I know, I know. Where, you may well ask, have I been? Well, I've been coaching my poor child throughout the Christmas 'holidays' for a school entrance exam and music scholarship. I know, I know. Since when was I a tiger mother? A pushy Chelsea parent? I, who manage to achieve practically nothing in my day? Yes, yes. Good points, well made.
Anyway, Lily has now returned to the Manor, and I offer you a brief digest of choice morsels from the past few days.
1. The Golden Shotgun
As a post-exam treat, Cousin Jaz and I take Lily to see Les Miserables (OMG, btw! Hugh Jackman, once he's ditched the beard and the brown teeth, is a dead ringer for Duncan, with his salt and pepper curls! Mmmm!) followed by en plein air crepes and cocktails (well, chocolate milkshake in Lily's case).
Lily instantly bags the seat facing the patio heater. Except she doesn't say, 'Bagsy,' or 'Bags I this seat'. She says, 'Shotgun this seat!'
'What?' we demand.
'I've shotgunned it, so you can't have it!' she cries, throwing her head back with wild laughter.
'You can use your shotgun to shoot down a bagsy. We all do it in the Com. If I shotgun the sofa, then nobody else can sit there. Unless they Golden Shotgun it and then they can have it. Except I've Golden Shotgunned the sofa, so I've got it for the whole term!' She dissolves into self-satisfied mirth.
'So why don't you just walk into the room and Golden Shotgun it straight away?' asks Jaz.
'Because people bagsy or shotgun places and then go and get changed, and you can't take their seat because they've shotgunned it. You have to Golden Shotgun it when they're there.'
'It's a pity there wasn't a philosophy paper today,' notes Jaz, 'because you'd have done very well.'
'But basically,' Lily continues, 'nobody wants the sofa anyway. They like sitting on the piano.'
'So you shot your bolt unnecessarily,' I say.
'Whaah?' asks Lily.
So much for my marvellous English tuition over the past weeks.
Fortified by our caipirinhas/mojitos, Cousin Jaz and I are quizzing Lily about her exams.
'Zip! Zip! Zip!' says Lily, miming a brisk zipping of her lips.
'Oh come on, darling. What did you write in your English essay?'
'It was about a Margarita and a Mojito and a Bloody Mary which were all £4.50,' she says, reading off the happy hour menu chalked on the blackboard.
I change tack. 'Did you have to do any algebra?'
'And did you remember to do the same to both sides?'
'Zip! Zip! Zip-zip Golden Shotgun zip!' declares Lily, eyes blazing.
'How can you Golden Shotgun a zip?' I accuse.
'That's an inappropriate use of a Golden Shotgun,' points out Cousin Jaz.
Lily glares at us with more than a hint of menace. 'Zip!'
3. The Pantene Scandal
'And another thing...' I'm having a satisfying putting-the-world-to-rightsy breakfast with Cass, with whom I'm staying after delivering my darling back to school. 'Pantene! The shampoo and conditioner bottles are exactly the same!'
'I know!' she squeals. 'And you need your glasses to read whether it's shampoo or conditioner...'
'...which obviously you're not wearing in the shower!' I finish triumphantly.
'Piers has been washing his hair with conditioner for years,' Cass adds. 'He didn't realise there was a difference.'
You see? I blame it on the young designers. Someone who needs reading glasses needs to take charge! Maybe this is my new vocation? Design adviser for the over 50s market!