Princess Tala, the older of The Twinkles by a minute or so, is holding court at the head of our table at Bill's in Wimbledon.
Lovely Pip, my god-daughter and daughter
of my dear friend Pat from schooldays, is determined to keep the littl'un gainfully occupied. She hands her a copy of C J Sansom's epic tome "Lamentation" the size of a door-step and proceeds to provide a potted history of the life and times of Catherine Parr.
Tala listens avidly, turning a page or two as she does so (possibly checking the accuracy of Pip's narrative. Or possibly not.)
Pip is particularly keen to enhance Tala's vocabulary through the introduction
of fascinating words like "Murder", "Tudor" and "Heresy". These words will make interesting additions to fourteen month old Tala's current vocabulary which includes words like "hot", "quack" and "pizza". I have to say that these are probably more useful words
for the every day, but, hey, it pays to start young. Plus Lamentation doubtless makes a welcome change from Winnie the Pooh and Piglet.
Long-time readers may recall that Lunch @ Bill's is a regular
and much enjoyed event in my calendar. The company of a Rampaging Rascal and The Twinkles adds a certain challenge to our ambition to stay at our table chatting for as long as is possible, given the need to respect other diners. The Middle of the Darling Daughters
therefore comes armed with diversions which include (i) two baby dolls, one for each Twinkle; (ii) a dinosaur which makes a fearsome growling noise when you switch a button on its stomach; (iii) a tambourine and shaker, in case any of us wishes to add musical
accompaniment to our meals; (iv) a toy aeroplane; (v) a monkey glove puppet; (vi) juice for The Rascal and milk for The Twinkles; and (vii) various snacks - of which more later.
We decide to order breakfast,
it being too early for lunch. "Brunch!" exclaims the Middle of the Darling Daughters as our plates arrive. Pip feeds Tala with pieces of smoked salmon - our Little Diva has expensive tastes and turns her pretty nose up at the fish finger her mamma has ordered
for her. Smoked salmon? Don't mind if I do, says Little Miss Blue Eyes. Along the table her sister Lilia, my Brown-Eyed Girl, is jumping up and down on her auntie's knee. The Youngest of the Darling Daughters - for it is she - appears to be bearing up under
the strain of being a Human Trampoline.
The Rascal is conducting an experiment which involves immersing cheesey Wotsits in my Americano coffee to see what happens to them. (They kind of shrivel up. I thought
I should let you know, so that you don't feel the need to conduct a similar experiment for yourselves.) The other grown-ups look at me, despairing at my lack of control. I shrug: "It's Permissive Grand-parenting," I tell them. Convincingly.
Pat, Pip and I plan to stay on for a bit after the others leave. We will move to another, smaller table seating three. We will order desserts and have grown-up conversations about dress patterns, camping, folk singing and friendship,
before we make for the railway station and our separate journeys home.
Before that, however, I need to say proper goodbyes to my Darling Daughters and The Trio. Young Faris makes his hands into a diamond shape
and lifts them to his mouth. "Bubbles!" we say, in unison. It is our secret sign, derived from many a Soapy Session in the bathroom, floor awash with bath water.
There's nothing wrong, I reckon, with Permissive
Grand-parenting. At least not in my book. Though it could be argued that I take permissiveness to a whole new level.
Where my littl'uns are concerned I am, indeed, a Proper Push-over...