We’ve had a spate of rainy days in the last few weeks, which means May Blossom has spent less time in the backyard ostensibly decorating the bricks with pavement chalk but really improvising the face make-up of the characters from Cats on herself and her brother, and more time inside immersing herself in imaginary worlds. Some of these imaginary worlds are fantastic: ‘The Witch in the Woods’, for example, or ‘Castle Doctors’ (tending to people who have been run through with lances, or have splinters from battering rams, or have burns from boiling oil).
Others are more prosaic. Take ‘Molly Drops Her Phone’. In this game, May Blossom is Molly. Molly takes my phone, puts it in her handbag and leaves the room for a moment. Then she comes back with an empty handbag and exclaims ‘Oh no, I’ve dropped my phone in a shop!’
I then make all kinds of helpful suggestions about how we might get it back, and like so many clay pigeons, May Blossom shoots them down with deadly accuracy.
‘Well,’ I say energetically. ‘Let’s go back and see if we can find it in the shop.’
‘The shop is shut,’ she informs me.
‘Then maybe we could ring the shopkeeper at home using my phone and see if she might come back and open the shop for us.’
‘She won’t. I will never ever see my phone again. It is gone forever.’
Molly is pretty pessimistic. And rather a catastrophist. And not very good at keeping track of her belongings. I have NO IDEA where this game came from.
Now that Garnet is almost 15 months old and can walk and obey her orders, she occasionally lets him participate in her games. Their favourite is one where she is a lady called Emily and he is her son, Johnsont. That is not a typo. There is a ‘t’ at the end of Johnsont, I think because it sounds more important and official that way. It reminds me of how I used to use the word ‘institute’ to mean ‘instant’ at around May Blossom’s age. ‘Come back here right this institute!’ I’d tell my own small brother. Anyway, Emily is your archetypal mother character – bossy, talks over everyone, unspeakably mean – and Johnsont just toddles around after her wearing a plastic plant pot on his head. This looks a bit like a top hat, but more like a plant pot, to be honest, and it is called ‘Johnsont’s hat’ by the entire household. They play with it more than with any actual toy we have bought for them.
As for Garnet, well, he and I now get to spend a couple of days a week together on our own, now that May Blossom goes to pre-school. It’s nice to be with him alone, although the first few days we just sort of sat and stared at each other, like our mutual friend was missing. But we’ve gradually figured out how to hang out without May Blossom. We play Garnet’s kind of games, like ‘Climb On And Off The Dining Room Table’, ‘Tupperware Be Free’ (pictured) and his particular favourite, ‘Blurgh Yuck’, where he puts something horrible in his mouth, like one of his father’s shoes or a carrot he found under the sofa, and I shout ‘blurgh yuck!’. Occasionally we play my kind of games, like ‘Strap Garnet Into The Stroller And Go Shopping At Zara’.
He’s talking a bit too: he can say thank you, book, dog, cat, duck, door, hello, bye-bye, May Blossom, blurgh yuck, no, Cats, and a whole menagerie of animal sounds. I think he might be a bit clever. Although a few days ago he did march up to me in the garden, hand me a peg, then oink.