I have always imagined the Molineaux household to be a replica of the Royal Family; the one with Jim and Barbara rather than Elizabeth and Philip.
I am not making this comparison because I swear a lot and sit around in my vest or that we alternate our family alcohol consumption with drinking tea.
No! I speak of such things because we have been, for many years, a family that congregates around the TV even when there seems to be little of interest to view. It never ceases to amaze me that we have over seven hundred channels available and yet still we complain that there is nothing to watch.
What surprises me even more is that, in our search for entertainment, we can spend the whole length of a programme flicking from channel to channel before going back to the one that we started at. Even when the adverts come on we embark on a flicking session and often end up forgetting which programme we were watching.
I am not complaining about all of our TV experience because we, like many others, find a great deal of pleasure in arguing about the scores awarded to celebrity ballroom dancers or debating the comments given to singers who have been deemed to be factored with a large amount of X.
I had thought that this was the picture of our future until a few days ago. I walked into the living room, after doing one of those jobs that it seems only Dads can do, expecting to find my precious family huddled around the box in corner. The TV was indeed switched on but the sound was at a low level whilst the three Molineaux females present (wife and two youngest daughters) were all sat typing away on lap top computers.
Amazed, I stood and watched for a moment and then asked a few questions to find out what had brought this seismic change in our lounge room activities.
Daughter number four was simultaneously watching video clips on YouTube (think computerised low budget TV channel) and ‘speaking’ to her friends on MSN (think an electronic version of passing notes around at school).
Daughter number three was engrossed in a video editing session whilst listening to music on an IPod through her head phones (think miniature record player that isn’t affected by dust).
My wife, who is curiously able to use a computer but not equipped enough to tune in her own car radio, was setting up own Face Book page (think diary, photo album and scrapbook shared with others). The girls had banned her from having a My Space page (think Face Book but for younger people) because they were worried that their friends might find out.
Engrossed in their own cyber worlds they would occasionally communicate their findings to each other, yet none of them seemed to have noticed that football was on the TV. What are these amazing pieces of electronic wizardry that have the power to quench negative comments about sport on the telly?
Is this the future for our families? Will the TV be merely background noise to the sound of computer keyboards? Are we about to leave behind our Royal Family status?
I shared these thoughts with my wife who was horrified at even the thought that we resembled Jim and Barbara. ‘We are nothing like them’ she protested as she went off to make a pot of tea.
When I was younger entertainment choices were simpler. We all watched TV and chose from three channels some of which only showed programmes for part of the time. The next day we would laugh at Morecambe and Wise as we shared the experience again.
Sitting around the TV was what we did in the evening when Dad came home from work. We were real people watching made up stories about imaginary characters.
Now we can listen to music whilst checking out websites and email friends with football on the TV in the background.
There is one benefit to all these changes; whilst the girls spend their time surfing the net I get to use the remote control (think one of the greatest inventions of all time).
My precious wife, in her wisdom, has decided that we NEED to decorate. The emphasis on the word need is in direct proportion to the strength with which she said it.
There are times when she uses the N word and it contains no more hidden meaning than any other comment. On this occasion, however, it contained all the force of any of the other times that she has felt that my involvement is required without delay.
I hadn’t noticed this lack in our home design set up until she mentioned it to me whilst I was engrossed in an exciting episode of Spooks. I tried the usual fake acknowledgements of the conversation but she seemed to mean business. I even tried to deflect things by saying that we would talk about it during the adverts but she was quick off the mark in noticing that the said prog was on BBC1.
It is not that I am against decorating, in fact I find it strangely therapeutic, it is just that it always ends up being decorating with VAT.
Take for example the conversation about colour schemes; I am politely invited (and by invited I mean compelled) to join in with the selection, knowing full well that my opinions will be put to one side like an empty tin of magnolia.
No sooner has the title sequence started at the end of my favourite TV series and I am asked a growing number of questions that I am both too tired and unequipped to answer.
‘How much would a new carpet cost for this room’ she says signalling that she has more in mind than a few pots of emulsion.
‘A lot more than hiring a steam cleaner’ I reply pretending to be helpful but in actuality trying to apply the metaphorical brakes.
The conversation continues being punctuated only by my search for the tape measure in the drawer specifically designated as a ‘safe place’ for all those things that you use once a year. After ten minutes of muttering under my breath with my hands in the drawer I attempt to decide the required curtain size using a six-inch (and by six inches I mean 15.24mm) school ruler and a length of string.
The conversation only ends when I agree to visit the DIY centre the following weekend.
We arrive at the aircraft hanger filled with overpriced symbols of western aspiration (a little deep for a Saturday morning I know but I am still applying those metaphorical brakes) late enough to avoid all the retired folk who couldn’t sleep and so queued for the shop to open.
My plan was clear; paint, brushes, pay go for lunch. My wife’s plan was to spend years (and by years I mean too much time on a Saturday) looking at paint in very boring shop.
In truth we spent most of the time trying to decide whether we preferred Amber Spirit or Moroccan sunset; both of which were a kind of yellow and seemed to be indistinguishable from each other. We then had a dialogue (and by dialogue I mean argument) about which white we preferred which seemed to me to be a bizarre situation for two reasons; firstly, they were all white and the only reason we could see any difference was because we had them side by side in the shop, which of course would be the case in our hallway. Secondly, I was engaged in the conversation even though I didn’t care which version of white we chose. It is as if I had been conditioned by the surroundings to actually want to have an opinion.
I made the right decision in the end and agreed that my bride knew more about colour choices than me, thus both speeding up the process and making the possibility of eating chicken in harmony a reality.
I can now report that painting has at last started and were as during the selection stage I was effectively redundant somehow now I am needed more than anyone else in the household so that whilst I watch Amber Spirit dry my wife watches the next episode of Spooks.
Do you ever have that sudden rush of blood to your head that makes you think that you are far more skilled at something that you actually are? I did it last summer when I volunteered to be the photographer at my eldest daughter’s wedding.
At the time of agreement I felt sure that I could do it having dabbled a little with a camera whilst at college. As the wedding day grew nearer I began to feel a certain dread at the thought that so much relied on me. To give me comfort I arranged for my old pal Nigel to be available with his telephoto lens as a backup.
Suitably armed with a list of everyone who should be included in the after service snap session, and as many digital memory sticks as I could beg steal or borrow, I set up the tripod and camera in the grounds of the hotel that had become temporary home to the extended Molineaux clan.
I noted that several guests had not seen other family members for ‘over twenty years’; with such a lack of family commitment I wanted to ask them how they could justify costing me money by being present now. Instead I kept my thoughts to my self and set off on my mission to make everyone smile for long enough so that future generations would believe we were a fully functional family.
You would think that people would be sympathetic to the needs of an amateur photographer at his daughter’s wedding but I have to report that everyone (and by everyone I mean a few) were so busy enjoying themselves that they would often ignore my calls for attention.
People fell into five distinct camps that I am sure is typical for a wedding party:
There were those whose only aim was to ensure that they used all five of their disposable cameras standing in front of my more than expensive digital SLR. I tried to be polite but by now the sweat was starting to drip on to my lens as I developed a mild panic at the thought that I was out of my depth.
Then there were those who seemed to have temporarily forgotten their names; no matter how loud I shouted for them, or how near I stood to them, they were oblivious to the fact that I was actually addressing them.
Next there were those who could not remember which group they belonged to; no matter how many times I asked for ‘all the Brides school friends’ I would not end up with the correct group. I have eleven photographs of this group containing a selection of different people including an elderly female relative who thought she was joining a queue for food.
As with every wedding there were a few who had decided that there was far too much alcohol in the hotel and it was their mission in life to solve this problem. As soon as the ceremony was over they had loosened their ties and headed to find a position where they could simultaneously drink and complain at the prices.
There were, of course, those who happily joined in with my manic display of poor photography management. Aunties helping to throw confetti on the count of three. Children who did their best to not pull funny faces when I asked them to smile. Old men who didn’t feel offended when I suggested that they straightened their ties and combed what little hair they had.
As my time in charge grew to an end I was comforted in the fact that I had a digital camera and was sure that I had a good bunch of photographs to choose from. Fortunately I was reminded at the last moment that although I had included everyone that moved (and a few that didn’t) in my picture taking I didn’t have any with the Father-of-the bride on. I handed my camera to Nigel (everyone needs a Nigel) and stood proud, if not a little hot and bothered, with my precious family for a permanent reminder of our special day.