We’ve been on mid-term break this week and it has been a riot of violence, pygmy hippos and pumpkin-gathering. Barnaby has had a bit of homework to do, mostly stuff to do with Black History Month, where he was asked to choose a Black role model then do some research on him or her and make a poster. I mooted Muhammad Ali, B.B. King and Malcolm X but Barnaby was unmoved. So I asked him who he would like to write about, and he said was very interested in Black chameleons. Which was a bit odd. I patiently asked him to think of a Black chameleon as an example so I could understand what gibberish he was spouting, but he said he didn’t know of any actual chameleons, only that they would be funny.
He meant COMEDIANS, you fools.
So I suggested Eddie Murphy but the YouTube clips were a little too sweary for seven-year-old ears and then I thought of Richard Pryor, but the whole freebasing-cocaine-setting-himself-on-fire-with-lots-of-rum thing loomed pretty large on his Wikipedia entry and so he was out. So we settled on Stevie Wonder. Barnaby listens to his music without whining for us to turn it off, and nods his head appreciatively in an rudimentary small-boy-dance movement, and occasionally asks to hear Superstitious and so Stevie it is.
And that is a little unexpected bonus of the parenting gig – the dawning awareness that I can teach my boys about some cool stuff. Stuff that I like, stuff that I can introduce them to for the very first time. It’s a good, good thing.
Unlike the bad, bad thing that has happened in our living room. We have inherited a fish tank, four identical small brown fish, a big snail and lots of small snails (maybe his small snailish children, but who would KNOW) and a noisy ugly filter and a plastic replica Model T Ford for the fish to explore and some stones and some fish food. And it KILLS me. The fish (named by default as Fish, Fish, Fish and Possibly Pregnant Fish) and their big loud tank have taken up one of our precious shelves and the fish food smells like cat food stays on your fingers after you feed them and someone, probably me, should clean out the tank but can’t/won’t and so that makes me a BAD FISH ABUSER. Even the knowledge that I am a Bad Fish Abuser doesn’t move me to clean their tank, and I feel a tiny bit bad and the fish feel cross with me and a vicious cycle of discontent has begun.
And what is worse is that the fish have been causing martial strife. Mark has decided that the current tank, which has been planted firmly on my kitchen shelf which used to house trays filled with bits of unfiled bills and spare batteries and hair clips, is not big enough and he needs a MUCH BIGGER ONE with which to fill with more brown fish called Fish and possibly a plastic treasure chest/pirate ship/anchor and more stones. And so I have put my foot down and said that there will be no more fish-investment until we have a bigger flat/another room/a shed where he can instal wall-to-wall aquariums if he so desires, just as long as they stay out of my sight and out of my remit. Because fish give nothing back, just cat food smells and cleaning and feeding jobs to do.
Am I right? He doesn’t think so. We have now had two weekends of sulky silence owing to the tank trouble, and finally he washed his hands of the fish entirely, and said they are my problem. So I’m giving them away. Because I prefer marital harmony, and I want my shelf back.
Here’s our holiday list, written down so intriguingly by Barnaby after a small-child-meeting, chaired by me. We pretty much did everything, except the camping (too cold), the sweatshop visit (too hard to come by in Central London) and the ‘concers’. I’m not really sure what the concers are. Concert? Cancer? Conkers? Probably conkers.
So, along with boyish fighting which is becoming increasingly intentionally harmful and vicious, and trick or treating on Halloween in the American Banking Suburbs which were completely mental with fake spiders draped over five-storied Georgian mansions and Filipino maids dolling out candy while the young Ralph Lauren-esque Banker Mother smiled beatifically at the hordes of small vampire brides and werewolves queued up at their cobwebbed gates, we did a bit of this (in our nana jumpers, naturally):