Had an idyllic day at the hovel yesterday. Two sets of friends with their respective children agreed to risk their health and come for Sunday lunch. I was a paragon of efficiency and had everything organised with military precision. Well, until I decided to quickly try and do the general knowledge crossword and got distracted, forgot about the lamb and overcooked the potatoes.
The day was mild and sunny and the wind chill factor was only on the -3 mark, so T shirt weather really. The house was as tidy as I was going to make it, and I had warmed the plates and everything. Fine, the lamb wasn't as pink as I would have liked, and the leeks could have been cooked for a little longer, but the chocolate and chilli pudding was a work of art and I had all the ingredients for Bloody Mary's so everyone was happy.
The small boys had a bag full of dinosaurs to play with after lunch. Much roaring and shrieking accompanied this but they seemed pretty happy (or perhaps that was the sound of dismemberment, it can be hard to tell). The Loyal Hound did eat three of the dinosaurs, but they only found out about one and never noticed the other two were missing.
Small girl kept herself happily occupied playing shut the box, reading a book and helping to clear up the lunch by eroding the edges of the remaining hunk of pudding with her finger. It was all very M & S advertish.
After coffee, chocolates and more wine, we rose to the lure of the sunshine and went up to the pond. Mack and Mabel, the geese, have returned to their usual nest and we hauled the boat out for a tour of the island that their nest is on. Having loaded the three children into it we then kindly pushed in one of the fathers and let him row them round and round for half an hour. There were shrieks of 'ALLIGATOR' and 'CROCODILE' from the small boys who were torturing themselves by trailing their fingers in the water and then snatching them out at the prospect of primeval monsters surging up from the deep. Mack and Mabel took the gawping with good grace, though Mack did have to have strong words with one of the dogs who had also come visiting and misunderstood the territorial rights of a father goose. One chastened puppy retreated rapidly to the other side of the pond.
High entertainment was provided when small boys returned to the bank, and small girl insisted on learning to row. She sat in the middle, oars in hand and her father sat in the stern of the boat. The weight disparity between a small, sylph like child and a large man became instantly apparent. The bow of the boat was so far out of the water that the rest of us could see the keel. It looked like some sort of a Miami power boat. Small girl could scarcely reach the water with the oars she was so high up. Whilst we rolled about laughing they rowed, stately as a galleon, studiously ignoring our snorts and gasps.
Finally they returned to shore and the children's attention turned to the wildlife. It is toad shagging season and for anyone who lives near freshwater they will know that there is a week of Toad Porn going on. Everywhere you look there are clusters of toads busy ensuring the future of the species. It is not unusual to see some 40 or so toads at it in the sunshine in one small patch of water.
It didn't take the children long to spot the toads but due to their camouflage it is easy to see the small male but not the larger, drabber female beneath him. After prodding several of the beleagured things with reeds I finally agreed to sweep up a toad in a bucket so that they could study him at close quarters.
So busy were they that the toads scarcely seemed to notice their change of habitat, but the children noticed all too quickly that I had presented them with not one, but two toads, apparently giving each other piggy backs. That is of course a nice, straightforwards story that I could have used but did I? Did I heck. When asked what they were doing I absent mindedly said 'Oh, they are having sex'.
What the hell was I thinking? The boys are 3 and 4, small girl is 7. I think there are rules, inviolable rules about this sort of thing. Rules along the lines of 'don't mention sex to other people's children, even in the context of toads'. It was too late though. I had brought the topic up and was rewarded with an instant question from one of the small boys; 'what's sex?'. I will say that I recovered fast. I had realised the quicksand that I had leapt into and took steps to edge myself out. 'Sex' I replied 'is how frogspawn is made'. This was taken on board with disinterest and attention reverted to whether it would be possible to hold the copulating toads, keep them in a matchbox, or poke them with a reed. It seemed disaster was averted, but only by the skin of my teeth.
It is one thing to educate your own children, but involunatry education of other people's children is a whole other kettle of fish that I wish I had come nowhere near. I must remember to say nothing in front of children, ever again, before I accidentally mention STD's, alternatives to the Missionary position and the truth about Father Christmas to more of the little wretches.
The price of health
1 day ago