This mini post is about a small personal triumph, within a broader context of failure.
I hate playing: pointless, wholesome, innocent, care-free, life-giving enjoyment.
I like fun, which is naughty. And sports, where stuff happens. And board games, when someone might land on your Mayfair hotel and make the delicious face of impending defeat.
Less so the therapist stuff, where you re-discover your childish lack of inhibition.
I’m what you might call ‘outcome-focused’- or crap at taking practical jokes.
Everyone in the family has clocked this.
Gethin knows that if he lobs a bouncy ball at my head when I’m cooking, it won’t end with us running gleefully through the house towards a sexy pillow fight.
It’ll end like the incident 15 years ago when he licked my cheek with a chocolate tongue, at a cashpoint: that is, humourlessly, with ‘I’m not laughing’ and a row down the King’s Road.
Bruno knows we have outings, and discussions, and do activities where we stick diodes into lemons, to activate a light.
Rufus knows we do art for birthday cards, or to raise money, or to stop mentalising other diners at restaurants.
No-one ever came home and found me with socks on my ears, getting involved with Lego.
The trouble is, other peoples’ kids aren’t always on board with the concept.
At playdates, they’re not shy in expressing their appetite for entertainment, when you fail to materialise with a gingerbread-making kit.
This necessitates The Talk:
See here, Johnny, seems you and I disagree fundamentally on the play-date model. You regard me as a sort of Jangles the Clown, or Mr Fiddles, or whatever his name is. Whereas, I view you as a bundle of fun I import in exchange for board and temporary lodging. I wouldn’t want to call you a playtime prostitute- that would be wrong, and your mother wouldn’t like it. But are we approaching an understanding?
Make my dinner, old woman.
Last night, we had Arthur over. Arthur understands the playdate model; no- he invented it.
He’s so much fun I get close to ditching the onion-chopping, to join in robots.
So, he says, We’re going to hide. Will you act mean and come and find us?
Arthur- the clever little bugger- has found my sweet spot.
Because if there’s one thing I LOVE doing, it’s scaring people: that fabulous moment when their features distort, and they lose all of that boring, studied composure.
Children are especially great, because they spook easily.
Now you’re talking, Arthur. Now, you’re shaking things up. Forget tigers coming to tea and eating up all of Daddy’s dinner. Let’s simulate the hunt and some limb-tearing.
I’ve got form, too. I still remember the sweet screaming of my tiny childhood friend and her sister, terrorised onto my bunkbed, gripping each other for dear life, when I became ‘The Ogre’.
So, away go the kids and I get into character. I’m borrowing heavily from the Wicked Witch of Oz. There’s Angie from Eastenders in there, along with Katie Hopkins’ nostrils.
And I’m off. Chasing them up the stairs, into the bedrooms, around the garden, cackling and promising to throw their smelly little bodies into my soup, after mirthless tickling.
And they’re all bright pink cheeks, and terrified little faces, and shrieks caught in pumping chests.
When he leaves, Arthur lisps huskily to Rufus, Your Mum is SO scary! She’s almost like a real witch! It gives you the frights inside.