For two weeks it has clung to the inside of a stainless steel thermos flask. It has been filled with water and left to soak, it has had boiling hot water poured onto it from a kettle three times. Today we conceded defeat and threw out the flask. It is official-my wife’s homemade carrot and coriander soup is officially the strongest substance known to man.
Well it had been two weeks since the kids all returned to school after the summer holidays, and now it was time to apply for any after-school activities that your child wants to do.
Or, rather, apply for ones that they don’t want to do-on their behalf.
Millie, my six year old daughter, was adamant that she didn’t want to join any club.
“Millie, you say this every term. You say you don’t want to do them, but when it comes around to it you really enjoy it. Now-for Year Two there is cookery and there is craft club.”
She screwed up her face. “No I don’t think I will do them.”
I persevered:”Come on, it is first come first served. All the places will go if we don’t take this in tomorrow. I will tick both boxes for you.”
“I don’t think I will like either of those clubs.”
“Listen, I will get an extra forty-five minutes for both days before I have to pick you up. You will like them. You will learn to love them.” I ticked the boxes.
Of course I had her best interests at heart. All that social bonding, learning new skills. For forty five minutes.
Guess what? She got in both clubs.
Yesterday was the day of her first activity-cookery club. She could barely reveal, I mean conceal, her excitement.
After a luxurious three quarters of an hour of extra time, I got her three year old brother ready and went to pick her up. Stood outside with the other huddled, leisure plagued parents, I wondered which Millie would come out. The happy, smiling girl, skipping along with a warm baguette tucked beneath her arm, or the scowling, sweaty headed creature covered in flour, snarling “Never again!”
The door opened, and there she was. A great, beaming smile lighting up her young face, a pizza held triumphantly before her on a paper towel. “Dad-I made pizza!”
James’ eyes became like saucers.
It looked like there was a bit of everything on it. Sweetcorn, tomato, pepperoni, pineapple. Not a charred bit anywhere. I idly wondered if she could teach her Mum her secret at the weekend.
We began to walk home, fastening up our coats against the wind that suddenly seemed to spring up from nowhere. How foolishly I ignore the omens.
“Can I eat it on the way Dad?”
I said that she could, and to watch where she was walking. Pizza doesn’t taste as nice when it is squashed flat between your face and a lamp post. She had barely had a nibble when James piped up “Me too? Me have some?”
“No James-there’s not enough” big sister replied, immediately holding the pizza higher.
“Awwwww!!!” A great, drawn out cry of injustice. “Pizza! Dad!” The instant tears started, seemingly in tandem with the hard, cold rain that suddenly, unexpectedly, opened up on us.
“Millie give him some,” I said as I attempted to force the hood of her coat over her head.
She refused repeatedly, stamping her feet. James wailed, stamping his. The rain came down harder. I used all my Kofi Annan diplomatic skills to finally get her to let her brother have a nibble. A little nibble. You can imagine the line I took:show your brother how great a cook you are/see if he likes it more than mummy’s/hurry before the rain makes it cold/just give him some and don’t be so tight.
It was like a switch had been thrown. As soon as the pizza was lowered to three year old height, James’ tears stopped. “Just a little bite James,” she instructed.
It was like a dog with a frisby.
You know when they latch on, breathing out of the side of their mouths?
“No James, just bite a bit off. James….no…Dad tell him to let go!”
Then he was like a bull terrier with lock jaw.
She tried pulling it away, but he resolutely clung on. She swung it from side to side, he kept his teeth clamped onto it, eyes fixed defiantly on her.
I tried to intervene but they span away from me, Millie squealing “James! James! Dad….my pineapple is falling off…”
Then: “His nose is running!…HIS..NOSE..IS..RUNNING!!!!”
Then he made his move-reaching out to take the pizza with both hands, a rapidly becoming soggy pizza, which began to split down the middle.
In desperation,unexpectedly, Millie let go with one hand.
Who would have thought an umbrella could be an offensive weapon?
The rain continued to come down. What a lovely walk home it was. Tuesdays are going to be so much fun from now on. But to be honest, it is the Thursdays I am worried about.
All those sharp instruments and flammable liquids. There will be gallons of blood and snotty noses.
And that is just the teachers.