I met a girl. I was bewitched by her green eyes. We decided to live together.
Which meant her freezer needed clearing out. And in that freezer I found a duck…
“Look at this,” I said as John Major made himself comfy in Downing Street and Wet Wet Wet topped the charts. “Best before August 1986. I think that can go in the bin.”
“It’s frozen. It doesn’t matter.”
“Sweetheart,” I gently pointed out, “I love you very much but I don’t think we should start our new life together by eating something that should have been twinned with pancakes and hoi sin sauce six years ago.”
“Darling,” she said equally gently – because that’s how it is when you’re falling in love – “You could go to the South Pole and eat the food Captain Scott so thoughtfully left behind for you.”
Since then we’ve volleyed ‘best-before’ and ‘use-bys’ backwards and forwards with increasing ferocity.
“Ugh. Best before three days ago. Can’t use that.”
“It’ll be fine.”
“Best before a week ago. No chance.”
“How many times? ‘Best before’ doesn’t mean ‘use by.’ Pass it here.”
I’d hand it over. Jane would smell/squeeze/inspect for mould as appropriate and it would be passed fit for human consumption. And in fairness, it always was.
Eventually I waved the white flag. My wife had won. Besides, we had teenagers. Nothing lasted long enough for ‘best before’ or ‘use by’ to be even remotely relevant.
And then I spent five days with my head in a kitchen cupboard.
Jane and I had the week off. Yep, at the same time. And no children. One in Italy, one in Brackley and one – no prizes – at what appeared to be a week-long party.
We did all the things you’d expect. And we cleaned the kitchen.
And here I come to a confession. I realise that I haven’t been terribly good at cleaning the house: ‘not terribly good’ roughly translating as ‘remarkably useless.’
I blame my father. He once sent me to the shop for a tin of Elbow Grease. I’ve been emotionally scarred ever since.
But something has changed. I’m almost scared to write these words – expulsion from the League of Couch Potatoes is a formality – but I’ve found I enjoy cleaning. I love the way you squirt that stuff on and the grease dissolves. The pain in my back when I emerge triumphant from a cupboard is a badge of honour. And sadly I’m excited by what I find in there.
Suddenly I’m right back where I started…
“Look at this! Bread sauce mix. Best before 2007. We bought this was Ben was nine!”
My wife sighs. Astonishingly she doesn’t feel the need to admire every out-of-date packet of bread sauce I discover.
“2001!” I yell in triumph. “Ben was three – maybe even two. We’ve had this fajita mix for fourteen years.”
“It’ll be fine.”
I point out to my beloved that it’s now rock solid and could be used as a lethal weapon. She ignores me.
And then, at the back of the sauces cupboard, I find it. Rowntree’s Creamola. Flavoured ground rice. Best before June 1993. Outstanding! Tom was born in October ’93.
Surely this is the high point in any cupboard cleaner’s life?
My wife is less impressed.
“Darling, you do realise that getting aroused by finding out of date things in cupboards is a little worrying, don’t you?”
“Come on, Jane. 1993 – how awesome is that?
I suggest that the packet of Creamola is a family heirloom. My wife suggests it goes in the bin. She wins.
I console myself with the baking cupboard – and the possibility of breaking my record…
Thanks for reading this post. If you enjoyed it – and you’d like something light and moderately humorous to read – you can buy the ‘Best Dad I Can Be’ sample book with 27 of my favourite posts covering all the years I’ve been writing: it’s all of 99p on your Kindle. Alternatively the first chronological book, ‘Half Dad Half Fish’ which covers the time when the children were 9, 7 and 4 is available here.