My sister-in-law has come to stay

MY sister-in-law has come to stay.

She’s a bad influence. It is 10.50am and I still haven’t had breakfast.

She’s like my wife. They’re sisters, so I suppose that’s not surprising.

What’s surprising is that, if there are two children in a family, how come things aren’t organised so one talks and one listens?

I’ve been dropping hints about the breakfast since 8.30am but no one listens.

They talk. They talk through each other and at each other and if you tested them afterwards neither would have a clue what the other had said.

And they certainly wouldn’t have a clue what I’ve said. I think they’d have trouble remembering who I am.

And I’m not talking long-lost relations who haven’t seen each other for 50 years. I’m talking a sister who lives in Sydney. A sister who can — and does — use a mobile phone any time she wants a second opinion on a pair of shoes!

A sister, incidentally, who has kept far too much bad company for far too long. A bad influence.

When I finally lost it and yelled: “Are we ever going to have any breakfast!” she withered me with a stare that was clearly genetic and said: “What’s wrong with you getting it?”

My wife nodded. I could see her turning the idea over. I could sense that the novelty of it appealed to her.

Never mind that life has been bowling along nicely for several decades with my wife making the breakfast. At 8.30am.

Never mind that the weekend routine is that we eat toast and coffee and she talks to me. And I listen.

Well, in between mouthfuls and pages of the Weekend Bulletin.

Never mind that I have dealt with this intrusion in a mature and generous manner despite the whole fabric of the social order in my home being in danger of destruction.

This must have been what it was like when the missionaries turned up. Lots of talking, no listening, no breakfast until noon, and a whole new set of social values by teatime.

It’s not that there’s anything wrong with my sister-in-law. I’m sure she’s basically a very nice person. But she gets up here and gangs up. Against me. And after the first day it’s not just a difference of opinion between individuals; it’s an orchestrated campaign.

I thought about taking the dog for a walk, as a protest, but I’m afraid they won’t notice. Or they’ll want to come, too. And they’ll talk incessantly while I shuffle along with the dog.

Occasionally they’ll stop and call us to heel.

“If I had wanted to live like this I’d have married your sister,” I said in a rare private moment.

“She would have had the sense to say no,” said my wife. “Unfortunately.”