A blood-curdling scream. ‘AAAAAH!! ‘SHE BIT ME! MUMMY WHERE ARE YOU?!’ I thanked the Lord I was at the top of the house so I could say I hadn’t heard, and shut the door quietly. I was supposed to be shuffling debris around in Josie’s room, but was mid-reverie, re-playing a scene from that morning when I’d tripped backwards over a paint-water pot on her carpet and landed on her waste paper basket, squashing it flat. (The table that I bragged about fitting into her bedroom last week is now buried so she’s painting on the carpet again). Anyway, while I was blustering about the paint-pot, she had wagged a finger and smiled knowingly: ‘You’re a real visual learner Mummy,’ she said. ‘That’s why you want everything in exactly the right place!’ Like I was a real weirdo or something.
The door swung open. ‘MUMMY, MADDY BIT ME! DON’T YOU CARE?’ Damn, the game was up. ‘What did you say, Bonnie? She bit you? That’s terrible! Why?’ (There could be a good reason). ‘Because I said I would tell you she was drinking coke unless she gave me some’. Now I was interested - drinking flat coke with breakfast whilst lying on the sofa watching crap TV breached my relax-it's-the-Easter-holidays boundaries and warranted a rant, whereas biting Bonnie I could understand...
I stormed down to deliver the rant: ‘Coke at this time of day, Maddy? That is revolting!’ ‘It’s only a bit of Coke, no big deal’ she replied, bolting the rest. ‘Have a fruit if you want something sweet!’ I whined, bored to death. ‘You just think I’m fat’ said she, to throw me off balance. ‘No I do not!’ I screeched, overreacting ‘I’m thinking of your health...why don’t you have a lovely banana?!!’ ‘I only like yellow bananas’ she said, ‘yours are always rotten’. I decided not to say again that markings on bananas mean they are RIPE, and later in the day I purchased yellow bananas for her to not eat, carefully placing them in a controlled and cushioned environment offering uniform humidity, temperature and light.
I devised breakfast the next day in the Scandinavian tradition, casually laying the still yellow bananas on the breakfast table. ‘Would you like yoghurt today?’ I yodelled. ‘Or some yellow banana sliced over your Special Flakes – like the picture on the cereal packet!?’ I grasped a banana and a knife, and noticed I was kind of shrieking. ‘Ugh, no way’ she said. ‘But there are raspberries in the picture too - have you got any raspberries?’ (like I kept raspberries in my pocket) ‘No, I have not. I have got bananas’. Don’t get cross.
Maddy’s lunch box was enormous, because although I made the sandwich miniscule in order to starve her into eating her banana, I had to wrap the banana in layers and layers of paper towel and float it in its own special box in case of bruising. We’ve done banana cases - too embarrassing.
‘Did you eat your banana?’ I said, when she returned from school. ‘I’m not sure’ she said, and I knew what that meant. ‘I wasn’t hungry..’ she said, a crisp packet falling out of her pocket.
Time was running out; there were very faint black dots appearing on the bananas. We had tea. ‘Nice banana for pud?’ I was jolly. ‘I’m quite full actually’ she said. ‘Just have a half - ’ I said, ‘ - go on - I’ll slice it up!’ as if this would transform it into a Magnum. ‘Maybe later’, said Maddy, half out the door.
Then I lost it. ‘COME BACK HERE AND EAT A FRIGGIN’ BANANA FOR CHRIST’S SAKE’. ‘It’s got black spots’ she muttered. ‘It’s rotten.’ ‘IT IS NOT’. I grabbed a banana and peeled it under her nose to illustrate. I took an angry bite. ‘There! Delicious! Perfect ripe banana! Someone has grown this lovely banana’ (talking with my mouth full) ‘picked it, put it in a lorry, driven it to a ship, across the world, to London, then I (poor me, poor me) have slogged over to Woodgreen at your request...’ She paused and watched me in my madness. ‘So bananas have a high carbon footprint and are bad for the environment. Raspberries are grown in this country. Why don’t you get them instead next time?’