3pm is a real trickster. You’re almost at the traumatic yet surprisingly swift downhill slope that is Dinner / Bath / Bed. But there’s still a considerable hunk of time left before you can stick the oven on and commence the front door vigil for the arrival of fresh meat (daddy).
Ben and Holly has just finished, I seize my chance. “Right,” I clap my hands assertively and stand in front of the TV. “Let’s get the fuck out of this bloody house.” (I leave out the swears)
“Is Moo gonna come too?” asks Mouse.
“Well yes, I rather think she’d better.”
It takes a further 45 minutes to mobilise, which I won’t document because if you’re a parent / have a relative or friend who is a parent then you know. You just know.
“Where shall we go? Shall we go…up to Sainsbury’s?”
Nope, already been there before lunch and I can’t repeat the same branch in the same day. Oh, remind me one day to write about the time I was suspected of shoplifting a pain au chocolat in Sainsbury’s and eating it in the baby change. That was hilarious, I tell thee.
“You could get a coffee in Waitrose shop and I can have the dribbly bits?”
Excellent idea. It’s daddy’s turn to put Mouse to bed so I don’t mind if she has a sup of caffeine. What a good little social planner she is. We’ll do that, and we’ll go the long way round to drag it out.
You know in The Hunger Games where Katniss rides into the arena on that chariot and everyone goes wild with revolutionary hysteria? That’s a bit like how Mouse treats her time on the buggy board, except with ants in her pants. We half and half it, Mouse steps on, Mouse steps off. “Get on and STAY ON” I holler like a fishwife. “It’s a busy road!”
The long way round involves a hill, one of those misleading buggers that looks alright from sea level. Mouse flatly refuses to walk up it, reminding me that I did ask her to stay on the buggy board. She talks though. By Christ she talks and she expects engagement. I pause before we start the mighty climb. “Now, this is a big big hill and you and Moo are quite hard to push so mummy just needs to not speak for a couple of minutes, OK? Why don’t you sing to me? Do ‘Wind the Bobbin Up’, we like that.”
I shunt my body so that I’m at a 45 degree angle to the ground, arms outstretched, and advance up the hill with slow, deliberate steps. I actually think I’m going to die. My calves scream and spittle forms at the corners of my mouth. I think Mouse may be singing but I can’t be sure, I seem to have lost a conscious connection between mind and body. A gaggle of school kids saunter past me in the opposite direction but they may as well be the cast of Fame because my eyes have started rolling around in their sockets with the exertion. I couldn’t speak if I wanted to. I doubt I could even blink to communicate.
I recover myself at the peak and take great, greedy lungfuls of air. “Great singing, Mouse” I rasp.
“Daddy likes that hill, he can push us because of his strong.”
Oh, I bet he bloody can. All hail daddy, perpetual good cop who can do no wrong. Piss off. Piss right off.
Luckily for every up there is a down, and we fly past the industrial estate (I know how to show these kids a good time!). I revert back to cheerful, enriching mum mode and we have a nice chat about the cars being mended (slash, owners being fleeced) at Kwik Fit.
Mouse initiates another sing song. She very much enjoys Happy Birthday, and Jingle Bells, so I suggest ABC as it’s a bit more evergreen. She sings the letters without enunciating them individually, so it’s mainly a long one-word warble, like that place in Wales ending in ‘Goch’. I’m momentarily caught in a dilemma as we’ve strayed into student territory and there are lots of highly attractive young men milling about and I really, REALLY don’t want to look like a tit in front of them with my bad singing and foaming mouth, but I don’t want to be a proper shit mum either, so I trill along. This is Southampton, there will always be more students to impress. I’ll just lurk around the Freshers Fair or something, like a tentative cougar.
We arrive at Waitrose and I realise that I’ve massively over egged the length of this jaunt and the oven needs to be on in five minutes. “Let’s be quick quick then! Hurry hurry!” (Saying the same word twice over in an attempt to maximise its effectiveness is definitely a mum thing, and it doesn’t work.) What we really don’t need now is a conversation with well meaning staff and patrons of the shop. Moo doesn’t know any better, but Mouse actively courts attention and stops to chat to the nice singing trolley lady (who is famous in her own right with a dedicated Facebook fan page and all sorts). I’m mentally calculating that by the time we get home and I get dinner sorted, we’re going to be perilously behind schedule which means Late to Bed which means Shorter Evening for Parents which means Sodding Bad Times.
“We didn’t do the token mummy! Mummeeeeeeee I didn’t do my token!” Those bastard tokens. Trolley lady senses unrest and brings forth a fistful of green discs. I resign myself to the fact that this entire misadventure is my own fault and haul Mouse atop the token depository, where she puts all six into the same slot. You win, local animal rescue sanctuary. You win.