Can I phone a friend now?

Laura Slinn

We get in from nursery and are sitting in the kitchen, eating fruit.

“What is milk?” E asks. Hmm, how do I explain milk in a simple terms?

“Cows make milk,” I reply, utilising the well worn tactic of politicians everywhere of if you don’t want to answer to the question, reply to different one.

“What do chickens eat?” This one is a little less taxing.

“Where do fish grow?” comes the next question with barely a pause for breath.

“They grow in the sea… or in a pond or river…from eggs.” I probably should have clarified the term ‘egg’, given that E is probably now thinking that he will find a choice of egg flavoured eggs, or fish flavoured eggs the next time he ventures into Tesco.

“How do you catch crabs?” he asks after popping a satsuma segment in his mouth. I make the assumption that nursery has not started sex education and instead reply along the lines of a crabbing line, bacon and a bucket.

“Where’s the sea?” E then enquires. Bloody hell, it’s like the Spanish Inquisition on a nature trail day.

“It’s all around us,” I answer then immediately regret it. E’s idea of ‘all around us’ means that he therefore must be able to stretch his toe out and dip it in the aforementioned body of water. Rather than stubbing it on the dishwasher.


Deep breath. I eye up the amount of fruit left in his bowl, looking forward to an empty bowl and an adjournment of the interrogation.

“Well, we live on a big, big island and so the sea is all around it, where the land ends.”

E chews ruminatively on a blueberry. Finally, he finishes his snack and we retire to the playroom for some well-earned TV time. Not well-earned for him, obviously, he has spent the day grinding paint into his shoes and leaving indelible lunch stains on his top. It’s well-earned for me though, as I am starting to hear my brain creak under the strain.

“What’s a bonnet?” E asks. Good grief, I think I am getting a nose bleed.

“A type of hat,” I inform him.

“Who wears a bonnet?” he asks. I will, I think, just so long as you promise to stop asking bloody difficult questions so late in the day. Can I phone a friend? Ermm… ah: “Little Bo Peep wears a bonnet, sweetie,” I say, rather smug that not only had I actually thought of a bonnet-toting person, it was someone who E would actually know.

“Who else?” he persists. For crying out loud, at least give me fifty fifty. Who in the world knows two people who wear floppy, out-moded hats that fasten under the chin? That is equivalent to the last, fortune-clinching question on Who Wants to be a Millionaire. Someone could have ‘bonnet-wearing’ as a specialist topic on the final of bloody Mastermind, it’s so obscure. In fact, I am not convinced that there ever has been more than one bonnet wearer, ever.  But then I am not supposed to know things like that, surely? That was never in the parental guides under ‘Essential Things to Know’. Well, it might have been. I fell asleep after the first paragraph, somewhere right after it started banging on about breastfeeding your child until it graduates, or something.

I take the cowards way out, and press play on the DVD player. Peace descends: no more questions. It’s my ultimate life line.

It is half way through a particularly annoying episode of Fireman Sam involving the naughty, speccy ginger kid (so no stereotyping there, then) that the thought strikes. Buggar, I could have won that million quid after all. It’s sodding Little Miss Muffet, isn’t it?

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