no place like home but during the school holidays, you really don't want to be there.