A night in with Interstellar: the ultimate, eh, rom-com?
IT'S a sunny day, so I decide to fetch the barbecue. The word 'fetch', however, doesn't come near describing the painstaking process of extricating it from the giant, three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle that the shed has become in a year.
It is, I fancy, not unlike finding yourself a reluctant contestant on The Crystal Maze, when all you really left the house for was a chicken drumstick. I yank on a knotted garden hose and a shelf full of skateboard parts collapses.
In the end, I resort to force, dragging the wretched thing in a cloud of last year's ashes, crazy daisy chain of garden implements and bicycle helmets in tow, across the lawn, where it crashes down with a noise like a Chinese percussion troupe.
On cue, the sky darkens.
When my wife finds me in the kitchen, I'm covered in cobwebs and ashes, hunched over the countertop, defeated, stuffing a roasting bag full of chicken parts. I look like the world's most pathetic grave robber.
"Don't worry," she says. "Not much point in having a barbecue with just two of us anyway."
"Agreed," I tell her, bunging the bag into the oven. "Where's the fun in scraping the black bits off your half-cooked meat unless you can share the experience as a family?"
"Well," she shrugs, "it's actually quite nice that everybody's out, for a change."
She's right. All our four have been through the hermit stage of stewing in their rooms under their laundry, plugged in to a phone screen. It's nice not to be screaming up the stairs at them, for once.
"We'll have a romantic night in," I suggest, brightening up and shedding ashes. "I have Interstellar on Blu-ray."
"Hmm," she says. "Sounds a bit like a space film."
"Don't know what gives you that idea," I say. "It's... a relationship drama."
She squints at me suspiciously. "So, no explosions?"
"Only the explosive epiphany of a man trying to find his way back to the bedside of his dying daughter," I say, cleverly leaving out the other two and half hours of sci-fi thrills. "But I don't want to ruin it for you."
"You'd better get us some wine in then," she says, and I bolt to the car.
I'm only halfway to the shops, however, when my phone blares the warning klaxon of an imminent biological disaster (I have no recollection of programming my phone to do this when my wife is calling, but it still makes me chuckle).
"Looks like we have another two for dinner," she tells me when I pull over. "Our son and... not his girlfriend." She emphasises the last three words mischievously. "Can you pick them up from the train? They had lunch in town together earlier... not on a date."
"I think I've got it," I tell her. "I'll swing by and collect them... not in our crappy, seven-seat Alhambra."
"It's so excite-" she cuts herself off, probably flinging the handset aside for a mad, tidying frenzy.
All this excitement stems largely from the fact this particular son has, hitherto, not shown a lot of interest in the subject of girls. In fact, whenever we've taunted him at the dinner table, we've been met with a glare and an exasperated sigh.
I've assumed this is because the fairer sex must not be quite as adept at slaying aliens, or zombies, or whatever it is he gets up to all day on his PlayStation.
I go to buy the wine first and by the time I get to the train, it's already been and there are just two figures waiting.
As I draw nearer, I have to stifle a grin. The girl with him is beautiful.
She looks, in fact, like she'd have no difficulty at all slaying either aliens or zombies.
"What's for dinner," says the boy, hopping in to the front passenger side as she buckles herself in behind.
"Barbecue chicken," I lie, adding: "Not done in a roasting bag in the oven."
Back at the house, the table is laid and candles are lit. The boy is quiet as we chat easily with his friend-who-happens-to-be-a-girl and who is, in fact, quite charming and talkative.
We leave the two to tidy up while we go in to watch our film, which quite predictably, my wife ends up hating.
She thumps me, hard. "That's for making me sit through three hours of this rubbish," she says.
"There's a second DVD of special extras," I offer.
"I'm amazed we're still married," she tells me.
The boy pokes his head in, looking for a lift. I watch them all head out the door, muttering about Interstellar.
"I must have been thinking of Solaris I call after them - the original two-and-half-hour Russian version. Now there's a rom-com." But they don't hear any of this. "Not," I add.
The car departs in the dark, two figures in the back this time, and it occurs to me that, unlike quite a lot of the film we've just watched, it is not entirely unbelievable that someone's universe could be about to change.