I’ve just had an extremely gratifying experience with a nine-year-old girl. Those thoughts you’re having? Proof that you have mind like a sewer!
LMS and I were outside in the garden, enjoying the sunshine and bemoaning the fact that her timetable for home schooling doesn’t, as far as I can tell, have any breaks for fun. There’s fitness with Joe Wicks at 10, maths with Carol Voderman at 11, English with David Williams at 12, dancing with Darcey Bissell at 1…and on it goes. When I was at primary school, it was all making things out of balsa wood, country dancing, kiss chase in the playground and then a kick about after school on the green. There was no homework, well not if you count watching the ‘Six Million Dollar Man’ so you could pretend to be Steve Austin the next day in the playground as homework. Last night she was talking about the Vikings doing something on Holy Island. Last moth it was the Egyptians and hieroglyphics. She’s 9 F.F.S!
Anyway, her Mum bough me out some tea. I took a sip. And put it down. It was a defective cup of tea. LMS looked at me. “There’s no sugar in it.” I said wearily, “and a cup of tea without sugar in it, well that isn’t a cup of tea.” She offered to get some, out of politeness I thought or more likely she knows I’ve got a stash of Kit-Kats somewhere, so I was taken aback when she said, after I declined, “No, your life depends on it.” And as she hotfooted it back into the house, I thought ‘Ah, my work here is done!’
It was almost enough to banish the awful memory that was yesterday, specifically shopping at my local Sainsbury’s. Sensibly, they’d decided to initiate an hour’s early opening for the elderly, the disabled and NHS staff. In fact, if you were all three, you got a free 24 pack of toilet roll, well that was the rumour doing the rounds in the queue anyhow. Obviously their own ‘Basics’ one, nothing quality. And what a queue it was! Everyone standing what they thought was 2 metres apart and as it moved closer to the entrance, so more people put masks on. A good idea I thought, as some of them made Freddy Krueger look like a model, so hideously grotesque they were. Why can’t ugly people be made to wear masks all the time, to protect us from them befouling our eyes?
Inside it was eerily functional, no looking at the labels to see the sugar or salt content, no loitering in the aisles idly pondering on whether it was organic or not, free-trade, free range, ethically produced or not. None of that visible display of how right on, and superior one is to everyone else, how you’d much rather be shopping in Waitrose but there isn’t one nearby with a car park. None of that! That had gone as fast as the dried pasta. It was a deeply unnerving experience. Soulless. As I remarked afterwards it was as much fun as being a eunuch at an orgy.
The one redeeming feature was a woman I spotted, with her hair scraped back and rolled up on one side at the back. It was the parting in her hair that was so captivating. It was so neat, so straight and so precise. It was as if she signaling that yes, whilst things are bad, with worse possibly to come, nonetheless they weren’t that bad that she was going to stop making the effort.