Slightly Mad Mummy: Entry 3

Charting the fabulous (and fatiguing!) flexi-Fridays with my OE-rich* 8 year old (currently identifying as a cat and a Georgian)

February 2020 – Lesson #2: Valentine’s Special  – A Love Letter to Sir W.

Flexi-cat does not like handwriting. At school, in particular, she despises it. The “Big Write” is, I am told, an affront to her entire being. Apparently, life is too short to bother too much about writing, or certainly about writing neatly. There is bouncing to do, and science to live, and talking to talk and sleeping to eschew. It is important to note that there are no known physical impediments to writing; it is a purely ideological objection, and one that renders her incandescent about the fact that she still does not have a secretary for such banalities.

According to flexi-cat, she is already at “peak” writing ability – it is possible to read it, but not time-consumingly super-duper fancy, therefore rendering it the least wasteful of her precious time. To fuss over any improvement from there is, she argues (a lot), contrary to the principles of sense and reason. But she doesn’t leave it there. She propounds a theory (backed up, she assures me, with very robust observational research) that suggests that beyond the “golden range” within which her current writing falls, any further work towards supposedly neater and more ornate penmanship merely renders the writing less and less legible until you find yourself firmly on the downward trajectory towards grown-up writing which is, she firmly and most earnestly maintains, notoriously and almost without exception, illegible. Hence the old adage: “You can lead a flexi-cat to paper, but you can’t make her write”.

That a flexi-cat is difficult to corral in general is by no means a new discovery. Indeed, I am fairly certain that is can be regarded as pretty much a pan-HLP-species problem. And yet the lesser-known fallout is that often we cannot even corral their cognizance. We know they know an awful lot, but we’re not always sure exactly what they know, or how they know it. And they certainly are not about to break into multiple theses just to satisfy our curiosity: it is no fur off their forehead if we remain in the dark.

It was for these reasons that, in a fit of new year optimism, I invested in a whiteboard/flipchart contraption. The idea was that, after a flexi-Friday lesson, we would pop onto the whiteboard some of the main ideas we had discussed; what was new to flexi-cat, what was interesting, what she knew already etc. It might, I hoped, lend a little clarity to the proceedings. Pre-whiteboard days, we would look into whatever topic tickled flexi-cat’s fancy, have a discussion, do a little research, and then before I could even hope to get any feedback on what might have been learnt she was off, careering around the garden acting out the concept of justice via the medium of Kate Bush-inspired dance. It told me she was enthused; it told me she had enjoyed the discussion, it even told me she had taken things in, but it was not exactly hard data, and, as conventional and boring as that made me, I missed that.

What I had not counted on, however, was the kind of magic the new purchase would release. And what was even better was that the magic would not have happened were it not for my inherent laziness (not something I am able to assert often enough in my life). The package was unwrapped, the contraption constructed, and everyone enjoyed their little trial of what must now only ever be referred to as Sir Whiteboard the Noble, for he is to be given the reverence he most unequivocally is due. And then Sir Whiteboard should really have been put away until flexi-Friday. Flexi-towers is not, after all, palatial. Sir Whiteboard would not be unobtrusive. And yet, I confess, that did not happen. But I feel hopeful that I might be in understanding company: who, really, wants to dismantle aristocratic A-frames after a long, tiring day with a non-stop flexi-cat, or any other HLP species? There is only so much downtime before the nightly sleep debate enters phase googolplexian.

And so it came to be, that I was too lazy ever to take Sir Whiteboard down, and so there he remained, gleaming magnanimously and overpowering all else in the small cottage kitchen. And there he will remain, for he performed some kind of chicanery when he was released from his cardboard shackles. “What did he do?”, I hear you cry. Well now, I will explain. He did absolutely nothing. And that is why I love him. He stood there and aced the only form of parenting style with any hope of working on the most stubborn of flexi-cats: he let her come to him. And she did.

And thus, because of him, I know her manifesto for when she rules the world (gulp). I know her recipe for cakes, muffins, world peace and the reversal of climate change (the Demo-catic party – a misnomer if ever there was one – would ban modernity and demand an immediate return to the Georgian era, if you were wondering). Granted, there were other things too. The household may well by now be almost at saturation point for drawings of people burping and farting. We’ve had portraits of many an historical figure. Also, I admit, usually dealing with some kind of gas. But what we also had was a perfect outlet for her ideas, her plans, and a way for her to offload her busy brain.

Don’t get me wrong, she would, even before the era of the prized patrician, forever be jotting excerpts from half-thought out books and soon-to-be-abandoned plans for explosions or revenge or world-domination. But she would usually run out of steam before completion(which, for national security at least, is not necessarily a bad thing). She would also, pre-Sir W, happily speak of such plans (on fast forward and with no breaths in between). But after a few hours listening to such feverishly planned tyranny, one can sometimes switch off, and then so often end up uncertain as to who exactly would be oppressing whom. Sir W lent clarity to the proceedings and, I like to think, just a bit more, too.

Sir W never makes demands; never piles on the pressure of expectation, unlike those nasty notebooks; those iron-fisted calligraphy capturers from planet school. There the dutiful Sir W stands, ready to catch her thoughts at any point, but with an irresistible insouciance. It is almost as if he could not care less if she wrote on him or not. And so, of course, she does. Sir W is the noblest of the reverse psychology nobles.

It’s as if there’s a one page limit to flexi-cat’s putting-down-to-paper attention span and Sir W is the ultimate loophole. A page big enough for the most elaborate of ideas. Just one, laid back, chilled out ol’ page. No pressure here. Neither does Sir W mind messy writing, or words turning into drawings mid-concept. He knows that the convoluted artistic impression of a timeline and a graveyard and a baby’s cot illustrates flexi-cat’s understanding of Epicurus’ view that we should worry as little about our death as we do about before we were born. And because of him, I get to satisfy my bourgeois need to tick a few boxes now and then; to tell myself I know a little of what is going on, even if I am, on the whole, still lying to myself.

And so, for all of these reasons and more, I write this love letter to Sir W: it may be unexpected, it may be unconventional, but I really think I might, just a little bit, be in love with you, Sir W of my kitchen. xxx

** OE = Over Excitable

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