Monday, 27 September 2010

In which the Infant Phenomenon confuses herself with Tiny Tim

I should perhaps, as I introduce my daughter, point out that she is not yet four. A delightful age, it must be said, nonetheless bringing in its train many difficulties and confusions for the fond parent. All parents believe their children to be prodigies, it is indeed almost de rigueur in certain circles. The Infant Phenomenon introduced by the brilliant Mr Dickens in Nicholas Nickleby is but one example of this. Even with this consciousness upon me, I must say that her vocabulary is astonishingly wide for her tender years and productive of much mirth to the listening adults around her ("Are you a surrealist?" to which her response was "No, I'm a shopping list.").

Fate saw fit to afflict her with a broken leg several weeks ago - an experience I would certainly counsel the fond parent to avoid if possible (in our case, by avoiding trampolines). A night in hospital, the necessity for her to imbibe a composing draft (sedative, I believe the physician and nurse called it) before the limb could be properly set in plaster, the distress it caused in her and the anguish caused in her parent from seeing such distress; all are experiences I most heartily pray you may be able to avoid. The ensuing difficulties that the plaster cast (encasing her entire right leg) caused in the simple round of our everyday life would have to be witnessed to be believed.

That episode is now over - it is now nearly three weeks since the cast (purple with a green stripe by the goodwill of the charming people at the children's infirmary) was removed - and yet it is not. The cast is gone, but my child is suffering from something I can only dub 'Tiny Tim Syndrome'. She has developed a habit of limping piteously and beseeching her fond mamma to carry her in the most theatrical manner. Her reaction to the occasional tumble down is worthy of a Mrs Siddons. When her small brother pulls her hair, as is the wont of any child of such tender years, he being not yet one, it becomes a one-act tragedy. Yet when at nursery and eager to join in the frolics of her little playfellows, she is able to walk very well. In short, she is only afflicted when she remembers to be and I must hope that as her Grandpapa says of all her little vagaries which are at all productive of parental difficulty: "It's just a phase."

Sunday, 19 September 2010

In which 'The Woman in White' leads to a woman inadvertently yellow

The moral of this story is that reading, however enjoyable or elevating, should not be allowed to distract one from even the most mundane of tasks. After my initial post, I toyed with the idea of reading 'Poor Miss Finch' but decided that although an enjoyable read, it is so preposterous a tale that I would save it for another day when boredom was rife. Nonetheless, I felt a great inclination towards some work of Mr Wilkie Collins, eventually lighting on The Woman in White.

The story wove its immediate spell and I was reading while putting the laundry - a whites wash by the purest coincidence - into the washing machine, musing at the back of my mind on how charming it would have been to have a laundry maid and how altogether less charming it would have been to be a laundry maid. In my state of literary distraction, I put in with the bulk a dishcloth with which I had been cleaning up some turmeric spillages. I had made a boorani for some friends who gave us the pleasure of their company for dinner; a dish which involves rubbing turmeric and salt into slices of aubergine. The gloriously golden turmeric, I seem to recollect reading somewhere, has been used to dye clothes in the past. Its effects on my hands was to stain them yellow in a manner which rivalled Lady Macbeth's in durability and resistance to repeated ablutions, while its effect on my laundry has been to render my whites wash several interesting shades of yellow.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

In which I make your acquaintance

I bid you all welcome and am delighted to make your acquaintance.

This style of writing, strange as it may seem, really does start to become second nature to anyone who immerses themselves long and thoroughly in the literature of the 19th century. I started out when I was 11 and am now 41, so have 30 years' experience of a more leisured and formal mode of expression.

I was practically born with my nose in a book. I love to read and have become adept at getting through many of my daily tasks while reading: brushing my teeth, walking to the corner shop, making coffee. I have even been known to take a surreptitious glance at my page while sitting with my small daughter as she watches Charlie & Lola or with my baby son while he plays with his toys.

Amongst the lesser-known works of that popular novelist Mr Wilkie Collins is 'Poor Miss Finch'. The narrator, Mme Pratolungo, describes the heroine's stepmother in the following terms: 'always with a baby in one hand and a novel in the other'. I hope I resemble Mrs Finch in nothing else ('never completely dressed, never completely dry') but I rather think I do resemble her in that.

The purport of these outpourings is to share the extremely unnerving episodes which too great an immersion in the fiction of the 19th century can cause when the reader is too sharply brought back into contact with her own real life in the 21st.