Why I fast-forward disaster movies

A's fantastic picture of her daughter covered in chocolate (http://brilliantsulk.blogspot.com/2009/04/artist-in-training.html reminded me of an incident in a cafe when my kids were little.

2 year old son: Can I have some of your chocwut cake?
Me: Only if you're careful not to get it everywhere. [This statement rates near the top of the list of Stupid Things Mothers Say.]
2 year old son: I pwomise.
Me: Okay, here you are.

Here, we will have a short break from the scene. You know those bits in films where two people get into bed and then, although you don't see any action, there is a wild storm outside, or a seascape where waves crash against the rocks which is meant to tell you EVERYTHING. Well, here, imagine not romance but disaster movie, so perhaps the sound of trees crashing to the ground in the wild storm, or a ship creaking and moaning as it breaks up and sinks.

Cafe. Five minutes later.

Me: Oh, just LOOK at you. You're COVERED in it. How did you do that? [This is also fairly near the top of the STMS list.]
2 year old son: I ate all the chocwate cake, Mummy. [This is the literal answer my last question deserved.]

Here, we will have another short break. Imagine the crashing trees noises and the breaking-up ship, and then imagine some more, for the disaster has not yet reached its peak.

A lady enters the cafe - an elegant lady, dressed in a cream suit - and takes a seat just behind Me and Son.
Lady: Hello, little boy. What a sweet little boy! Isn't he sweet! How old?
Me: He's ... er ... he's 2. But, careful, because he ...
Lady: Ah, he's such a darling. Look, he's holding out his hands to me. Does he want to shake my hands? Oh, how delightful!

Here, we will have another short break. Something very, very bad is just about to happen. Cue not just crashing trees, cue not just sinking ships, but cue giant oaks ripped from their roots and flying through the air to destroy fields and houses, cue passengers and crew leaping to their deaths over the ship's railings ...

Lady: Would you like to shake my hand, little boy?
Me: I ... er ... I wouldn't .... [IS THIS WOMAN BLIND?]
Lady: [shakes hands with Chocolate-Flavoured Boy] Hello, little boy, nice to ...

Here, we will break again, for that moment in which the director cuts to a slow motion shot, this time, dispensing with all that metaphorical rubbish, but coming in for a close-up of the Lady, the gradual realisation as she finds that what she thought were nice little baby, podgy, smelling-of-Johnsons-talc hands are in fact slimy, sticky and thick with chocolate. At least, she hopes it's chocolate. Cut to close-up of her own hands, now equally slimy, sticky and brown. Cut to the brown stains on her cream suit. Cut to the widening of her eyes. Cut to bewildered face of Son, wondering why the sudden rejection from One who Seemed so Friendly. The camera moves back to her mouth as it opens in a large, round O. There is a suspended moment, as, at first, no sound comes out. Then ...

Lady: Aaarrrrrrgghhhh! LOOK what you've done to my hands!

Here, we will break again, for that little frisson of tension as we all think back to the fact that 2 year old boys do not realise that what might seem a clear instruction does not always have that function. The camera is on Son's mouth, his innocent little lips, currently hidden under chocolate fudge frosting, are about to make an utterance.

Son: Dat's funny. Your hands are all chocwatey, like mine. Mummy, look at the Lady's hands. They are all chocwatey, like ...

This is the point at which, in disaster movies, a plane arrives to pick up the drowning ship's passengers, or the storm abates and the sun sparkles through the clouds like a miracle. In Greek tragedy, this is when the gods turn up in chariots to save the day.


Think abased apologies. Think scrabbling in a messy handbag for tissues which the Lady refuses to take. Think shame. Think humiliation. Think everyone else in the cafe watching.

My advice to you, A, is Stay Home.


  1. Yikes, that's one I'm sure you'll never forget!! Yes, we have just adjusted quite nicely to staying indoors 24/7. Hmmm, now that I think about it the kids do look a little pasty and gaunt....

  2. Retired One - you mean, YOU were the lady in the cream suit?

  3. A - staying indoors is always the best policy with small children. In fact, wait until they are 21 before venturing outside.

  4. That is absolutely priceless. It's amazing how adults can see children and think aah, how adorable before registering that they could actually be quite revolting at that moment. It makes me think of when some people wanted to take a photo of Maya, despite the fact her face was covered in tears, snot and dirt!
    I bet she thought twice about approaching children in cafe's after that!

  5. You're right, Rebecca. In fact, I'd be surprised if she's left the house at all since 1988, when this happened.

  6. When there's a 2 year old in the family, you're always one step away from a disaster movie! I just got back from a trip to the mall with my daughter and 2-year-old grandbaby, who spent roughly 30 minutes "sleeping" in a display bed at JC Penney and 3 interminable minutes screaming when we insisted she had to "wake up" and go home. You're right. Just stay indoors. It's much easier.

  7. I sang on A's birthday. Of course, I will sing for you too!




  8. Lesley, the other thing about staying indoors is that you save a packet on sun tan lotion, shoe leather and umbrellas as well as protecting the public from stained small children.

  9. Thank you, Shey! My sister rang me today and sang it to me on my answerphone in the most ridiculous way she does EVERY year and then at the end told me who she was, just in case I hadn't realised. No chance!

  10. You have to remember though life wouldn't be nearly as much fun if you've kept small children indoors Fran! I was quite a mischievous child. My Mum told me the story of how I once switched off the escalator in a department store and she nearly died of embarrassment and made a hasty retreat!

  11. P.S. Didn't know it was your birthday! Hope you had a good one Fran!


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Evidence that Fran is still around

Reasons why Fran is desperately in search of earbuds

Evidence that we don't always have the right words to say at the right time