Rob came round the other evening. I was somewhat preoccupied, so Sarah let him into the house and sent him through to me.
"Are you really dusting behind that radiator?" he asked as he entered the kitchen.
"No," I muttered and then cursed as I cut my finger.
"Oh..." he said, finding a beer and taking a seat. "It looks like you're dusting behind that radiator."
This was true. I was crouched in the corner of the room, shoving a duster (which resembled bright blue candy-floss on a stick) down behind a radiator. Beside me was a narrow table piled high with craft materials. It was at right-angles to the radiator and overlapped it slightly.
"I was tidying up and knocked a glitter-glue pen off the table and down the back," I said, tracing the item's disastrous trajectory in the air with my bleeding finger. "It's got jammed in a gap between the skirting board and the wall and there's some other stuff down here stopping me getting to it from below. I'm trying to knock something loose with the duster."
"I'm not sure there's space." I was surrounded by bags, boxes and a couple of spare dining chairs which had been stacked up to keep them out of the way. I'd had to move them all to get to the radiator.
"Too bad..." He helped himself to some crisps while I gave up on the duster and scrabbled around underneath the radiator with my hands.
"How are things?" I asked.
"Great. Everyone's nervous at work again, Luke still wakes up for a cry three times most nights and half the flat is packed into boxes ready for next week. Couldn't be better."
"Ach, well, another year and things will have settled down. Luke will have a proper bedtime and you'll have the new house mostly sorted. Chances are, you'll only have a couple of the boxes left to unpack by then. Got to look at the long-term. Maybe you should get cracking on a second child so you don't have it too easy at Christmas."
"Don't," he said, shivering. "Kate's already talking about it and it's giving me a nervous tick. I want to get this move over and done before I start thinking about people carriers."
"Fair enough," I mumbled, my head lost amongst my knees as I attempted to get my hand a little further into the dusty darkness behind the radiator. I was almost there... "Just don't talk to me about potential down-sizing at LBO. I get enough of that from Sarah."
"Good... Oh, hang on, something's coming free." I gave a final tug on a lump of plastic and it jerked out from beneath the radiator. The sudden release made me begin to topple over and I put my hand out to steady myself against the table holding Marie's stash of art supplies. It rocked wildly, a bowl bounced off my head and then small, sparkly beads rained down everywhere. "Flip."
Rob grinned and gulped some beer. "Going well?"
"Not really." Beads continued to skitter across the laminate floor to every last nook and cranny of the kitchen as I examined my find. It was a bright green water pistol that I'd never seen before in my life. It must have been behind the radiator a long time. Putting it aside, I had a feel around for other treasure. With the water pistol gone, there was more room to manoeuvre. I pulled out the wheel from a toy car, a small, fluffy fish and an object made of white plastic that was about the size and shape of a box of matches. I knew instantly what it was.
"It's the missing moo!"
"The missing moo!" I squeezed the box and it made a series of electronic noises which roughly approximated the noise of a cow (or maybe a slightly ill sheep). "I've been wondering where this went to for about five years. It's from a squishy cube with pictures of farmyard animals on. I took the moo out to wash the cube, left it on a shelf and never saw it again." I waved the box around gleefully and set it off once more. "I searched high and low for this. We used to have the playpen here. Fraser must have got the moo off the shelf and given it to Lewis in the cage and then he posted down behind the radiator. It would have fallen straight through if it weren't for the water pistol. It all makes sense."
Rob didn't like the manic gleam in my eye. "You know when you say that being a housedad hasn't driven you crazy...?"
I cut him off. "But this finally proves I'm not mad. I didn't eat it or throw it away or put it at the back of a cupboard in a fondue set. It went missing through a simple mixture of children and circumstance."
"Kind of like the last eight years of your life?"
"Not exactly." I rooted around for the glitter-glue. "If I find my lost youth down the back here, I'm going to be very surprised." I finally managed to prise the pen free and return it to the rest of the set. It was the pink one. Marie would have been distraught if it had gone missing.
I sat down in the sea of beads and took a deep breath to recover from my exertion. Then I squeezed the moo again for old time's sake.
"Right," said Rob, shaking his head sadly. "Put that back in its toy and let's go fire up the Wii."
"We gave the cube to a charity shop ages ago," I replied. Nonetheless, I was still smiling broadly.
Rob was confused. "But...?"
"It doesn't matter. I've cut my finger, I need to hoover and the room's turned upside down but I've kept my daughter happy, gained a water pistol and solved a mystery at the same time." I let off some more moos. "Even if I'm years late, that's still a result."
Rob didn't know what to say. There was a pause punctuated by bovine noises. A bead fell out of my hair and bounded away with a plink.... plink... plink.. plink. plink.plinkplinkplinkinkinknkk. Rob looked at me and then at his beer. "Is this really what being a parent does to you?"
I pulled myself upright. "Oh, yes. You're stuffed." Then I threw the electronic cow at him. "Whoever's holding it when the mooing stops has to collect up the beads."
Rob caught the moo instinctively but it was a moment before his brain grasped what I'd said. "Hey! No fair!"
"Course it's fair," I cried and made a break for the door.
Rob squeezed the moo, resetting it to the beginning, and chucked it at me.
"Hey! That's cheating!" I said, catching it and sending it straight back.
"No, it's not."
"Yes, it is."
"You just did it yourself!" said Rob, so busy pointing that he almost forgot to throw the moo to me.
"Only 'cos you did it," I replied, doing it again and hurling it at him. My aim wasn't so good, though.
"Watch my beer!"
"It's my beer actually."
"I'm drinking it. Catch!"
"Ow! I bought it..."
This went on for a couple of minutes, the moo continuing to fly backwards and forwards. At that point, Fraser came downstairs and complained that he couldn't get to sleep because we were being too loud.
Seeing as he was awake, I got him to help pick up the beads...
Yours in a woman's world,
PS Rob and I had to play on the Wii because my 360 has died again. It started crashing every so often last week in exactly the same way as before but without flashing up the three red lights which translate as, 'This console is seriously unwell but Microsoft will fix it for free if it's under three years old because they know they messed up big time.'
Since it's going to be the third anniversary of my initial purchase tomorrow, I was somewhat nervous. I kept playing it and every hour or so it would seize up, with the screen going green and jaggy. Still no red lights. Then the seizures became every few minutes. The machine didn't always switch on.
Still no red lights.
When it went belly up previously, Microsoft replaced it rather than repairing it. I seriously started to suspect that instead of fixing the design flaw in the newer version, they'd merely removed the red lights.
The warranty date drew closer.
Then, finally, I switched it on, the screen remained blank and those beautiful ruby LEDs lit up and flashed their message of doom. I was on the phone to Microsoft within minutes, arranging a pick up.
I'm probably the only Xbox 360 owner ever delighted to see the Red Ring of Death.