Pondering my childhood last night, I've boiled down my parents' basic rules that made me the Vole I am.
1. Cold is a figment of your imagination.
2. If you don't like your dinner, perhaps you'll like it as tomorrow's breakfast. Whatever: it's what you're getting anyway.
3. Just because windows and curtain can close doesn't mean they should.
4. One can never attend too many Masses, Stations of the Cross, Confessions or Benedictions.
5. 6 siblings: 1 haircut. This is non-negotiable.
6. Summer is February to November, and will be spent outside. Lunch will be passed through a window.
7. Short trousers will be worn until you get your GCSEs.
8. Grange Hill is evil. As are ITV, VCRs, Monty Python and any books published since 1918. Prisoner Cell Block H and the snooker are the only acceptable art forms.
9. Offer it up.
10. Boiled potatoes are an integral part of any culinary dish. Garlic is a tool of the devil.
11. Thursday night is stew night. So it is written. Amen.
12. There are Protestants but that doesn't mean you have to pay attention to them.
13. Lourdes is a holiday resort.
14. Your grandfather's chainsaw makes a perfect toy.
15. Obvious lack of talent is no bar to compulsory music practice.
16. Near life-size religious statuary looming over your bed is in no way creepy.
17. If those clothes were good enough for your grown-up cousin 20 years ago, they're good enough for you.
18. You live in the countryside. If you want friends, talk to the sheep.
19. If the nuns hit you, you must have done something.
20. A broken arm is no reason to make a fuss. You're almost 7!
21. There are six of you. How should we be expected to know your names?
22. A wooden spoon is a Reusable Learning Object.
23. No, tripe and liver are foods.
24. What are these 'feelings' to which you refer?
25. A handshake on Christmas Day is enough affection to be getting on with thank you very much.
27. Burying pets builds character. Giving them names is weakness.
28. Rosary beads are what every child wants on their birthdays.
29. Bodies are not to be mentioned under any circumstances.
Follow these simple rules and your children too can grow up to be socially maladjusted misanthropes! I'm planning to expand this into a Channel 4 show and tie-in book. Sort of an Angela's Ashes How-To.