Mr E. Blackadder Esq. once described saving French aristocrats from the guillotine as being ‘about as difficult as putting on a hat.’ I can now say with confidence that being a writer is about as difficult as taking off a t-shirt.
Last night I was getting my three-year-old son Oscar ready for his bath. Lately he’s got it into his head that he will do everything, thank you very much, and does not need any help taking off his shirt. All attempts to assist, even the most surreptitious, blind-sided fingertip grip on the seam of his sleeve, to make it easier for him to extricate his arm, is met with screams of apoplectic fury. The only thing to do is stand back and offer the occasion word of advice, and even these don’t go down well. It’s best if you’re not in a hurry, and don’t have, say, broad beans boiling dry on the stove (but that’s another story).
Poor Oscar. He just could not get that t-shirt off. He’d hoist it over his head, dragging it across his face as it changed from pink to crimson, only for it to slip back again. He’d yank on one arm till the stitches popped, but he but couldn’t achieve that crucial elbow-past-the-seam watershed, beyond which, as we smug grown-ups know, t-shirt removal is a formality. At times, both of the above were happening at once, and he was straitjacketed, blundering around the bathroom as if he could somehow outrun his shirt, bashing into things like Winnie the Pooh in the heffalump trap. All the while raging, screaming, sobbing and wailing like a soul in purgatory, while I, his father, stood by and watched.
Oh, it might sound funny now. But let me tell you I was near to tears. Desperate to intervene, I knew that if I did I would simply spark off World War Three-year-old. Oscar, meanwhile, just would not admit defeat. I have never seen such determination. I thought of a bear, in a trap, resolved to gnaw its own limbs off before it gives up. In another minute, he might have bared his milk teeth and done it. But then, finally, he got the t-shirt over his head. Squealing, he twisted it behind his back. One last epic effort, and he shook the short sleeves off his arms, and he was out. Then he slumped down on the bathroom floor and cried.
Oh dear, I thought, swallowing the lump in my throat. It looks as if he’s going to be a writer.