You may be wondering - no? never mind, we'll pretend you are - what has become of Lashes and Fingers whilst I have been sampling the delights of cheap British confectionery and wandering around London like an escapee from a sheltered housing project. Have I perhaps lost them somewhere in a fit of wine-induced absent-mindedness, like the violet shoes? Sent them up a chimney? Set up a sweatshop in the cave? No indeed not. Not this time. Nike rejected our last batch of shoes and the soot tangles up Finger's curls something rotten.
No, they are with mamy and papy, the Sudoku champions of Haute Normandie for an extended dose of heavily boiled vegetables, fresh air and spoiling. I get sporadic updates in the form of surreal echoing phone calls.
Papy: Bonsoir Jaywalker , je te passe les petits.
J: Hello darlings! How are you?
L: I have an enormous flint.
J: Oh really? That's good, isn't it?
L: It is bigger than an adult's foot and only slightly smaller than Papa's head.
J: Goodness, that is large. Is it pointy?
L: Yes very.
J: What else have you been doing?
L: Me and Fingers have been doing lots of bêtises all day and Papy has been making gros yeux. Oh! Fingers is cutting his socks up! And mamy is making gros yeux! I am just going to put you on my plate now. [clunking noise as phone drops]
J: Hello? hello? hello? Lashes, are you there? Can you give the phone to Papy?
[..... many minutes pass. There is lots of strange background noise] HELLO? IS THERE ANYONE THERE?
[just as I am about to hang up, I hear soft breathing]
J: Fingers, is that you?
F: ..... I cut my socks up.
J: Oh, Fingers, why did you do that?
F: For the elephant trap. Lashes made an elephant trap and I fell in it.
J: Oh, ok. Any elephants in there?
F: No. Mamy cut my hair though.
J: [trying to suppress panicky tone] um, really darling? Is it very very short?
F: No, she just cut all the curls off.
J: Do you look like a sheep?
F: .......... [long pause for reflection. Glaciers melt, civilsations wax and wane, slugs take over the universe and subjugate humankind to their will] ..... No. Sheep have curls.
[Mamy stage left]: TELL MAMAN WHAT YOU HAD FOR DINNER
F: I had bread.
F: and carrot
F: and ham
J: Lucky you!
F: and ketchup
J [wearying slightly] delicious!
F: and .....
J: yes, angel?
J: Wow, what a great dinner!
F: and a pear
J: Right darling. Shall I blow you some goodnight kisses now?
F: and half a compôte
[Mamy stage left]: AND TELL HER YOU ATE ALL YOUR POTAGE
F: I ate all my potage
And so it continues, for several more hours, with long, Pinteresque pauses. Sometimes the telephone is just abandoned. I think most evenings I end up lost behind the sofa or in a plant pot while something more exciting happens.
It is strange without them. On the one hand, the mornings are a sensuous pleasure dome of uninterrupted showers, reading books and drinking whole cups of tea while they are still warm. Evenings hold the dizzying prospect of conversations on a topic other than Pokemon and grown up tv, or even - gasp! - going out. The CFO and I are quite overwhelmed by our freedom and have long since run out of conversational topics. We are reduced to poking the tortoises even more frequently than usual and squabbling.
On the other, I do miss them terribly. I miss being able to just grab Fingers as he scurries past and demand kisses and sniff his lovely soft neck with its downy hairs. Or carrying his slack lazy four year old weight upstairs as he idly slides his long cold fingers down the back of my top. Even Lashes, who has become tall and angular in total defiance of his genetic heritage can still be persuaded to fold his pointy limbs into a cuddly shape on my knee now and then and to allow me to stroke his velvety cheeks and feel how bony he is becoming. I miss our long stints à trois sitting in the loo.
Soon I will see them again, and they will be taller and slightly remote, peculiarly dressed in each other's clothes and Mamy's charity shop bargains with their socks pulled right up to their knees and they will smell like the scratchy mildewed nano-towels Mamy and Papy specialise in. Also they will be much better at washing their hands and using knives and forks and napkins. And I will have to prod and poke and sniff and stroke them like a wild animal until they feel like mine again while they impatiently chorus "WHERE ARE THE PRESENTS WHERE ARE OUR PRESENTS GIVE US THE PRESENTS".
I can't wait.