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Monday, April 18, 2011

A family day out

So this is how an argument starts in our house.

It’s the first day of the Easter holidays. A couple in their early forties, sit propped up in bed with Ikea side-sleeper pillows. He is holding a Ross O’Carroll Kelly book and quietly hoping she will wander downstairs so he can luxuriate in bed and finish it. She knows this and has no intention of doing so. Another lie-in? She doesn’t think so. The have to do something as a family today. Heading her off at the pass he talks first. (In the background ,the SpongeBob Squarepants theme tune drifts up to them through the floorboards.)

“I suppose we’d better do something with the kids today. I won’t have another day off work for a fortnight.”
“You sound really eager. Doing something with the kids isn’t so terrible you know.”
“I never said it was terrible. I just don’t particularly look forward to working every day for two weeks. Is there something wrong with that?”
“First thing in the morning and you are already in a grump. We have to go somewhere. I don’t think I can let them do another full day on the Xbox. They’ve been talking about Fort Duncan?”
“Why not? It’s the money I suppose. Sometimes we do have to pay entrance fees you know.”
“No. its not the money! I’m just not mad about that tacky, fairground shite.”
“You are not really thinking about what the kids want at all are you?”
“Well no, not completely. Believe it or not I might be also thinking about what I want to do.”
“Great. The Botanic Gardens. I saw you looking at the website last night.”
(Angry, accusative tone)
“You’re a very lucky woman, you know. A lot of wives say that and they’re not talking about the Botanic Gardens website.”

In the kitchen. Children sit around the table, two of them focussed on their Nintendo ds’s, and one is focussed on his parents.  “Are we doing anything today?”
“Well you are not going to be on that Xbox all day.”
“X Box 360. Are we going somewhere?”
“Daddy and I are just talking about that now. We will let you know in a few minutes.”
“Can I have a hot cross bun toasted with the butter put on when it’s still hot?”
“In a minute.”
“Can I go on the computer?”
“In a minute. Daddy is just looking something up.”
“What’s he looking up?
“The weather forecast.”
“Can I go on the computer when he’s finished looking up the weather forecast?”
The Dad lifts his head from the computer screen and quietly exits from his Fantasy Football site.
“You can go on the computer if there is time for that. We are going out today.”
“Mum just said I can go on it when you are finished.”
Child number two looks up from the ds.
“Where are we going?”
Child number three looks up from his ds.
“Are we going somewhere?”
“Daddy and I are talking about that now, just give us a minute.”
“Can I have the hot cross bun while I’m waiting?”

An hour later they are all in the car. The day is brightening up and they are headed towards the M50 and Fort Duncan.  A little voice pipes up from the back. The voice of someone who has been uncharacteristically quiet all morning and noticeably pale, had anyone thought to notice. However in the throws of  arguing how much these neglecting poor children need a day out in the hot sun, going down water slides, playing crazy golf, climbing up towers, his mother meant but forgot to have a closer look at him.
“My ear hurts.”
Those three words combined with red cheeks and pin prick pupils mean one thing. A temperature. Fort Duncan is off the cards. Its time to turn around, drive back home, administer calpol, pick up the buggy and head to the Botanic Gardens.

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