As promised, a last present clinic before the festivities. Before that, just a brief aperçu of goes on in the holidays in Brussels with two well rested and manic spider monkey children and a heavily medicated primary carer (cold only, no need to worry).
1. Cunning plan making
Lashes: If we had a grabber [ed: one of those fairground claw machines], we could make money by filling it with Barbies and Pokémon and letting people have turns! At birthdays it could be free, or one centime.
CFO: Lashes, you need to examine your business model more closely. If you buy Barbie and Pokémon toys for the machine, and then allow people turns for one centime, you would not make any money.
Jaywalker: Yes - either you need to make it one of those machines that you don't win every time, or you have to buy veeerrry cheap toys and charge lots of money to have a turn.
Lashes: An attrape-nigaud?
CFO: Yes. Like the ones you put all your money in.
Lashes: Or! I could put Wii games and Pokémon dvds in there. And then ask people for LOTS of money. Like, 5 EUROS! [looks giddy at thought of so much money]
Jaywalker: that would still only work if they didn't win every time. Or, here's a FANTASTIC idea, you could just put the empty boxes in the grabber and not the games. Then you could say 'But I never said the game was in there! You've won a lovely box!'
Lashes: We would be escrocs! Like Team Rocket!
Jaywalker: Yes, but more successful!
CFO: Your plan is basically sound in the short term, but I have concerns for your long term viability.
[discussion continues for several hours]
2. Ideas of genius
Lashes: If there was a programme called "Karate Lizards", it would be my favourite programme in the whole world.
Jaywalker: You could invent it?
Lashes: Urrrgh! [I can't transliterate this noise properly. It's a sort of guttural exasperated teenage groan. Any ideas?] But I am going to be a vet REMEMBER?
Jaywalker: Lots of people have two jobs. Grandad has two jobs. More like four, actually.
Lashes: Ok! There will be four karate lizards. We will combat les mechants.
Jaywalker: Like teenage mutant ninja turtles?
Lashes [indignant]: Not at ALL. The lizards will not have masks. The cameleon will be their leader [assumes wise, namaste style reptile guru pose]
CFO: Why teenage?
CFO: Why are the tortues ninja teenage?
Jaywalker: I have no idea. They just are in English. Why you have such a shoddily translated version is anyone's guess.
CFO: Bon, ok laisse tomber, j'ai rien dit.
Jaywalker: We could be the karate lizards! There are four of us.. Are you the cameleon, Lashes? Is he, like, the wise old one who calls the others petit scarabé? Can I be a skink?
Lashes: [scathingly] NO. There are no skinks, only true lizards. Papa can be the cameleon. I am the head lizard.
Jaywalker: Fingers should be one of those small and extremely fast lizards. He would be good at that. He has scrabbly claws already.
[Fingers enthusiastically starts scrabbling and scritching around on the floor. Although present, he does not feature much in these exchanges because he is busy plotting something else. World domination, or new security measures, or similar]
Lashes [dubious] I'm not sure there can be a small lizard.
Jaywalker: Of course there must be! For little children to identify with! Also, Fingers is extremely fast and he has claws. He would be very useful in small spaces and so on. Won't you, Fingers? If I can't be a skink, perhaps I can be a bearded lizard?
Lashes: NO! I am a bearded lizard! The bearded lizard is the chef!
Jaywalker: So what's left for me? Can I be spiky? An iguana or something?
Lashes [magnanimously] Yes, alright. But I am the only one with a beard.
Jaywalker: Great. The concept needs a little work, but I think it's a winner. You can work on it in your demie-heure
Lashes [mournful]: I don't HAVE a demie-heure. You took it away when we were at the museum.
Jaywalker: Oh yes. Well you shouldn't have stolen Fingers' stone.
And on. And on. And on.
Moving swiftly on, the final present clinic gift-giver of 2008 is in dire need of your help, people.
I give you this, from the Fat Controller:
Quandary person: My brother. (3 years my junior, at 47, but still a big kid at heart) PhD in Biochemistry, currently teaching biology to 15 year olds in an Evangelical Christian Faith School (so I think the Darwin finger puppet would probably go down like a lead balloon as would my first choice, a statuette of a semi-naked woman/mythical beast thingy symbolising his zodiac sign.)
Lives frugally, as befits someone who tithes their income back to the church that is paying him in the first place, but appreciates silly presents. So it must be silly , but not frivolous. On year I gave him a blank tape cassette, labelled 'Jean Michel Jarre - Unplugged'. He seemed to appreciate that.
Married, 3 children. Pretty things for the house pointless as they don't have a pretty house and they wouldn't stay pretty for long in any case. We have, over the years, pretty much re-stocked their kitchen with functional/stylish utensils as only the Danes know how to make. He probably now has more corkscrews in the house than he has bottles of wine at any one time.
Lifelong Arsenal supporter. I was going to buy a bird nesting box in the shape of a half-timbered cottage (complete with a minature bird-nesting box of its own) as I have done for my sister, BUT he's an ornithologist and has more nesting boxes in the garden than you could shake a stick at.
The last present I got from him was a book which he had clearly picked up in a second hand bookshop, complete with secondhand bookshop smell. It was a very interesting book, but couldn't have set him back more than about 50p, so I don't want to spend more than a tenner. Now is that a challenge, or what?
I can't say inspiration immediately sprang to me with this one. I started thinking along the lines of naked photos of Bill Oddie, which grossed me out so comprehensively I needed to have a little lie down to recover.
Next, I thought he might appreciate the wind up lederhosen I got for Prog Rock Step Dad's 60th birthday (I am a very very bad stepdaughter, what can I say). They are mildly amusing as they hop around, but the absolute clincher for Prog Rock Step Dad was the way they rock and fall over agonisingly slowly as they stop. We tried to film it and failed. We are a bit crap.
The model Arsenal stadium is spookily expensive and clearly designed for OCD adults who cannot bear the pie smell and proximity of other humans the real thing would involve. Arsenal body wash is cheaper. Can you imagine how £3.50 worth of Arsenal body wash smells? Like the bottom of a Chinawhite cocktail I should imagine. Barbara's "Minty for the Messiah" breath spray might be a nice extra present to go with the body wash? The gift that says "You stink AND I am mocking all you hold dear". What could be finer?
I am afraid I am all suggested out here. I am suffering a severe case of "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes", as Inspector Morse once said. I do not have a present for the CFO yet. Oh, the irony. Jesuzemann, shackass! So, um, any ideas either for the Fat Controller or for me (If in doubt, help ME. I have to live with CFO all year and so far all he has is a sort of fancy cork...) gratefully received.
Ready, steady, GIFT!