I am not done yet. Last week I made a coffee table by hammering two old pallets together. It went to my head. It fuelled my ambition. I’m making an outdoor dining table, by hammering six old pallets together. I’m still at the crowbar and sledgehammer stage, which is the part I enjoy, and it let me spend a little time with the kids.
Not that I gave them a sledgehammer or anything. They took it when I wasn’t looking. But it did give me an opportunity to be with them without engaging with them, apart from having to relieve them of the occasional sledgehammer. It was educational.
We have the classic pigeon pair, except that they are five years apart. This means that they should have absolutely nothing in common, but they seem to have come to terms with this. As I sat quietly filling my hands with chemical-infused spliters, they played a nice, quiet game called “moms and dads”.
My ears pricked up immediately. This sort of thing can be a bit alarming. I need not have worried. The game started quietly enough. My five-year-old daughter, hereafter known as “V” emerged from the house carrying a toy baby. So far, so good. “I” she announced, “am a mom!” She turned to her brother, the nine-year-old “B” and, with a certain degree of authority, told him “You are the dad.”
My heart sank. She looked so excited, standing there in her high-heeled shoes and self-applied makeup with her little baby, desperate for a little attention from her big brother, but there was no way. He’s nine. He’s a boy. No way would he play with toy babies. But he surprised me. “Sure”, he said.
I was a little surprised. I shouldn’t have been. The game began.
“We”, said V, “are waiting in the queue. Let’s look at our shopping list. We need some milk.”
My heart ached for the boy. What a noble sacrifice he was making. Or not.
“Yes”, he said voice rising slightly, “we need milk. And some pistols.”
“Yes!” replied V “And bread. And some food for the dogs. And nappies for the baby.”
“And a grappling hook!” B was working up a head of steam. “And some hand-grenades! And a power core!”
I was impressed. They were playing two separate games. Together. It was time to pay. V fished in her handbag for her credit card. B hit the deck. “Baddies!” he shrieked. “Yes”, said V, “It’s time to get in the car and take the baby home.”
They made their way to my Land Rover and climbed in. “I am the driver.” Said V.
“Pilot.” Came the reply.
“The driver of a jet is called a pilot.”
V refused to be thrown. “OK”, she said, “I’m just going to put my baby’s seatbelt on. We have to go home to do baking.”
The doors closed. There was a moment of blessed silence. Then B burst from the back door of the car with a 20 meter length of ski-rope tied to his ankle.
“Aaaaaargh! Help! The baddies are just behind me! Pull me back in! Quick!”
V was happy to oblige. She appeared at the door and started to haul in the rope.
“Quietly, B.” She said, a picture of calm motherhood. “The baby is sleeping.”
God knows who was flying the plane. B was duly returned to the safety of the cockpit. There was another moment of silence. Then they both emerged from the still airborne plane. The boy fell to the ground, clinging to it for a second like a frightened gecko, before leaping up, imaginary and freshly purchased pistols at the ready, before dashing off round the corner, ankle still tied to the ski-rope.
V followed placidly holding the other end of the rope. “It is time”, she said, “for the baby to have her bath.”
I was left in a pool of blessed silence. But it could not last. The corner they had gone around led them straight to their mother, who had been quietly browsing the internet. I seized the opportunity to begin pulling splinters out of my hands with an old pair of pliers. One minute. Two minutes. Ten minutes.
The boy reappeared around the corner, still trailing his ski-rope with his sister attached.
“Aaaaargh! They’ve got a velociraptor! Pass me the grappling-hook”
“Here! But hurry up. The baby’s bath is still cooling down, but it’s nearly ready.”
They disappeared around the corner again. One minute. Two minutes. Ten minutes.
The kitchen door burst open. There stood their mother, a picture of icy calm.
“You”, she said, “need to stop playing with your pliers and go and get us some wine.”