THINGS I have been given in the last fortnight: a home-made Victoria sponge, rump steak, broad beans, spring onions, lettuces, radishes, two plates of fish pie, four venison burgers, a selection of sea-caught fish and a delicious home-made catalan-style sauce.
I am very grateful for all this, even though there is a risk that when I die they will have to winch me out of my bedroom window by crane while being filmed by Westcountry Television.
The donors were various family members not, as you might think, because I am a hopeless cook and they fear my better half will develop rickets and scurvy under my culinary inadequacies, but because they are generous people - okay, and also because they think there is a slight risk of some kind of vitamin deficiency.
It's the time of year, too, where my gardening siblings take pity on (or rather, mock) my lack of greenfingers and pull the occasional radish to show me what bounties Mother Nature will bestow if you only accord her a little respect.
I have managed to give them a slight shock, though. My brother gave me a cherry tomato plant already growing vigorously in its tub AND I HAVE KEPT IT ALIVE. It even has some small green tomatoes on it, ready to ripen in the sun if only I can keep up the vigilant slug assassination and regular watering. I have also managed to grow some lettuces - yes, all on my own.
Oh how my sister and mother laughed at Eggesford Gardens when I bought the seeds. They were both round my house yesterday, staring in disbelief at the sturdy little leaves while I smiled smugly. I just hope pride doesn't come before a fall.
Back to all those gifts. There are in this world, givers and takers, and my family are (mainly) givers.
My siblings and I laugh at our mum because you can’t really give her anything. If, for example, you buy her a nice beige cardie from Mark’s and packet of Werther’s Originals, you can bet your life that the next time you visit she will have bought you something to the approximate equivalent value.
No matter how much you reason with her that you have a good job, that she’s cared for you all her 80+ years and now you just want to do something in return, she always employs some kind of inner calculator to ensure you are not short-changed.
You can almost hear it ticking over.
“Mmmm, one beige cardi from Mark's, say £19.99; bag of Werther’s Originals, £1.99; equals £21.98. Will buy in return a big bar of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk, £2.99, plus nice pair of ear-rings, £14.99, plus bottle of Pink Blush nail polish, £3.99, equals ...”
Then when we go out for lunch, it’s “I’ll pay.” “No, I’ll pay.” “You paid last time.” “No I didn’t, you did.” “Well, it’s my treat.” “Look, I’ve got my money out!” “Put it away!” and so on and so on.
There’s a great scene in the comedy series Father Ted, where housekeeper Mrs Doyle is having tea with a friend. They end up having the "I'll pay" conversation until, eventually, they end up rolling around the floor having a humdinger of a fight. That's us, minus the fighting!
Oh well, time to go and buy the Sunday papers and sit out in the garden to read them. I must remember to talk to my plants as I pass and ask them if they have enough to drink.