I’m singing to myself the song Fagin sings in the musical “Oliver” - do you know the one I mean? It goes something like: “I’m reviewing the situation...”
No, I’m not actually thinking back over a life of crime and deciding whether I should go straight for once. I am - as I have often told you - extremely law-abiding. Almost (but hopefully not
quite) to the point of being boring. However, since I took possession of a video monitor, provided for me free by the (very generous) Carers Trust West Sussex, I am regularly reviewing the situation downstairs where Mr B sleeps from upstairs where I sleep.
It’s becoming slightly addictive. Every time I am woken in the night by a call of nature, I switch on the video to check whether Mr B is awake or not. Similarly, a quick check early in the morning tells me if it’s worth risking turning over in
bed and trying to snatch another half-hour in bed. “I’m reviewing the situation...” I hum to myself.
While we are talking monitors (though
I concede I am stretching a point) I am reminded of a visit I paid with the Eldest of the Darling Daughters and her girls to the Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green. It’s an amazing museum and I recommend it to anyone who was once a child. Like, well,
all of us. There was, indeed, something for each one of us - I was marvelling over Muffin the Mule, my daughter was chortling over the model of a typical boy in the 70s wearing the self-same jumper her younger sister used to wear, while the granddaughters
were reminiscing over the Teletubbies and looking up on google, for my benefit, what the Sun Baby looks like, now she is all grown up.
We eventually reached
the displays about Education with newspaper reports from 1971 when Margaret Thatcher, then Secretary of State for Education, decreed the end of free milk for schoolchildren. The Eldest of the Darling Daughters signalled that she had something important to
share with her girls. I was expecting some kind of statement on the politics of the day - but, no, my daughter was keen to tell her girls that she used to be Milk Monitor at school. This was a position of great authority (she informed her daughters) on account
of being given the responsibility of inserting drinking straws into the silver bottle tops before the milk was given out. It was, she said, nostalgically, just about the most important task allotted to a monitor, far exceeding (presumably) the Blackboard
Monitor or the Ink Monitor. ( On a point of order, I invented the last two, not being able to remember the exact conversation.) Her girls regarded their mother with something akin to horror. Was it really true, they wanted to know, that schools in the
Olden Days, actually gave glass bottles full of milk to five year olds? Oh, my dears, it was such a dangerous world back then...
Mr B no longer regards the monitor
with suspicion. It has taken a while but he now recognises my voice when I enquire after his well-being in the middle of the night. Just as well, as it happens. I still laugh at the memory of the parents who, having installed a baby monitor in their toddler’s
nursery, responded to his cry by calling him over the monitor. There was a short silence before the little lad, in a worried voice, responded tremulously:
do you want - Wall?”