The ten-year-old points to a cluster of tiny spots on her forearm and informs me she is allergic to sunlight. Her eyes shimmer with the kind of longing I recognize from my own teenage flirtation with exotic maladies.
“I don’t have ANY allergies”, says the five-year-old, developing a pronounced limp as she approaches us. “But the back of my knee hurts a lot.”
The five-year-old has acquired a range of issues that affect her mobility. The back of her knee is a total bastard, but there is also an itch under the nail of her big toe, and a surface scratch on her calf, which reminds her of the vulnerability of human flesh.
“Such a drama queen”, says the ten-year-old.
The ten-year-old has a short memory. Last year, she was THIS close to putting “crutches” on her wish list for Father Christmas. Also, those who don’t have to walk anywhere, i.e. amputees, paraplegics, and the wheelchair-bound, still give her the hump.
Pitiful grunting noises now accompany all trips to the kitchen, whilst those familiar with the TV series Ninja Warrior will know what I mean when I say that the sounds my daughters make as they go upstairs is EXACTLY the same sound Ninja Warrior contestants make when they scale Mount Midoriyama.
“Why can’t we get an elevator already?” protests the ten-year-old.
“The word is lift”, I say, pointlessly. “Elevator is an Americanism.”
“Me and Annie are getting houses with glass elevators. Like the ones in shopping malls”, she says, lingering over the word 'mall'.
Annie is one of my daughter’s best friends. She and my daughter hope to commission an Olympic-sized swimming pool filled with jelly beans, which not only says a lot about their attitude to exercise, but confirms my suspicion that 'Water Babies' was, in hindsight, an even bigger waste of money than baby yoga, baby massage, and FUCKING. MONKEY. MUSIC.
"Carry me mammy!” wails the five-year-old, languishing on the third step.
|This is a photograph of somebody else's daughters. Obviously.|
I worry that they get it from me. When I was a teenager, I watched a film called The Man With Two Brains, in which Steve Martin’s character falls in love with a living brain stored in a jar of liquid, with which he communicates telepathically. I longed to be the brain-in-the-jar woman. The brain-in-the-jar woman never had to endure the ritual humiliation of rounders. The brain-in-the-jar woman never had to stagger around the yard like a penguin, thanks to constantly twisted ankles. The brain-in-the-jar woman never had to adopt the posture of a hunchback to conceal her height. Nobody ever looked at the brain-in-the-jar woman and thought, “OMG. A gigantic hunchbacked fucking penguin.”
But I digress.
The fact is that nowadays, I’m definitely more committed to the idea of exercise and wellbeing than my family.
“Why don’t we do some of the Wales Coast Path?” I say to my husband, as we are on a family holiday in West Wales recently.
My husband looks at me with a blend of horror and bewilderment, as though I have suggested we douse ourselves in urine and go on a naked looting spree of nearby historic towns. The girls, who are sitting on the sofa salivating over You Tube images of The Person With The Most Verrucas Ever, look up from their iPads, stricken.
“I was awake all night. I didn’t sleep until it was light”, says the ten-year-old. “This is the MOST tired I’ve ever been.”
“My pants has gone up my bottom”, wails the five-year-old. “It’s REALLY ouchy!”
The situation is so dire that I have capitulated to getting a dog, which we pick up this weekend; an energetic two-year-old boxer called Daisy, who promises to be the cure for our collective hypochondria. Inspired by the dog’s infectious energy, my daughters will shun their iPads in favour of hopscotch, skipping ropes, and ball games. (Although when I say ball games, I don’t mean hockey. Hockey sticks contain an iron core forged in Hell. Hockey also has the effect of turning girls into cold-blooded handmaidens of Satan. It’s true.) No, when I say ballgames, I mean donkey, or piggy in the middle.
I test my theory out on the ten-year-old, as we are walking home from school the other day.
“Are you looking forward to going for walks with the dog?” I say, hopefully.
“Yes. But only when my ankle’s better”, she says. "I think I twisted it."
“Owww”, says the five-year-old, from behind.