Last week was half-term, so with one thing (Lola) and another (Mina), I didn’t get much writing done, hence the brief hiatus on the blog.
Half-term is great because it means that Lola is at home. This has twin benefits, namely (1) Mina and I get to spend more time with her than when she is at school and (2) I have a second pair of eyes and ears to ensure that Mina doesn’t ingest any Lego (oddly, the second born always goes for the foodstuffs when she attempts to consume Lola’s Lego – the pretzels and the strawberries are particular favourites; it’s as if she knows).
What I don’t get much of is time alone with Lola. During term time when she is off getting an education and Mrs Burge is at work, Mina and I are a veritable crime-fighting duo, never separated, keeping the streets of Ealing safe. However, it’s rare that just Lola and I get to do anything together.
Which is why when I do get Lola all to myself – as I briefly did at the weekend – I make it count by doing something truly special and memorable with her. Thus, on Saturday evening we made the most of one another’s company by flooring it up the road to Waitrose to get there in time for the reduced bakery goods. After all, who in their right mind can argue with lemon yum yums at 10p apiece? Certainly not Lola.
Anyway, Lola and I were chatting in the car, anticipating some of the best deals on sweet pastries that man has ever known, when Lola comes out with:
‘Why did it take you so long to come back to the allotment with Mina earlier?’
I instantly recognise what this is a reference to. Earlier in the day, Lola and her mum had been volunteering at our allotment – helping cut back overgrown bushes from the communal areas and the like. While they were doing this I’d driven up to drop off some compost before taking the car home and walking back up to the allotment with Mina.
Lola is referring to the timeframe between the compost drop-off and when Mina and I got back to the allotment. The whole operation should only have taken about a quarter of an hour; as it happens it took longer. However, Lola’s concept of time is rudimentary at best so I have questions about her question.
‘What do you mean why did it take so long?’ I ask.
‘You took a long time to get back.’
True. We took half an hour. When I got Mina home I let her have a play for fifteen minutes in the knowledge that she’d be stuck at the allotment for the rest of the day (it was late morning) so might have wanted to briefly reacquaint herself with her toys.
‘Was Mummy moaning that we were a long time?’
Said without hesitation. Proof there’s no honour amongst thieves.
‘What did she say?’
‘She said she doesn’t know how Daddy takes so long to do everything.’
‘I just thought Mina would like to play at home for a bit. I didn’t realise we were in a time trial situation.’
Oh indeed. The fact that my lovely wife had commented on the speed at which I’d got home and back again was no surprise. Mrs Burge possesses an ability to complete tasks far quicker than they should realistically take which casts a rather dim light on my equally well-honed ability to stretch out any activity to at least twice its natural duration.
Yet what got me was Lola’s thorough lack of discretion. Hasn’t she heard what they do to grasses? She ratted on her mother like I’d told her that I knew where her family lived. She’s just lucky she isn’t growing up in the Krays’ East End. If the Cold War was still going on, Lola would be there on a bench in Regents Park, waiting to hand over state intelligence to the Soviets.
I know there comes a point when you have to start watching what you say in front of your kids because they mimic everything. Swear words, for instance, are totally out from about a year old.
However, I never clocked that you also have to watch what you say so that they don’t offhandedly relay any passing comment you happen to make to anyone who asks the right question. Such as your wife. Because if Lola grasses on her mum that easily, who knows what intel goes the other way? There is no doubt in my mind that Lola is an angel-faced double agent.
I need to watch out. The walls have ears. Regardless of how many 10p lemon yum yums I buy Lola, for the next few years the very concept of a discreet conversation in our house clearly doesn’t exist.