In a hitherto unheard-of turn of events, due to not trying to cram in one more thing thanks to depressive lethargy induced by Vase Incident, I set off early to pick up Lily for half-term. Drop in on Sally on the way. She and Arthur are sitting at the kitchen table, playing with a small purple plastic robotic action figure.
‘Hi,’ says Arthur. ‘You’re just in time to greet Eva 1. He was very expensive. I ordered him through the internet.’
‘Eva?’ I query.
‘It’s short for Evangelion 1,’ says Arthur. Apparently Eva has outstanding articulation and is unrivalled among small plastic robotic action figures at contorting himself into any position.
‘Can he do John Travolta doing Night Fever?’ I challenge.
‘Yes, he was doing that just before you arrived,’ says Arthur.
‘Really? How come?’
‘It’s just about the most obvious dance move,’ says Arthur dismissively.
‘What about the funky chicken?’ I ask.
Arthur ignores me. He is twisting Eva into a pelvis-thrusting martial arts manoeuvre.
‘He’s got a very big… cricket box,’ I say.
Sally laughs. ‘What I like is that he’s all sleek and futuristic but he’s got these Top Man shoes.’
She passes Eva to me for inspection. He is indeed wearing 70s slip-ons with tan soles and wooden heels.
‘He was riding a horse just now,’ says Arthur, fetching the horse. With careful concentration, he extends and contracts limbs, bending them just so, and angling one hand in the air and draping the reins over it. ‘Who is it?’ he asks.
‘A cowboy,’ I say.
‘Clint Eastwood in Pale Rider,’ he qualifies.
‘He needs a worthy adversary,’ says Sally, fetching a shoebox full of plastic toys. She plonks Buzz Lightyear on the table, followed by Woody (my heart gives a little lurch – Woody, risen from the inferno!), but Arthur is unimpressed. ‘Godzilla?’ asks Sally, winding him up and sending him waddling towards Eva. ‘Postman Pat? Baby Godzilla?’
‘OK,’ I say, ‘who’s this?’ I take Eva off the horse and spread his arms wide and make his legs run. He’s meant to look overjoyed but his head is small and bows forwards, giving him an air of menace rather than elation.
‘King Kong,’ says Luke.
‘Igor,’ says Sally.
‘No,’ I say. ‘He’s meant to be that guy in that famous photo who’s just returned from the Vietnam war and is running to greet his daughter.’
‘Well I think it’s a bit much to expect him to be able to recreate every Western that was ever made and the entire pantheon of 20th century war heroes,’ says Sally.
As I drive on to pick up Lily, I muse on my failings as a mother. If Lily ordered a purple plastic action figure off the internet I’d tell her off for wasting her (or more likely my) money. Then I wouldn’t throw myself into playing games with it. We don’t play any games or do any art or crafts. We don’t play Scrabble or Monopoly or Chess or Racing Demon. We don’t make pompoms. We don’t build castles out of cornflakes packets. We don’t have a jigsaw on the go on a fold-up card table. We don’t make paper cut-out snowflakes.
Oh God. It’s coming back to me. We did potato prints once when Lily was three. Silver and gold stars on black paper Christmas cards. That was the plan. But each time her little hand came down to stamp the star on the card, it veered off target. We ended up with all these two-armed stars. I screwed half the cards up in a fury. Argh. I am a Terrible Mother. The only thing I’m good for is outings. And home cooking. Occasionally.
Right, this half-term, Lily and I are going to Do Art and Crafts and Play Games.