It is the last of the expectations of the day.
The dog’s nose is angled pointedly towards his cushion, which is up on the sofa for The Great Daily Vacuum.
The floor is dust free, the carpet a little plumper, and the dog knows the signs. With the tact of Jeeves he waits. He knows that I read his body language like a book, and that words and woofs are unecessary here.
Just a non verbal “Ahem.”
“Of course, dog, ” I say, replacing the cushion on the floor for him to adjust as only a small smelly terrier can.
He sets to work on it. He pounds it, and scrabbles it. He walks back and forth in a speculative fashion. He digs an imaginary hole in it. And then, with the air of the righteous, he flops down on it to re-acquaint himself with its teeming populations.
Emperor of the microbiological.
And that should be the end, just about, of my day.
Today included a very long list of commitments, and each one must be achieved with the dubious assistance of my three-year old nephew. He’s about three feet high. They call him Big Al.
A voluble world citizen, Al speaks beautifully in crafted sentences with the inflection of an angel: yet everything he touches is laced with disaster.
This small blonde child shot through the door ready for another day at half past eight this morning, followed by two stunning little girls who carry themselves like princesses.
I believe, like a good British Nanny, that a brisk walk is the best possible start to the day. We ran Big Al up and down the ramparts of the iron age fort next to our house. We subjected him, and ourselves, to gradients meant for squirrels, deer and marauding iron-age pirates.
It did not seem to affect his energy levels.
We returned with a pressing mission: to pick up ingredients for a series of wildly ambitious recipes devised by children. Their grasp of the practicalities of preparing food are shaky, and I had already had to talk them down from crazy heights to their chosen recipes: The princesses were doing baked apples and strawberry and banana smoothie respectively; Maddie was taking on an ambitious trifle. Felix would not be cooking today.
And if Big Al expressed an interest, God help us all.
Supermarkets are not his forte: because he’s a freewheeling sort. He likes to hurtle, much like an electron on its journey round a nucleus. We know, these days, that the electron may be at any point around that nucleus at any time, and so it is with Al.
The possibilities of where he might be, within an orbit of me, are limitless. Dismantling a tower of dog food bags, for example, or sampling a biscuit from a contraband packet. Even helping a shop attendant clear up a flour spillage, and making it much, much worse. All are possible; all have fairly high probabilities.
We shopped, we returned, we cooked. Three separate children with three separate recipes while you’re getting wraps for dinner is a lot. I put a pot of cream on the table for one of the princesses to whisk. When I looked back a moment later it had been demoted to the floor, and cream was making its escape to the delight of guest-dog Clover.
We ate. For a short while, it was quiet. Munching is a moment when happiness slips in unnoticed, and contentment puts his feet under the table. Next time you munch, check it out. They’re generally both there.
Clearing a table of wraps and shakes and baked apples and all that hoopla takes application. I sent them away, and cleared. I needed the silence.
Later we wilted in the sun outside; we went to the playground. The princesses and I sat down and I tried to tell them a story, but I didn’t do very well because Al kept climbing the ladder and falling off, or standing in the way of someone on the slide, or approaching picnickers to cadge some of their juice. I’d get to the interesting bit, and then have to hare after Al to avert a small but perfectly formed crisis. The princesses were regally unimpressed.
We went to their house and returned to ours and tidied up after a day of play, hoovering and dusting and dispatching nephews and nieces to their rightful owners and making tea.
Alone once more, Felix and Maddie and I turned to a small treat we have been storing up. A bath bomb.
We ran the bath and lined up in great expectation as Felix lifted the bomb from its rustling next of tissue paper and dropped it in the bath. And oh, it effervesced. We watched, spellbound, as it hared from end to end of the bath, giving off gas like a pike on chickpeas. But much better smelling.
It’s the little pleasures.
So the kids are in bed and the dog has his cushion. Al is tucked up in his own bed after another day demonstrating chaos theory. Tomorrow is Saturday.
This is a moment similar to that when one is munching.
A ruminating satisfaction has descended upon the household.