Any more arguments and the turtle gets it

So, how to entertain four children while going around the Francophone world looking at the sights?Well, not by introducing them to the delights of French life. “Not another croissant!” they yell over breakfast, while wailing for Cheerios.  And looking at the sights is another crap idea for inspiring people under the age of 13. All they want to look at is a miniscule screen, prefarably of the Nintendo or iPhone variety.  “Look out of the window at New Caledonia, wow, do you realise that you are looking at a flightless bird/ bit of rainforest/giant nickel mine”  has soon collapsed into “Please look out, just a little bit, at these amazing mountains,” and is now “Oh, just be quiet,here’s my i-Pod,  and let Daddy and I look out of the window, etc etc”.

The children just do NOT care about anything which does not directly impinge on their world and the French overseas territories are, sadly, not their world. They might well be mine, however, since after today’s shenanigans I’m seriously considering emigrating to countries under the jurisdiction of Paris. Or in fact, how about just Paris? Bad behaviour in the past on this trip has been quelled by Mr Millard throwing litres of water over various offenders. Today it was managed by yours truly threatening to hurl a much treasured furry turtle out of our apartment window. Eleven floors up. “Yes, but would you, Mummy?” was the fascinated question after the contretemps was over. You betcha.

I suppose we are to blame. Even when the going’s good, we have taken such a limited amount of amusement fodder on board for the children that each book/toy/pad has acquired totemic status. For example. Lucien has about  three hundred books to choose from at home, plus Islington’s West Library on the corner of our road. Here, he has five, namely the Little Red Train series by Benedict Blaythwyt.  These books! The detail! The iconic representation of the eponymous train, Duffy Driver’s extraordinary hair and  Jack the guard’s patch on his left knee. Oh, Benedict,  I know your entire canon in intricate detail. Every single page. Well,  I’ve been immersed in it every night for the last 13 weeks.

Meanwhile Honey gets Pippi Longstocking, bumper edition, a chapter a night, all good stuff,  and the older two are wading, with me, through David Copperfield, six pages per night. That’s all they can stomach, poor things, but it’s fine. God, but Dickens is good for long-haul. I can see why people wept when they greeted him in America. In the days before email and mobiles, he saved them from going bonkers, you see.  Thirteen weeks in the company of David, Steerforth et al,  and time just flies past.

It’s easy when you are in the presence of an epic, clearly. At least, if it isn’t our own particular epic.

“When are we going home?” asks Lucien every day. Only three weeks left to go, mon cheri. Next stop, La Reunion.

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