Monday 19 November 2007

The bear, the duck and the unicorn

Sunday morning, 9.a.m. I have not slept well - Amelie went to a birthday party the day before and came home with a long thin white balloon, which she decided she would keep thrust upright in her pink welly boot in the middle of the hall. It looked startlingly like a severed leg, and after a day spent catching sight of it out of the corner of my eye and shuddering with horror, I have had a night of unpleasant dreams about landmines and stray limbs.
Bleary-eyed, I am meant to be entertaining the children while Nini has a shower. On Amelies instructions, I am lying under the covers in bed, pretending to be a bear hiding in its cave. The reasons for my hiding have only been sketchily outlined to me: I am apparently a 'good bear', and it is necessary for me to hide in my cave because there are 'enemy bears' who are trying to get me. Further explanations have been deemed unnecessary: I need to get with the program and hide in my cave, immediately - all I need to know is that there is a some kind of bear-based conflict going on and I am clearly in danger.
From within my cave, I ask in a muffled voice: "And are you one of the good bears, Amelie? Do you need to hide as well?"
"No. I am a Princess" she replies, with a certain inevitability, and in a scornful voice that suggests I really should have known that all along.
"Right. I see." I reply. (But I don't: the whole 'bear war' scenario is confusing enough without adding princesses) "And what do you do?"
"I will get you food, Daddy. You must stay in your cave and hide, but I will sneak past the enemy bears and bring you food."
"OK" I say. "Sounds good." And it does: I like games when I just have to lie there and be quiet, they are amongst my favourite kind.
"I will be back in a minute with food" Amelie announces, patting my head through through the duvet.
It goes quiet (well, relatively: from the bathroom I can still clearly hear Neve howling and pounding on the bath panels in outrage because her mother has had the unthinkable audacity to put her down for a minute while she tries to take a shower) and I allow my mind to wander. I recall with resentful clarity the weekend mornings we used to have before we had children: long lazy days in bed, breakfasts that morphed into brunches, a copy of the paper to read that didn't have all its pages savaged by tiny hands, a meal with friends, a beer in the sunshine, a trip to the cinema...
My train of thought is rudely interuupted as the duvet is pulled roughly back. Amelies excited face appears, clearly revelling in her role as undercover princess working to supply the ursine resistance.
"I got you some food - you must eat it now" she says sternly, and forcefully pushes a small purple rubber duck into my mouth. "And I brought you this" she adds, dropping a soft toy unicorn onto my face as well. Before I can react the duvet is pulled back over my head. "Now hide", she shrieks, "the bad bears have seen us!"
In the semi-dark I spit out the toy duck, wondering briefly if Neve piddled in the bath the last time she played with it. I also briefly wonder at the significance of the unicorn: is it mean to be more food? Stolen wartime equipment? A companion for the cave? Sadly, I don't have a chance to ask, because with surprising force Amelie starts to rain blows on my head through the duvet .
"OW! Get off! What are you doing?"
(Continued pounding) "It's the bad bears! They are trying to get into the cave!"
"Well, stop them! Ow!"
(Continued pounding) "There are too many, Daddy!
"Make them stop!"
(Continued pounding) "Quick, Daddy! Escape on your unicorn!"

...and suddenly I am giggling under the covers. Of course: I should escape on my unicorn. It's so obvious - and so is the fact that I don't want to go back to the kind of weekends that I used to have before the girls were born: they weren't nearly as much fun.
Well, OK...maybe I could cope with one 'old style' weekend a month...

No comments: