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The unexpected horror of social niceties

Anyone who is more familiar with the inside of a book than the outside of a vacuum cleaner will know the horror with which I anticipated the arrival of a New Friend who had not been to the house before. Worse still, not my new friend but RT Teen's. If it had been my own friend I could have warned them about the house being 'creatively messy' or the cats re-enacting Game of Thrones key scenes or the dog and his incredible butt-dancing trick.

When it is the friend of your children though, you can regret not being more like other people - and this side of you suddenly being revealed to the world (i.e. the new friend).

So it was that myself, RT Teen and Custard the cat (House Targaryen) set to with the housework. We busied and we bodied and we did what we could in a short time, even though we had known he was coming for a week.

Me and Custard polished windows and fought the fur corners, RT braved the new vacuum cleaner and discovered that it blew as well as sucked. House Tyrell and Stark had a nee-naw contest in the hall, practising for when they had a proper audience later.

Then, finally, they were here and I readied myself to be nice and friendly and not scare another new friend to the family. Best face on, make sure to show less teeth, lock all available cats in the kitchen and try not to let the dog out as soon as the door is - Oh...

So, the lad and his dad fought their way in past he dog and that was when I realised: the dad was also coming in. He was coming in! Right in and through the hall and into the living room! And he was looking at stuff!

I followed him through to the living room and, despite my horror, invited him to sit down. No, he would stand. Which meant I had to stand because I'm short enough already and I hate sitting down and talking to a person who is standing up. Except that as I stood there, my toes decided to go in and out of joint. So I was trying to talk and listen and not gurn at the man as he told me...lots about himself and his work and all the things people tell each other.

I stood as he talked and joined in somewhat, all the time wondering if he was staying for the full visit. And how long was the full visit? And was he going to eventually sit down for the rest of the afternoon?

And if he did, what would happen to Rupert's walk? Or our trip to the shop? Would I end up taking the dad to the shop and on the walk? Was it acceptable to make him go?

All the while, on the window, House Stark is desperate to get in but won't meow because meowing is for southern cats who can't stand the rigours of the wall. But I'm trying not to look at him because you can't shove your visitors out of the way just because the cat wants in.

It was no good, I cracked and let him in, instantly becoming the Crazy Cat Lady as I scooped him up and presented his dark, battle-chiselled ears to the new visitor, describing how tough he thought he was, compared to how tough he actually was.

This did seem to do the trick and the dad decided he would leave and come back later. Once out he trotted up the path, still talking and I am there at the door, closing it-closing it-closing it, until I was fairly sure it was the right moment to close it altogether.

He chose this moment to call back, cheerily and happily confident of a reply, 'Nice to meet you!' just as I slammed the door shut without any chance to catch it in time.

I turned back to House Stark and let him into the melee waiting for him in the kitchen. He found Tyrell and they re-started their politics and I finally got to the shops.

One good thing is that, after all this strain and excitement, I had nothing left with which to scare the New Friend and he is still ensconced happily downstairs.

His dad is coming back later to pick him up...


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