My parents gave my children a toy kitchen for Chanukah. It came in a big cardboard box. A very big cardboard box.
I hate big cardboard boxes because they never, ever leave the house.
They cause rows which usually end with me feeling as if I am behaving like Idi Amin (as long as Idi Amin is an oppressive dictator - if not, replace with another oppressive dictator, of course another implies that Idi Amin is an oppressive dictator so I should have said replace with an oppressive dictator instead of replace with another opressive dictator - sorry ) just because I want to get rid of a HUGE PIECE OF JUNK WHICH IS SITTING IN MY HOUSE, TAKING UP MY ENTIRE SITTING ROOM.
Once the toy kitchen was assembled and all the plastic bags and polystyrene bits were gathered up ready to go into the dustbin I looked the box up and down and firmly announced "That box is DEFINITELY going in the bin, tonight,"
I emphasized the word "definitely" by saying it with capital letters.
"Definitely," said Polly.
"Good," I said, and walked out to the bins to chuck all the plastic bags and polystyrene bits away. It took 30 seconds.
I came back in to find Elly making faces like this... and giggling and saying "Oh Mummy, It will be so beautiful,"
Mick was shouting "Weeeeyyyyy" and lifting his fists above his head and then dropping them as if they were very heavy.
He was alternating this with making an exaggerated "oooh" face and pointing at the box and shouting "Mooor Mooor Mooor..." which means "This is a good thing. This is a very good thing. A very good thing is happening. I am excited by this very good thing and I wish to communicate it to all of you and am doing so. It is good. Very good. Probably the best thing I have ever seen."
Polly was bent over the box with a pair of scissors and a
"But Polly..." I said.
"Just for a little while," Polly said.
That was on the 15th December. Today it is 29th December.
How long is a little while?
To make matters worse, Polly has encouraged the children to decorate the box. I can see it now. It has pink tissue paper all over it, stickers stuck in patterns and felt tip scribbles in a variety of colours. Now, of course, the children "own" the house and they love it.
It didn't help that everyone who came over to our house for Christmas said "WOW! LOOK AT THAT AMAZING HOUSE!”
Every time someone said "WOW, LOOK AT THAT AMAZING HOUSE!" Elly would do her princess face and Polly would glance at me and say "Yes, it's brilliant isn't it?" and inside my brain I would feel a little bit more anxious that the house would never ever leave my living room.
I walked into the living room the other day and found Mick sitting there in the house. He had organised himself a little pebble lamp and was babbling away to himself, smiling in delight out of his window at me. He looked about as at home and content as anyone could ever be.
What a nightmare.
On Christmas Eve I went to buy some eggs for making special creamy custard to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Jesus loves us to eat custard on his birthday. Especially those of us who are Jewish. This is all beside the point though.
Outside the supermarket stood three boys with hooded tops on. They were all laughing and seemed to be having a lot of fun. They had acne and spoke with voices that sounded as if they mainly watched ITV, which made me feel a little bit scared of them, but they were very young so I summoned up all my courage and continued walking towards them.
They all started laughing particularly hard as I approached. I felt angry that these boys were taking the piss. Who did they think they were? Ok, I'm fat at the moment, and I've got a beard and I was wearing a pair of sandals, but really, this is just - well, taking the piss.
I really hate having the piss taken out of me by kids, especially kids who hang out in Cherry Hinton.
Once, as I was running through Cherry Hiton, a girl on a bike punched me.
Another time as I was running through Cherry Hinton a boy on a bike (always on a bike) rode past me and shouted "Yeah, that's right, you fat fucker, you should be running, you fat fucker" and then he blew his cheeks out at me and held his hand out in front of his tummy and shouted "You fat fucker" all the time cycling downhill but looking back at me, determined to put across the message that he considered me to be a fat fucker.
The joke was on him though, because I already knew I was a fat fucker, hence the running.
It's so unfair that this should happen to me. I was bullied badly enough at school for being a fatty and for having rubbish glasses and for having an afro and for having big ear lobes and for having a brace on my teeth and for having a small penis. Now that I am an adult with better glasses, short hair, less noticeable ear lobes, perfect teeth and an absolutely enormous penis it seems unjust that people are still allowed to pick on me like this.
Adrenaline coursed through my body, making me alert to every aspect of my situation, a coiled spring ready to unleash my fury at these three idiots.
This all happened instantly, like a Hitchcockian reverse zoom. All the information filled me up and flipped me inside out, leaving me floating above the scene, disorientated, an observer - maybe the long floating shot at the end of Taxi Driver is a more appropriate simile, as Travis Bickle bleeds out of consciousness and the camera dispassionately floats upwards to survey the full consequence of his twisted retribution.
I saw myself step closer.
I saw the hooded tops braying.
I saw my brow furrow, my fists clench, my eyes lock with hooded top number 3.
I saw hooded tops 1 and 2 glance towards one another, then back to number 3, then watched again as they tipped back their heads and laughed once more.
I saw that hooded boy number 3 wasn't laughing.
I saw that hooded boy number 3 was on fire. Not as in "eager, ardent, zealous" - hoods number 1 and 2 had set fire to hood 3 with a clipper lighter.
This was brilliant. They weren't laughing at me after all.
My consciousness returned to normal and I walked jauntily past the boys and into the supermarket to buy the eggs.
Later on, in the supermarket, I overheard the following conversation between the boys in the hoods...
"Do you know Albie?"
"He bottled a man outside Tesco in Arbury last week."
"Yeah. I know."
The custard was superb. I boiled the cream with the zest of an orange first, then let it cool. It was delicious.
Elly went round to play at her friend's house on Friday when we went to the hospital to get Mick checked out. Her friend's Dad asked us if we could bring Elly's bike with us. Elly doesn't fit onto her bike any more, so we had to take over the scooter that Jesus' dad, Father Christmas, gave to her.
Inevitably this led us thinking that Elly could probably do with having a bike that fit so I negotiated that I would take Elly straight from her friend's house to Halfords to buy a bike.
"Don't get a pink bike," said Polly.
"O.k." I said.
"And don't get a bike with streamers," said Polly.
"O.k." I said.
"And don't get a Barbie bike, for fuck's sake," said Polly.
"Polly, don't you think..." I said
"Fine, do what you want," said Polly.
"O.K. I'll try my best not to get a pink bike." I said.
I picked Elly up from her friend's house. She was tired out but very, very excited about going to buy a bike.
"What sort of bike will we get Daddy?" said Elly.
"A pink bike, with streamers. A Barbie bike if we can find one," I said.
Now, whilst this is a fairly typical piece of passive aggressive point scoring, I also believe that if I get her a really boyish bike without any of the criteria that she wishes to have fulfilled, then she'll not want to ride her bike.
If I get her something as pink as can be, she'll want to ride it every day, and that, to me, is more important than anything.
Apart from scoring a point.
On the way in I see that a clothes shop has opened up next to Halfords and mention to Elly that I would like to visit it to get some clothes.
"OK Daddy, but after the bike please, I am too excited." said Elly.
After walking for hours and hours to get from the doors up the stairs we finally reach the bikes.
Straight away Elly spots her bike. It is pink. It has streamers. It has a baby seat for a dolly. It has a unicorn on it. It has a glittery seat.
"I want that one," says Elly.
It is obviously far too small for her.
"How about this one?" I say, steering her towards a pink camouflage
"No, I need a bike with a unicorn," says Elly.
"Excuse me, can I have some help?" I say.
"Sure," says the assistant, blinking his eyes, dipping his head and lifting his shoulders in one fluid movement which says "But only because my boss is in today."
"Is it right that this unicorn bike is much too small for Elly?" I say.
"Yes," says the assistant.
"Good." I say. "Which bikes will fit her?"
"This one," he says, pointing to the camo bike that I had my eye on, "or this one" he says, bringing over a purple bike.
"But Daddy, it has to have a unicorn, sparkles and baby seat for my Barbie" says Elly, her bottom lip jutting out, her teeth clamped together, her nose screwed up and the sadness of a shattered dream leaking out of her eyes.
"Well, that one doesn't fit you Elly, you can have this nice pink one, or this lovely purple one," I say.
"But Daddy, it has to have a unicorn, sparkles and baby seat for my Barbie," says Elly, except now she's crying.
"Sorry Elly, they don't have a unicorn bike in a size that will fit you. It's either one of the other bikes or we go home, now what do you want to do? This one has a furry saddle!" I say. I am trying not to appear desperate, but I feel quite hot and I can sense that my pulse is raised.
"But Daddy, it has to have a unicorn, sparkles and baby seat for my Barbie."
Now she's screaming.
"OK Elly, that's it, we'll have to go," I say, bluffing, and I pick her up without a word of explanation to the bemused teenager floating in front of me.
Elly's voice expands to fill every single atom of Halfords as we descend the stairs. I feel like I'm at an award ceremony, and Halfords clientele are our appreciative audience. (Halfords is RAMMED because it's about the only shop open in the post Christmas purgatory)
Elly screams the following things to the delight of her audience...
"You're not my friend, you’re horrible...
Mummy's not going to be impressed with you...
It's not funny, stop laughing at me...
I want the unicorn bike...
BUT I'M A PRINCESS"
This last, desperate cry is drawn out with a spectacular stiffen up, lean back and curve the body like a banana caterwaul that draws an awed murmur from the crowd.
We eventually reach a car seat which is used to demonstrate how to strap in a baby seat. I sit Elly on my knee and talk her down, using a combination of all my deadliest child calming skills including saying "I'd love to buy you the unicorn bike but..." and "I know, I know, I know" and ending with a threat to go straight home in a slightly raised voice which shuts her up long enough to convince her that we'll go back upstairs and re-consider the pink and the purple bikes.
We take another long walk up the stairs, with me grinning in a sort of "what can you do?" way at every other customer I walk past. They all look at me for long enough to let me know that they sympathize but that there's no way they're going to get involved - like the way all the other comedians on the bill look at you when you die in a club.
"So Elly, here are the bikes, which one do you fancy, the pink one or the purple one?"
"BUT DADDY, IT HAS TO HAVE A UNICORN, SPARKLES AND A BABY SEAT FOR MY BARBIE,"
We repeat the performance down the stairs. Eventually the humiliation gets so bad that something inside me snaps and I now want it to be the worst it can possibly be so I start whispering to her "Sorry, I can't hear you Elly, can you possibly shout a little louder?" and she amps it up each time I whisper this until she's screaming like Black Francis used to before he became Frank Black.
As soon as we get outside of the shop Elly realizes that she's really not going to get a bike today and I'm really going to take her home so she lashes out at me, pulls my ears, scratches me on the cheeks and eyes and finally punches me in the face before sobbing all the way home and playing out the following sketch:
Scene: A Honda Civic. It is night time.
Elly: Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, I need to speak to you Daddy, Daddy please.
Daddy: What is it Elly?
Elly: But I'm very worried that I'll never find a bike with a unicorn Daddy.
Elly: Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, I need to speak to you Daddy, Daddy please.
(Dialogue repeats until the car pulls into a house on the outskirts of
I opened the front door of my house to hear Polly shouting at me.
"WAIT, WAIT OUT THERE, WAIT"
"What's the matter?" I said.
"Mick. He's shat. Everywhere."
I look into the living room. She is right. There is shit everywhere. On the carpet. On the chair, On the...
"Oh no, Polly, look, he's shat all over his cardboard house,"
"Yes," said Polly.
"Oh no, we'll have to throw the house away," I said.
"Yes," said Polly, glancing at me, wiping her brow with the back of a latex gloved hand. "Did you get a bike?"
Elly throws herself on the floor and howls.