Breakfast in our house is like a meeting of the undead.
My teenagers crash about with wild hair and glazed eyes, uttering strange incomprehensible cries.
Sometimes my 16-year-old sits huddled in a blanket like someone who's just been in a car accident. I say to her, 'Toast?' and she looks at me with hopeless despair.
It used to be so different. In those long-distant days of primary school, they were all up and dressed by 7.30am, with shiny hair and clean teeth. We talked about Pokémon and Easter Egg competitions.
We even smiled at each other. Nowadays, the rule is strict silence. Conversation is only allowed in emergencies - like when the jam is just out of reach.
My friend Rick came to stay the other day. He lives in Edinburgh and has two teenage sons of his own, so he should know better, frankly. Maybe he was unnerved by the deathly hush, or the fact that my teenagers were slumped over the table like abandoned corpses.
'Morning!' he said, at full volume.
My 18-year-old tried to look up but was violently assaulted by sunlight. He cringed back into his chair like Dracula faced with a clove of garlic.
'Oh, sorry,' said Rick in a theatrical whisper. 'Morning. Forgot.'
Rick left in a bit of a rush. He was going to an important conference on new media. Everyone goes to important conferences on new media these days. Old people, anyway. Anyone under 25 doesn't need them.
Back in the kitchen, my daughter looked at me in disbelief.
'He shouted,' she said. 'He shouted.'
I said, 'I don't think he - '
'He shouted,' she said. Her eyes narrowed. 'People shouldn't shout in the morning.'
Which of course is true.
But I'm not so sure the silence of the grave is that much better.
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