The parallels between the Viking invasion of northern England and our own are striking. We just have different weapons (Vikings - rape, pillage, razed earth, giant axes; us - ceaseless bickering, spiky plastic novelties, rampant consumerism, desire to be waited on hand and foot). The resident population is seriously weakened by our onslaught. As I type, prog rock step dad is brushing sticky black playdoh off the floor in a saintly fashion as Lashes commandeers all his wooden clothes pegs for an elaborate craft project.
However, none of us is called Frigga.
Whether I look like this after 4 days of stupid clock change child-infested mornings, no hair straighteners or cosmetics is less clear.
I really wanted a Viking beard for Halloween but have not thus far managed to find one. You can't even mention horned helmets (Victorian construct! No basis in fact!) around here without getting smote by a broadsword. The insistence on historical accuracy at the expense of stupid fun is most tedious.
Teasing prog rock step dad continues to provide cheap laughs however. We are trying to persuade him that his spartan self-sufficiency skills will make him an ideal guru for the post-financial apocalypse world.
"You can be the new Martha Stewart!" I enthuse. "You could have a ten minute daily podcast where you show people vital new self-sufficient skills, like repairing punctures, darning, making your own pizza from scratch and making soup from boiled dishcloths!"
"Who is Martha Stewart?"
"Never mind, you are way better than her anyway. Can I be your manager? What other skills do you have?"
"He sews patches on his jeans" interjects the Space Cadette. "And stews fruit. And makes his own falafels. Whilst reading aloud from Le Monde Diplomatique. Oh, and do you remember when he gave my piglet a total skin transplant with new pink felt? It took him weeks."
"I think you need to learn to weave. Could you learn to weave? Maybe weave some Russian poetry onto a sampler or something?"
"We'll have to make sure they never see the terrible red pub carpet.
That would destroy your credibility totally."
"Unless perhaps you dyed it yourself with beetroot. Did you?"
"You women are so bossy" he says looking hunted and skulks off to conjugate some German irregular verbs.
It is wonderfully comforting to be back here, pretending to be 14 again. I never eat as much, laugh as much, drink as much tea or lie around and do nothing as much as I do here. With all three of us on psychiatric medication, Prog Rock Step Dad battling chronic fatigue and the Space Cadette coughing like a nineteenth century consumptive, it feels a bit like sheltered housing, but in such a soothing way. Will anywhere ever feel as much like home as this place? There's still a groove in the kitchen wall where I used to curl myself against the radiator. I know every creaking floorboard and every light switch. I could walk around the whole town, let alone the house, with my eyes closed.
It's a truism to say it isn't the same without my mum. Of course it isn't. She died five years ago this week - this time five years ago we were just embarking on a sickening rollercoaster and I feel like we're only just starting to slow down. There is a massive hole where she should be. She would not approve of that carpet. Or the taps in the bathroom, or Prog Rock Step Dad's demented approach to hanging pictures, though I think she would like the new curtains. I hate that she never met Fingers. I hate everything about her being dead and I don't accept it at all. But I love what the six of us have made since she died. Space Cadette, Prog Rock Step Dad, me and the CFO and the boys. We bicker, and sulk and moan and drive each other crazy; we drink tea and wine and eat crisps and laugh until we ache all over.We're tied to each other with all the tangled bonds of love and grief and responsibility and shared history and stupid, stupid jokes. It's proper family. She should be here to see that, but given she isn't, it's a pretty fantastic legacy.