We’re back in The Young’uns van, heading to a gig. Sean is on the phone to his parents. He’s been on the phone to his parents for most of the journey. Sean’s phone calls to his parents take double the time that they really should take. This is because his parents don’t seem to have invested in a phone with a speaker. Sean’s conversations with his parents therefore consist of him telling the same stories and generally answering exactly the same questions twice. And if Grandmar’s with them …
I think Sean really needs to buy his parents a phone with a hands-free speaker setting, for the sake of his own sanity. It’s only going to get worse the older his parents get, once their memories start to go. He’ll talk to his mum, she’ll then pass him onto his dad, and by the time Sean’s repeated the same conversation with his dad, Sean’s mum will be back on the phone, both parents having completely forgotten that they’ve already talked to him, meaning that Sean will be in line to tell the story to both of them separately for a second time.
My dad has had a speaker phone for years. On the plus side, this means that I don’t have to repeat myself over and over again to different family members, however it does have its setbacks. When I call home, I am immediately put on speaker, and my news is broadcast to whoever is present. And everyone will just chip in. There’ll be no advanced mention as to who’s in the room. I’ll be in the middle of telling a story to my dad, with no idea there is anyone else around, and then my brother will suddenly chime in, my dad’s fiancée Irene, one of my nieces or nephews, or the postman, if he happens to be passing. There’s no such thing as privacy in our family, which is very difficult for me, because as you all know, I am ordinarily a very private man; It’s not like I want to broadcast my life to all and sundry.
It took my dad awhile to get used to operating this newfangled phone with the hands-free speaker setting. For the first year or so, rather than pressing the button to terminate the call after the conversation, he would press the button that transfers the phone from the hands-free speaker setting to the hands-in receiver setting. This meant that after I’d said goodbye, I’d then get the post phone call discussion, as dad and whoever else was in the room had a conversation about what I’d just been talking about.
“Well he seems to be doing all right, or at least he says he is,” says dad.
“Yes, good to hear the gigs are going well. He sounds busy,” says my dad’s fiancée Irene.
“I hope the ointment works on that embarrassing growth he was talking about. It sounded quite nasty,” says the postman.
I’d try and shout down the phone to let them know that I could still hear them and that they hadn’t hung up properly, but it was no use; I could hear them, but they couldn’t hear me, and they’d just keep chatting away about me, and I’d listen, hoping that my dad wouldn’t say something awkward for me to hear like, “I know it’s a bad thing for a father to say, but I can’t help feeling disappointed in him.”
“Well I know it’s not really my place to say this, but I know what you mean,” says the milkman.
Or things could get really awkward.
“Well, I thought he’d never get off the phone. But now he’s gone, and it’s just me and you, do you fancy a bit of fun? Let’s get you out of that dress.” Oh no dad, I don’t want to be privy to you and Irene getting physical. Definitely time for me to hang up.
“Oh yes, come here big boy,” says … the postman?