I have been unimpressed with recent reads. I have little to offer in the way of recommendations this week, but have been thinking about the centrality of the library to the toddler life. It is a close, almost free, mutually fairly enjoyable outing. And like everything H does, it has been rigidly routinised. Our library outing is as follows:
- Stop on the way at the old Town Hall square with the empty fountain and the patch of grass. Do about thirty laps of the fountain with scooter. Hopefully make friends with a small boy with a better truck or train than ours. If there is a homeless individual with a can of lager enjoying a peaceful moment to himself, go over and loudly describe to him how a fire engine works.
- Move on to the fountain immediately outside the library with the strange angular mermaid with pert breasts. H: ‘hello, beautiful lady!’ Then a long discussion of the fact that we definitely do not want to go swimming in the bright green rubbish-filled slime that surrounds her. 'Oh no, we would not swim in there, would we mummy? No. It’s disgusting. DIS-GUSTING!'
- Scoot into library at 100 miles per hour with me shouting ‘H! We don’t scoot in the library!’
- Upstairs café to be avoided at all costs. Things that have happened there:
o H wet floor, himself and me in an awesome flood of toddler wee. I made joke. No-one laughed.
o I complimented man in pirate costume on his pirate costume. He said, ‘it’s not a costume’. He is a ‘period dresser’.
- Proceed into children’s section, whereupon we separate. H goes to stand in front of the DVD shelf, where he devises clever means to knock the ones he can’t reach off the top shelf, and then shouts the names of the ones he likes repeatedly: ‘Thomas! Bob! Fireman Sam! Peppa!’. It is very much as though he is praying to television.
- If the librarian offers us the coloured pencils and a picture, H colours for about twenty seconds and then hits a baby.
- H takes library cards and DVD money to the counter. If I forget and do this myself, he hurls himself on the floor and screams like I have put acid in his nappy.
- Outside in the fresh air, happily back on scooter, H quietly congratulates himself on having stuck to the golden rule of library going: do not at any stage look at a book or allow librarians or other parents to suspect that you have ever read one.
- Bedtime: read all books with angelic countenance and intelligent questioning never to be demonstrated in public. Select one book to be read thirty-five times per day for the next four days; following which we will never, ever read it again.
The consummate toddler outing: surreal, loud, inconvenient to the childless, full of learning, full of rebellion. Libraries can accommodate all of this quite well. Only rarely is there a feud with a stranger. We need them. I really hope they don’t all disappear as the budget for everything and anything goes down the toilet.