Friday, June 08, 2007

Tic, Tac, Toe....

Tic, tac, toe.
Give me an A,
Give me an O,
Give me a three in a row.
Tic, tac, toe.

I've never known what this game was before, but Spouse and I are getting a crash course as the kids have played it all the way from Paris to Worms (where we stopped overnight), and are now in full flow en route to Hanover.

It turns out to be a version of Paper, Scissors, Stone, and when someone wins/loses the game continues with the winner tracing a finger up the loser's back with the immortal words:

Spider crawling up my back,
Which finger did that?

The loser then has to guess the offending finger (nos 3&4 cheat all the time and guess all of them).

Whoever loses that time gets punched on the arm with:

I win, you lose,
You will get the biggest bruise,

followed swiftly by:

I win, you're a nickel
You'll get the biggest tickle.


I don't know where my kids get this stuff from. They pick it up in the playground through some kind of weird childhood osmosis. Lots of the rhymes they sing are variations of one that were around in my day, but tic, tac, toe is a new one on me.

Not that I'm complaining mind, because we're driving through the Weser mountains in the pouring rain and I'm immensely grateful for anything keeping them entertained.

We're on the third leg of our journey, and it's no 2's ninth birthday. Poor no 2, being as her birthday falls on bank holiday weekend, we always seem to be away. She hasn't had a birthday at home since she was four. When she was five, we went to Ireland for the weekend; when she was six we went to Germany. And I will forever remain covered in guilt - I'm a catholic, I give good guilt, me - that thanks to Spouse whisking me away to Venice for my fortieth, we weren't actually there AT all on her 7th. (Mind you, she told me the other day that she got three cakes as a result, so perhaps the experience hasn't scarred her for life). Last year we were in Germany again, flying out on her birthday. She must feel very got at.

No 2's birthday is one of the reasons I wasn't keen to make this trip right now. The first reason was the wedding, which I had been invited to over a year before mil decided we had to visit her German family. I don't mind going, in fact, I like it, but... I was very grouchy about a)having my plans interfered with and b) no 2's birthday. (there were two other reasons making me grouchy, of which more later)

No 2 was actually astonishingly good about the fact that she spent most of her birthday in the car. We tried to lighten it up for her by opening some presents in the hotel in Worms before we left. Luckily one of them was an electronic game of twenty questions, which also caused much diversion. I managed to fox it by suggesting toe nails as my object and Spouse confused it by saying hair. Thankfully, it kept the kids entertained for hours...

Our first stop was Hanover, to meet up with mil's cousin who has Parkinsons and lives in a home there. It's all a bit sad really - the first time we went three years ago the cousin who is possibly suffering from something alzheimers related forgot all about us, and went off to her room. Last year when we were there, she was brighter, but the joy with which her fellow residents greeted us suggested that they don't get to see the young very often.

And I don't know, maybe it's me, but... even though this home is very bright, and has a lovely cafe, and lots of facilities, there is just something unutterably sad and hopeless about these places. People are just sitting here, eking out their last few years with very little to look forward to. God's Waiting Room by any other name...

But, despite that, mil's cousins are pleased to see us all, and we are particularly pleased to be reunited with the younger sister, whom we last saw in Berlin in 1991, I think. She has brought little Berlin bears for the children, and we have an interesting chat about how Berlin has changed (we went just after the wall came down, and before they took Check Point Charlie away). Luckily she speaks a fair bit of English, because since my French sojourn, I seem to be utterly incapable of understanding any German whatsoever. I can hear the words, but they're washing over me. Sheesh, I feel like I understand less now then I did on my first trip eighteen years ago...

We can only spare an hour or so in Hanover before going on to the little town we stay in outside Wolfsburg. We've stayed in the same hotel several times, and they know us. Because there is a bank holiday, though, the whole place is shut up and we've been given a code for the safe to get our keys. To my amazement it works...

I was angsting hugely before we left about how to get no 2 a birthday cake, as the bank holiday would mean no opportunity to buy one. Luckily I was in Waitrose half an hour before school pick up on the day before we went, so it suddenly dawned on me I could get a cake there. I have had it at my feet all the way through Europe. The weather is so rubbish, it has no opportunity to get too hot in the car.

No 2 has sat patiently for hours not opening presents, so we let her rip everything open as soon as we are settled. Then we pop across to the little restaurant across the street, where mil hilariously accuses the proprietor of having put on weight (apparently in Germany this ISN'T an insult, as it indicates you are prosperous. Sounds a bit mediaeval to me...) - in fact it isn't the proprietor at all, but his brother. Whom we meet the following night, and are reassured to find is still very thin.

Along with the cake, I have secreted candles, but now that we've both given up smoking we have no lighters (Spouse in fact has made it a year today) - so we borrow some from the restaurant, and I sneak the two littlies back to our bedroom, where I frantically set about lighting nine candles, which stubbornly refuse to be lit, while Spouse brings mil back, and no 1 distracts no 2.

To me utter amazement it works. The room is in darkness, everyone crowded in the corner, and no 2 hasn't had a clue till she walks in and we start singing her happy birthday. The sight of her face gets rid of (most of ) the guilt about not being at home, as she genuinely thought she wouldn't be getting a cake.

She might not get the best of birthdays, but they're always... well sort of... interesting....

Fur Nummer zwei, mein kleines leibchen....

Herrzliche Gluckwunsche an dein Geburtstagxxxxxx

PS as a rider to this post. Today it is mil's birthday. And no 1 is taking part in a quiz for school. It is also the ONLY day I could arrange a birthday party with no 2's best friend. Soooo....

I have already been round to mil's with flowers and a cake.
I am picking the kids up at 3.30 and whizzing round there with a present.
I have to be at Pizza Express at 4.45.
And someone is picking no 1 up at 5.45 and depositing her with us.
Spouse may even join us at some point.

Think of me....

1 comment:

ChrisH said...

Have just read your novel racer comments... deep breath now, I'm sure your WIP is just fine. Keep going!