She said she was going to write a book with one hundred ninety pages and this would be the start of it. She said maybe she would become a writer after that. In her seven-and-a-half years of existence, I’ve never known her to be a writer. Often, getting her to write is like getting a cat into the bath. I’m not holding my breath on this one. Big thoughts, big idealistic dreams.
It was the little plastic chair at the library. The one with the cool raised swirly pattern on the back. The one that’s just the perfect size for a child’s bottom, while adults look plain ridiculous in them. But that’s besides the point. Perhaps she’s sat in them way too many times before and sitting is just so passé and boring, so she decided to rock back and forth in them.
It’s fun. I know this because I used to do this when I was in primary school, tipping my chair back on its back legs, my fingers gripping my rusty desk for support. My mother used to warn me against doing so, telling me I could go blind if I hit the back of my head on the desk behind me. I laughed it off, because as a child who knew little about biology, that just seems absurd (your eyes are on the front, not the back!). However, as someone who minored in biology, I now know that visual cortex is back there, so duh. But I digress.
Raspberry learnt the hard way that rocking on bendy plastic chair legs is not a good idea. Somehow, unsurprisingly, they gave out and sent her forehead right into the table (also plastic). When I returned from getting groceries, I found Lucas, toting Ares, approaching with a band-aid in hand, a promise to explain later, and a seemingly nonplussed librarian in tow. The librarian, who watched patiently as Lucas stuck the band-aid on the gash, had Raspberry recount the details of how she acquired her injury, as he had to write it up.
She was left with a bruised, swollen forehead that, within hours, became a badge of pride, because she thought it made her look terrifying. A week-and-a-half on, the bump is still has tinges of yellow and purple and not as goose egg-ish as it was before and it’s become an afterthought, if at all.
There’s unfortunately no good backstory to his scar. They fought and the claws came out. I didn’t see what happened and was only met with his inconsolable pain cries. I suppose if the top of his head wasn’t so barren, his luscious locks would’ve absorbed most of the impact and he would’ve been spared a giant scratch. It’s too bad my kids are genetically predisposed to having little hair in their early days. Oh well.
Hooray for sunny beach days with friends! Hooray for scintillating adult conversation, children playing in the water with reckless abandon, teeny tiny babies with wide-eyed pensive looks (well, just one baby), and not-so-minuscule babies wanting to play in the water and wet sand but freaking out over enormous bathing suit bottoms! Hooray for jaffa cake ice-cream and the little person having his first bite of proper ice-cream and loving it so much that I was secretly getting protective over my share of it (it’s mine, after all)! And at the end of it all, even the tiniest hooray for very tired, non-napping child who wanted to walk everywhere.
They get on each other’s nerves. She gets into his personal space (deliberately or otherwise) and he shrieks, “AHHHH!” and pushes her away. I imagine that if he could speak, he’d have some choice words for her. When he gets tired, his tendency to bite rears its ugly head and he goes for her ankles, because she likes sitting on the couch with her feet up. I can tell you from experience that his eight-and-a-half teeth can leave some indelible marks. She asks, “Ares, can I have that?” and grabs a toy out of his hands without waiting for his answer. He’s like chopped liver. He sees that her head’s right next to him and takes that as an invitation to grab her glasses, because obviously something protrouding from your face is just screaming to be yanked off. And so it goes.
This morning, before I’d even peeled my heavy eyelids open, they were already at it. He wanted the book about London that she was reading. She sternly snapped no, and then started howling at him as he turned his attention to opening drawers instead. There’s only so much ignoring and trying to sleep you can do, when there’s all this drama and potential hand-to-hand combat happening right beside you. I had no choice but to get out of bed, much to my displeasure. And they just went on and on and on like this for the next two hours, until Lucas and I were threatening to douse Raspberry with an unhealthy dose of Rescue Remedy and we were beyond ready to put them on the curb with a “for sale” sign (except no one really does things like that here with their inanimate objects).
They’re not usually this bad. Like all things, the sibling rivalry has ebbs and flows. The first few times it happened, I was just plain confused. There’s a six year gap between them. How… why in the world are they fighting?! If there was just two or three years between them, it’d be completely understandable, even expected, that they were butting heads. But seriously, six years! “You don’t even have the same interests,” I thought to myself (except that now, they actually do), thinking that the root of siblings fighting lay in both kids wanting the same things. But of course, I’m just completely naive and it’s more complex than that. They drive each other batty, just because.
They have occasional sweet moments when they play together. Like when we were at the garden at British Library and they looked at ants together. Or yesterday during Ares’ bath, when Ares was [mostly] pretending to drink the surprisingly particle-ridden bathwater and she would gleefully yelp, “Don’t drink the water!” and he’d laugh uncontrollably. Often, Ares will grab a chapter or adult book and plant himself right next to Raspberry as she reads on the couch, personal space be damned (he’s okay with shrinking the size of his personal space when he’s the one controlling it). It’s cute when they get along and when Raspberry’s not vocalizing her wishes to get rid of Ares (the suggestion last week was to “put Ares in a baby-only zone and someone else can take care of him” and then it escalated into suggesting murder — true story).
Please let me wake up tomorrow morning with pleasant kids, or at least tolerable ones. Let’s hope they got all that squabbling and bickering out of their system today (seriously, after going at it all morning, they’d better be done with it). If it continues, I think I’m just going to make myself some hot chocolate and put some headphones on and direct my attention to the black hole that is the Internet. It’s better than having my head explode.
Our final day in London started bright and early for Lucas and I, like pre-7am early, which, for me, is unheard of when we’re home, because I go to bed so late. But here in London, fatigued from the day and with no Internet to while my nocturnal hours away, I’d been going to bed before midnight. Ordinarily, if I were up at that ridiculous hour, I’d be a groggy, grunting lump shuffling listlessly across the floor. But this time around, possibly owing to the fact that we were in London (yay!), as well as the fact that I likely had sufficient sleep, I was uncharacteristically alert, perky almost. And I hadn’t even had breakfast yet.
I put on my blue flowered polyester dress, the last clean item of clothing I’d brought. Up to that point, I’d always worn it over leggings, because British weather only occasionally gets hot enough to go sans leg-coverings, and it hasn’t been that hot since I bought the dress last year. In this heatwave, it goes without saying that I was going to go bare-legged. However, I didn’t account for the fact that the dress was, um, a bit short. After I put it on, I kept tugging at it, hoping that it was at least covering vital parts of my anatomy. Lucas very helpfully suggested that I could put on my navy blue shorts under it and his brilliant idea saved me from much potential embarrassment, as well as having to take small, dainty steps for the rest of the day. After donning the shorts, he said I looked more confident. Ha!
The early start meant that we could get everything packed up before Ares and Raspberry were awake. It also meant that we could chat with our one flatmate — a law student from Nottingham named Catherine who was on a two week work placement — before she left for work. She worked long hours and would return late, so we only really saw her at night when we were making dinner or cleaning up. Raspberry enjoyed talking with her and promised to make her a picture before we left. She drew one of balloon people, inspired by a balloon in the shape of a number five, that we saw on our train to London.
If there was one thing I liked about the apartment (besides the fact that the bed was a lot comfier than our own), it was meeting fellow travellers. I’d talked quite a bit with the Slovenian guy before he and his girlfriend left. We’d see each other in the kitchen, as he prepared a no-frills breakfast or did his dishes. He seemed quite nice, as he’d recount the places they visited, sightseeing the way we did, but probably in a cooler, edgier, we-don’t-have-kids-in-tow sort of way. Oh, and they hit up plenty of musicals too, which isn’t exactly our cup of tea. He offered us the sunscreen he bought just before he left, but we didn’t need it. I didn’t really get a chance to chat with the Korean girl who’s an art student from Seoul, although Lucas did. The day we first met her, she gave Raspberry a small package of chocolate biscuits, which she devoured while we were out at South Bank. Raspberry, who forms attachments quickly and easily, wished she could keep in touch with Catherine. We had to explain to her the concept of fleeting friendships, and how you can’t really form long-term friendships with everyone. I’m not sure if she quite understood though.
In my sleepy daze, I somewhat recall the sound of heavy rain sometime in the early hours of the morning. By the time I woke, it was dry and hot again and we were all set for our last full day in London. At 34°C, it was slated to be the hottest day of the heatwave (and I’m willing to guess, of the year too) and what better way than to spend part of it at Hyde Park?
Our first full day in London started early. Like, “Why are you up?! It’s not even 7am!” kinda early. I think it had a lot to do with the fact that I’d forgotten to draw the curtains in the room, which got the morning sun. I learnt that lesson quickly. For two kids who didn’t get their requisite amount of sleep, they sure were perky. Lucas and I were probably much less so. But no matter, because we were in frigging London!!!!!!!!!!
Lucas and I finished the muesli we’d brought, mixed with the granola we’d gotten the day before. Raspberry decided she only wanted the granola because clusters are where it’s at. Ares thrived on strawberries, because he’s a fruit fiend. Breakfasts for him have been complicated lately, as he doesn’t seem interested in what we have to offer, especially when there’s berries available. He took a couple of bites of our cereal, but mostly wanted the berries. We didn’t know it yet, but feeding him on this trip would prove to be a bit of a challenge.
As a birthday present for all of us (well, namely Raspberry, Lucas and I), we took a trip to London this past Sunday for five days. Out of the four of us, I’m the only one who has been before, in 1984, 1994, and 2004. Yes, in keeping with the pattern, it would’ve been great if I could’ve made it last year but for some reason, we just didn’t (the fact that we had a cat with hyperthyroidism who had to be fed a couple of times a day had a lot to do with it). In any case, we went and had a a tremendous time.
However, the trip got off to a bad start, as one of the wheels of our brand new suitcase popped right off barely a hundred metres from home. Raspberry, Ares and I had gone ahead of Lucas and as we made it down the hill, Raspberry turned around and announced that Lucas was carrying rather than pulling the suitcase. Of course, that’s not what I wanted to hear and when he finally caught up with us, he confirmed the worst and had to lug the suitcase the rest of the way to Lime Street station. Once on the train, because the luggage space was full, the cursed suitcase occupied the fourth seat at our table, sealing Lucas into his window seat. There was a guy sitting in that fourth available seat when we first boarded the train, but he quickly moved when he noticed we had a lot of baggage (I’m talking about Raspberry and Ares here).
The train trip, which ordinarily takes just over two hours, was slated to take almost three hours on this cloudy Sunday morning. I’m not sure why, as it didn’t make more stops than it usually does, but at some points, it certainly didn’t travel as fast as the Virgin trains normally go. We saw a lot of countryside and kept wondering when we’d see the city limits. Arriving at London Euston twenty minutes later than we should have, we were all excited and antsy to get off and get our vacation started.