88. A Sort of Homecoming

“There are two kinds of people in this world.” I say, exaggerating my hand gestures, to emphasise complete certainty, in front of my five-year-old nephew. “Those who like marmite and those who don’t, and,” (dramatic pause) “you can’t tell which, just by looking. I think it’s in your DNA. Your uncle hates kissing me bye if I’m eating this.”

His little face lights up at this new, vitally crucial information and he spends the next half-hour interrogating everyone who enters the dining room about whether they like marmite. His cheerfulness catches them off-guard. Their unashamed reactions of revulsion and horror, are an absolute treat for the boy. Wide-eyed in wonder at the adults in his life, repulsed and showing fear for the very first time. Taking centre stage, he is the star of his very own Roald Dahl book played out in real life.

“No, it’s blah. How anyone can eat that… that GUNGE, is beyond me.”

“I’m completely addicted. I love it. I have to take a little jar with me on holiday.”

“I’ll find you that YouTube video of Japanese people eating it for the first time. They’re being polite but you can tell they hate it. Their faces!”

“Marmite is banned in Denmark because it’s so disgusting. No lie. You can google it if you don’t believe me. It’s only a matter of time before we come to our senses and catch up.”

“Me and you have to stick together, kid. Like BTS fans. There’s not many of us out there.”

Between giggles at their utter contempt, he boldly crunches his toast, hamming it up with “mmmmmms”, looks them right in the eye and licks the butter knife, and even once kisses the jar. Relishing with glee the power he has to effortlessly own the room.

My other half walks in, starts to greet us, halts, wrinkles his nose and sighs “oh god, not another convert.”

I nearly forgot…

Come on England!🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 🦁 🦁 🦁

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20. From the Mouths of Babes

So I’m round at my sisters. Michelle is a couple of years younger than me. She’s a nurse, so works shifts, and I don’t get to see her as much as I should. We’re having an early 5pm tea, with her daughter, Poppy. Their begging dog, Travis, is, as usual, as he does for every meal, sitting patiently and expectantly, head cocked, for table scraps without joy. It’s a classic children’s tea. Sausage, mash, gravy, frozen sweet corn and the obligatory ‘little trees’. I’ve never understood why broccoli is mandatory requirement for every child’s hot meal. We’ve been treated to an Aunt Bessie’s mini Yorkshire pudding each, and there’s mini Magnums for afters. I brought donuts. We’re on the red. A Malbec I think. It came from of those £10 meal deals at Marks’s. Poppy’s got Ribena in a pink plastic wine glass, so she feels grown up.

“Tell Aunty NomNom what happened today at school?” Said Michelle.

“I got told off” confessed Poppy.

“What for?” I queried.

“I said a rude word” admitted Poppy.”

“A swear word?” I enquired gently.

” Yes I said Rosie is a bitch. What’s a bitch?” She asks innocently.

“Well, it means a girl dog, but some people call ladies that if they’re being mean.” I replied.

“Like Miss Trunchbull?” Said Poppy, inquisitively.

“Exactly like Miss Trunchbull. And no-one would ever dare to call her a bitch, cos she’d swing them around by their legs and let them go flying out of the window.” I explain cheerfully.

Poppy smiles.

“What does shite mean?” she says nonchalantly. She genuinely has no idea.

“It’s just a slang word for poo. People say it when they think something’s a bit rubbish. Here, would you like me to help you?” I cut up her sausage. “You know, it’s probably not a good idea to swear if you want to be a teacher. What if you accidentally swore in front of the children? Then you’d be in big trouble with the mums and dads.” I said matter-of-factly.

“What’s the most naughtiest swear word?” She asks quizzingly.

This might be difficult. She knows I’ll always tell her straight.

I could tell her about that time her mum and I went to see ‘The Vagina Monologues’ where Rula Lenska, and two other women (who also proper theatre luvvie actors, but I’d only ever seen one of them on telly before in ‘Casualty’) over the course of the evening, said every single curse word meaning female genitals. I was never going to say “coochie coochie coo!” to a baby ever again, not that I ever recall I had said that before. It was brilliant, immersive, exhilarating show, culminating with the whole audience getting up onto their feet to chant “Cunt! Cunt! Cunt!” over and over again. Our fists punching gloriously in to the air, strangers united, laughing and encouraging each other to shout it louder and louder, so it would lose its power.

“CUNT! CUNT! CUNT!”

But I don’t, She’s seven. It’s too soon.

“I’m not allowed to say it.” I say seriously. I hope she believes me.

“Well, what’s a swear word that you are allowed to say then? And not flip or blast. I already know those. I’m seven.” She’s dead serious as she says this. I can feel her eyes concentrating on me.

I think for a second. “Tory.” I say. “If you call someone a Tory, then that means they are a horrible, evil person, who steals food from poor people. There was this wicked witch once called ‘Maggie Thatcher the milk snatcher’ who stole children’s milk. food-sugar-lighting-milk.jpgWhen me and your mum were little, we used to all get a tiny bottle of milk to drink every day at morning playtime. A bottle each, with a straw in it. The milkman used to bring crates of milk everyday to school. But Maggie Thatcher took it off us. Kids have to have water now instead. Or fruit shoot. That’s why we have to have food banks. Because of the Tories.”

“Where is she now?” Poppy looks worried.

“Oh, she’s dead now.” I said, trying to sound breezy and casual.

“Did someone cast a spell on her to kill her?” Asks Poppy, extending her arm as if she’s holding a wand.

“Nah. I think she was just really old.” I reply reassuringly.

“Daddy always puts some Weetabix and some beans into the box for the food bank when we go shopping.” Says Poppy, pleased with herself.

Michelle smiles. “Yeah, he’s a good one he is.”

“And you can’t always tell by looking either.” I say “Like you know all the baddies in Harry Potter are really proud to be in Slytherin? Well some people are actually proud to be a Tory.” I emphasised the word ‘proud’ to make what I’d just said sound like I was incredulous at how ridiculous this seemed.

“A Tory.” Repeated Poppy, smiling as if she’s been told a huge secret.