Why Ollie made Alice cry by caring about his parents

Even the most well-meaning efforts can be misinterpreted, as Ollie finds out in conversations with his parents and his wife – but he’s able to straighten things out in the end, and even the family dog gets a treat…

Five-year-old Alice wept. Running to her mother Lizzie she wailed: “Daddy doesn’t love Grandma and Grandad any more. He won’t let them stroke Biffo!”

Biffo, the family Basset Hound, lay beneath the table and raised one eyebrow. Unless food was involved, he was indifferent to much of what went on in the Banks household. Lizzie, however, was more concerned at her daughter’s distress.

“Whatever’s the matter?”, she wanted to know. “Why doesn’t Daddy love Grandma Lorna and Grandad Ron anymore?”

Gulping for air between her sobs, Alice told her story, of how her dad Ollie had been on the phone to his parents. “He said…’ gulp; “didn’t want…” gulp; “stoke…” gulp; “any more…” , she struggled to say. “He doesn’t love them!”

“Why would he say that?” asked Lizzie, this time looking at Ollie, who had walked into the kitchen to return the phone to its cradle on the worktop. “Why would he say what?” he asked.

“That Grandma and Grandad weren’t allowed to stroke Biffo.”

Ollie furrowed his brow. “I didn’t say anything of the kind,” he protested.

“Well Alice thinks you did. Why would I doubt her?” Lizzie had become instinctively protective of her daughter, whom she had scooped up into her arms.

“You should doubt her, my love, because she’s being an Apprentice Woman, proven beyond doubt by the fact that she’s got hold of the wrong end of the stick. I’ve noticed it’s a thing women do. Even you. Sometimes. Like now.”

Noticing the thunderclouds developing in his wife’s expression, he ploughed on. “I love Grandma and Grandad very much, which is why I was having the phone conversation. I was telling them about that new Government advice about eating fruit and veg; you know, up from five a day to ten? I was explaining that the Government says that if we all eat ten portions for fruit and veg a day, we’ll all lower our risk of heart disease – and stroke. I did say I didn’t want them to have a stroke, but it had nothing to do with the dog!”

“Oh,” said Lizzie. “I see.” And then, to Alice, she explained: “Words often have more than one meaning. Stroke is one of them. You know about stroking Biffo, but there’s another meaning, and it’s about an illness people can get, usually when they’re a bit older, like Grandma and Grandad. Daddy was talking to them about that.  Eating lots of fruit and vegetables can stop it happening. Let’s dry your eyes and get you a banana.”

Ollie had pulled out his phone, and was tapping away at the calculator. “If we did eat ten portions a day, and it was all bananas, there are four of us in the family, so we’d need 280 bananas a week. That’s a whole supermarket trolley-full. I don’t think I could eat that many bananas.”

Lizzie shook her head. “No-one’s suggesting you should eat it all in bananas, fool. Other types of fruit and veg are available.”

“Even so, ten portions a day is a lot. It would make us feel very full. Could we get it all in the fridge, or would we have to buy an extra one? Perhaps we could shop every day instead. Is fruit expensive? I could use ExpenseOnDemand to track how much we were buying, so as well as being an expense manager, it would be a health manager as well.”

Lizzie stepped forward and put her hand over his mouth. “Shush, for goodness sake,” she said. “Apply some common sense. We need to eat healthily. Sensible portions and a balanced diet; controlled intakes of sugar and salt, and not much processed stuff; that’s what we need. That’s what Grandma and Grandad do, and look how fit they are.”

Alice spoke from under the table. “Biffo likes bananas,” she said. “Look!”