Special delivery

The man from the supermarket arrives at about 1.30pm, with eight or nine crates full of groceries for us. Barney is terribly excited about this, and hovers on the doorstep trying to lift things that are far too heavy for him. The delivery man is cheerful despite the pouring rain that has soaked him right through, and ruffles Barney’s hair.

So far, so good.

Unpacking all this stuff and putting it into cupboards should only take half an hour at the most. It should, but it doesn't. Barney likes to help, and grabs whatever he can lift and wanders off with it, in search of a dusty corner to drop it in. He takes a packet of biscuits, a jar of pesto sauce, then a cooking apple, into which he tries to bite.

I rescue the cooker, and offer him an eating apple instead. Given something useful to do at last, he contents himself with wandering up and down the kitchen, chewing on bits of apple and only spitting a few bits of skin out on the floor. This gives me 10 precious minutes to make some progress on the unpacking.

Then I hear a retching sound from the hall, and find Barney has just regurgitated most of the apple he’s eaten onto the mat by the front door. Sighing, I mop him clean, wash and wring out the mat, only to turn round and see Barney clutching a banana and smiling.

He’s played with a banana before and I see no harm in it, so I let him play with it again and earn another five minutes of constructive time. Soon, though, he’s bitten through the banana skin and started sucking the flesh out through the hole. There’s imminent danger of everything getting covered in a sticky banana flavoured mess, so I remove the fruit from his hands – which leads to tears, so he needs a cuddle and we sit down to read a story. Groceries still litter the kitchen floor and working top.

Eventually, I can return to the shopping. Barnaby is once again walking around in the kitchen and dining room, randomly picking up and throwing down toys and bits of grocery packaging. He’s keeping himself occupied, so I feel confident enough to turn my back on him and let him get on with it. This is a mistake.

Suddenly, I hear a small bang, then a loud hissing sound. I whirl around, and see Barnaby standing over an exploding can of cola, which he has picked up and dropped. The can has burst open, and is spraying cola directly up into the air, into Barnaby’s face, all over his clothes, all over the floor, the walls, the ceiling, the shopping, the furniture, the door, the windows, and me. Barnaby turns to look at me as the cola fountain subsides, a look of complete bemusement on his face, cola dripping from his brow. Then he squats, screws up his face, and with a satisfied grunt, fills his nappy.

This is the moment for decisive action. Barnaby gets carried upstairs, dripping cola on the way. I dump him in his cot, surround him with as many toys as will fit in alongside him, and pray that his nappy will contain its contents while I deal with the fizzy drinks factory incident downstairs. I spend 20 minutes or more wiping, mopping and washing, before going back upstairs to wipe, mop and wash the baby’s bum and put a fresh nappy on him. And, breathe.

We return to the kitchen. I continue where I left off, unpacking groceries and putting them away. When Kate comes home from work, we are still there, and we still haven’t finished. I have spent the entire afternoon unpacking the shopping.

(1st November 2003)