Wednesday, 2 March 2016


Middle One is scooting round the kitchen on Youngest’s scooter, round and round, as I’m writing on my laptop at the island.

“What are you doing?” he says.

 “My blog,” I say.

“Why?” he says, going round and round.

“Good question,” I say.

“I don't know why you do it,” he says, round and round.

"Very funny," I say. 

"Seriously," he says.

"Practice," I say, "and habit."

"Why don't you quit?" he says.

“I might,” I say.

“What are you writing now?” he says.

“Nothing," I say, looking up, "actually I was just looking at last week's where I wrote, ‘no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.' I think it's inadequate clothing, but I can't be bothered to check.”

“It's not true either way,” says Middle One. “Try telling the victims of Hurricane Katrina that all they needed was an anorak.”

This makes me laugh. 

“You make me laugh,” I say. “But can you please stop scooting. Go and argue with your friends on Facebook or something.”

“I can’t,” says Middle One.

“Why not?” I say. “Don’t tell me it's broken, all teen life in SW London will grind to a halt.”

“No,” he says. “You told me not to. You read an article. You said I was addicted to screens and I should do my homework.”

Oh yes. 

"Go and do your homework,” I say.

“Hey!” he says, “I have something for you, in my pocket.”

“What?” I say.

He scoots over, pulls his extended index finger out of his pocket and jabs it skywards inches from my face, while wearing a huge smile on his own.

“Ha, ha,” I say, “very funny." Not.

He scoots away. The phone rings.

“You didn’t ring to say thank you,” says my mother, on the other end of the line.

“Gosh,” I say. “I’m so sorry! No I didn’t.”

I give up on the whole blog thing and walk over to the sofa by the window to sit down and talk to my mother.

“Thank you for having us at half-term,” I say to my mother, belatedly. “I'm saying it now. It was lovely. I meant to ring. I don’t know where the week’s gone.”

“What have you been doing?” she says.

“Umm…” I say, noticing a robin landing on the garden table.

“What's the matter?” she says.

"Sorry," I say, "I meant to ring. I forgot. I keep forgetting things.”

This reminds me of something.

“What does Daddy want for his birthday?” I say.

“I sent you an email about that,” says my mother.

“I know,” I say, “thank you.”

There’s a pause.

That robin is looking at me, I think.

“You didn’t read it, did you?” says my mother.

“No,” I say. “Sorry.”

There’s a huff down the line.

"You're hopeless," says my mother.

“Don’t take it personally,” I say, “I’m not reading anyone’s emails, not properly.”

“What are you doing then?” she says.

Right now? I’m watching a robin.

“Work,” I say, but this is barely true.

“Writing," I add, because this is half true.

“Swimming," I add to that, because this is a bit true. 

“Talking to lots of lonely elderly people,” because this is totally true, and also depressing. 

“Are you having a mid-life crisis?” says my mother.

Only if I live to a hundred, I think, and with the amount I’m drinking at the moment this is unlikely.

“Maybe,” I say.

Middle One scoots back in the kitchen. “Why have I only this moment learnt about the Armenian genocide?” he says.

“I’m on the phone,” I say.

"You never told me," he says. “I just read about it on Wikipedia."

"I've failed as a parent," I say.

"Pardon?" says my mother. 

“Don’t believe everything you read on Wikipedia,” I say, still looking at the robin, while listening to my mother. "Some of it's made up. Although I do know that the Armenian genocide happened."

“Is there someone there?” says my mother. 

“It was terrible,” says Middle One. “Also, why is the annihilation of the native American Indians not included on the list?”

“What list?” I say.

"List?” says my mother. "Are you having two conversations at once?"

“Of genocides,” says Middle One, “on Wikipedia.”

“I don’t know,” I say. “I guess it’s not definitive, it’s selective.”

“What’s selective?” says my mother. 

“You think it would be, though,” says Middle One.

The robin hops down from the table and comes closer to the window, cocking its head on one side.

“Really terrible,” he repeats. 

“You’re not listening to me,” says my mother.

“I am," I say. 

"His birthday is soon," says my mother.

“It's complicated,” says Middle One.

"It's always complicated," I say.

"What is?" says my mother.

“Umm…” I say, to both my mother and to Middle One.

“You’re not listening again,” says my mother.

“I am.” I say. But I'm really not. I’m not listening to either of them. I’m watching the robin.

My mother ends the conversation quite abruptly because I’m being exasperating and because there’s someone at the front door.

Husband walks in. “What are we doing about lunch?” he says. Which means what am I doing about lunch.

“When’s March 6th?” I say.

“Right after the 5th” he says.

“It's my father’s birthday on March 6th,” I say.

"Oh, right," he says. "This weekend."

"So soon,” I say, "another weekend."

“Why?" he says. "What’s wrong with weekends?”

"They're not the same now you're at home all week." I say. "Now every day is the weekend."

Middle One scoots very close to the window, still talking about the Armenian genocide.

“Don’t do that,” I say, “it’s bad for the wooden floor, and you’re going to scare that robin away.”

“What robin?” he says.

I turn to point at the robin, but it’s gone.

Love E x


P.S. Here's the article about kids and screen addiction from The Times. There's a pay wall. It's keeping them afloat.

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