Saturday, 31 March 2012

My Family and Other Animals

We were at our local restaurant. A family affair. A bit of a do as they say, to celebrate our third child’s 10th birthday. I was a nervous wreck. These relatives are relatively bonkers.
“Slow down on the wine, you lush”, hissed Hubby into my ear, “I’ve only got twenty quid cash on me”.
“What else is there?”, I hissed back, “hard drugs are not an option, smoking is prohibited indoors and Boots is shut for some prescription drugs. Wine is the only way.”
The kids squabbled across the dining table; a bottle of J2O was capsized. A teenager was busy describing it on Facebook, the other two were arguing over who had the control of the TV controls that night; Dad thankfully, had left his hearing aids at home and so sat amongst the throng looking quietly bemused.
Other members of the family looked on, their own child sitting at the top of the table with its hands folded nicely in its lap.
“Would you like a J2O as well love?” asked my father of it. It looked to its mother.
“May I mummy please?”
“No darling, you may not I’m afraid. J2Os are full of sugar and therefore are not only really, really bad for your teeth but they will also spoil your appetite”.
“Then no thank-you”, it said to my dad, “Mummy is quite right, I’d better not. Please may I have some water instead?”
I took another large swig of chenin blanc. I’d have killed for a fag.
My youngest daughters were by now, having had as much fun as is possible with a bottle of J2O and a bendy straw, bored and fidgety.
“When will my dinner be here?” asked the Red-Head, “This is really boring”.
“I know”, said her newly reached, 10 year old sister, “Let’s show them our dance routine”. I took another swig and gulped.
My cousin looked animated, “Of course, you go to ballet don’t you? Please show us your steps”.
There is a book out at the moment called “French Children Don’t Throw Food”. Apparently it’s about how the French rear their offspring and why French kids know how to behave in restaurants and British kids to not. No doubt my cousin had swotted up on it. I was desperate to download it onto my Kindle then and there and sneak off to the lav to read it and pick up some emergency tips but it was already too late. As the perfect cousin sat at the top of the table sipping iced water demurely, my two, far from feeling self conscious in a packed restaurant, got up from their seats and did their routine.
Perhaps my cousin thought she was going to witness two little girls teeter around on their tippy toes, for all the world as if their were in the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, by God, she was in for a surprise.
First they revved up their arms, then, Jimmy Hendrix style, played air guitar, there then followed a routine which would have made Pan’s People blush. I didn’t know where to look. Hubby lifted the menu up to his face as though he had suddenly become as blind as a bat; my teenagers turned their backs on them; Dad loyally clapped and the rest of the family looked on agog. Literally, their mouths were hanging open.
The perfect child uttered, with what can only be described as shock and awe, “Is that what you call sexy mummy?”.
“Where on earth did you hear such an appalling expression?”, countered the mother on it whilst simultaneously glaring at me.
“Yes. It is sexy isn’t it?” asked the Red-Head, “We’ve been practising” and she beamed, absolutely delighted with herself.
“Would you like to see another dance?” asked the Birthday girl, but I grabbed her arm just before she launched into ‘My humps, my humps, my lovely lady lumps’ . The waitress also appeared, just in the nick of time. I’d never been happier to see a plate of chicken teddies.
My cousin wrinkled up her face.
“We’ve never allowed processed food”, she said. Her husband squeezed her hand and smiled at her appreciatively.
I was about to retort but Hubby kicked me under the table. He was right of course. She’d made up her mind about us a while ago and any protestations that my kids hardly ever eat chicken teddies would only be seen as ‘methinks my cousin doth protest too much’. Dad handed me another glass of wine.
Perfect’s food was brought next: a baked potato, no butter, salad and tuna, no mayonnaise.
“Pass me the ketchup please?” asked the Red-Head, “Do you want ketchup to brighten up your food?” she asked of her cousin.
It shook its head, “Mummy says ketchup is poisonous, don’t you mummy?”.
For a fleeting moment ‘mummy’ looked a little discomfited, until the Red-Head, amidst much farty noises from the plastic bottle, squeezed a big blob of scarlet goo onto Perfect’s plate, wherein, it started to holler and scream and demand that the poison be removed from its plate.
Hubby sighed heavily into a mouthful of mushroom omelette and even dad’s shoulders slumped and neighbouring diners tutted. Luckily, the waitress brought over a clean plate, briskly transferred the untainted food onto it, calm was restored and I allowed myself to breathe again.
In bed later, discussing the events of the evening with Hubby, we remembered the sorrowful expression on poor little Perfect’s face as its cousins tucked into shop-bought, candy pink birthday cake as it dolefully picked at a little box of organic raisins. This expression was soon to be replaced by one of anguish as one of the raisins was ingested instead of chewed and the poor mite started to choke.
Dad pushed the table aside, grabbed the child, tipped it upside down and thumped its back. The offending raisin shot out from its gullet and a collective sigh of relief was heard across the restaurant.
“Raisins seem to be a lot more poisonous than ketchup don’t they?” the Red-Head had asked.