Cousin Mildred has engaged the services of one Captain Mohamed to equip three year-old daughter Elvis and her friends with the essential life skills of karate, chess and Qu'ran. He is an excellent pedagogue, managing to maintain the elusive equilibrium between discipline and fun without the kids either fearing him or feigning the need to pee in order to sneak out and steal cars.
Last week was a chess session and since I firstly, have forgotten how to play chess, and secondly, like to watch small people interacting (they limit their conversation to stuff which can be perceived by one of the five senses), I went to observe.
Elvis was in fine form as usual, and was so caught up in the chess that she resisted asking me repeatedly whether I can smell either poo or pee – currently and bafflingly the most pressing item on her agenda. I sat on the sidelines and ate, and also amused myself with Elvis' brother Boosa who, being too little to understand the concept that karate must not be used on cats, was exiled to the sitting room harem with the mothers, and banged on the glass door shouting my name. I tuned in back to Captain Mohamed & co. just in time to hear him saying 'the kids are all watching tante eating her dinner.' Looking round to see who this tante was, I was horrified to discover that he was in fact referring to me.
This reminded me of a high school friend who came in one day and told us that her mother had experienced a rather unfortunate incident the previous evening. She had been browsing in the lingerie department of our local Marks & Spencer wearing a Dr Clouseau style detective Mac coat thingie with the belt dangling loose. Upon attempting to leave the store she was accosted by a security guard who informed her that unbeknownst to her, a thong on a plastic hanger had somehow attached itself to her Mac’s belt, possibly as part of some ancient sartorial mating ritual.
Being referred to as tante, and therefore being placed in a certain age bracket bewilders me in the same way I imagine my friend’s mother must have felt upon discovering that her Mac was abducting a thong. I have never feared aging: my problem is that I still feel, and conduct myself, like a teenager. Thus when the world outside says hello grown-up I genuinely wonder what the buggeration it’s going on about.
The knowledge that I am intensely juvenile is something I am particularly conscious of lately whenever I stop break dancing alone in my room long enough to consider like, my career, and like, the future. Regular readers of this nonsense will know that I started a new job some months ago. On paper this job is perfect: my field, plenty of opportunities for travel and career development, great colleagues, fun boss, toilet paper in the clean bathroom - which is something I haven’t experienced in a professional context before...
The problem is that when I wake up in the mornings it feels like someone has dressed me in concrete pyjamas overnight. The thought of having to go to work manifests itself in a huge feeling of lethargy which can only be dispelled with the thought of ten minutes of reading in the taxi on the way to work, or eating Rolos, or both simultaneously. And the work itself, while it is important, and worthwhile, and varied, and interesting, just…isn’t me. Which is unfortunate given that I’ve just dedicated a year to getting a masters in the bloody subject. But the thought of the office routine for the next two months or twenty years fills me with dread: office life is something I've never adapted to. But yet if I give up my current job I am effectively barring myself from the field, perhaps forever.
The best analogy I can make is to a woman who marries a charming, intelligent, kind doctor, and for want of passion finds herself sneaking out to the gardener for a quick bonk. The gardener in my case is writing, and I am now faced with the decision whether I should stay married to the doctor while cavorting with the gardener, live dangerously with the gardener and give up the doctor entirely or stick it out with the doctor and wonder what could have been with the gardener.