Saturday, 15 June 2019

'What the Grandparents teach about retirement' by Anne Summerfield

Grandpa has taken over the dining table to paint fruit arranged in an ornate glass bowl. He’s using oil paints, being technical and precise and checking dimensions with his metal ruler. Each night, Grandma assesses the state of decay of the fruit and works out which she will need to replace and add to her shopping list for the morning. If Grandpa paints too slowly some of the fruit will slide out of season and become too expensive for the housekeeping budget. The plums, particularly, are a concern. Their skins are deepest purple, the shine sueded white. When Grandpa began, they were plentiful on the tree in the garden. Now Grandma has to trail from greengrocer to covered market in the hope of finding specimens which are not soft or brown or speckled with mould.

Grandma wishes Grandpa would go back to painting scenes, cottages from postcards or landscapes clipped from magazines. It’s only a hobby after all. The outlay in fruit seems unnecessary on top of the cost of paints and canvas, frames and the special non-reflecting glass the young assistants like to sell him at the art shop. If only the Grandparents could eat the fruit or do something useful with the painting. Tomorrow Grandma will need to buy bananas and grapes, the next day a small orange. Their house smells of oil paint and rotting fruit. Tiny flies hover above the dining table in a gritty cloud.

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