The hair is receding, we’re buying a house and attending grown-up stuff like weddings – but nothing signals full-blown adulthood like a family outing to B&Q.
We’re back in my hometown of Swindon for a few days, a trip which in previous years generally consisted of midday lie-ins, cinema date and a cheeky Nando’s without a baby throwing mango and lime chicken and frozen yogurt on the floor.
Now, ten months into parenthood, we pencilled in one of those weeks that, as a child, were the stuff of my nightmares.
“B&Q has a nasty knack of turning people into self-appointed ‘experts’ in interior design, despite holding completely contrasting qualifications to the subject.”
Back then, trips to such hell holes were described as ‘mystery tours’, generally deciphered by the general direction we were driving in.
Go one way and it was Bath and the horrendous reclamation yard, the other some department store in the arse-end of nowhere which, from memory, stocked only a shedload of breakfast bar stools we never bought.
Neither was going to be a quick jaunt. And if it were a shorter journey, it was only going to be a pub crawl-type journey through the DIY stores, topped off with a food shop and minus the dodgy shots and kebab.
Having realised I’d turned into my father, I chose the orange-logoed DIY outfit as our outing because we were fresh from having an offer accepted on a house.
It’s also only fair Albie should experience a little of my childhood boredom.
He often falls asleep in the car, waking up in the cheese section of Tesco, so arising to Mummy and Daddy debating whether a pack of tiles were meant to go on the wall or the floor must have been a welcome novelty for a few minutes. Thankfully for him, he missed the ‘Swindon Stench’ of the sewage works next door as we opened the car doors and wished B&Q had a drive-thru gas mask collection point.
Having been through the house purchase process before only to see it fall through, we chalked it firmly down as an ‘inspiration’ visit, rather than one for definitively planning for rooms we’ve yet to officially own.
B&Q has a nasty knack of turning people into self-appointed ‘experts’ in interior design, despite holding completely contrasting qualifications to the subject.
In my case, clearly a distinction in media law gave me full authority to channel my inner Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen twittiness and decree that curved sinks just don’t go with straight-edged baths.
I also felt I had full authority to explain how, by simply switching the way our prospective bathroom door opened, we could create a world of space.
It was almost like we didn’t know a designer who might be better placed to work that stuff out, rather than relying on my GCSE in food technology to get us through!
We fed a tap passion we didn’t know we had, argued about the cost of underfloor heating and made authoritative notes about styles of toilet seats.
All of this looked pretty grown up, so of course the time for us to bump into someone we knew was while we were pretending to have a shower in the bath which took our fancy.
Fortunately, it appeared this unusual behaviour was socially acceptable. Either that, or my Mum’s friend was just very polite, or taken in by Albie’s cuteness as he peered over the Adelphi unit we were test bathing.
We should have known better than to let our guard down, as Mum knows everyone in Swindon and was soon chatting to another person – this time in the toilet section. Here, I bonded over one of my blog posts this lady I had never met had read. It proved that late-night typing sessions were worthwhile.
Armed with catalogues of stuff we can’t afford and Dulux paint charts consisting of mostly hideous shades we’d never coat our shed in, let alone a feature room, we headed home concerned this had become our ‘trip out’ for the day.
Next on the list is IKEA. For some back home, mention of the Swedish furniture giant’s name goes down as well as Voldemort’s does at Hogwarts, given controversial plans to plonk one of its stores in leafy Lancing.
If I never blog again, it’s because I’m overcome by tealights, meatballs and regret, or have been taken out upon return to my homeland.