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The Thing Is with Steve Canavan

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Something terrible has happened. Our child, Mary, has started walking.

I say walking, it’s kind of staggering like someone who’s been on a seven-day bender with Oliver Reed, swaying from side to side and looking like she might totter headfirst into the cat bowl at any given moment.

She seems to have no spatial awareness whatsoever and has walked into the leg on the kitchen table seven days in a row now. Every time it happens, she falls over, rubs her head, adopts the same surprised ‘I can’t believe that just happened’ expression, then begins screaming.

The first couple of occasions I was sympathetic, scooping her up, giving her a cuddle and kissing the injured area (much like I did last week with a girl at badminton called Sarah when she pulled her groin halfway through a game). But from the third time onwards I’ve rolled my eyes, shaken my head and left her to cry herself out, while worrying she might just be a bit thick. I mean as Oscar Wilde famously wrote, ‘to once walk headfirst into a solid kitchen table leg may be regarded as misfortune, to do it seven times is just bloody stupid’.

Mrs Canavan has reacted to Mary’s walking as if we have witnessed some kind of minor miracle. ‘OH. MY. GOD,’ she screamed the first time it happened on Sunday.

I was in the bedroom doing some embroidery - it’s a hobby of mine; I’m yarning a lovely 16th century Japanese blanket at the moment – and sprinted downstairs, bursting breathless into the lounge, expecting to find some kind of shocking scene, possibly involving lots of blood and a large kitchen knife. Instead I found Mrs Canavan teary-eyed, hands clasped to her mouth in astonishment, pointing at our daughter as she unsteadily tottered a step or two and then collapsed in a heap, narrowly missing a potted plant.

“Everything Ok?” I asked.

‘Mary … just … WALKED,’ she gasped, breathing so heavily she had to pause between each word. For a moment I thought she was in cardiac arrest and began to wonder which of the neighbours was most likely to have a defibrillator. Probably Ethel at number seven, she’s looked a bit ashen for a while.

“Oh, very good,” I said, “well I’m upstairs if you need me” – and with that turned to go. Which apparently is not the correct reaction, for Mrs Canavan went ballistic and not for the first time accused me of showing a chronic lack of interest in our daughter, which is absolutely and categorically untrue; only last Friday I changed her nappy.

Of course I’m pleased that Mary is up on two feet but it’s no big deal is it? I mean it’s what happens. If she had got to the age of 16 and suddenly started walking after not previously being able to, then it would be worthy of astonishment and disbelief and excitement. But she’s a baby, it’s a natural progression.

I remarked this to Mrs Canavan but rather than calming her, she slammed the door in my face and muttered something about the marriage being over, which is cruel of her to get my hopes up.

Since Mary’s first tentative steps, she has come on at a rapid rate and now walks everywhere - the downside of which is that life will never be the same again. Months ago, people used to say ‘make the most of the baby stage, it goes so fast’. What I now realise they meant is, ‘how wonderful it is to be able to plonk your child in one place and go off and do something else’.

That’s what I used to do in the good old days, stick Mary on the floor in the lounge, then head to another room at the furthest side of the house to read a newspaper or play guitar for a few hours, occasionally popping in to stick her dummy back in when her distressed crying got too loud. That’s no longer possible for now you can’t let her out of your sight. She’s up the stairs, down the stairs, tugging at the bookcase, trying to pull the TV off its stand, fiddling with the oven or the washing machine, attempting to grab the cat by its tail, attempting to garrotte the cat, attempting to eat the cat’s food (sometimes I let her, it makes for much more interesting nappies). In short, it’s a nightmare.

The one, sole remaining happy period of the day is nap time, when between the hours of about noon and 2pm we put Mary in her cot and she sleeps. It is glorious. Apparently children stop having naps around the age of three. When we reach that stage I intend to move out and live elsewhere.

Pastry fail led wife to discovery

Mrs Canavan accused me of being sexist the other day.

She sent me to the shop to buy some pastry to go on top of the chicken pie she was making.

When I got to the store, however, I clean forgot which type of pastry she asked for. The choice in the fridge was puff or shortcrust.

There were three fellow shoppers nearby - two blokes and a woman - and after a moment’s hesitation I asked the woman if she knew which best went on a pie. She told me shortcrust, I thanked her profusely and purchased it.

I absent-mindedly recounted this hugely thrilling tale to Mrs Canavan back at the house and she asked why I didn’t turn to one of the men for pastry advice, labelling me sexist.

I dwelled on this and figured she had a point. But both the guys were burly-looking and wearing fluorescent workman jackets and had I asked them which pastry they’d recommend for a pie, I’m fairly sure they would have edged slowly away from me and told all their mates back at the depot they’d just been propositioned by some weirdo in the local Tesco Express.

So maybe I was sexist. But either way it didn’t matter – I got the wrong pastry, she’d wanted filo. Should have asked the blokes after all...