I know I may appear slightly obsessed with the doings of the young cousins, but when one does not have daily dealings with children, it is impossible not to find their young minds absolutely fascinating.
The ten-year-old took part in a swimming tournament today, and BEAT THE BOYS. Of course the old feminist in me found this marvellously bracing, but the family partisan was even more thrilled. At that age, the boys really do have the physical edge, but my little mermaid knows nothing of that. She just dives in and goes like an arrow, leaving everyone floundering in her wake. It is quite a remarkable thing. She does not even do the helicopter parent after-school training; she just has the natural athleticism and the determined will to win.
I said to her tonight, at tea: ‘Watching you swim is like watching Kauto Star at Cheltenham.’
Her mother took a deep intake of breath. She looked at her exhausted daughter.
‘Coming from Tania,’ she said, ‘that really is a compliment.’
Meanwhile, the four-year-old, who is so sophisticated that I keep thinking she must be five, has a mania for cleaning. ‘Anything I can wash?’ she cries.
We give her pots and pans. She takes up her place at the sink, and gets out the Fairy Liquid. ‘Rinse it, sparkle it,’ she sings, tunefully.
She is very busy. She turns to me. ‘When Daddy gets back, ‘she says, seriously, ‘everything will be so SPARKLING.’
I go with it. ‘Yes,’ I say. ‘He will think that the Sparkle Fairy has been in the night.’
The four-year-old cousin beams with delight. ‘But it won’t be the SPARKLE FAIRY,’ she cries. ‘It will be ME.’
It’s been a very tiring day. I had admin, logistics, serious life conversations, swerves in direction. I am still waiting on news of my potential rescue gentleman. I had a sudden, swamping moment of missing my Pigeon so much I could not see straight. But quite frankly, when my small relation talks of the Sparkle Fairies, I think everything must be all right.
There is another old friend here, and quite soon, the three middle-aged ladies are going to sit down and watch an episode of The Killing, and drink some of the good claret. We are a perfect cliché, really. We used to go out and party all night. Now we are all about sparkle fairies and Danish television. For everything, there is a season.
So sorry, no energy left for a good selection, but just a short blast from the archives. These are of my beloved girls, two not with us any more, two very much extant.
Duchess and Pigeon, ravishing in the snow:
Myfanwy and Red, at ease: