Saturday, 15 March 2008

The horror, the horror

What a choice of bloggery today.

Should it be the letter from the police about the state of the car (again)? Here we are, 9.30am, and the letter arrives. At first I think it must be the summons, but no, it's the letter which reads:

'a car park attendant, local warden or police staff recently noticed you had left some belongings on view in your car ... anything on display in the car does present an opportunity for car thieves ...'

Feeling picked on, Grit goes to the car to peer in, hoping to see the gold bullion she's accidentally left lying around the back shelf, or the Gucci handbag and diamond necklace casually thrown on the front passenger seat. But no. She discovers a Squirrel coat which is so filthy it's trying to burrow out of the back window, and three folders with the contents spilling out across the floor - quite clearly three 7-year olds French lesson a La Tete, and not a couple of CDs holding the names, addresses and bank details of five million people. And then, this, in the open glove compartment:

I'm going to address myself to all professional car thieves now. Can you see the empty rice cake packet in the middle there? That's the blue bit of plastic which I am saving so I can put it into a recycling bin. I know it's quite valuable. Organic Kallo, no less. So I'll move that immediately. Or perhaps you can make out the sandwiches? They're the brown square things that we took with us last Wednesday. One day I'll get round to putting those on the bird table, so don't steal those. And then there's the banana skin, hanging out of the ensemble like, well, I daren't say. Supply your own simile.

Perhaps the viewer to this lot assumed I am carrying around the latest spot of modern art, maybe a little something by Tracey Emin. Either that or they have a bunch of letters to send out and the poor sod whose name is Grit is on their database, flagged, thanks to the frequent calls to the police station because we live in Smalltown, the recent car accident and the way I am probably video-taped while standing in the queue at the Post Office complaining about the surveillance society.

If not that blog then, how about Shark, Squirrel and Tiger disappearing into the garden to collect mud, seconds after mummy Grit, at 3.50pm, said something like 'Let's go to John Lewis in ten minutes'. And then it started to pour with rain, great bucketfuls of the stuff. Forty minutes later I am dragging in a soaked Shark covered in mud, a smelly Squirrel and an over jubilant Tiger with very pink cheeks, the sort of pink that says 'I will probably catch my death from this, and it will be all your fault'.

Perhaps I shouldn't blog about these things at all, but about the atmospheric squeal that Squirrel's growing lungs are now capable of. This squeal is so encompassing I bet you heard it this afternoon, late tea-time. Soon it will be the stuff of legend. It will be 'Where were you when Squirrel screamed?' Just a bit longer, I guarantee, and she will have this squeal fine-tuned to pitch perfection and we will be calling in the glaziers and apologising in the Sunday newspapers while dabbing at ourselves with hankies.

Of course I could simply blog about the shopping trip into John Lewis to buy swimming costumes. I fully accept I've brought this on myself. The very thought drove me to it: the shaming glances other mums will throw me, pretending not to, when they see my 8-year old Shark emerge from the changing rooms in her polka dot bikini, suitable for age 6 - and which I have twice tried to lose by hiding in the cupboard under the stairs, claiming it has been eaten by the swimming pool fairies. I have been forced to smile at her delight when yesterday she rediscovered this wardrobe malfunction and then had to express great enthusiasm for her lightbulb moment that 'now we are 8, you don't have to join us in the pool and I can wear my favourite bikini!'

Because of the late hour - John Lewis closes at 6pm - I am forced to take everybody. This is something I have learned not to do. I can coax one child in and out of the car and I can hold hands with her to make sure she walks in the same direction as me, usually under the pretence of mother's love not wanting her to get run over or knocked into the course of an oncoming bus. But three I cannot do. Even though I am very determined, and have no personal dignity any more, so will do whatever it takes, publicly, including sing and pretend to be a bat (I have done both, and more) to get everyone's attention to follow me, follow me in this direction, now, now, now, I still have only two hands. This is a serious shortcoming. It is more of a disadvantage when all three, the same age, are fighting for hands, space, jostling at pavement edges, pushing and yelling. So scarred is Dig that he now refuses even to cross the road outside the house with all three of them to get to the tennis courts opposite. Worse, he says, because their goal is within sight and a sister must not get there first. Competition, to the death, if necessary.

But today I've promised swimming costumes in preparation for next week, and this is the only opportunity I can see. And we're late, thanks to the attractions of mud.

My first problem is the sheer noisy weight of us as we enter John Lewis. I cannot say any of my children are shy, retiring types - except when you stand in front of them and ask if they are enjoying their home education: then they will stare in horror at you and turn bright red, acting as if they never saw outside the front room before today - usually they are noisy, spilling out beings, locked inside their triplet bubble and continuing their loud impenetrable chatchatchat as if invisible to the outside world.

I try to warn them. I say, look, can you see how everyone is staring? First, you all look the same; people are confused, and will watch you. Second, you are very loud, and often have screamed in public; people may know you. Third, we are taking up the entire aisle now, so please can we walk single file and keep a little quieter?

None of these work. In the swimming costume department Shark sees a sales assistant and whispers, loudly, 'Shop assistant! Smile!' All three suddenly stand bolt upright in a line and put on a display I guess they might like to think indicates 'we are innocent'. I can only wince; I may have something to do with this after all. For the last two years I have taught them to try and look normal when we, school age kids in school time, see the community police officer coming towards us on his rounds.

But of course now it is too late. We have attracted the attentions of a smiling shop assistant who continues to smile even when Tiger declares very loudly that she 'isn't wearing that' in a tone as if offered a dead toad, then Shark brings down a line of hangers and costumes with over zealous arm movements. Shark clearly takes after Grit who manages to bang her head on the projecting arm of a clothes display, moves back and bumps into Squirrel who is foolish enough to stand behind her looking in another direction. In fact the whole expedition is fast becoming a Laurel and Hardy routine without the fun.

In amongst the mayhem I cannot help but feel we now have the one-to-one attentions of the sales assistant like a local police force, sent there to guard the stock, probably because the mother has brought in these kids as a front so she can half-inch the pop socks. I try and throw her off by getting everyone in the changing rooms, which are far too small, so two disgorge out to wander unsupervised through the rails. At this point, the chipper assistant attaches herself to Tiger and is trying to contain her with an 'indulge' routine - one which I've tried myself - treating her like some teenage shopaholic, crooning 'What do you think of the pink? It's very you'. My 8-year old Tiger is lapping it up and probably expecting this sort of treatment every Saturday from now on.

At closing time we emerge, arguing, from the shopping centre. Squirrel says she is happy with last year's pink bikini and I'm praying it fits. Tiger is swinging a new pink costume with sequins, looking a bit too Mae West and for which I blame the sales assistant. And Shark has a replacement bikini, in blue. For Shark, there is no other colour.

There is only one advantage to this, and that is that I can count the swimming ordeal mostly done. Until we get to the pool.


the mother of this lot said...

I wondered what that noise was about teatime.

Brad said...

Just reading this tale of shopping has me ready for a nice nap.

Grit said...

!! i apologise for the length and bizarre complexity of the shopping trip ... i think this diary entry taps deep into why i needed to blog in the first place - it all comes down to ...therapy.

Brad said...

Therapy, that's why we're all here Dear. Didn't you get the memo ?

Grit said...

hello brad ... what is memo?