Monday, October 24, 2005

A Storm In A Teacup

Yesterday was meant to be a civilised day. Firstborn's Godfather, aka Big G, kindly invited us to accompany him to the Victoria & Albert Museum followed by afternoon tea at Claridge's. Big G is about to take off for sunnier shores for a few months so we thought we'd better get in some quality time together before he goes. Plus, Big G and I liked the idea of playing at being grown-ups for the day.

Firstborn was beside herself with excitement. The prospect of spending the day with Mummy without the bullying presence of the Small(er) One was enough to send her into orbit, let alone the promise of public transport (she has a bus fetish) and endless cake. Also, she likes Big G because he swings her in the air and gives her chocolate - both essential in order to get into Firstborn's good books.

So we get to Knightsbridge and go to Big G's office - Big G works for a well-known fine art auctioneers so the reception is rather swanky, very quiet and filled with people gliding around talking in muted whispers. Firstborn and I sit on a sofa and wait for Big G to appear.

Firstborn, having been dressed in her Princess coat with her hair forced into a semblance of order in honour of the occasion looks particularly angelic and attracts many fond looks from passing old ladies. Until that is, she wedges her finger as far up her nose as possible and refuses to remove it until I bribe her with a Smartie.

Smartie demonlished, her bell-like tones shatter the genteel silence of the room: "Why does that man have no hair?" she bellows. At least five men turn in our direction. I whisper a hurried quasi-scientific explanation about follicles and hormones and getting older which goes in one ear and out the other, but at least has the effect of silencing her for all of twenty seconds. The she shouts, "And that man has no hair either!" Her finger mercilessly points out all the shiny pates in the room - since the median age is around sixty, Firstborn has plenty of raw material to play with. "And that one! And that one! They've all got shiny heads!" Oh God. Thankfully, Big G appears at this point and sweeps us off to the Museum.

Firstborn behaves beautifully at the V&A, showing an unexpected appreciation for Victorian artifacts. My heart swells with pride at the civilised behaviour of my offspring.

Then we get to Claridge's. It's a peculiar place, full of tourists and old ladies. Big G and I start to wish that we'd followed our instincts and gone to Sakura instead (Firstborn quite likes sushi) but it's too late, so we pretend to be interested in the different brands of tea (one blend on offer is picked under a full moon once every ten years by naked virgins, as I said to Big G, it sounds like magic mushroom season at Glastonbury). Firstborn harasses the very patient waitress with demands for milk, more milk, and even more milk - which of course has to be poured into her teacup, as many lumps of sugar added as possible, and then stirred vigorously enough the splatter the next table.

Bored with cake, bored with having to behave herself, and bored with Big G and I - by this point we're deep in schoolday memories and cackling about who so-and-so got off with behind the bike sheds - she takes off to dance in front of the pianist tinkling out mellow classics in the corner of the room. Halfway through an arabesque, Firstborn grabs her bottom, wriggles violently and shouts across a sea of people nibbling at their cucumber sandwiches, "Mummy! I've got an itchy bottom! I NEED A POO!!!!" Silence descends upon the Claridge's tea room. Not a teacup clatters. The gentle murmur of conversation falters. You could hear a pin drop.

Unfortunately, Firstborn continues to divulge information about the state of her rear end until I manage to sweep her away to the loo.

Big G and I are in agreement that next time it might be wiser to opt for Starbucks.

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