You walk into your home to find a couple you don’t know sitting in your living room, eating a slice of cake. Tell us what happens next
One of the major downsides of being brought up to be polite, open-minded and considerate is that it makes it very hard to be flat-out rude and knee-jerk confrontational – which is probably why politeness etc are out of favour in modern society: none of them is spelt M.E. (I was having this discussion with my d-in-l only the other day: do my gorgeous, sweet-natured granddaughters need to be inculcated with a bit of mongrel to survive?)
Anyway, being at my age irredeemably well-mannered, at the sight of a couple ensconced on my lounge with cake (and possibly daytime TV), I’d probably be struck dumb. In fact I know I’d be struck dumb, and here’s how I know.
Once upon a time long ago, we lived in a rather splendid house that came with my father’s job, so when he retired (we kids were all living elsewhere by then, but it was still ‘home’), we were out and his successor was in. Fair enough. We were due to leave by the New Year.
On Christmas Day that year, my mother had a stroke. The ambulance came, my father went with her in the ambulance and one of my sisters drove behind them to bring my dad home again later, leaving my other sister and I standing there (understandably lost and forlorn) as the cavalcade disappeared down the long and winding drive. But before we’d had time to gather ourselves and go back inside, a car drove up and out popped my father’s successor, beaming brightly as he bustled across to introduce himself, his teenage son and his son’s friends.
We’re just on our way to Gold Coast, he said, so I thought I’d call in and show the boys where we’ll be living. (It’s Christmas Day, remember.)
Oh, we said. Terribly sorry, our mum just had a stroke and Dad’s gone with her to the hospital.
Oh really? he said. Yes, we passed the ambulance in the drive and wondered what was going on. But if I could just show the boys around…
And he did. And my sister and I (I was 23, she was 28) served coffee and Christmas cake and chat as if this were a normal day, we were delighted to see them and hadn’t a care in the world.
So I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t call the police for the couple in the living room. At least they brought their own cake.