Life without the eurospawn is almost as exhausting as life with them. There are high expectations: for the CFO, sexual intercourse at a frequency greater than once a decade and trips to the discount evening at the local DIY pleasure dome for bolts and grout and what have you. For me, vegetable carving, shopping for fierce winter shoes (Sergio Rossi looking good this season) and obsessive compulsive rearrangement of the kitchen cupboards. Chacun sa merde, as they say here however. The CFO has instead been forced to stand at my shoulder pursing his lips at internet outsider craft offerings or photograph my stationery beard, and I had to spend my money on 'wedding outfits' (I am retching as I type that) for the spawn for the CFO's brother's wedding so that Mamie doesn't go and get them maroon Farrah slacks from the charity shop.
Both of us feel under intense pressure to have that thing called 'conversation'. We assume this is different to our usual modus operandi of barking terse instructions at each other. I insist it is not the CFO outlining his next cunning plan for world domination or out-arguing me. Gently ebbing and flowing discussion of topics of interest is more what I have in mind, but we are all out of that after 5 days and sit slumped side by side on the sofa most evenings practising for when we are ninety five when hopefully one of us will be so deaf or demented it is no longer necessary.
Thankfully, when we call the children, Fingers is on hand, once more scripted by Harold Pinter. We should draw inspiration from him. Why let sense get in the way of dialogue, indeed.
J: Hello darling. Are you having fun?
J: Allo? Il y a quelqu'un? Fingers, are you there, angel?
[soft scratchy scrabbling noises, like a small rodent is gnawing cautiously on the telephone receiver]
F: Mamie made me wear Lashes' pants. They said age 5-6 on the label. I am 4. In September I will be 4 et demi [lest we forget].
J: Oh. Did you tell her?
J: So are you still wearing them?
J: Brilliant. What else have you been doing, gorgeous?
F: The hot chocolate was too hot.
J: What hot chocolate?
F: At the beach.
J: You went to the beach? That's fantastic!
F: [suddenly animated] Do you know what I did?
J: Went to the beach?
J: Oh. Then I don't know. What did you do?
F: [inaudible mumble] .. Vanille [mumble] dandelions.
J: [Unsure what to say/think/guessing wildly] Great! What are 'vanille dandelions'? Is it a song? Are they special ones you eat? Do they taste of vanilla?What did you do with them? Did you draw a picture?
F: [crossly] I gave dandelions TO Vanille.
J: Oh, sorry sweetheart. Who is Vanille? A rabbit?
F: A donkey.
J: Wow! A donkey! Did she eat them?
[Soft breathing sounds. I try to make out whether the background conversation I can hear is Lashes imbibing more salvation theology]
J: Fingers? Are you still there?
F: I played dominoes with Mamie.
J: Oh, brilliant. Dominoes is fun isn't it?
J: Did you win?
F: Sometimes I won.
J: Yay! Well done you! Anything else lovely you've been doing?
[very faintly, I hear something that sounds like it might just be an accordion being gently stroked by someone with exceptionally long fingers]
J: Um, are you busy darling? Shall I speak to Lashes now? Shall I blow you some kisses?
F: ... and sometimes I lost.
J: Oh well, Mamie is very good at dominoes and she does like winning a lot. It's bound to happen. Hey, huge huge kisses my darling.
F: .... and sometimes neither of us won.
J: [mild desperation setting in] That seems fair. Bye sweetheart. I'll call you tomorrow.
F: Wait! [voice drops to urgent whisper] Is my STUFF safe in the secret places I put it?!
J: Well, I promise I haven't touched it. Or indeed found it. So as long as you don't tell me where you have put it, it should be safe.
[there is a clunking noise as the phone is summarily dropped]
Now that's conversation.