My sister is about 2. She looks like a bloke. A cross, ginger one (now she is exquisite and auburn and feminine - yes, you are Space Cadette, don't argue - which just goes to show something, but I am not quite sure what). She specialises in fits of screaming heeby jeebies that often require my mother to warn the neighbours that we are not actually removing her fingernails with pliers. Since next door is the HOUSE OF STONER STUDENTS, this is quite something. She rarely sleeps, and lives on baked beans and juice boxes. We are a little bit scared of her.
Prog rock step dad, however, with his saintlike patience, is unmoved. Thankfully, he is her primary carer. He wears bunches of nappy pins hanging from his jeans, carts her around on the back of his bike, glowering, to playgroup and to gym club, and gets her to sit in the kitchen banging stuff while he cooks elaborate curries. He plays her lots of Tom Waits and gets her to bellow along to "Let your bucket down" by the Blues Band. Given he also has to deal with me, sulky ingrate adolescent silently hating him, it is a wonder he does not go mad and kill us all. But this is not his way. One day, when one of her tantrums hits fever pitch, he starts reading to her from Skidelsky's biography of John Maynard Keynes. The effect is magically soothing. Her brow unknits fractionally. He finishes a complex paragraph on formative influences in Keynes' thinking. There is a brief moment of silence.
"More Keynes!" she demands imperiously. Prog rock stepdad complies with a chapter on the knotty issue of the abandonment of the gold standard.
Really, what hope did we have. Doomed, I tell you.