by Barney Turnbull
My “father” is looking somewhat shabby and unshaven, as usual, when we meet in a favourite eating establishment of mine (“The Kitchen“) over a fairly nondescript meal of Leftovers a la Mashed Spud avec chopped Grapes et un Chunk de Fromage.
As interviewees go, he seems distracted, and constantly offers me more food, despite the fact I obviously only wanted a wee snack. Thankfully I manage to entertain myself through some of his more boring answers by daintily practising my grape-throwing technique.
I begin by posing him a hard one first: What, exactly, is he planning to do with me this afternoon?
“I thought maybe we’d drive into town, pop into the Post Office and go for a play on the swings. If you don’t mind having a squiggle around on the grass for a while, we can pad it out until mummy finishes work and all come home together.”
Not much of a educational experience, is it?, I counter, tossing him a half-chewed lump of something unidentifiable.
“We could stop off at the duck pond and point at the ducks and swans again, if you’d like.”
Stock answers that I – and, I suspect you, dear reader – have heard too many times before. Like most of my baby brethren, I have attained world class honours in the art of pointing at ducks, and fail to see how another trip to the pond will be terribly productive. Couldn’t we start on some classics, I wonder aloud?
“Ba ba ba ba ba ba,” he replies, which is fair comment under the circumstances. I test him, poking my tongue out and watching as he gawps, smiles, and copies my expression precisely. I then switch instantly to a (faked, I assure you) look of dumb astonishment, and allow a small blob of dribble to slide down on to my shirt.
Seconds later, I’m cursing my luck as the dreaded Damp Cloth makes an unwelcome appearance around my lower face, smearing me with that horrible Clean Water stuff and ruining the rather sweet-smelling masque of mashed potato and grape skin that I have so carefully assembled during the early stages of the meal.
This is not what I had planned for this interview. Time to go in for the kill. My trousers, I point out to him, are damp and getting damper, thanks to a minor problem with my as-yet-unperfected bladder control. When he eventually understands what I’m trying to say (why does it take them so long?), the look of despairing resignation on his face is my triumph. I’ve beaten you, I declare, loudly, beating him across the face with my plastic spoon. Surrender, mortal! His counter-strike is unexpected in its predictability.
“Come on then little fella,” he ambles, “let’s go upstairs and do you a fresh nip-nap.”
Curses! He’s seen through my ruse and knows exactly what my interviewing efforts were trying to uncover. I’ve blown my cover and, I suspect, the old man is beginning to notice that I have no training in the art of journalism. Just wait till my editor hears about this.
(6th February 2004)