“2016 is a leap year,” NW announces as he fills in the dustbin/recycling schedule in the calendar.
I am stringing bits of dried pasta onto a ribbon while NG watches impassively, blowing on her nails which do not have nail polish on them.
“We all know what happens on a leap year, don’t we?” He winks. I have no idea what he’s talking about.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” I say.
“You know … when the woman does everything for a change.” He grins with the carefree air of someone who’s had more than 3 hours’ sleep. I drop the ribbon and tiny pasta tubes scatter across the floor. NL fires into gear with impressive speed for a Labrador with arthritic hind legs.
“What did you say?” I use the voice usually reserved for when NG refuses to brush her teeth. It is a mix of incredulity and calm disapproval I have been working on for a while.
His pen stops, mid-scribble. “You know, like for our wedding.”
I am not sure where this is going.
“I am not sure where this is going,” I say.
“Mummy, what is a leap? And what is a leap year?” twinkles NG, who has started to collect pasta for Baby Rabbit to wear as bracelets.
“That’s a really great question,” I say, because CBeebies is in the background and Nina is nattering away to her Neurons. “A leap is like a really, really high jump. And Daddy can tell you what happens in a leap year, as he seems to know best.
“I’m on shaky ground here, aren’t I?” NW says.
“Yes,” I say.
“Um. Gravity?” says NG.
NW puts the pen down with what someone who didn’t know him as well as I do might term frustration, but is actually barely muted rage. Gravity, having been personified a few months ago, is now referred to by my daughter approximately once every four words. With it becoming harder and harder to hold a conversation with NG without having to become gravity, it’s fair to say he’s becoming a bit of a lead balloon.
“Not gravity again. He’s everywhere,” he says. “I have a hard enough time explaining leap years without gravity getting involved.”
NG looks confused. “But gravity can help you, Daddy. If you do a jump, gravity can pull. You. Down.”
“That’s right,” I say, spotting an opportunity. “If you do a great big metaphorical leap and feel a bit scared and don’t know where you’re going because you’re on shaky ground,” I look at him meaningfully, “gravity might be your only real hope.”
NW sighs, puts the calendar down and turns to NG. “OK. When it’s a leap year, ladies can ask men they love to marry them. And the year your mother and I got married, well … it was the same year as Kate and William and that was a leap year.”
“It wasn’t, actually,” I say. “They got married in 2011. And I didn’t ask you.” I am feeding NC with one hand and wiping NG’s face with the other and have just put a cup of coffee in front of NW so I definitely have the moral high ground.
“You sort of did. When we were in Rhodes. You dropped a LOT of hints.”
“Daddy, don’t. Go. On. The. Roads,” says NG firmly. “Or you will get squashed by a car.”
“Sorry,” he says.
“Stick to leap years,” I say. “They’re a bit safer.”
“And Mummy?” NG hasn’t finished yet.
“Don’t. Drop. Hints. OK? ‘Cos they will have to go in the bin. And you alREADY dropped my pasta!”
“OK, darling,” I say and resolve that when she’s old enough, NG can definitely ask Prince George to marry her.
KEY TO CHARACTERS
Characters are abbreviated as follows:
NW – not William (husband and father)
NG – not George (daughter, sister and two and a half year old)
NC – not Charlotte (son, brother and four month old)
NL – not Lupo (a Labrador)