Got home late again last night. Khaleesi was in bed, probably dreaming of Jon Snow. I dare not wake her in case they’re about to slip under a bear skin together. Instead I decide to wind down by watching some mindless crap on TV into the early hours while eking out the thimble full of red wine I found in the bottle in the kitchen, which I swear was three quarters full yesterday.
Now it’s Saturday – and I really ought to be letting my body recharge with a long lie in – but I’m a dad and, as I explained in my very first blog post, I’m not likely to get one of those till 2028.
I awake discover that Khaleesi has uncharacteristically risen before me. For a few minutes I lie there, wondering if I’m about to hear the sound of her feet padding up the stairs as she carries up a tray laden with steaming coffee, scrambled eggs and toast. Several more minutes elapse before I conclude I’m clearly being delusional. So I haul myself out of bed and stumble down the stairs in my pants to investigate.
I find Khaleesi stretched out on the sofa giving her iPad her full attention. Before I have a chance to wish her good morning, she tersely informs me that she’s been awake since 7am on account of my “bloody snoring”. She performs an impression of the moist slurping sounds that (apparently) I also make when I’m sleeping. Oh, and we’re out of milk as well.
Tinkerbell has a swimming lesson on Saturday mornings – and Khaleesi has prepared an elaborate argument as to why it makes perfect sense for me to take her to the pool while she remains comfortably ensconced on the sofa. With a sigh I make my way up to the kids’ bedrooms, pondering the best strategy for getting them up, dressed and out of the house on a weekend.
Tinkerbell and Number Two are sharing a bedroom at the moment and, to my surprise, I discover them awake, sitting up in bed, duvets pulled up to their chins, angelic smiles on their faces. It’s immediately obvious to me that they’ve got their tablets concealed under the bedclothes and they’ve been playing computer games for three hours already. Some skilled negotiation takes place: “If you’re downstairs in five minutes I’ll make you a fried egg sandwich. If you’re not the tablet is banned for a week.” Making good on this promise turns out to be a lot trickier than expected because not only are we out of milk – all the bread has gone mouldy. And to cap it all, Rasputin is yowling at me angrily because Khaleesi was too busy yesterday to buy a new box of cat food.
I quickly ditch the fried egg idea in favour of a boiled egg. The only thing edible I can find in the bread bin is a couple of slices of fruit bread (one of them a crust and both pretty dried up). I decide they’re best served toasted – and it’s not long before they’re both on fire because one of the kids has turned the toaster dial up to 8. I can feel my stress levels rising – and Khaleesi must have noticed because pretty soon she’s telling me: “It’s only freaking a swimming lesson for chrissake! No point shouting at everybody and giving yourself a heart attack.” Which just makes me even more inclined to shout at everybody and have a heart attack.
We’ve been taking kids of various ages to these swimming lessons for about the past decade – and I’m pretty sure we’ve never managed to get there on time. Adding to my stress levels is the fact that Tinkerbell has a new swimming teacher – a tall, Scotsman with a shaven head who has quite possibly the loudest voice in the universe. His teaching style differs markedly from the gentle encouragement of the other teachers. If he got a part playing an army sergeant major in a film, the director would have to tell him to stop hamming it up.
Why am I entrusting the care of my little darling to this sadist? Well, I’ve noticed that every now and a little grin slips momentarily across his face – so I’ve worked out that beneath that bluff exterior, he’s a big softie. He probably has a Persian cat or a Chiwawa at home that he positively dotes on. And amazingly the kids seem to really like him – which is a lesson to all those teachers out there who’ve been brainwashed by all that liberal “treat them with kindess and respect” nonsense.
Trouble is, even though I’ve worked out he’s not the ogre he pretends to be, I’m still a teeny bit scared of him and the thought of tipping up with Tinkerbell ten minutes before the end of his lesson is making me nervous. Luckily I only have to get one child ready. Groucho is away at a friend’s house for a birthday sleepover and Number Two has been excused swimming this week because a) she hates it and b) she has some ballet event on this afternoon that will count towards her daily exercise quota. So when I finally manage to bundle Tinkerbell into the car, it’s just the two of us – which is quite nice. A chance to spend some quality one-to-one time with my youngest.
A blissful calm descends as we race along a narrow country lane at breakneck speed, surrounded by stunning countryside, bathed in sunlight. She is thoroughly amused when I describe how I managed to shatter the screen of my iPhone into a thousand pieces yesterday by dropping it in the car park at work. She tells me how there’s a boy in her class with unusually large feet and how all the female teachers at her school are pregnant. We laugh together at a cute Shetland pony – and I point out a large bird of prey that is circling overhead, looking for roadkill.
“When I was a little girl,” she informs me (she’s now reached the ripe old aged of eight) “I used to want to be a bird. And a mermaid. And a unicorn princess.”
It’s the kind of comment that melts a father’s heart and makes him want to scream: “Don’t you dare grow up, young lady! Please, just stay like this forever.”
It gives me a warm glow that stays with me for several hours – until I go up to her bedroom later and discover her search for a suitable outfit this morning involved transferring pretty much the entire contents of her wardrobe onto the floor.
Sigh. Roll on the holiday.