Ours is not a family that does a great deal together other than watch television. Watching television is our forte. It is what we do and we are very, very good at it.
Actually we do more than just watch, we guess the contestants ages on The Weakest Link, Matthew taking charge of the remote and pausing the Sky Plus at strategic moments; "I am Jemima, I am a Pig inseminator from Rye in Sussex and I am ...." Then we all shout out how old we think Jemima is before releasing the pause to see who has come closest. We synchronise our swearing during the Eggheads. We mouth Simpsons scripts and Vicar of Dibley jokes in unison and, happily, we have roughly the same taste in programmes, although Matthew and I refuse to watch Pokemon, I won't watch darts and neither Matthew nor Louis will watch Holby City.
Now however, since the start of The X Factor, Strictly Come Dancing and latterly I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, things have gone horribly awry. Louis refuses to watch The X Factor with Matthew because of Matthew's insistence on singing along. I have been unable to watch the persecution of John Sergeant on Strictly Come Dancing; instead I go to bed and dream about him – him and Jo Brand winning international dance competitions, Sergeant and Brand on Ice. Then, last week, Matthew announced that he was unable to watch I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here on the twin grounds that a) if he had wanted an emetic he would have gone to a chemist rather than watch Kilroy-Silk; and b) speaking of emetics, the Bushtucker Trials put him in mind of my cooking.
So in a first for our family we have been forced to Sky Plus all three shows, and watch them alone or in pairs the following day. "Right, that's settled," I said. "What shall we do now? Maybe we could listen to some music together? Or play Scrabble? And Matthew and Louis looked at me as if they had never met me before.
"I know," said Louis, "Lets watch Frasier." It was a good plan, the right thing to do. We all love Frasier.
It took just 11 minutes for the trouble to start, however because the episode being screened was the one in which Daphne persuades Niles and Frasier to take part in a charity cycle ride, neither of the Crane brothers admitting beforehand, during the preliminary discussions over a fine Amontillado, that they couldn't ride bikes. "Hmm," I said, with a meaningfully raised eyebrow, "they remind me of someone. Matthew, do they remind you of anyone?"
Matthew looked hurt and said, "What me? Oh come on! I know I am drinking sherry but that's only because we've run out of Glenfiddich and Smirnoff."
"No," I said, "not the sweet, nutty Oloroso you are swilling in your glass, but the um, the um...." And then I faltered. Matthew's mood wasn't right. He hadn't yet had enough of the sherry.
"Come on, come on, out with it," he said, turning the volume down on the telly. And so I told him that his mother had told me that he had never learnt to ride a bike. There was a stony silence, wind whistled, dogs howled and we were all too aware of Niles and Frasier falling off new bikes in a park in Seattle.
And then Matthew said, "Please excuse me for a moment," walked across the room, picked up a phone and dialled his mother who was, from the one side of the conversation we could hear, sticking to her assertion that, as far as she was aware, Matthew could not ride a bike. Matthew, argued volubly that he certainly could, that he was doing wheelies at the age of five and that without a bike at university how on earth would he have negotiated all those hills in Bristol.
"OK, OK," he finally said, "If you persist with this fiction I will prove to you, once and for all, how very wrong you are." And then asking me to take the phone and provide his mother with a commentary of everything he was about to do, he marched to the cupboard under the stairs. "He's getting my bike," I told his mother, "he's trying to manoeuvre it out of the cupboard, he's almost...no, no...he's put his lower back out...he's staggering to the sofa...he's demanding frozen peas for insertion under the tender area...I'd better go and help him..."
And so there we all were again. The whole family united in front of the telly, Matthew forced to watch Kilroy-Silk because he couldn't reach the remote and no one was prepared to pass it to him.