There are some things that you do as a parent that your children never let you forget. These, let me tell you, are never the things that you think they’re going to be.
You may, like me, have a jar for each child, where every time you do something terrible that will scar their mental landscape forever, like, I don’t know, forget to go to their tuba recital or something, you sling some money into the jar for future therapy sessions. These are never the things they remember. It’s always the weird stuff.
In my case, Tilly has never let me forget, for example, the time I threw away the gigantic flying boat that she made out of cardboard. This is despite the fact that we kept it for well over a year. Even though I use the word ‘gigantic’ advisedly, and I tripped over the thing for a solid twelve months without saying a word. Even though we had to get rid of it because we were moving house, and really, it had reached the end of its useful life, and I wasn’t prepared to pay a removal man to guard it with his life as instructed.
Tallulah has never let me forget the fact that I refused to let her spend her entire life savings on 43 small chicks so that she could open a chick hotel in her bedroom. When I point out the impracticalities of keeping 43 chicks in her bedroom, even to this day, she pooh poohs my qualms as if I were the simple minded one. Of course you can keep 43 chicks in a small, Scandinavian chalet style, open fronted dolls house, because, you know, they don’t grow, or move or anything. Of course you can put 43 nappies on 43 chicks, 43 times a day, because that is a mere bagatelle in the world of chick hotel management. etc.
Neither of the girls have ever forgiven me for the fact that I told them that their dad got his bottom bitten by an angry crab when he went scuba diving in Egypt, even though it was a great story. I don’t know why they’re so upset about this. It’s not like it couldn’t have happened, and they had years of happy memories of it before they found out I’d told them a big, fat, lie.
As for Oscar, he’s still reeling from the fact that his dad can’t, as I previously specified, get five Wagon Wheels in his mouth at one time.
I think it is very unfair of him to be cross at me for telling him this, particularly when you think that this is the child who told all his friends in Year 1 at school that his middle name was Pikachu.
We tested out how many Wagon Wheels Jason could actually get in his mouth, by the way. One only.
Disappointing I know.
At the weekend, Tallulah left me a note on a my desk when she was left to her own devices whilst tidying my study (she is saving for an iPad. It is not entirely slave labour). It read something along the lines of:
‘You are a despicable squash merderer.’ (sic)
I pointed out that if she wanted to leave poison pen letters she should at least learn how to spell.
She said that it didn’t diminish my crimes as a murderer of squashes.
The others joined in, in an accusatory chorus of: ‘Yeah! What about Mr. Butternut? He won’t care if we spell murderer wrong, because he was murdered. BY YOU.’
I shall never, EVER, live this down.
Let me tell you the tale…
I have a complex relationship with the squash. I quite like them, but I have to find ways to disguise them in my cooking as the others are not keen. I also find them tricky to prepare as they are one of the densest vegetables on the planet. If you have never got to grips with a butternut squash before I urge you to think of a vegetable marrow crossed with a small sack of cement.
Let us roll back through the mists of time about eighteen months. I had bought a butternut squash for some nefarious culinary purpose, but whatever it was I was planning to make had obviously gone awry, and I had not used it.
The squash sat in the vegetable rack for some weeks. The good thing about them is that they are pretty solid troopers of the veg world and they do last quite a while before they have to be slung out. My theory was that I would get around to cooking it eventually.
One day, I came downstairs to find that, inspired by Miranda Hart and her ‘vegetapals’, Tilly had created a butternut creature in much the same vein as Miranda’s own: “Mr. Butternut.’ Ours had features made of paper which she had stuck on to its equine shaped face. There was a fine, handlebar moustache and a top hat as well.
Mr. Butternut lived on the kitchen counter for some weeks. I inspected him at regular intervals thinking that eventually he would go squashy, given that he was, in fact, a squash, and even pumpkins, the most enduring of vegetables, do go squashy eventually. You have to watch them, because they look fine, but tend to moulder from the bottom, so when you pick them up by their stalk you find your shoes have been filled with a fine mulch of rotting pumpkin. I did not want that to happen to Mr. Butternut. Or my shoes.
Mr. Butternut, however, seemed to be imbued with magical powers of longevity. He was as rock solid as the day he was bought.
He lived for many, many weeks, which turned into a couple of months. I began to find him quite troubling. He was, after all, vegetable matter, and programmed to rot. I wondered if he had been irradiated. I wondered if I was being secretly irradiated too, by a vegetable man in a paper top hat?
I began to be creeped out by him.
One day, when I was cleaning the kitchen, I threw him in the bin.
I felt bad about it. I really did. But by this time I was beginning to feel that his eyes were following me around the room. I was being stalked by a squash. IN MY OWN HOME.
Sadly, I had forgotten the cardinal rule of binning things when you have children, which is that you must either hide them deeply in the bottom of the bin under layers of impenetrable gunk, or take whatever it is that you know you want to destroy, but which will be controversial and saddening to your children to someone else’s house and get them to dispose of it for you.
Mr. Butternut was just lying in the top of the bin when the children got home.
Tilly pounced. The children wailed.
Mr. Butternut was washed, dried, given new features and resurrected like the pumpkin based version of Jesus.
God help me.
He lurked on the side board for many more weeks, refusing to rot down or give me any excuse to legitimately throw him away, but getting more and more menacing by the moment.
The children were, of course, watching me like a hawk for signs that I might try and kill off Mr. Butternut once more. There was accusation in their eyes.
I did, of course, find a time to dispose of him when their backs were turned, and this time I did it good and proper.
I buried him under a motorway bridge at the dead of night, in concrete footings.
I have never lived this down.
I never will.
Bang to rights.