Thursday, 29 September 2011


“You don’t even know how to order coffee,” Eldest hisses, as we stand in the queue in Starbucks.

“Er…I think I do, actually,” I reply.

“You are so embarrassing!” chips in Middle One.

My crime? I’ve been handed a small hot chocolate with caramel for Youngest and I didn’t order him a small hot chocolate with caramel. I merely ordered a small hot chocolate. I’ve just pointed this out to the barista – politely, I think – and while I was at it reminded her that we are still waiting for the cappuccino, and the two lavish frappaccinos with cream that the two older boys added to the order...without asking me first.

“Look,” I say, “I am just asking for what I have ordered. I’m not being rude. Don’t tell me what to do, I’m an adult.”

“But you don’t know how to do it!” he repeats.

“No, you don’t!” adds Middle One.

“I think I do. Believe it or not I was ordering coffees long before you two were even born.”

I can’t believe I just said that, that’s the sort of thing my mother said to me when I was 15. OMG, I’m turning into my mother.

A discussion ensues, between the barista and me, about the hot chocolate. I insist that I couldn’t have asked for one with caramel because I had no idea such a drink existed. She claims that I did, even though she is not the person who took the order; she is the person who makes the drinks. I say that as we are in a hurry (we are at a service station on the M4, trying to get to Wales for a surfing weekend with friends by lunchtime) I don’t mind having the hot chocolate with caramel on this occasion, as long as I won’t be paying extra for it, because I didn’t order it. It is all quickly resolved.

“You are a nightmare,” says Eldest.

“Listen,” I say, as we begin to walk away. “You cannot speak to me like that, especially in front of other people, it’s outrageous. Put yourself in my shoes, I had this baby and that baby knew nothing, he was completely helpless and vulnerable. He relied on me entirely for everything, for his very survival. I fed him day and night, I changed his nappies – lots of them. Fast forward a few years, okay 15 years to be precise but to me it feels like five minutes, and now that baby is standing next to me in the queue at Starbucks, while I buy him a very expensive sugary drink, telling me how to order hot chocolate..." That’s it. That’s my case. I have nothing more to say. I’m rather pleased with myself. We are walking across the car park now and I look at Eldest for the light bulb to appear above his head. It doesn’t.

“I don’t care,” he says, “You cannot boss that girl around, she is serving coffee to people, you have never served coffee to people!“

“Actually, I have,” I interrupt, “when I was at university I had a part-time job in Norwich, at a cafĂ© called Mange Tout and…” but Eldest isn’t interested in my colourful past. “You still can’t tell her what to do because she has a job,” he says, “and you don’t.”

That’s it. I snap. My reasonable self floats free from my body like a departing soul from a dead person, I grab the expensive sugary drink from Eldest’s hand. “Right!” I say, “you apologise to me for that remark or you won’t get this back.”

He doesn’t, and so he doesn’t, and we’re only at junction’s still a long way to Wales.