The Amityville Horror

I have the greatest in-laws, but unfortunately the maddest too. Although some people may think they are the perfect in-laws for me. One weekend with them is truly like being with the Adams family so imagine what going on holiday with them would be like, but more of that another time.
Shelagh and Jim seem quite normal compared to their millionaire neighbours, one of whom is Cheryl Cole and I say this because I am sure Cheryl would be disappointed if she were not mentioned. Not that we have ever met her, of course, but you can just see the top of her house, which is almost the same thing really. When I first encountered Shelagh I had no idea what I was letting myself in for. Last weekend was typical of a so-called peaceful time with the in-laws. Firstly I should tell you that my mother in law has the most wonderful relationship with a phone that I could never seem to acquire. She gives it so much attention that two of them have gone ‘bang’ while the others have just got worn out. Worse of all, in the attempt not to miss a call she has this call-waiting contraption, which almost gives me a breakdown. Whenever I phone her, some woman tells me ‘The person you are calling knows you are waiting’ so, if she knows I am waiting why does she never answer me? After about a dozen times of trying and an hour later I give up and search for my Valium, at which time she usually phones back after dialling 1471. More frightening is that she always puts the phone onto loud-speaker and often I find I am chatting away about someone who is sitting in the armchair opposite her. Red faces all round. Because they live some distance away, whenever we visit we nearly always stay the night and this means a visit to the in-laws becomes an expedition. Andrew packs his pillow, I pack my net book, plug adapters, DVDs for Shelagh to watch, a book, bottles of drink, my own food (well, I am on a diet you see) my camera, well you never know, then there is underwear, tooth brushes, change of clothing. Then we load the car with the wood and rubbish that was taken from our old bathroom after it was recently renovated. We are thrilled to be taking this as they can put it into their boiler. I cannot go into the whole boiler thing, as it is way beyond my technical understanding. All I know is that you can throw anything into this thing and it burns and they get their hot water and heating from it. At least that was my understanding until this catastrophic weekend. By the time we have packed I am exhausted and we haven’t left yet. Finally we arrive and she greets us enthusiastically as does ‘Bud’, my father in law who is Canadian and it’s a long story and best not to go there really but hence the name Bud. This weekend was to prove no less crazy than previous weekends. We are in the en suite. Now, this makes perfect sense to me. But we could have been in the green room, which isn’t green at all, or the family room, which looks nothing like a family room. But the important thing is that we Cooks all know which room is which. Tomas the cat greets us and I lift him by the scruff of the neck and that is enough to make him my friend for the rest of the weekend and also means I spend the best part of the weekend scraping ginger hairs off my black top, black cardigan and black leggings. We have lunch and then I log onto my net book and find… no connection.
‘Bud, why is their no Internet connection?’ I shout above News 24.
‘Oh, not had that for about two weeks. Don’t know what has happened there.’
Great, a whole weekend without Internet connection it seems. I ask Andrew if he can have a look once he has finished throwing all our rubbish into the boiler. Meanwhile I show Shelagh the DVDs I have brought. She decides she wants to watch ‘A Mighty heart.’ Over lunch I make the big mistake of telling her I am going to Palestine next year with a solidarity organization. She seems unsure about it but I convince her it will be safe. I have forgotten we are going to watch ‘A mighty heart’ later, in which a journalist is beheaded in Karachi. However, I digress but fret not we shall return to the subject of my own beheading shortly. With no Internet connection I decide to take mother in law shopping while Andrew tries to fix it. Now, I have no problems going in a car with my mother in law if she is in the passenger seat. I once had the privilege of being her passenger and we spent much of that journey with me clutching the sides of my seat as she drove down a one-way street, almost reversed into pedestrians and mounted the kerb on several occasions while often driving on the wrong side of the road. Suffice to say I kindly offered to take to her to Tesco in my car. Not long ago she had a hip replacement, so we take her stick and off we go.
The shopping was uneventful and we pack our purchases in the boot and I climb into the car and wait for her. The car next to ours is a bit close but she squeezes in and then struggles to get the new hip leg in. Several minutes and a great deal of hassle she turns to me with half her leg in.
‘It’s stuck, I can’t get my foot in, maybe if you reversed a bit.’
‘With the door open?’ I say horror-struck.
A young boy in the car next to us is staring at us with deep curiosity. I reverse the car with mum in laws leg hanging out of it like a dragging appendage. It really looked like something out of a horror film. I move back until there is more space for her to manoeuvre. Now, I have other drivers hooting at us as we sit in the middle of the car park with the passenger door half-open and a leg hanging out. Shelagh struggles to pull her leg in while I am hysterical with laughter, which in turn has her laughing too. Finally her leg is in and I move off with the boy still staring at us curiously. We arrive home to still no Internet connection and so sit down to watch the film. It is freezing cold and I get another cardigan. As the film progresses I find myself getting hotter and hotter and notice that even Bud has removed his thick jumper, an almost unknown event. Shelagh gets very emotional at the end of the film and I agree it is very sad.
‘I don’t want you to go to Palestine and get beheaded and then it gets on the internet.’ she blurts out.
Oh God.
‘Oh, I wont, I will be very careful and anyway Andrew will get if off the Internet.’
What am I saying? My husband will get it off the Internet? Now my husband is super husband, able to remove things from the Internet. She seems comforted by this thought and goes to prepare dinner commenting on how hot it is now the heating has switched on.
We sit down to dinner and the wine flows and believe me it flows freely in my in-laws home, especially into my mother in laws glass. As we talk I become aware of strange banging noises. Firstly it seems to be in the lounge and then suddenly the whole house is banging and creaking. I sit quivering in my chair. I suddenly feel like I am in ‘The Amityville Horror.’
‘My god what is happening?’ I squeal.
The radiators are banging like mad.
‘Did you put wood in the boiler?’ asks Bud unperturbed.
Andrew goes to check the boiler and comes back red-faced and with singed eyebrows (ok slight exaggeration.)
‘It’s like a furnace, I had to leave the door open,’ he says.
By now the whole house is boiling hot. We run lots of hot water and turn the thermostat down but still the house creaks and bangs like it is angry with us. Tomas hides under the table. Hot and exhausted Shelagh and I decide to watch a lighthearted comedy until the noise dies down. Then, it is time for bed. We kiss goodnight and head to our room. We are just about to settle down when their phone rings… and rings… and rings.
We both get up to find out why they are not answering it. Shelagh is walking about with the phone in her hand.
‘Why don’t you answer it?’ I ask.
‘Oh, I am ringing the other phone. We can’t find it.’
I hand the other phone to her, which is ringing away in the kitchen.
‘I thought you said you didn’t have intercom on your phones’
‘No that’s right we don’t.’
I nod. Hey ho, off to bed then where the windows are wide open and I wonder what tomorrow holds in the Cook household.

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