Distracted Dad

Richard Hearn on a messy culinary adventure

Let me give you an insight into lunch out with Youngest™. Beware, I’m going into almost slow-motion detail. Like a Booker Prize winner, but without the writing quality.

Also there’s more slapstick. In fact, because Youngest™ doesn’t speak, and I can’t draw diagrams in this column, it’s going to be like the novelisation of a Mr Bean episode. So if that’s your cup of tea then: 1. Read on and 2. Are you mad?

He’s in the pushchair at the start. This is good in one way, he’s contained, but does make it tricky carrying anything. There’s a lot of planning involved. I scour the room for a decent place. A helpful assistant carries my tray while Youngest™ arches his back to get out.

I wrestle him out of his coat, which really should come with instructions, it’s so complicated. He has a tuna sandwich, I have a chicken sandwich and a coffee. He’s already had raisins in the pushchair. One of the raisins drops on the next table. (Remember that plot point).

“I reach over – she thinks I’m about to steal her flapjack – and I retrieve the raisin”

Illustration: Paul Lewis www.pointlessrhino.com

I stir my coffee, pleased to be sitting down and relaxing. He squeaks and points, till I give him my teaspoon. He is happy for two seconds. Then he squeaks and points at the small cup that contained milk for coffee. I drain it, wipe it and pass it over. He picks up his tuna sandwich and stuffs it in the cup.

Then he cranes his neck around and stares at the foreign students. They smile at him and wave. He stuffs more tuna sandwich in the cup and looks back at them for extra approval.

All the while, I am trying to coax him into more food. I have some pear in the bag which he does eat, but he doesn’t want the yoghurt, he wants the spoon. He starts trying to spoon his tuna sandwich out of the cup, and because he’s eating some of it, I sit back a little.

I mistakenly get a pen and notebook out of my pocket to write a list. He shrieks and points at the pen. I give in (again) and pass him the pen. He turns and shows it to the foreign students. They smile and wave (again).

He knocks over his tuna-in-a-cup. I get it for him. As he watches me do his errands, he spots the raisin on the next table, which by now has someone sitting at it. He strains in his chair, and the woman’s confused because from her angle, she can’t see the raisin. I reach over – she thinks I’m about to steal her flapjack – and I retrieve the raisin.

I struggle him back in the coat. We go.

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