The weekend just gone represented all the highs and lows of parenthood.
Saturday was Alice's birthday, and despite the initial indications ("Are those all the presents I've got?") she did actually seem quite grateful. Her Grandma once again spent silly amounts of money on her, but the highlight seemed to be the fact that I had bought her a SIM card for the cast-off mobile phone I'd let her have a couple of weeks ago. She has no use whatsoever for a mobile phone, but there you go. Its all about status. (As it happens this particular present came very cheaply, costing only a couple of pounds for the card, and ten pounds credit. Just goes to show you don't need to spend a fortune.)
So, all was going well. We got out early to Waitrose, had a spot of breakfast, chose a birthday cake, the normal Saturday stuff.
The fun came later in the day, when just as we were settling down to slice the cake, I went out into the garden and saw a load of my tools lying there on the lawn, and next to them a hole. My eyes strayed a little further, only to discover the Ping 7 iron which had been removed from the golf bag. Now, you have to remember that this isn't the first time my tools have been taken out of the toolbox and left outside to rust, nor is it the first time that my lawn has been dug up. So to say I was pissed off was an understatement. I went totally ballistic, so much so that (I learned later) Alice ran off and hid up a tree until I'd calmed down. Needless to say, the party was over.
So that was the low point, and to be honest it is my greatest issue with Alice at the moment. We tell her again and again that she cannot just help herself to peoples' things. But not only does she ignore us, she also treats them without any respect. Again and again, and again and again it just seems to bounce off.
Anyway, suffice it to say that after a little gardening therapy (Alice sensibly staying away when I had the hedge trimmer out!) I had calmed down sufficiently to have a proper talk with her and to explain, yet again, that her behaviour was not acceptable.
Believe it or not, the rest of the day passed without incident. I had a real go at the front garden, cutting back loads, but there is still so much more to do. Alice was by now playing with next door's kids, and I enlisted all of them to help clear up the cuttings. I have to say, next door's little girl worked ever so well, I made sure she got lots of praise for it.
So that was that. A turbulent Saturday in preparation for a busy Sunday.
Sunday was all set for Alice's birthday treat, going up to London to see the High School Musical stage show. Every forty-year-old's idea of heaven! After Saturday's performance I was minded to call the whole thing off, but unfortunately Alice had invited a friend to come along, so we couldn't just cancel at the last minute.
I will say at this point that when I meet Alice's friends, I'm generally highly impressed by their behaviour and manners. A couple of years ago we took four of them to Paultons for the day, and it was an absolute pleasure - lovely girls. My only regret is that I wish some of it would rub off on Alice.
Yesterday, however, I was reminded that perhaps my demonic daughter wasn't quite so bad after all.
Yesterday's trip involved a neighbour rather than a school friend, and from relatively early on it became clear that this could well develop into quite a draining day. We had a picnic lunch on the train, but this girl refused any of the sandwiches we'd brought (we'd checked ahead to ensure that we used fillings that she liked) and showed interest only in eating some cheese and onion crisps (which I had to buy specially for her because she didn't like the crisps we'd brought along) and a creme caramel (even this was "too sweet", though I noted that it did get eaten). Also on the train up, she picked up my book (which was actually an extremely interesting collection of autobiographies by former African-American slaves), and told me she'd read it already and it wasn't very good. And that was to be the blueprint for the day. And it soon became clear that everything you'd done, she'd done it more, and better. And all in nine short years! Of course, Jacqueline and I soon picked up on the fact that this girl was no more than an habitual liar, but she had Alice well and truly hooked with her stories about how she'd been in a stretch limo four or five times etc. etc.
Anyway, we arrived in plenty of time so walked up from Waterloo to Piccadilly Circus, then took a somewhat less pleasant tube journey (far too hot!) over to the Hammersmith Apollo for the matinee. As to the show itself, clearly the subject matter wasn't my cup of tea, but every time we go to a west end show I am always impressed by the high standards of production, and this was no exception. And there is certainly a spark with a live performance that you just don't get from DVDs. In this show it was particularly good to see some young actors/dancers for whom this was their first professional gig, doing so well.
Alice was in raptures by the end - she had after all been looking forward to this for a while. Unfortunately her friend summed up her feelings all too clearly - when I asked her if she had enjoyed the performance she didn't even answer me, just shrugged her shoulders. Certainly I will not forget the ingratitude of that shrug. All I can say is that I hope Alice gives a better account of herself when people take her out for a treat.
Back onto home territory, coming central once again to have supper at Bodeans on Poland Street. We never fail to have a good meal there, and last night was no exception although Alice in particular was tiring. As we were eating, the heavens opened and so when we came out it was the perfect excuse to jump into a taxi back to the station. During the taxi journey this girl again managed to come out with something offensive, this time to Jacqueline, and by now of course we had thoroughly had enough of this spoilt little girl.
After a long and tiresome day we finally jumped onto the 8:15pm train to be back in Salisbury for ten o'clock.
Even ten minutes from home, this girl felt the need to call her dad and tell him to go and wait outside her house for her. Cheeky bugger! And, when we got to their house and he wasn't outside, when she finally saw him she said to him, "Lazy Daddy". And of course it should go without saying that although Dad (who in fairness seemed quite a nice guy) thanked us for the day, child said nothing. Truly, this girl was utterly charmless.
Maybe the grass is not always greener after all...