‘Forty-eight’ LSB says to me, and I look at him blankly. ‘Six times eight is forty-eight,’ he repeats, while the dog takes her sweet time sniffing around a tree in Rosetta. ‘Oh God I say,’ did I just ask you your tables?’ Like, out loud?’ He nods, and we shuffle on our way, wondering what we have become.
The home-schooling has me undone this week, and it’s only Monday. LSB and I had got out on our own (aside from the dog) to buy a pan loaf from Tesco. It was nearest thing to a date we’ve had this long while. Forgetting it was him, and the not the Older Child who normally accompanies me on the dog’s evening constitutional, I’d started on at him about the tables. I’m unravelling quicker than a pair of £2.99 leggings from H&M these days, and trust me, they don’t last long on my children.
Since I never manage more than an hour or two of the old school work with either of my offspring, for fear I might eject one or both of them out a window, I feel an irrepressible urge to be imparting facts; if you’ve overheard a woman asking a small child: ‘What’s the capital Of Hungary?’* when you’re out and about, then it’s probably me you’ve encountered. I’m constantly badgering them with spellings or sums: it seems I have no off-button, rather like Father Dougal Maguire waking up Ted while playing Blockbusters in his sleep, ‘Give us a P please Bob.’
I’ve seriously gone a bit funny this lockdown, becoming wildly animated over the banal. Caramel squares, for example. A day without one of those bad boys seems like a grave waste of 24 hours. I’ve become more partial to a traybake than your average Presbyterian.
Then last week, while buying some extremely delicious but pricey sausage rolls at Newton Coffee in the Four Winds, I discovered that they are now allowing customers to bring their own cup. Well, recycling-enthusiast that I am, you can only imagine my excitement. ‘We can get frothy coffees!’ I told LSB, in the same exuberant tone I once used for say, getting a last minute table in La Taqueria of a Saturday night or the promise of a night away, sans enfants.
Those were the days eh? ‘Coffee is the new clubbing,’ said LSB, as I emerged from the café with two large cappuccinos and a wide smile. ‘Maybe we should go full rock’n’roll and just fill in our census forms this evening,’ he said drily. ‘No fecking way,’ said I. At the moment, a bottle of wine in front of ‘Borgen’ is just about all the excitement I can handle.
*(When I was little my dad’s favourite tea time quiz questions were capital cities. That’s what passed for entertainment in the late eighties. I knew that Ulaanbaatar was the capital of Outer Mongolia when I was nine.)