David Moseley

When good parents turn bad

2014-06-13 06:30

David Moseley

Earlier this week I was scrambling some eggs. While whisking away I noticed the dog bursting into the lounge, splashing mud over my (wife's) furniture and walls as it enthusiastically shook off the winter rain.

Running after Rocket, grabbing at fresh air as she slipped away and trying to wipe mud up at the same time, I left the eggs on the stove for too long. I rushed back into the kitchen, but the damage was done.

The eggs were scorched beyond all recognition and glued to the pan in a fashion that most glue manufacturers only wish they could replicate. This meant no fancy breakfast and a few more wasted minutes while I soaked the pan.

As the hot water hit the sink, the memories came flooding back. The smell, the burnt eggs, the excessive amounts of Sunlight liquid being used all in the vain hope that it might actually clean the pan, these triggers sent me back to the forest where my father and his friends repeatedly hit my brother and I, their children too, all while chugging back beers and guffawing at their manly prowess.

Family picnics

In a time when my parents and their friends were the age I am now, we used to enjoy family picnics in Tokai forest.

These occasions either took the form of an afternoon braai or a morning Skottel breakfast. I happily see that this trend continues, though I hope the children of today are treated with less contempt by their parents.

The braais and the Skottels would always drag on. Afternoon braais invariably ended in the early evening with forest officials chasing out worse-for-wear picnickers. The real trouble was with breakfast, though. It started with the eggs.

First the rolls were cut. Then some champagne was sipped. The Skottel, with much huffing and puffing, was assembled. Then it was disassembled when the gas canister was discovered to be empty.

Once the full gas canister was attached various breakfast meats were fried. More champagne. Eventually the beers appeared. Tomatoes went on and came off with their nuclear juices ready to warm a thousand households. My brother and I would be playing a mellow game of cricket.

Eventually the eggs went on the Skottel, accompanied by questions from the chef to my dad like, “Hey Trevor, how long do these eggs take?” Already knowing the outcome, my brother and I would resign ourselves to bacon and egg rolls without the eggs. “Agh, not too long, Garth.” The death knell for scrambled eggs was rung.

The eggs were always left on for too long because, as the litres of uncooked scrambled mixture were poured onto the Skottel, Trevor, Garth, Keith, Steve and whichever other father was present noticed there was a game of cricket on the go.

“Hey, my boy,” my father would say, tottering towards the pinecone that marked the start of the bowlers run-up. “Let me have a bowl please,” he would ask, ripping the ball from my hand anyway. Already knowing the outcome, my brother and I would resign ourselves to a game of cricket that soon excluded us.

No one was cooking

Running in, ball in one hand beer in another, no doubt remembering his glory days as a schoolboy sprinter of some repute, my dad would unleash an almighty delivery. “Dad,” my brother would sigh, “the wicket’s over here.” Ja, ja. I know. That was a warm-up.

Soon my brother would be holding his head in agony, complaining fruitlessly to the blissfully unaware mothers as father after father stampeded in to bowl head-high tennis balls at their children.   

Quietly, going unnoticed in the background, the Skottel would be carrying out its scorched egg policy. By now the children were forced into fielding positions as dads decided they needed to bat and bowl, to show us “how it’s done”.

Trevor resorted to spin. Garth, eyes-widening as a life-long soccer rivalry kicked into gear, charged down the pine needle splattered “wicket” in an effort to hit the ball into this story.

A thwack rang out. Sand and pine needles exploded into the air. Garth had smacked the ball into a tree and the ball had ricocheted into the nearest child. Tears. Worried fathers. Not for the child, but for themselves, because the mothers finally realised no one was cooking.

“Trevor!” my mom would scream. “You’ve burnt the eggs again!” Game over.

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