Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Woss Siss?

I know better, now, with fifteen seconds of new-found experience, than to try and reach for her hand or to smile too widely as she has a tendency to scream and run away which causes all eyes to fall upon me and kill conversation. 

Leaving a one year old howling and hiding isn’t the best way to instil confidence in a group of newish mothers who are gathering shyly in the underground playroom of a 19th C Anglican church, so I leave Helena clinging to her nanna’s slacks and see what the other toddlers are up to. The room is still stuffy from the recent heat, with distant sounds of traffic from Geneva’s city centre and bus station joining the fresh air coming through the window that took me several heaves to force open.

Sapphire and I are here to help our friend KG, a maternity health expert, as she runs her parent group. We arrived early to drag some well-used toys out of the metal lock-up cupboard and pull down a tricycle, a plastic train, a toy car and a wooden rocking snail. Yes, snail, not horse.

The first official day of School Holidays has begun and I’m grateful that my child willingly got up at a teenager-unfriendly time to help and laugh as she manages to do a circuit around the adult meeting table on the tiny trike. At a mature thirteen, she’s as tall as KG and several of the mothers, but two toddlers somehow have instinctively divined that she’s still a Big Girl and Big Girls are much fun-ner than older ladies or Big Girls’ Mummies.

Indira ignores my offering of a bright bumble bee pulled along by string and makes her way over to where Sapphire is busy building a castle with the seriously focused Miranda. Feeling unreasonably hurt, my disappointment is erased by the sight of Spencer hoiking one chubby leg over the tricycle and then laughing uproariously at the ‘squeak’ sound of the seat.

He bounces up and down as he circles the room, bum a squeakin’ and him a cacklin’ like a mad-man all the way. KG is used to this kind of background noise, but the mothers aren’t so much. Perhaps my applause is only encouraging him to do it longer and louder? Spencer notes my appreciation and does an extra lap around me, clearly delighted in the abilities of his arse and the hilarity of the situation. I want to cuddle him up immediately but remember that there are seven other little folk in the room who need me to distract them long enough for their mothers to participate in at least thirty percent of the group discussion.

“What’s this? What’s this?” Indira has decided that I’m safe enough to explain that she’s in fact pushing a red plastic train with a spinning blue nose and squeaky yellow bumper pads on the front. Of course, her query actually sounds like “Woss Siss” but is still easily understandable. When the answer is delivered, she wipes her mouth with the back of her hand, says "Choo Choo" and continues towards the steps, eyeing Jeremy who is busy hiding underneath the hanging quilt that depicts the all-animals-aboard scene from Noah’s ark.

Rachel finds the only baby in the box otherwise filled with oversized lego, trucks and books and cuddles her gently. “Me mummy,” she says, before placing the doll into the seat of the rocking snail and pushing the back up and down so that the poor doll headbutts the wooden handle with a loud smack over and over again. Rachel's giggles are matched at the other end of the room by Spencer, who is now rolling matchbox cars under the stacked chairs and into the kitchenette, his squeals enticing Jeremy out from behind the quilt and over to try and ‘catch’ the car before it bumps against the piano leg.

Anna has yet to climb down from her mother’s lap but is keeping close watch on all the under-two action swirling around her. Sapphire is reading to Miranda, her voice also encouraging Indira and Jeremy to wander over. Each step they take reminds me of those attempted by drunks – one entire leg kicked to the forefront without bending the knee, tested for balance and then the same move done to the other limb. Provide a sloping ground to either group and they’d build up far too much momentum and go for a gargantuan gutzer.

Spencer’s not laughing anymore, having fallen forward on the toy car he was riding, leaving his pampers-padded arse in the air and head on the bonnet, scattering his handful of soggy popcorn across the floor. Anna is motivated to clamber out of her mother’s lap and pick up each kernel one by one, popping each into her mouth with increasing glee.

Now upright – with assistance from me – Spencer generously forgives the loss of his hand-held snacks and stands directly in front of Rachel who has thrown her baby out of the rocking snail and is in it herself, blonde hair swishing like a heavy metal headbanger. My hand is on the back rail to prevent her from being squished by the snail. A few minutes later she’s persuaded to climb off when she spies Anna picking up her baby, but is let down by the dizziness of her own body refusing to put her in a position for a dolly snatch. “How about a story?” She likes my suggestion, but wanders over to Sapphire with a Maisy book translated to French.

“Good morning, ladies! Excuse me please!”

Humans old and young fall silent when the door creaks open and a sixty something bloke with a murky Scottish accent claps his hands.

“Now don’t be alarmed, but there’s a man who is MENTALLY DISTURBED who is just out here---“ he gestured to the unisex toilet out in the hall “-----using the toilet, as it’s the only one we’ve got open today. He is DANGEROUS around women and children, so I’m accompanying him while he is, erm, urinating, and will take him back upstairs in a minute.”

He spotted me and crooked his finger to get me to come closer to him for further instructions. “I suggest you LOCK THIS DOOR RIGHT NOW so that he can’t come in,” he said, in what he imagined was a whisper but sounded more like an Orkney Island fog horn. “Last week he peed all over the floor and pushed a lady from our congregation into a pew.”

KG and I swapped a glance. There was nothing for it. “Who’s ready for some morning tea?”

The enticing whiff of plunger coffee soon brought my new-found foghorn friend back inside. “The man has gone now. Would you be a love and make me and the Minister a cup of tea – black and sugar for us both?”

The Minister was Jamaican and eyed the toddlers’ morning tea platter with envy. “We’ve got some lemon cake if you’d like a slice...?”

He smiled. “No thank you, miss, I’m from Jamaica and grew up growing bananas. May I....?

He left the cheese for the kids and swiped the bananas, swishing hot tea in his mouth with each bite. 

 “You have a rather strong English accent for a Jamaican.”

“Oh yes, we moved there when I was a child so I still hope that an Englishman wins Wimbledon, and right now I’m prepared to count Andy Murray as English.”

Out of the corner of my eye I saw Sapphire collecting empty cups and the mothers wiping dribbly hands and faces before plonking the owners of those faces back onto the floor. “I’d better get back to it,” I whispered, reaching for his cup.

Like the Scottish foghorn before him, he seemed oblivious to the users of the room and the volume he made. “But tell me – are the Williams’ sisters still in?”

I lowered my voice so that he was forced to read my lips.

"REALLY? Venus has been knocked out already!"  He doubled over laughing in shock. "Crazy!"


Something wet and sticky was pressed into the back of my knee. Luckily it wasn’t the floor peeing madman, but Indira, deciding that her banana wasn’t so appetising after all. The Minister saw that my attention was needed elsewhere and left, but not before dramatically announcing to all, "We are PRAYING FOR YOU. We pray for EVERYONE who uses our room!" 

Scottish fog horn stuffed his head around the door. "Don't forget to lock this as YOU NEVER KNOW WHERE THE MENTALLY DISTURBED MAN IS RIGHT NOW."

Er, thanks for that. Will do.

Sapphire sidled over.  “So this is the sort of stuff you get up to when I’m at school.”

Miranda taps her hand and points to the low table. "Book."  My daughter's nose crinkles up slightly and we share a look - that's not mashed banana we're smelling right now......


The Plastic Mancunian said...

Bonjour Kath,

Not sure whether I should laugh at the MENTALLY DISTURBED man (STOP DAVE! STOP!!!).




River said...

That sounds like a fun morning and a great way for Sapphire to learn to cope with kids en-masse, in case she decides to be a teacher later. I used to do a similar thing for a group of bible-study women, most of them were convinced their little darlings wouldn't go to strangers, yet they all gravitated to me as if I were a magnet. Even the legendary tantrum thrower played well with the others for me. I used to make my own playdough back then and I always took some along. I'm glad you all were warned about the mentally disturbed man, things could have been worse if he'd just barged in.

Kath Lockett said...

I know, PlasMan. It was slightly funny in a Far Too Much Information SHARED RATHER TOO LOUDLY kind of way!

River, it was fun, actually and it was lovely to see how Sapphire mucked in and helped. We're doing it again next week and will lock the door this time.....

Pandora Behr said...

Oh dear, some of the situations you find yourself in! But it does sound like a fun day. Being between contracts, I'm trying to do things fun stuff like this - even without the too much information people.


Jayne said...

I might try that when I next wander past a group meeting with scrumptious cake "I'm accompanying a MENTALLY DERANGED BUMBLEBEE who I have locked in the foyer, be a love and WET MY WHISTLE before I collect said disturbed MURDEROUS insect!"

Kath Lockett said...

Pandora, the Too Much Information people are all around us. Usually *I'm* one of them.

Jayne, I think we all wanted to have a giggle but he was so earnest that we had to busy ourselves in the kitchen instead....

Elisabeth said...

I can't remember the detail of my earlier lost comment, other than the fact that this post here brought back memories of life with babies and small children in institutions such as childcare centres, but not once did I have to lock the door on a disabled man who threatened to push over religious ladies and children or pee on the floor. Thanks, Kath.

diane b said...

You are brave to take on this job. I was worn to a frazzle with just one toddler and a baby. Well written and thanks for the laugh.

Kath Lockett said...

My pleasure, Elisabeth. I do wonder what this coming Monday's session will bring.

No worries, dianeb. One thing that did amuse me was that by the time midday arrived, most of the toddlers were rubbing their eyes - lunch and a nap were clearly in order. For them as well.

Jackie K said...

Sounds fun! The post title reminded me of when my girls were toddlers, always pointing at things and asking "Ziss?"

Kath Lockett said...

The questions, JackieK, the questions.... Not so much these little folk (yet) but the memories of Sapphire asking about EVERYTHING from the second she woke up to nap time - even then she talked in her sleep!