Undeterred by Himself the Elf’s preference last week for continuing to be a whirlwind of destruction around the house, I have used a morning that Dulcie is at pre-school to treat him to a solo trip to a play group. This is his first ever visit to a playgroup and my first visit to this one. It is held in the beautiful mezzanine of a church, and I plead with the Ladies (as they introduce themselves) who run it to assure me that I am not enrolling him into a sort of Sunday School. I am reassured. It is all about Play here, with the Ladies also keen to help with small children so that the mothers and carers can have what is charmingly referred to as a ‘peaceful cup of tea’ in a room of fifty excited under-threes. There are also huge wedges of homemade cake on sale for 50p. Himself the Elf eyes the plastic toys. I eye the cake. We’re staying.
We are invited to join in with the singing. Himself the Elf is parted from the sort of horrid, noisy plastic toy that he so desires (we try to stick to beautiful, hand-painted wooden ones at home, which are treated with frequent scorn unless being used to bang loudly on the hard floor for maximum noise) and we sit in a huge circle. He is bemused as we begin the Humpty Dumpty, as our accompanist has started the song at a very high pitch and we all struggle as we screech, “couldn’t put Humpty together again” in hilarious sopranos. The Lady leading the singing suggests that we have Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes, and requests that it is at slightly lower pitch. The request is defiantly refused, and our pianist employs the loud pedal to hide the dreadful singing. The baby squeals with delight at our squawks. Next is Five Little Ducks, which is deemed to be best sung a capella, and a picture of a duck with ducklings is held up. Himself the Elf is beside himself with excitement, breathing heavily and waving at the ducks. He goes wild with longing for them and when the singing concludes is straight over to gum the laminated picture. Continue reading
“The cat,” sobs Dulcie, dramatically and pointing with a gesture straight out of a hammy, amateur Shakespeare performance. “Has upsetted me. She has been looking at me meanly in the garden.” I’m at a bit of a loss as to the best way to respond. As far as I know, our cat has always looked either hungry or inscrutable, and she is currently sitting on the garden wall staring into space. But Dulcie is a sensitive soul, keen to weep like a silent movie heroine over any perceived slight, and ready to scream and wail if a Weetabix is presented not totally intact at breakfast. Her reaction to any light bump or knock suggests that she has a fine future as a star player for the Italian national football team.
Yet, she also has a slightly blood-thirsty side to her. “I will KILL you!” she fumes at an imaginary foe in the garden. And she seems impervious to any sentiment around eating delicious food that was very obviously a living creature not so long ago. “Ha ha, little fishy,” she croons to a whitebait. “I am going to munch your head off!” Himself the Elf is a bit of a tough-nut, banging into chairs and tables, and toppling over with monotonous regularity as he explores. Dulcie often greets his fairly restrained cries when he’s injured, or stuck, or become wedged under a piece of furniture, with utter indifference or scorn. “You silly baby! You don’t know what you’re doing, do you?” I try to suggest we offer Himself the Elf some sympathy, but Dulcie still seems to have a fairly flinty heart where his woes are concerned. Which is why I’m not surprised that she has a taste for slightly macabre literature and a liking for the frankly strange The Crows of Pearblossom. Continue reading
I’m at home with just Himself the Elf, after Dulcie has been banished to pre-school. I miss her horribly but console myself with the thought that I am going to give Himself the Elf some undivided attention. He will no longer need to climb ceaselessly and empty shelves, because I will be playing with him. Instead of hauling himself up to the play kitchen and methodically emptying the tea set out of the washing up bowl, breathing heavily, we will be sat on a rug in the garden, playing with stacking cups, or snuggled together with a book.
However, it turns out that Himself the Elf actually prefers his usual activities. For him, the biggest boon of his sister’s absence is the opportunity to rummage undisturbed through her storage boxes, flinging toys with a triumphant ‘Ha!’ or having a contemplative chew on the ones he likes the look of. After watching for a few minutes, I remove a toy stethoscope from his maw and invite him on my knee. With the old baby books all out of the loft, I am itching to share some favourites with him and have selected In My Nest. He’s clearly as keen on books as Dulcie and I, but whereas we adore the narrative and savour the pictures, Himself the Elf is like a little bookworm and is most interested in eating and chewing books. But In My Nest is far too beautiful for that. Continue reading