Sunday, 14 January 2007

An improving experience

Today we went for tea with Swan. Swan is a lady. Ladies take English teas in bone china cups. The cups have handles, and the handles point in the right direction. Ladies like Swan eat half a muffin with honey, delicately. There are plates.

I don't know why Swan invited us for tea. We are not ladies. We are noisy and smelly. We have dribble on our chins, snotty bits glued on our noses, yesterday's tomato sauce down our frocks and glitter glue in our hair thanks to an over-enthusiastic illustration of a unicorn flying a bi-plane. We pronounce fish as 'piss' and octopus as 'octopis', so if you get us on the subject of the glories in the underwater world, it sounds like we have an obsession with urine. I've put it down to the speech problems, but recently I'm beginning to wonder: the words 'bum', 'wee-wee' and 'poopy' are now the funniest words ever invented and have to be aired with increasing frequency throughout the day. Including tea time.

But we made fairy cakes before we left, which partly explains why we were 40 minutes late. I hope fashionable ladies in the shires are 40 minutes late. Squirrel enthusiastically covered the cakes with a glacier-sized dollop of icing and half a ton of hundreds and thousands. Somewhere under there, I explained to Swan, who looked at these mountains with puzzlement, there is a fairy cake about the size of a teaspoon and apologies about the glacier.

Tea was very graceful and Swan was a lady from start to finish. She never flinched when the discussion about poopy started and even joined in with an anecdote about the bowel habits of house martins. She remained impassive when Shark bounced the pelican on everyone's head shouting 'Wee-wee! Wee-wee! Wee-wee!'. She never batted an eyelid when Tiger suddenly screamed at the top of her lungs and leapt up to stand on her seat just after the first muffin. Swan kindly offered to put the cat out. The cat hasn't been out since 2003. It's now 182 years old in cat years, blind in one eye and has two teeth. It spends most of its days unconscious in an armchair wrapped in a blanket and stands up when it smells tea. Perhaps Tiger misunderstood the situation and thought it had come back to life. Personally, I didn't have much sympathy. By now she should be used to stranger things than that.

When it was time for us to go, Swan was very polite and never once ran to get our coats or burst into laughter or mouthed 'thank you God' while clapping her hands, but said how nice it was to see us all and how lovely it would be if we could all come again.

When we get home Dig is glued to his computer. He hasn't moved for three hours. The house is in darkness, the fire is not lit and the bag of icing sugar is where we left it. In the time it takes me to switch on lights and get the fire going the children have helped themselves to cereal-sized bowls of icing sugar and are scoffing it by the tablespoon. Shark has it up to her hairline and in her eyebrows and looks suspiciously like she put her face in the bag. Squirrel has poured it down her front. Tiger is eating the spillage from the table with her fingers.

Now we're all back to normal, I think Swan had, for a brief time, a positive and beneficial effect. I liked that gracious life. And I think the children did too. Squirrel told me on the journey home that she knew some people who liked cats might not like to hear that daddy hides behind bushes with a water pistol or that mummy runs into the garden with a jug of water shouting 'get out of my garden you vermin'. She says that she didn't tell Swan these things in case it hurt Swan's feelings. I'm going to think this shows great social responsibility and great sensitivity for the concerns of others. Not for me or Dig, perhaps. But it's a start.

1 comment:

Michelle said...

I just don't understand the attraction of sharing your home with something that smells, has fleas, gets worms and destroys your furniture. Cats and dogs aren't much better in the house either.