Tuesday 24 November 2009

The Grumblemouth Incident

Sometimes, trying to be 'fun Daddy' can backfire quite badly:

I am bathing the girls. They are in the tub, each wearing a pair of swimming goggles, and each armed with a small water pistol that they are spraying, gleefully, into the others face. I am sheltering behind the shower curtain, which is partially extended to stop more water from going onto the floor - a floor which has long since edged out of 'damp', through 'wet' and is now heading firmly into 'soaking'.
"Try not to get your hair wet," I say, pointlessly, for the ninth time. "Mummy won't like it".
This is actually massively hypocritical of me, as the whole situation is a result of my lax parenting, a situation that the Eldest has readily picked up on:
"But you gave us the water pistols..." she says.
"Pistols!" shrieks her sister, excitedly.
"Yes, yes..." I agree. "But I didn't think you'd shoot each other."
"But you said: Why don't you shoot each other..."
"Did I?"
"Pistols! WATER PISTOLS!" cries Youngest.
"Yes, you said: Don't you dare shoot me, but you can shoot each other..."
"Ah, yes. Yes, I did. But I didn't really mean in the face..."
"In the face!" adds Youngest, in voice wheeling with joy.
"But you specially went and got our swimming goggles..." continues her sister, coolly returning fire, "...to stop it going in our eyes."
"That was a precautionary measure," I say. "It wasn't meant to encourage you to get your hair wet. Mummy won't like it if you get your hair wet."
"She won't like the water on the floor, either..." she observes.
"No..." I agree sadly. The floor is far too wet now to be dismissed as an accident. It takes a concerted effort and a protracted absence of parental guidance to get a floor that wet, particularly given that the water pistols are tiny and only hold about an eggcup full of water each, and (most damningly), require my assistance in order to be refilled. It is clear I can't just blame the girls for the mess: all three of us are going down for this...
I decide I will distract them from the water pistols, and think I may have had a brainwave as to how. I start knocking gently on the side of the tub, out of their line of sight.
"What's that knocking?" asks Eldest.

"Oh, that?" I say, casually. "That's Grumblemouth. He comes out from behind the bath panel if the floor gets too wet."
Both stop dead in their tracks. I continue knocking.
"What is Grumblemouth?" asks the first.
"Is he nice?" asks the second.
"Sort of..." I say, reaching for the toothpaste and playing for time. "Sometimes."
"Is he...a monster?" she asks.
"Yes," I say, not really listening while I go to work. "That's right. He is a monster..." With my left hand, I make a fist, tucking my thumb in under the fingers. By turning my hand sideways and flapping my thumb up and down, I can make a monster's mouth. With the toothpaste I squeeze a blob of white either side of the knuckle of my first finger, forming two large gelatinous eyes. I am delighted with the result.
Ha, I think, this is brilliant! They will love this!
"I don't like monsters..." announces Youngest.
"Oh, you'll be fine " I say airily, still knocking on the side of the bath, and reaching for their blue 'Winnie the Pooh' toothpaste, which is mean to tastes like bubblegum to encourage them to clean their teeth, but which both find revolting and will go to quite remarkable lengths to avoid using at all. With this second toothpaste I add a pair of blue irises to the wobbly white eyes of Grumblemouth, and a streak of a nose.

Wow, I think, that looks amazing. They will laugh like drains!
"Is he going to come out? asks the Eldest, her voice quivering a little with what I think is excitement (but now, in retrospect, I understand was fear).
"Yes, I think he might..." I say, suppressing a chuckle. I start knocking louder, as Grumblemouth gets nearer.
They will remember this forever, I think. It will be a cherished childhood memory. They will pester me every bathtime to bring Grumblemouth out!
"I don't want Gumballmouth..." says Youngest, in a tiny voice.
"HERE HE IS!" I cry, and pop my hand up from of the side of the bath, ready for the gales of laughter.
The reaction is immediate. Both scream in genuine terror, far louder than I have heard either before. The youngest bursts into immediate tears.
"Nooooooo!" she shrieks. "No No No!"
Ah, I think. That's not gone well...
"It's OK! It's OK!" I soothe."It's just Daddy being silly..." I reach to cuddle her, which of course brings Grumblemouth closer, with his mouth gaping wide open as if about to bite. She howls, and lashes out with a shampoo bottle.
"Make him GO AWAY!" she screams.
I quickly duck my hand in the bath and swoosh it around to wash the toothpaste off. This doesn't work as well as it might, and when I bring my hand out of the water the toothpaste has simply partially dissolved and run a little way down my hand, making Grumblemouth's face even more disturbing.
"His face is melting!" shrieks eldest in sheer terror, forcing herself into the corner of the bath and trying to climb out backwards using the taps as handholds. She is right: Grumblemouth looks like that French bloke who opened the Ark of the Covenant in the first Indiana Jones movie.
"Aaaaaaaaaah!" wails Youngest. "AAAAAAAAAAAH!"
At this point my wife enters the room. She surveys the carnage with an open mouth.
"We were just playing," I try and explain, "and it all went wrong..."

Grumblemouth has not made an appearance since. I would like to particularly stress that fact to anyone reading who might work for Social Services.


Gretel said...

:) Always enjoy your posts, but this one is special! Why don't we get this quality of entertaining column in one of the week end broadsheets, instead of the same old hacks?

Misterimpatient said...

PG is correct of course.

I'm looking forward to the next post where you, in intimate detail, let us know exactly how long before you are permitted back into the marital bed.

Anonymous said...


When I was younger I always played with pistols.... your friend Gav

Carol said...


Hehehe, when I was a kid my Dad hung a toy parrot over my bed and then told me that it would crap on me if I got up in the middle of the night for any other reason other than to go to the toilet!! I was pretty certain he was lying but not certain enough to try out the theory!!

C x