As the distant golden light of early autumn pours abundantly through the kitchen glass wall, I am scrubbing with a metallic scourer the darkened bottom of my pressure cooker — a loving birthday gift from my dear mother (my partner knows better).
The task at hand would have completely distracted me from the splendour of this Wednesday morning, except for the fact that despite my best non-efforts, the accumulated dirt and cobwebs on both sides of the windows do not manage to completely stop the glare that is almost blinding me. I do not complain: the ochres and yellowing greens of the garden are a feast to the eye, in stark contrast with the stubborn black spots I am presently trying to eradicate.
However annoying these may be (I have other things to do you know) they offer a handy reminder of a few important things: like the puzzling clash between our dearest principles and the imperatives of parenting; the need to always stay present to the task at hand, even when the latter becomes plural; and the amenity yet un-forgiveness of pressure cooking. All three conveniently wrapped in a single event, which starts and ends with our family’s love of music.
My son and I have a deal: when we want to listen to music, it must be chosen at random amongst Daddy’s extensive collection and except for one title which I absolutely loathe, has to be played till the end. The rule was obviously set up before I found out the hard way that Daddy’s CD’s included more than one explicit titles. The particular one that was picked last night gave a whole new definition to ‘explicit’. Of the million odd words in the English language, with one being created every 98 minutes, it seems that Dr Dre and consorts have only selected a very few to express the whole range of human events and emotions and that all of those are beyond rude.
Enters my hardcore libertarianism. I do not believe in censorship, you see. I would much rather people took responsibility for their deeds and all acted in a way that did not harm others. In a perfect world, which I still and possibly naively believe may just happen one day as humanity keeps maturing (and in the improbable event that it survives itself) we would all be able to do whatever the heck we liked because none of us would wilfully decide to act to the detriment of others. I believe in ethics over rules. Also, I don’t like to be told what to do — a trait that I unfortunately share with my darling seven-year-old.
Therefore, as the loudspeakers started to vomit their load of obscenities, I nevertheless made the firm decision to let it play to the end, as per our agreement. Instead I would have a conversation with my son:
“We can hear all the bad words, can’t we, but we do not choose to talk like that, do we?”
“Some people use a lot of rude words because they don’t know the beautiful words. Do you think that’s clever?”
It’s all about giving them the tools to make the right choices, I kept telling myself as I cut the carrots to add to the stir-fry.
Dinner was threatening to run late, hence my choice to accelerate the process by pressure cooking the brown rice. It has to be said that such an endeavour is always a brave one. The perfect balance of fluffiness versus stickiness can only be achieved through precise water measuring and impeccable timing. At this stage everything was going according to plan, the timer ticking and the whistle going at full blast. So was the music. So were the cringeworthy lyrics (good music though and let it be noted that there is certainly an art in being able to tell a story effectively whilst using such a limited terminology).
My philosophical principles were still holding strong against the billows of vulgarity. A song ended. A new one started with the sound of a telephone ring which I irrationally hoped would hold more of my son’s attention than the new vocabulary he was consciously or unconsciously building. The kitchen timer went off at the same time and I remember noting the fact as an interesting coincidence. Only then a woman started to have a very loud orgasm in our family lounge whilst being verbally abused by her lover.
“Okaaaaaay!” I interjected as loudly as I could manage without sounding totally insane.
“Time to start cooking the prawns. Would you like to see the prawns Dear?”
A mildly surprised child looked up from the robotic spaceship he was currently working on, hopefully oblivious to anything else happening around him. I went to lower the volume to a minimum and semi-dragged him to the kitchen. We marvelled at the prawns together until I detected an unwelcome smell. Pressure cooking makes everything faster — including the burning of food.
As I rushed to pull the apparatus off the stove, I may have added to the impudicities of the evening with some of my own. We do have a swear box in the house, to which I must confess I am the sole contributor.