It’s Bawdy Day, here at Shrewsday Mansions. Don’t read this one during during your dinner.
This morning, Felix rendered me speechless, which is an accomplishment of some stature. We woke, we drank our customary morning hot chocolate, we dressed, we trooped downstairs for breakfast.
And, just as I do every morning, I read out the roll-call of cereals on offer. It’s not a list I’m proud of.
“Right everybody”, I piped breezily, every inch Maria Von Trapp, “We’ve got honey hoops, rice crispies, Mummy’s fruity cereal (Fruit n’ Fibre to you, Reader) and porridge. What are we having?”
The royal we, you notice. None of this putting small children on the spot for their cereal choice in this mansion, thank you very much.
There was a short pause. And then Felix asked:”Mummy, can you not say ‘Porridge’, please?”
My mind, happy on its two little tracks, trundling through the breakfast routine on automatic, screeched to a halt. It riffled through the possibilities and probabilities, in a desperate attempt to predict what might come next. Nada.
“Because that word doesn’t make me feel great. In fact”, he said, warming nicely to his subject, “It makes me feel sick.”
Breakfast with the Wordsmiths had reached new and ridiculous heights. Now it seemed a word had the power to make my son gag. I have mentioned before that his gag reflex is legendary.
And he did look a bit green.
I changed the subject, and asked him to feed the dog, who stood, triangle-eared, telepathically communicating hunger through the glass of the back door.
“I can’t,” Felix rejoined, fatalistically.
“Yes you can, course you can, you do it every day ….” I jollied.
“But Mum….Daddy’s repaired the door. And now it won’t open.”
My husband has many wonderful qualities and I love him dearly. But ever since he was a young boy, he has been taking complex things apart, and not reassembling them in the same order.
At the weekend, he was puzzling over the main door which runs from the kitchen, straight into the garden.
This is a very useful door. I take my scraps to various recycling points around our little plot. I stagger out with armfuls of washing to hang them on the adjacent line. I leave the door open on a string and let the balmy breezes of the forest drift inside, or sit next to it sipping a tea.
I love this door.
So you can imagine my trepidation, when I found Phil brandishing its handle in the air on Saturday. He declared that he had taken it off and it wasn’t going back, for security purposes, you understand. It’s much harder to open a door if there isn’t a handle.
Immediately, opening and closing the door became more challenging. Phil walked me through the locking process. It necessitated a level of complexity that rivalled the Freemasons for devilish secrecy. I practised each technique obediently, and with rising concern.
During the week the locking process has become more idiosyncratic with every passing moment. And Felix was indeed quite right: the door was now stuck fast, and the dog wanted his breakfast.
We do have an alternative: a set of heavy patio doors which open out onto the relaxed vista of the clapped-out trampoline.
Cunningly, I headed straight for their Fort-Knox style locking system. Three minutes later the dog was wheedled in, bemused and disorientated because his bowl was not next to the exit any more.
After school, we betook ourselves to another garden in the quest for a real trampoline.
My sister’s row of houses is engaged in a 21st century keep-up-with-the-Jones’s style contest, entitled Who Has Got The Biggest Trampoline. Currently it’s next door, but my sister’s is pretty big. My kids love to join Big Al and the Princesses for a spot of boingery on a Friday afternoon.
You have to watch the garden, though. My sister’s dog Clover, speed machine, spends all her time running in the forest: no time for essential functions. The latter are all discharged on my sister’s rather lovely lawn. Each play session is preceeded by pooper scooping the like of which you have never seen.
Except today, because I was in charge, and I forgot to do it.
On the way home my bus’s amazing aircon got to work. Felix sniffed. “It smells in here,” he pronounced prosaically.
I sniffed. The powdery air hung heavy with a scent which could have only one source. Clover’s internal workings. Strange how these animals have an olfactory signature.
I took a breath, not too deep, quite shallow actually.
“Everyone look on their shoes please….”
An instant later Felix had found the substance on his shoe and was turning green. We were still two minutes from my door. This was serious.
On arrival, heaving dramatically, he headed off for the bathroom, and I was left holding another fine mess.
At times like this, one shuts off everything except vital functions. Ours not to acknowledge anything outside this tiny circle of facts: that there is mess on this shoe, and it must be conveyed outside to the back garden with all speed and washed immediately.
The back garden. Ring any bells?
I was holding the shoe as far away from the rest of my body as my arm would reach. Fleetingly, I wished I were an orangutang. I charged unthinkingly to the back door, shot the bolt and pushed with my spare hand.
Horrifyingly, it all clicked into place. This door was no longer an option.
It was during a one-handed, more-haste-less-speed grapple with the patio doors that I finally lost my cool.
The children were on the top floor. What juicy insult, what creative cursing would you come up with?
I yelled, from the inner angst of my being: “I am really, seriously unimpressed with this!”
Reader, words failed me. Me.
An aeon later all was clean and I was calm. The shoes stood pristine on the doorstep, the children were fed.
And a dog worthy of Pavlov sat on the other side of the glass waiting for his dinner.