Not since the bit when Caligula has Gemellus killed for his persistent cough has there been quite so annoying a bark as the ones currently to be heard at home. It's a bit of a design flaw, I think, in the human body, that an illness of relatively minor proportions is capable of causing such a distressing noise. Thomas Mann takes great pleasure in describing a cough in the early part of The Magic Mountain; I do not take any such pleasure in experiencing it. And of course since I started writing this post (two whole days ago, early Friday evening) I am now afflicted with the same rasping, barking cough as previously I was subjected to only as a bystander. It is worth saying two things: the first is that cough mixture does not work, which is a disappointment. The second is that the disturbed sleep of the cougher and the coughee mean that all manner of people are short tempered and irritable. Not exactly the best environment for creativity, although it does provide plenty of ideas for a lightly humorous blog post.
Owning a child is a sort of custiodianship, akin to stacking the shelves and putting the stuff back where it belongs in the supermarket. Except that the supermarket has been overrun by small, chaos-aligned midget drunkards with a real desire to change all the gravitational potential energy in the universe into something less ordered. A kind of entropy-increasing second-law-of-thermodynamics-proving machine that exists to test the patience of parents everywhere. What is especially fascinating and ultimately disheartening about this is that the tidying-up-at-the-end-of-the-day process actually increases the overall disorder of the universe, even if it reduces the local disorder. Some children are builders, apparently, although those ones would have to outnumber the wreck-smashers by a good three hundred to one before any actual built thing would have a chance of even fifteen minutes of survival, as the process of destruction is vastly quicker than the process of construction. My own really tiny human is very much of this cast of mind, seeing anything vertical as a challenge. Either he wants to knock it over, or he wants to go up it, and given his lack of gross motor skills, the inevitable rapid return to ground level follows, although so far no trauma-related trip to the Children's Hospital.
Whilst lacking any kind of long-range coordination, he does have a remarkable ability to notice if there is better (or just different) food anywhere in the room. As a result of this, his loud and penetrating voice (I've no idea where this came from, by the way) and his sheer persistence in shouting, he ended up testing a crinkle-cut salt and vinegar crisp today. I'm not sure whether he liked it, but the look of triumph on his face when he finally got it was a sight to behold.
He has also learned to issue instructions, limited in scope (mostly to providing more and better food), but nevertheless clearly intelligible. His latest wheeze is to point at the TV and shout something that begins with a 't', which translates as 'I want Thomas the Tank Engine. Now!' Weirdly, the episodes on his DVD are ones that I must have had on a video tape when I was little, because some of the bits Ringo Starr (yes, that Ringo Starr) narrates are etched deep into my person. It's not like that memory is there, present to my mind, but when Gordon starts moaning, I know both what he is going to say and how he is going to say it. Much as, watching Back to the Future with the bigger one, I know exactly how Doc Brown says '1.21 gigawatts'. What I did not remember is how much they swear in that film. But she has now crossed over the line from being mortally offended to finding swearing funny. Which, for the most part, it is. Except when it's a test, a way of finding out if you've ceased to be a teacher and become a friend (couldn't resist the HB quotation...). I wonder what mine will remember when they are older. Will the Sesame Street songs bring back a strange flood of child-ness, I wonder? I made the mistake of clicking on a video of Robin Williams trying to explain conflict to the two-headed monster. Yes, tears yet again, confusing the small one no end, I think. And that just from the sight of him. Robin Williams, that is, not the two-headed monster. Or, for that matter, the tiny one's ludicrous unaerodynamic hair.
When to the sessions of sweet silent thought