Wednesday, 28 March 2007

Never put soil down the toilet

Everyone's got their windows open today, enjoying the sunshine and fresh Spring wind. I've chatted to Anny, the neighbour, and Shark, Tiger and Squirrel have been playing in the garden under the trees. In the few five and ten minutes they have popped into the house to gulp down a fruit smoothie, complain about a sister, fetch a plastic bowl or have a wee, we have learned the words soil, boil, coil, foil and oil.

Shark says that the word oil is also in the word toilet. 'You are absolutely right!' I applaud. Clearly, my daughter is a genius, and may publish her first novel by age ten.

Later, when I haven't seen Tiger, Shark or Squirrel for some time, I do my rounds, just to check that Tiger isn't lying flat out dead under the blackberry brambles while Shark says 'We told her to come and get you mummy', or that Squirrel's not locked herself in the little play house at the bottom on the garden and is screaming her head off in there because she's just turned round and found the cat that someone lost last October. But nothing's wrong. Everyone's fine, making Roman cities in the mud, and populating the Circus Maximum with toy unicorns. I wave to Anny, and think what a lovely day it is; just how home education should be.

Then I come back up to the house and go into the bathroom. Now, how do I describe the scene that meets my eyes? There is no delicate way. Inside the toilet bowl there is no ceramic visible. The sides are etched in black, with what looks like unmoving rivers of black slime making no progress into the bowl. The long black chains of slime cannot make any progress because inside the bowl there is what looks like lumps of grey and brown, with tiny black seeds mounted atop. Thinking this has come out of someone's bottom, my first response is to bellow 'Oh my God!' at the top of my voice. It's as the words, 'Get a doctor!' are forming in my synapses that it dawns on me that this is not any ordinary bottom-made soil, but garden soil, complete with mud, rotted leaves and ivy seeds.

There's only one response now called for. Burst through the door into the garden in a fury, tea-towel waving, index finger out, shouting to a startled Tiger, Shark and Squirrel, 'Do not put soil in the toilet! And under no circumstances are you to experiment with toilet, soil, oil or foil!'

This is why, once a year at Christmas, we get ourselves on our best behaviour, get out the bottle of port, and invite the neighbours round. I want them to see we can be normal.

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