We didn’t mean to go to sea, and every day I wonder why we did. I mean I wonder what the deeper meaning of all of this can be. Is there a deeper meaning to anything at all? Of course this is a life-long question for many people, I envy those people who have beliefs, a certain amount of those beliefs may have been bestowed upon those people by their parents and primary educators. I also envy those people who seem to go through life without ever questioning their beliefs, or indeed what on Earth is actually going on at all.
I would like to have a set of concrete beliefs, specifically I would like to believe that there is some meaningful reason why we are all plodding through space on a giant disc balanced on the backs of four World Elephants, standing on the back of Great A’Tuin, oh no sorry hang on, that doesn’t sound right, that must be the Discworld of Terry Pratchett. Terry Pratchett is bound to turn up at some point along the way in anything that I write, he is one of my literary heroes and I have read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy many many times, and yes of course I have my towel with me, what sensible person would leave home without it? That of course is all completely wrong, how could I possibly blend the Discworld with Magrathea? Pratchett and Adams must have joined forces in my mind to form some sort of verbal-cerebral mishmash of humorous fantasies, which to be quite frank just about sums up the way my mind is working, as I aimlessly float on this tranquil sea of notknowingness.
I suppose that it was bound to happen sooner or later, left to one’s own devices for too long the mind starts to boggle, it happened in Monty Python too, in The Life of Brian, when Brian accidentally fell on the naked man in the hole who hadn’t spoken for forty years causing him to break his silence. Apparently people really do take vows of silence, which I suppose is just fine if you don’t have two young children to look after.
I remember a time a year or two ago when I had a really bad sore throat and lost my voice and I had to stop talking altogether, my children were roughly six and four and I was, like now, entirely alone with them, and I had to communicate with them through a series of charades, short cartoons and single words scribbled on whatever surfaces were available at the time. My six-year old’s reading improved rapidly over this time, which was about ten days, and the quiet that reigned was unparalleled. I couldn’t believe how wonderful it felt not to have to listen to my own voice repeating things over and over again, each time louder and more slowly than before, whilst being ignored almost continuously. My usual frustrations were replaced by entirely new ones as I had to lie in total surrender and watch, often whilst frantically waving, while my four-year old redecorated herself, or the small bus we were living in, with sharpies, or spirulina powder. Have you seen the devastation a tiny amount of spirulina can cause in the hands of a small child? It is a bit like dark green powder paint that is wonderfully airborne with the smallest puff of wind, it sticks to every surface known to man and does not wash off fabrics for love or money.
A vow of silence would not really be like this, nobody in their right mind, or otherwise, could really take a vow of silence while looking after children. Perhaps if the children could be persuaded to take a vow of silence instead, or maybe just in the hour before bed when they become increasingly manic to the point that in the last ten minutes before lights out they are hysterically laughing at their own farts. The hysterical laughter has become louder and longer since we were lost at sea, as have the farts.
The first week out here with the children was the worst, they shouted and raged at me, everything was my fault, but then all of a sudden they just adapted to it, just like that, as if it was no big deal. I would love to know how children do that? They are capable of this amazing practice by which they adapt at varying speeds to changes in their circumstances in ways which must have been possible for me forty years ago, but now seem utterly impossible. Why is that? Somehow I have become completely set in my ways, unbendable, like a really big ship, did you know that really big tankers take several miles to change course? I am a super tanker, stuck on a tiny boat in a nameless ocean.
The children are fully taking advantage of the situation by basically doing as they blooming well please pretty much all of the time, whilst I am incapacitated by my circumstances. Oh the joys of being a ‘grown up’.
I remember when I became a grown up, I had just had my first daughter, I was twenty-two and lying in a hospital bed holding my new-born baby, my mind reeling at the fact that I was in charge. In my hands I held this tiny and oh so beautiful being and I had to make all the decisions, I handed her to her dad and she promptly did a big black sticky pooh that shot out of the side of her nappy and into his unlaced paraboot. So it seemed that she would be making some of the decisions herself. She was a stubborn little bean it has to be said, she could argue that black was white, but she made up for this by sleeping every morning until eleven o’clock, thus allowing me to not really act like a grown up for a little bit longer.
There are those people who believe that everything happens for a reason, I would love to be one of those people for whom belief alone renders just about everything to be meaningful. My absurd mind always wants to take ideas like this to the nth degree, for example what is the spiritual meaning of my blender accident whereby I covered most of my kitchen in pancake batter as I forgot to hold the jug still when I pressed the On button? Why did this happen to me? To redecorate my home with pancake batter seemed like the most obvious reason, it can’t have been to learn to always hold the jug, as that is way too obvious and I already knew that one, as this was not my first batter incident.
I could have devoted a great deal more time to uncovering the deeper meaning of batter makeovers, but life is too fast moving for that when you have children, and before you know it you have moved on to the deeper meaning of why somebody left a bottle of sunflower oil on the side within the reach of the naughty six-year old who loves to find out what oil looks like when it is spread over an entire kitchen floor and mixed with colourful sand from the sand tray. Or why a little somebody would leave the plug in the sink with the taps running full blast and then go downstairs and simply forget about it?
I don’t believe that there is a deeper meaning for why I am out here lost at sea, but I do believe I have to find a way of coping with it without going completely mad. I need to stop asking questions like why, and how long, and what for, and start concentrating on the more meaningless tasks (if anything can be truly meaningless?) like making food and washing up and teaching children to read. My current fantasy is that if all my children could read there could be at least ten minutes a day where we all read separate books at the same time and there would actually be no sound and nobody asking me to get them ‘a snack’ for ten whole minutes, and this would be utter, utter bliss.
I get the flash cards out again and stare at them, willing the letters to enter my youngest’s brain via some sort of osmosis, perhaps if I just rub them on her head while she sleeps, or if I made an alphabet out of bread and honey and she ate them one by one in order, maybe she would absorb their phonic power? There are after all many different ways of learning to read, and maybe this is just one of the lesser known methods. I will harness the learning power of honey and the world will be my oyster. Ironic because oysters live in the sea. Knowing my luck though oysters like any other sensible marine life live near the coast not out here in the open ocean with the bread and honey fishes and the marmalade skies.