Tuesday, 30 August 2011

The Art of Conversation

I’ve had a couple of, um, interesting conversations in the past few days.  
The first was with the Boy, who has decided that weeing in the toilet (or the garden, or the potty, or indeed anywhere that isn’t his pants) is for wusses, and so we seem to be back to square one in the toilet training stakes.  This reached a pinnacle on Friday when, by the end of the day, he hadn’t bothered to use the toilet once, preferring instead the soft cosiness of his Superman underwear.  Resulting in FIVE CHANGES of clothes.   I lost it on the sixth leakage, which happened about 4 minutes after I had asked him if he needed to go to the toilet, dragged him upstairs and gave him a talking to.  Half-way through he put his face up to mine – literally nose-to-nose – and started saying, clearly and loudly: “Mummy... Mummy... Mummy... Mummy... MUMMY!” at which point I stopped talking.  Still nose-to-nose he barked:  “Don’t be so STOOOPID! It doesn’t MATTER!”  
Well actually, it does – he’s starting nursery in a couple of weeks (or next week, depending on whether we get his passport back from the Irish Embassy in time for our family “holiday” this weekend) and pissing in his pants out of sheer laziness really isn’t an option.  But that aside, his reaction to my attempt at sterness pretty much gasted my flabber. Especially as into the silence which followed he offered: “Bloodybloodybloodybloody.”
Excellent.  I have a potty-mouthed, non-potty-trained nursery-bound adolescent on my hands. 
Having comprehensively failed at the stick approach, I decided yesterday that some carrots were needed: gummy bears.  So I took the Boy off to the supermarket –something I normally avoid whenever possible, but the nose-to-nose talking to had clearly wiped me of my sense. Which is when the second – and by far more note-worthy - conversation took place. 
By way of background: the Boy and I were having a... disagreement... about the removal of a sardine from its packaging. He wanted to carry its lifeless, bloody, scaley body around in his hands, I – not unreasonably, I think – did not want him to.  He started to scream – “BUT IT’S MY PET...” - and I stood and ignored him. 
That’s when the asshole walked past and muttered “spoilt little brat” under his breath.
If there’s one thing I hate in people it’s under-the-breath muttering; either say something properly, or don’t bother saying it at all. So I turned around to him and said “excuse me?”  The following is the subsequent conversation.  Words in italics are things I thought about afterwards – you know, those really good intelligent cutting lines which pop into your head long after the event, while you’re storming around the supermarket in a blind fury. 
Childless Man: “You heard me.”
Me: “If you have something to say, at least have the decency to say it to my face.”
CM: “People like you make me sick. I should have the right to go about my business without having to listen to children screaming.”
(Bewildered.  What do you say to this? Of course what I should have said was: Oh fuck off you complete moron. Unless you can behave like an intelligent member of society, you have no fucking rights at all. Instead I said – lamely:)
Me: “You’re in a supermarket!”
CM: “Yes.  And I should be entitled to be in a supermarket without having to listen to your brat screaming...”
Clever Me: Can I suggest you wear earplugs next time you leave your house?  Because there are LOTS of children in this city, and most of them scream from time to time.
Real (Pathetic) Me: “He’s two! He has tantrums sometimes!” (I suspect I was beginning to sound somewhat hysterical myself by now.)
CM: “If you disciplined him properly – said in horribly condescending voice  - then maybe he wouldn’t have tantrums.”
Clever Me: Are you on drugs?
Real (Pathetic) Me: “Do you have children?”
CM: “No.  And this – waves his childless hand towards the Boy, who by now has the fish out of the packaging and his fingers in its eye, oblivious to the social strive he’s created – is why...”
Clever Me: So, you accept that dealing with children is at times very difficult, and this is why you have chosen not to have them.  Apart from the fact that you’re clearly way way too self centred to be a parent.
Real (Pathetic) Me: You need to grow up (said to his retreating back).
The Boy, by now bored with disembowelling the fish all over the supermarket floor (could the cleaner please come to aisle four...)  started to take an interest in events. 
“Mummy, why that man cross?” 
“Because he didn’t like you screaming and crying.”
“I’m sorry Mummy; I’m sorry man.”
“Well why don’t you go and say sorry to him?”
I don’t know why I thought this would be a good idea.  I think that unfortunately I’m too sensitive to what others think about me – particularly regarding my parenting (non) abilities – and I wanted Childless Man to see that I could train my performing dog to be quite sweet, occasionally.  So we traipsed after the complete cock man and I presented the Boy to him to say sorry. Childless Man looked like I’d just forced him to suck lemons – imagine having to interact with a toddler.  So I was somewhat pleased when the Boy looked up and said “Why me have to say sorry?” Childless Man looked bitter and twisted.
CM: “You shouldn’t let him behave like that.”
Me: (Trying to be reasonable, but actually just losing the will to live) “You know, it’s not that easy dealing with toddlers.  They’re very strong willed and sometimes, no matter what you do, they have tantrums.”
CM: “Well I never behaved like that, my mother wouldn’t have put up with it.”
Clever Me: Really?  Never?  You’re sure about that, huh? Either way, your mother must be TERRIBLY proud of you right now.
Real (Pathetic) Me: “Most people with kids are just doing their best, you should try to understand that.”
CM: “And you should understand that I want to go about my business without having to listen to children screaming.”
Real (Pathetic) Me: “It’s the supermarket.  He’s two.  Kids scream.  It’s the way it is.”
CM: “Well it’s that attitude which results in children behaving like spoilt brats. That’s what I’d expect from the sort of parent who allows their children to riot.”
I swear he said this.  At this point I should have just hit him over the head with a bottle.  Instead I just gave up and left him with a really crap parting shot:
“You clearly have all the answers.”
I’m so pathetic. Of course what I really should have done was set the Boy on him. He could have yelled “DON’T BE SO STOOOPID” into the man’s twitching, mean, pinched, weasel face. 
Instead he pissed in his pants and we both went on our way.

Pounding ingredients with a pestle and mortar isn’t something I often do – I’m way too lazy, and there’s always a jar of pesto in the fridge – but after my brush with Mr Judgment yesterday (which, naturally, consumed me for the rest of the day) I found it quite therapeutic.  And it used up the bunch of wilting parsley I found in the bottom of the fridge. 
Roast Fish with parsley and walnut pesto

You need:
  • A fillet of thick meaty fish per person (eg: cod, haddock, monkfish, salmon;  I used sea trout*)
  • A large handful of manky old parsley (preferably flat-leafed, but curley is fine)
  • A handful of walnuts
  • Walnut oil – or otherwise a mild oil (peanut or non-extra virgin olive oil)
  • A clove or two of garlic (depending on your taste, and the amount of paste you’re making)
  • Juice and zest of half a lemon (optional)
Preheat the oven to 160c / 320f/ gas 3
If using a food processor, bung all the ingredients bar the fish and the oil into the machine and pulse.  Then pour the oil in slowly – as much as you need to achieve the consistency you want.  I like it very thick and sludgy;  add more oil if you prefer a thinner paste.  Otherwise, pound the shit out of the ingredients with your pestle, adding the oil bit by bit.  (Feel free to imagine you’re smashing someone’s weaselly face in.)
Put the fish skin-side down (if applicable) into an oiled oven-proof dish.  Smear the paste over the top, and season with salt and pepper.
Cook for about 15-20 minutes – depending on the thickness of the fish.  Check it at 15 minutes, and then every three minutes or so.
Serve with potatoes, salad and a nice pint of vodka to calm your frazzled nerves.
*Not the sardine, which I just stuck into the fridge, where it will no doubt sit, eyeless, for a few days before being transferred to the bin.


  1. I tend to give a supportive nod to mothers dealing with tantrums. Good on you for speaking up, he doesn't have all the answers and nor does anyone else.

  2. Thanks N. And while I'd appreciate a nod in such circumstances, a bottle of alcopop would probably be better.

  3. I will carry chocolate buns around my person from now on in case of emergency tantrums.