WHEN I ARRIVE at my parents’ house, they are in the mid-dle of an argument. Dad is halfway up a
Stepladder in the garden, poking at the gutter on the side of the house, and Mum is sitting at the
Wrought-iron garden table, leafing through a Past Times catalogue. Neither of them even looks up when I
Walk through the patio doors.
“All I’m saying is that they should set a good example!” Mum is exclaiming. She’s looking good, I think
As I sit down. New hair color – pale brown with just a hint of gray – and a very nice red polo-neck
Jumper. Perhaps I’ll borrow that tomorrow.
“And you think exposing themselves to danger is a good example, is it?” replies Dad, looking down from
The ladder. He’s got quite a few more gray hairs, I notice with a slight shock. Mind you, gray hair looks
Quite distinguished on him. “You think that would solve the problem?”
“Danger!” says Mum derisively. “Don’t be so melodramatic, Graham. Is that the opinion you really have
Of British society?”
“Hi, Mum,” I say. “Hi, Dad.”
“Becky agrees with me. Don’t you, darling?” says Mum, and points to a page of Past Times, full of
1930s reproduction jewelryand trinket boxes. “Lovely cardigan,” she adds sotto voce. “Look at that
Embroidery!” I follow her gaze and see a long, purple coat-like garment covered in colorful Art Deco
Swirls. I’d save the page and get it for her birthday – if I didn’t know she’ll probably have bought it
Herself by next week.
“Of course Becky doesn’t agree with you!” retorts my dad. “It’s the most ridiculous idea I’ve ever
“No it’s not!” says Mum indignantly. “Becky, you think it would be a good idea
for the royal family to
Travel by public transport, don’t you, darling?”
“Well. . .” I say cautiously. “I hadn’t really. . .”
“You think the queen should travel to official engagements on the ninety-three bus?” scoffs Dad.
“And why not? Maybe then the ninety-three bus would become more efficient!”
“So,” I say, sitting down next to Mum. “How are things?”
“You realize this country is on the verge of gridlock?” says Mum, as if she hasn’t heard me. “If more
People don’t start using public transport, our roads are going to seize up.”
My dad shakes his head.
“And you think the queen traveling on the ninety-three bus would solve the problem. Never mind the
Security problems, never mind the fact that she’d be able to do far fewer engage-ments. . .”
“I didn’t mean the queen, necessarily,” retorts Mum. “But some of those others. Princess Michael of
Kent, for example. She could travel by tube, every so often, couldn’t she? These people need to learn
About real life.”
The last time my mum traveled on the tube was about 1983.
“Shall I make some coffee?” I say brightly.
“If you ask me, this gridlock business is utter nonsense,” says my dad. He jumps down from the
Stepladder and brushes the dirt off his hands. “It’s all propaganda.”
“Propaganda?” exclaims my mum in outrage.
“Right,” I say hurriedly. “Well, I’ll go and put the kettle on.”
I walk back into the house, flick the kettle on in the kitchen, and sit down at the table in a nice patch of
Sunshine. I’ve already forgotten what my mum and dad are arguing about. They’ll just go round and
Round in circles and agree it’s all the fault of Tony Blair. Anyway, I’ve got more important things to think