Monday, 8 January 2007

A tidy-up afternoon

We've been tidying the children's room. I've had a long shout and two aspirin. Tidy up times are particularly horrible and moreso because of the furniture moving all around us while we expand into the top flat, so to add to my misery, nothing seems to be where it was yesterday.

Normally it takes about six weeks between breaking points. When I can no longer cross the floor without looking as if I've worked for the Ministry of Silly Walks, as I have to step over crayons, papers, books, lego blocks, unicorns (with and without horns), the bizarre reconstruction of a cauldron from wool and chopsticks, a partly deflated plastic ball a Swiss waitress gave to Tiger, a papier mache model of the sun which never actually made it to the solar system, plus Shark's model of Kookaburra made from cotton wool and pom poms, well it all gets a bit too much and I become shouty.

Squirrel is the first to grab the broom to sweep up. In five minutes Shark, who's foolishly sitting on the floor trying to reconstruct her Kookaburra, is in tears with a red lump on her forehead because Squirrel has backed the broom handle into her by accident. I remove the broom from a quarrelsome Squirrel and promptly drop it on Shark's head. I pick the broom up, lift it into the air, and wallop Tiger with the bristle end as I swing it out the way. Things are not going well.

A bit more shouting is called for, plus the threat of a black bin liner unless everyone picks up something instead of sitting there howling. Admirably, the kids jump to work and soon have a massive pile of all the stuff which leaves the floor around it clean, and creates a structure which temptingly looks like a bonfire.

Item by item we sort through it and they must say whether this is something they want to keep or throw away. If it's to be kept it must have a place to live. They suggest under the bed. This is all Dig's fault. Years ago he did this with all the children's stuff in a misguided attempt to bring humour into our marriage and I hope he's never forgotten the consequences. So now I'm behaving like Judge Jeffreys and if anything so much as looks as if it's going to go in the direction of 'under the bed' I'm going to hang the unicorns.

It takes nearly two hours to see the floor with just one 15-minute break for an argument over the pom-pom box and two aspirin. The sun is in the recycling bin, the cauldron is dismantled and the Kookaburra is on Shark's shelf, waiting for a beak. All the unicorns are on the right beds, the crayons in the box, papers are neatly stacked and the books are on the bookshelves. This is bliss. Until we do the bed check. This is a nightly event round here thanks to the finding of a pair of scissors and a piece of wood in Tiger's bed one morning while checking for wee. After months of training, all the children now accept that sleeping with craft tools, woodwork items, the contents of the sewing basket and any food product is not recommended. But Squirrel didn't get her name for nothing. Under the pillow tonight she has 15 pipecleaners, a roll of silver tape, a Barbi doll, three jigsaw pieces, a piece of plasticine, a toy horse and a spoon.

By the end of the children's day we all conclude the tidy up session is a great achievement. Everyone's delighted with a wonderful stretch of bare wooden floor that we can all dance in and jump around on. Only thing is, I can see the children feel something's missing, and in the first instance it's probably the contents of the crayon box, the pile of paper, the Kookaburra without the beak, and the sun, rescued from the recycling bin. But for tonight, I might fall in love with this small patch of visible floor and gaze at it adoringly. I shall photograph it now, so I've got something to remember of it in the weeks to come.

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