“She had a huge bun,”
I shout, shoving my hair in a pony tail and hoping my mother realises I’m talking about the Duchess of Cambridge on the balcony yesterday as part of Trooping the Colour for the Queen’s birthday weekend. NW is away for a long trip so we are staying with my parents. I am in the downstairs loo, watching the street party in the Mall on my phone, which is propped up on top of the cistern, whilst I help NG rinse her hands.
“What, like a bustle?” my mother calls back from the kitchen. She is sipping her lunchtime glass of wine and trying to ignore the fact her two smallest grandchildren are in residence by resolutely reading the front page of the paper, even though NC is bouncing up and down in his high chair next to her, eating the headline.
“No. Bun. A chignon,” I say, drying my hands on our Labrador, NL.
“What’s a she nong?” asks NG, wobbling on her wooden steps. “Look, my poo looks like a castle.”
“It’s the sort of hairstyle that takes two hours and three pairs of hands, none of which are your own,” I say, flushing and pushing my daughter out so I can lock the door and have a few minutes’ peace.
I settle myself on the loo (seat down) with my phone in my lap and watch the picnicers. Yesterday, as the Duke and Duchess emerged onto the balcony with George and Charlotte, I wondered how NG and NC would behave if it were them. One o’clock was a good time: too early for an afternoon nap but risky if the children hadn’t eaten. George looked unimpressed; Charlotte looked teethy. I wriggle uncomfortably: my bum doesn’t seem to fit the loo properly which makes me a bit cross, especially when I remember Kate’s sylph-like frame – in white, she looked like a bit like one of those beautiful painted Christmas twigs.
“My bum’s grown,”
I shout forlornly through the door. “Had you noticed?”
The only noises I can hear are NG waffling on about how yoghurt is yummy for children but not rhubarb yoghurt, only raspberry or chocolate or pepper.
“Pepper?” my mum says.
“Pig,” I call, realising with relief I am sitting on NG’s fold-out loo seat.
“I wouldn’t say that, darling,” calls my father. “You’re not that greedy. I think you just need to start running again. I’m sure you’ll snap back into shape soon. NC’s only nine months old still.”
We convene in the kitchen, where my parents are packing a canvas holdall full of quiche, strawberries and cream, ready for the street party that is starting at 3pm. I pour some apple juice and give NC’s face a half-hearted wipe.
“That apple juice looks a bit off,” my mum says doubtfully as I down the glass. “That’s a shame. It’s French, and quite expensive. It looks like the Queen’s coat.” She’s right: it tastes vile and is almost exactly the same neon green highlighter colour as Her Majesty’s Trooping the Colour outfit. “How about some wine?”
“No thanks, I’m trying to just drink in the evenings,” I say, feeling like a prissy head girl next to my parents.
My father looks thoughtful. “Did you know the pubs are extended their hours last night?”
“Yes,” I say pointedly, as they both rocked in well after 1am. My parents’ social life and energy in their sixties resembles mine at at university. This is pride-inducing and depressing. It is also noisy. “Do you remember you woke up the baby?”
On cue, NC starts yawning.
“We weren’t loud,” says my mother, defensively. “And we made sure you were asleep.”
“You checked on me?”
“Of course. You’re our daughter,” my father says. “We peeped in to see if you were ok.”
“Did you check on the children?”
“They’re not ours,”
my mother says airily.
“But they’re 8 months and nearly three. I’m thirty eight.”
“You’ll always be three to me,” my mother says fondly, then looks panicky. “Where’s the pastry brush? I don’t think we’ve got enough quiche. I might have time to whip another one up. If I can find it.” She looks accusingly at NC, who has tired of newspaper and is gumming the wine cork.
“It’s in the car,” I say. “I gave it to him this morning when we went to the shops. It calms him. Let’s get it – come on.” I take NG’s hand and we go outside into the drive.
“Why does Nana need the pastry brush?”
asks my daughter as we scramble-search under empty packets of snacks and muslins festering in the back seat.
“She’s making food for the party we’re going to soon. For the Queen. Her birthday party, remember? She has two.”
“Wish I could have two.”
“You’re three soon.”
“I just want two.”
“You’ll have one. Not two. When you’re three. Your brother has one, too, when he’s two.”
She narrows her eyes at me. We have been here before.
“Found it!” I say with relief and we head back indoors with the pastry brush. My mother descends with delight. “Brilliant. I’m making scones because, as your father has rightly pointed out, quiche is French.”
“The Queen will eat them. Because she is a frog.” asks NG, confidently.
“What?” I say, shocked. “Who told you that?”
“Yesterday Daddy said on the iPad in the sky the Queen did look like a frog and frogs are French.”
I look at my parents uneasily. Xenophobia is not something I have encouraged. “She means Skype,” I say, and turn to my daughter. “When we Skyped Daddy, he did say the Queen looked a bit like a frog, I know, but … why do you think frogs are French?”
“Because the frog in my Frog Prince Potty book does say ‘oui’. ‘Oui’ means French for ‘yes.'”
“He says ‘wee,” I sigh with relief. “He says ‘wee’ because he’s trying to help the princess go on the potty.” (Don’t ask … it’s a strange book but it’s worked for us). “I think Nana is going to make scones instead.”
“One actually,” says my mother, decisively. “In honour of the Queen. I am just going to make one enormous bun.”
“But you’d better not have any, Mummy,” says NG to me, looking deadly serious. “Because your bum is already a bit big.”
KEY TO CHARACTERS
Characters are abbreviated as follows:
NW – not William (husband and father)
NG – not George (daughter, sister and two and nearly three year old)
NC – not Charlotte (son, brother and nine month old)
NL – not Lupo (a Labrador)