...is the current interest of a small relative, so when I was at his house looking after him and his little sister and baby brother this weekend, we spent a good deal of time organising the creation of rockets from cardboard boxes in the kitchen, and hauling them around the floor on missions to Mars etc. It was hot work.
At bedtime I enjoyed browsing through the children's books on the pretext of choosing a story for them. Small girl wanted the Christmas story. I explained that we were in July...to no avail. We read the Christmas story. She particularly loved a picture of Mary drooping sadly at the bottom of a tall flight of steps while Joseph bounded up to ask for a room, and an innkeeper at a window made a glum face indicating that there was none to be had. She wanted to act it out, so I was by turns Joseph and the innkeeper and she drooped gleefully as Mary and then jumped up gladly at the news that there was a stable nearby...after about the eighth time of doing all this I called a halt, and we had prayers and then finally Auntie could stagger downstairs and flop in the kitchen amid the remnants of rockets. When the young parents returned from their evening out they were amused at my exhaustion, explaining that it's the norm.
Sunday morning saw us all cheerily at Mass in a packed church, one family among great numbers of others with small children, people crammed into every pew in the large church and standing at the back and all down the sides...we had that rather hideous version of the Gloria in which you are made to clap rhythmically twice after the first line. Could we all somehow get together to ban this particular piece of nonsense? Trying to make the Gloria fit into this sort of jerky, confused jazzy mode is horrible. But I loved being at Mass with the children, who were quiet and well-behaved, small boy's exuberance manfully restrained as he wriggled in the pew next to his Daddy.
In the afternoon, we all came back to Auntie's house. Small girl tenderly nursed my ageing dolls (dating from the 1960s and living rather quiet cupbord life these days: it was a joy to see them reciving real affection. She bandaged the broken leg of one of them, and tucked them all up in a bed improvised from kitchen towels). Entertainment possibilities are a bit limited in Auntie's modest home so I took the children out down the back lane and we picked blackberries. Most satisfactory, and we got a great bowlful and marched it gleefully back into the house, small boy bearing it aloft triumphantly and treading squelchy mud into the carpets and along the sofa.
I was sad when the weekend was over and am sitting here with a glass of sherry feeling suddenly quiet after putting the dolls away.