Friday, 8 November 2013

Sharing Houses, Sharing Toilet Paper, Sharing Lives

My living arrangements have (more or less) always been (relatively) successful. I lived in the same house all my life (moved there when I was still a babe in arms), until the day I moved to Nottingham in order for my university career to commence. And since then I’ve lived in quite a few different, interesting set ups.

2009-2010: Halls.

Most students remember Freshers year as being the most fun, most ‘jokes’ year of their little lives. Not me. I never was, and never aspired to be a BNOC (Big Name On Campus. I know, I know, some people are so embarrassing), so the competitive chanting on buses about necrophilia, the drinking ‘Carny Cocktail’ out of reps’ dirty underwear, the downing smoothies made of 8 Big Macs, and the being locked in underground bunkers for 48 hours in order to make it onto the netball team was all a bit lost on me. I did have an absolutely lovely time, but in my own, atypical way. I was placed in halls that were made up entirely of international students, who had all been there 2 weeks by the time I moved in, and had already decided that they had no intention of hanging out either outside of the library, or with anyone English. I’ll never forget the night I tentatively knocked on my neighbour’s door (from what I’d heard through the wall he seemed like a fun time. He spent his down time listening to one Chinese pop song over and over and over again and singing along at the top of his lungs) to ask him if he wanted to come out with us (by this time I’d made a few pals, and we’d decided to cling onto each other for dear life.) Looking completely taken aback to find me standing at his door, my neighbour asked me to repeat my request a number of times (I did, each time slightly less hopefully). When he finally understood that I wasn’t asking him for money or to sign a petition, but merely asking for the pleasure of his company, he giggled nervously, shook his head, and said, ‘erm... no... No thank you.’
I never bothered asking again. I don’t think we ever even spoke again, actually.
But that’s the way Freshers goes. In the first week you introduce yourself to 200 people, forget 198 names, go out with at most 15 of them, and by week 2 you’re already ignoring 10 of those 15 when you bump into them on campus. Well, that’s what happened to me anyway. I know people who still now know everyone on their course’s names, their parents’ names, their date of births, who they’re sleeping with and every detail of their LinkedIn profiles (C.H., I’m looking at you!)
That’s all a bit too much effort for me.
So I found my little clique (little being the key word)- a Chinese princess with a penchant for taking minute by minute photos of our every move (J.Z.); a history student from Essex who lived on the floor below (who I had a bit of a thing for); a hypochondriac, gay drama queen with a persecution complex who lived two floors up from us (who I never could quite decide if I liked, but now, in hindsight, realise I actually detested); and a sweet girl obsessed with flower print anything who lived opposite me and could hear every single thing that happened in my room (not that it was ever outrageously juicy), even if both our doors were closed.
Ignoring the slow start, this living arrangement worked. I had my own space, with friends a few doors away, but still had the knowledge that if any of them got on my nerves I could close my door and not have to deal with them.
And we had fun.
We really did.
Me and history boy got on like a house on fire- we would do our weekly shops together, study together, and we even had a very, very fleeting romance. Which ruined things. Of course. Then we drifted apart. But that was okay.
Flower girl left after one term for family reasons.
Hypo drama bitch left (my life) after one term too. Not for family reasons. More for being-an-annoying-prick reasons.
But J.Z.? Well, me and J.Z. shared midnight hospital visits, awkward encounters with the police, boy troubles, family problems and everything in between. She stayed for the duration, and we became each other’s life partners, spending every waking moment together. Which leads me to...
2010-2011: Dream House. (This is what we nicknamed it. Not because it was particularly dreamy; it was a very normal two bedroom place. It gained this name more because of all the ‘inhabitable slums’ we’d visited before. After one such visit J.Z. actually wailed in despair, ‘how can I be wearing Prada shoes in such a shithole?!’ So.) 

This was my second year home, and I lived there very happily with J.Z. We were basically a same sex, platonic married couple, and it was cosy and fun and girly and cute. We’d sing duets together, spend two hours getting ready for nights out, get takeout and eat it off each other’s laps, roll around on the floor when we were stressed over exams and coursework, and shop a bit more frequently than our student loan necessarily allowed. We never fought over things like the washing up (she washed, I dried), who bought the toilet paper last, or how long to have the heating on for. One time we went to a house party around the corner from us in an all male house. As we were led into the kitchen to get drinks we noticed that there was a photo of each of the boys on the different cupboards. Thinking, ‘ha! These boys are kooky! What larks!’, we asked them what the story behind the photos was.
‘Is it a way of documenting who’s slept with the most girls?’ we asked.
‘Do you put them up when it’s someone’s birthday?’
‘Do you just prefer having photos of each other up rather than posters?’
‘Well, why the fuck are they up there then?!’
Wish I’d never asked. It turned out that the photos indicated who’s cupboard was who’s. In disbelief I opened one, only to find that each jar and pot and bottle inside was individually labelled with its owner’s name (just to be extra safe, I guess.) THAT’S NO WAY TO LIVE.
So after that particular experience I relished my own little home and housemate even more.
Another thing that brought me and J.Z. even closer was the other person who lived in our house: Bezza (officially known to her friends as Beryl). A frail old lovey who lived on the top floor, and had lived on that same floor for most of her adult life. We had separate entrances of course, and we even started out as something like friends.
J.Z. could never quite understand what I saw in Bez, proclaiming, ‘she’s a twat.’ But I like older people; they have more stories to tell. Bez would come down sometimes to ask me to help with things like her telephone, and we’d sit in the kitchen and drink tea, while she told me accounts of all the places she’d travelled and how in love with her hubby (R.I.P.) she’d been (and still was.) Meanwhile, J.Z. would come in every now and then, rolling her eyes the whole time, and managing a ‘hi Cheryl’ (‘BERYL, J, HER NAME IS BERYL!’) at an absolute push. Poor Bez, she didn’t deserve such an icy reception.
The phonecalls started out very politely- ‘Silvia? Would you mind turning that music down a tad?’
‘Sure Beryl, no problem!’
Pretty quickly they became more frequent and pedantic.
‘Silvia? Could you get someone to mow your lawn? It looks like we live in a slum.’
‘Oh... right... erm, yeah, okay.’
Once she’d got comfortable with me, the calls really escalated.
‘Silvia, it’s really not on that you’re putting other people’s rubbish in your wheelie bin. You do know that that’s against the law?’
‘Beryl, that’s actually just our rubbish, you know...’
‘I find it hard to believe that just two of you have produced that much rubbish...’ (Why the fuck are you rifling through our bins?! I thought you could barely make it down the stairs!)
Another time she called me and forbade us to take showers after 10pm.
One morning I left the house to go to uni and noticed something wasn’t quite right. From the corner of my eye, I could see that our wheelie bin had been graffitied. With tippex. In shaky, old-woman handwriting, ‘STUDENTS’ had been scrawled on the lid. This meant war.
I stopped answering Beryl’s calls.
Ignored her completely.
Oh. Right.
Beryl didn’t carry out her threat, and she calmed down after that outburst. Me and J.Z. really thought we’d turned a corner. Beryl had stopped banging on the floor every time me and J.Z. talked or moved or breathed, she’d stopped calling me, and she’d even stopped peering out her window every time we walked up the garden path (let me tell you, that is CREEPY on winter nights.)
She was a little mouse for ages. Absolutely ages.
Calmly working on an essay in my bedroom one afternoon (which was at the front of the house, looking out onto the street), I noticed there was a palaver going on outside. Flashing lights, police cars, police officers, just loads of police everywhere.
I couldn’t believe my eyes. That little bitch. Beryl had obviously given us a false sense of security and called the police about us after all when we least expected it. What. a. waste. of. police. time. Honestly. The sad old bat.
I was in the house on my own, and really had to psych myself up to go outside and explain to an officer that everything had been blown out of proportion.
I took a deep breath and made my way over to a police car.
‘Hey, look... about Beryl...’
‘Do you know her well?’ the police officer interrupted me.
‘Yeah, she’s my neighbour.’
‘When did you last hear from her?’
My heart sank as I realised that the last time I’d heard from her was when she’d screamed down the phone at me about the noise. I started to tell him that it was over a week ago, but that honestly she’d exaggerated the whole thing...
‘Yeah, I think she’d been dead quite a few days up there,’ he said.
I had a really bad few hours. I even cried. However, the feeling that we’d driven her to an early grave was soon erased when J.Z. got home.
‘J, Beryl’s dead.’
‘Aw, sad. What are we having for dinner?’ (Please do bear in mind that J.Z.’s not made of stone; she’s simply Asian.)
Getting back to the matter in hand, the only time me and J.Z. ever had a real problem was when she started seeing this Australian tosser, who was never very nice to her, and always left her in floods of tears, with me picking up the pieces. Now, I don’t mind doing that; I don’t mind at all. That’s my job as a friend. BUT, he used to wear white. backless. mules. With a bit of a platform.
I mean, everyone is entitled to their own style- lord knows I’m a fan of the occasional orthopedic-looking shoe, but here I had to draw the line. The shoes were just salt in the wound.
So when he started coming round 4, 5, 6 times a week, me and J.Z. had a discussion. It ended with her declaring that I didn’t want her to be happy, and with me announcing that she was being compeletely unreasonable and selfish.
Less than two hours later we’d come to an agreement and were in her bed, snuggling, drinking tea and watching TOWIE. That’s how we worked. And we worked very well.

2011-2012: France Part I.
The year I moved to France. The first time. 
The first 7 months I was there I worked in a school in the South in the middle of nowhere. It was a tiny town and when I found out that I’d been placed there I cried for 2 days straight (I’ve never been one to take life changes lightly.)
I arrived, having no living arrangements in place, and with very dubious French skills. I stayed in a hotel until I found my little home (thankfully the ladies who worked in the estate agent's were patient little angels.) But when I did find it I was perfectly content there.
It was an 'apartment' (more of a large studio) that had started its life as a waiting room for a law firm. A law firm which I had to walk through every day in order to get to my front door. Mais ca va. Aside from an awful few weeks when I had an infestation of wood louse, and a tiny bit of homesickness until my American soul sistah (L.T.) arrived on the scene, I was happy and comfortable.
Then I moved to Paris.
The less said about this nunnery I lived in the better. Here's a little something to refresh your memory if you really must insist:
Honestly, the only way I got through that ordeal was by topping and tailing with my Parisian pals as often as possible.

2012-2013: Church Street, The Wonder Years.

In my final year of university I was nervous. All of my close friends had done 3 year courses. Meaning that by the time I got back from France all of my pals had graduated. Who was I going to live with??
With visions of moving back into halls and dealing with unfriendly international students all over again, I received a message from G.B., a friend from first year, who told me that she’d arranged to live in a house with some people she knew, and did I want to join?
Yes, I wanted to join.
Thank god for G.B.
She was going to move in with three Scousers (who I vaguely knew) and another girl who I’d met a few times. They seemed like a nice group of people and as we set up a group Facebook message and started to chat I knew we’d all get on.
By the time we moved into the house (which was really grim, but we made into our home) the housemates had changed somewhat. Two people had to drop out, and we found another girl through an advertisement. It ended up being me, G.B., C.M. (who I knew through a night out, where we’d been ‘playfully‘ fighting in the snow, until we looked down and the snow was red. I’d ripped off her toenail. Great first impression...), J.G. (‘a weedy little Scouse boy’ as he likes to describe himself), and R.H., a Yorkshire girl, who (ignoring the cliche) drinks endless cups of tea. Four girls, one boy.
J.G. is not gay (I can vouch for that); all that this set-up meant for him is that he very quickly realised that living with loads of girls is less pillow fights in lingerie, more grubby dressing gowns, muzzy cream and in sync periods. Poor mite.
From the very first week there were absolutely no boundaries. We were all up in each other’s shit at all times. And we loved it. I’d smile at the thought of going home after a shit day to a house full of my mates. We did everything together: nights out, meal times, the walk into uni, the twice daily trips to Sainsbury’s, movie nights, the gym, holidays, weekends away... We were inseparable. And we only got closer.
We weren’t just housemates; we were really, really good friends. And we still are.
J.G. in particular- we followed each other around like puppies. Me and him had a lot of classes together, so we’d often spend whole days together, going home together and not leaving each other’s sides even then. (We liked each other's company so much in fact, that he's now my boyfriend. But that's another story...)
Once again, in this house, the usual issues that people have when they live together weren’t ever issues. None of us are stinges, so money was always handled with a ‘it’ll come back around to you eventually’ mentality, and housework was... never really handled.
It was blissful.       

2013-2014: Now.
This is where I reside. Right. Now.
I wouldn't dare complain. It's utterly beautiful. But it's not my own.
I keep bumping into a baldy middle aged man in the hall, and I know he's probably just as uncomfortable about it as I am.
There's no wandering around in my pants; there's no playing my music loud; there's definitely no guests (not that I have anyone I could even ask over just yet. But I'm working on it!)
So I sucked it up and sent an email to A.V. and P.P. (I know, I'm a wimp) to ask if I could help them look for an apartment for me.
Turns out, if you don't ask, you don't bloody get!
They said yes. They told me the budget, told me to go on some viewings, and told me to not pick anywhere grim.
So, once again, the flat search begins.
Wish me luck!

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Disciplining the Undisciplinable

Last night was a big night for me and E.V.P. It was our first night chez daddy without daddy being there. It was a fragile situation that needed handling with great care. And although I donned my metaphorical pristine white gloves and determined to use my most delicate demeanour with him no. matter. what., we inevitably had some struggles. As excited as he was to be having ‘a sleepover’ with me and Viola, we did encounter a few minor blips at the start, most notably:

Our First (Little) Problem
I realised 5 minutes before he was let out of school that I hadn't brought a snack for him, so with no boulangeries in sight, I raced into the nearest supermarket and looked for anything with additives and a fun packet. I opted for some disgusting looking bacon flavoured chipsticks and ran back to E's school to greet him. When I sheepishly handed over the treat, I was expecting him to voice his deepest disgust and disappointment. But alas! He was pleased as punch, calling out 'YIPPEE', causing all the curious nearby parents to peer over to investigate what had merited such glee... Of course, I was immediately flashed with daggers when the observers saw that it was nothing more noteworthy than an inexperienced au pair downgrading from the standard post-school pain au chocolat/croissant/crepe to the humble crisp.
Me and my tiniest pal skipped all the way home, only pausing as we neared the Monoprix, where E.V.P. stopped me in my tracks to drag me in (I do occasionally have some control over him, I swear.)
'Buy me my snack, then!' he ordered. Oh right, sorry. It's just that I was under the impression that you'd just eaten your weight in bacon chipsticks...?
However, feeling somewhat guilty for not catering to his most basic of needs, I caved. Heading to the confectionary aisle, my head held low in shame, I noticed there was something amiss. Where was my teeny companion?
It didn't take long to locate him- he was at the entrance of the shop, looking longingly in turn at those stupid (child magnet) machines (the ones where you put a euro in and receive a shit plastic egg with an even shitter toy encased within) to my bag, and back again.
'No,' I said.
His face began to crumple.
I am not cruel. I don’t say ‘no’ for the sake of saying ‘no.’ I said it in this particular instance because I believe that he should start learning that he won’t always get whatever he asks for (I certainly don’t), and more importantly that his tantrums will not always be rewarded.
So I took his reluctant hand and led him away, catching another shopper's eye and exchanging a knowing, long-suffering look (even though I've only technically been suffering for 3 weeks. But you can't put a time frame on the uphill struggle of taking care of a bubba). 'Kids, ey?' our looks seemed to say to each other. Or something like that.
So after I'd picked up every box of biscuits and cakes in the shop, each one receiving a negative head shake and a sigh, we eventually settled on the plainest, most obvious biscuits in existence (incidentally, the very first ones I'd suggested.) I then (very, very foolishly) fished out the exact change to pay for them, and E.V.P. asked to count it. Pleased to see him practicing his maths outside of the classroom I (very, very foolishly) let him.
Ever the sneaky snake, he grabbed a €1 piece and made a mad dash to the front of the shop (of COURSE he did), snacks utterly discarded.
I sprinted after him, but to no avail (he's surprisingly speedy... or more accurately, I'm surprisingly slow.) By the time I'd reached him he'd already slipped the coin into the slot and was looking up at me, proudly.
'No!' I said, somewhat redundantly now.
Physically removing his tiny paw from the machine, I retrieved the coin. Exhausted, I took his hand and started to pull him back to the snack aisle. As I struggled I happened to catch the eye of the same man from before. My kindred long-suffering spirit. OR SO I THOUGHT... 
The man smiled at me again, came closer ('erm?' I thought), came closer still, held out his hand towards E.V.P. ('oh no', I thought), and... handed the grateful tot a euro coin!!
The fucking traitor.
Now E.V.P. is not my son. It is not really my job to discipline him. But when I get the chance to put some rules into place, I take it. For complete strangers to then take it upon themselves to stand in my way and give him mixed messages is not only infuriating, but also inappropriate. Completely inappropriate. T'es qui, toi?!

A relationship with a child is no easier than a relationship with an adult. In fact, I'd readily go as far as saying that it's much more difficult. As much as you may want to be his pal, a child needs to be disciplined, and that naturally doesn't always go paw in paw with being his best mate.
With this particular pup we have a big problem. A big rectangular shaped problem. The iPad. Or more precisely: the iPads (he has two.) His parents don't like him playing on it/them too much, but he's incapable of understanding the concept of 'just a few minutes.' Usually he’s allowed ‘15 minutes’ or even ‘half an hour.’ However, whenever the fateful time comes for him to switch it off, without fail we have tears, sulking, foot stamping, and utter hysteria. For our little hero, when it comes to his iPad(s), as my beloved Luther once said, it really is 'Never Too Much.' Which leads me to...

Our Second (Slightly Larger) Problem
Later that night me and E.V.P. encountered said second problem. I took the (obviously outrageous) liberty of taking his iPad off him and hiding it (nothing else seems to prove quite as effective) because he wasn't listening to me, an action which well and truly opened the floodgates.
He cried for 5 minutes straight (that may not sound like a lot, but my god, it fucking is when there's nowhere to hide), then grumpily sloped off (where he actually did hide) to the shower (a favourite hangout of his.) Finally, ignoring him and going to make myself a mug of tea, he (in what I can only assume was a final act of desperation in a bid to make me jealous) acted as though he was having the best time anyone's ever had with some figurines shaped like rubbish bins ('best game ever!', he cooed; 'so much fun!' he whooped, 'cool!' he exclaimed.)
Calling a truce, I then attempted to reason with him about why I'd taken his precious iPad away from him. But there was no reasoning to be done here.
He glared at me, shook his head in disdain and then proceeded to hurl a barrage of words at me, not with anger but with immense disappointment (eugh, everyone knows that's the worst)- 'I thought tonight was going to be really fun, and it's actually turned out to be a disaster!' (soz tiny guilt tripper.)
I would have to agree with him there, though. Success story, this was not.
Getting heated, and really in the stride of things now, he well and truly wound himself up into a frenzy. My personal highlight was: 'you never want me to be happy! You want me to be deprived! You don't want me to ever play on it! You've hidden it FOREVER!!'
Trying to calmly explain to a hysterical six year old that you've taken his most prized, most cherished possession off him 'just for now' is no mean feat. All he can understand is that right now there is no iPad. And really, when you're six (and even when you're twenty-two) right now is all that really matters.
Anyway, we eventually managed to move forward with our lives and let go of the past. Or so I thought.
E.V.P. appeared to have forgiven me, but little did I know that under the surface he was merely plotting his revenge, quietly waiting for the perfect moment to strike when my guard was down.
And my guard was definitely down when P.P. called to check up on E.V.P. later that afternoon. I only heard one side of the conversation, and it went something like this:
‘Salut papa!’
‘Oui... ca va.’
‘Oui, nous avons passé un bon moment...’ (We’ve had a good time.)
‘Mais Silvia est méchante. Elle a dit que je ne pourrai jamais avoir mon iPad. Jamais...’ (But Silvia is nasty. She said I could never have my iPad. Ever.)
E.V.P. then leaned on the phone, unwittingly putting it on speaker phone, just in time for me to hear the words: ‘Bien sûr que tu peux jouer sur l’iPad, chéri.’ (Of course you can play on the iPad, darling.) Oh throw me a bloody line, P.P.!
And then to top the whole escapade off, when we had another iPad breakdown earlier today, Viola simply placed E.V.P. in front of the TV and left him to lick his whiskers with complete victorious satisfaction.
I swear to god. 

A quick aside... What's the general protocol on letting children win games?
Me and E.V.P. play football a lot. I've never been good at sports. Ever. And I'm still not. So when we play and I win, I win. I don't pretend to let him win. Nobody ever pretended to let me win when I was little. My dad would actually make a point of dancing around triumphantly whenever he beat me at anything, so I soon learnt not to be a sore loser. And, in my humble opinion, that’s the best way.
With this though, we don’t have any kind of problem. E.V.P. is always the bigger man, and will happily admit when he’s losing (well... most of the time.)
Last night we played a particularly energetic football match, and the aims were gradually extended as he got more and more into it (and also every time he realised he wasn’t quite winning.)
‘First to five wins!’
‘I meant ten!’
‘Okay, first to twenty!’
‘Well... let’s just see who the first to get thirty points is, shall we?’
‘Shall we do fifty?’
This got tedious f a s t. So I played some music to help pass the time.
The first song that came on my iPhone was ODB and Kelis’ ‘Baby I got your money.‘ (My iTunes needs updating. Shut up.) When it came to the bit where ODB sings, ‘I don't have no trouble with you fucking me, but I have a little problem with you not fucking me,’ I thought it best to quickly change over. Rhye came on next, and E.V.P. asked me to turn it up. In English. When Luther came on and E.V.P. descended into frenzied air guitar madness I really started to think, ‘hey, I think I’d want to be your pal even if I wasn’t being paid to be (well, if and when they ever decide to give me any money.) Even though you’re six, and solve arguments by screaming and sobbing (not unlike the more dramatic of my gal pals), I think you might actually be a laugh.’
So. We’ve turned a corner. And now we’re standing on the precipice of a breakthrough.   

Sunday, 3 November 2013


Now, as an only child and a fiercely independent one at that, when I was younger I was forced to be extremely creative when it came to entertaining myself. I could have hours of fun with three pebbles and a plastic cup (I had a lovely childhood, promise.) It’s the same with babies at Christmas or birthdays- you spend a fortune on a thoughtful and fun gift and they ignore it completely to concentrate wholeheartedly on the box it’s wrapped in.
However, with E.V.P. this is not really the case...
He has an overflowing toy box (and toy wardrobe, and toy chest, and toy set of drawers, and toy container, and general toy emporium) at both mummy and daddy’s house. His toys range from the humble football to a Lego Star Wars Red Five X-Wing Starfighter... And everything in between. On an average day we play with approximately... 99% of all his toys. We’ll seamlessly go from a darts tournament to a heated car chase to a Pokemon card competition (are they called competitions?! Fuck knows what I’m playing most of the time.) He has the attention span of a goldfish. Maybe because he’s so quick and smart. There’s no ‘hey! Why don’t we play sleeping for a while?’ with E.V.P. None o’ that. He has this little look he gives me that simply says, ‘do you think I was born yesterday, you ridiculous idiot?’
Despite myself, I do find most of his games quite fun (but almost always ludicrously complicated). He’s constantly having to stop halfway through his construction of the Eiffel Tower in miniature or his excavation of pretend Chinese gold mines to sigh and talk me through what I’m meant to be doing. ‘Why are you putting that Shogun steel Beyblade into the hybrid wheel?! That doesn’t even go together!’ he’ll sigh, exasperatedly, and I’ll nod in agreement.
‘Ah yeah, I know, I was just... checking that you know! Ha ha ha... ha.’
This truly is an education.

My memory is atrocious. I can’t remember what I did last night never mind what I used to play when I was six. However, I can vividly remember some of my favourite games included jumping off the side of my Nonna’s house with my cousins, competing to see who could jump from the highest (and coincidentally most dangerous) height. This particular game (which may seem wildly boring to an outsider, but you, quite frankly, have no idea...) would only end when someone started bleeding or crying, and not a minute before. 
Another favourite pastime was invented at school with S.C., my oldest friend. We’d collect branches from the trees in the playground, and those branches would then become our ‘dogs.’ We’d then while away hours (well, the 50 minutes we had for lunch) by flinging ourselves around, pretending that said dogs were rabid and out of control. What larks.
Another fun activity of ours would be to stand on the school benches and sing Blue songs, announcing to anyone who would listen (so nobody) that we were holding a ‘Blue concert.’ Surprisingly enough the only people who would watch would be the dinner ladies, who more often than not wouldn’t cheer and throw their knickers at us (thank god, that might have been frowned upon...), but would encourage us to ‘play a less raucous game, maybe?’
As a special treat at the weekend me and S.C. would dress up in my mum’s aprons or Hawaiian print shirts from the 80s, wrap coloured scarfs around our heads, switch off all the lights in the house, put on the Spice Girls, and, equipped with hand-held torches and glow sticks, have ‘a disco’ (mostly involving just running up and down the landing, squealing ‘I wanna, I wanna, I wanna, I wanna, I wanna, really really really wanna Zigga Zig Ah!’)
I’m sure you’re getting the idea... but ain’t no stopping me now.
When me and my cousins would occasionally sleep at my gran’s house and the sun came out to play (or didn’t; nice weather was never essential) she’d hand each of us a pot of tap water and old paintbrushes from the garage and ask us to ‘give the fence a nice topcoat, please.’ FUN! 
The point that I’m trying to make is that the children’s games I’m now learning about day by day are proving to be less inventive, more intricate and dare I say it... a bit boring?
When I was young enough to play Lego (well, I still am, clearly... But first time round), I remember there being two Lego shapes: square and rectangular. Just the two. Maybe a few triangular ones thrown in to allow for the occasional roof. But either way, you were either building a house, or, at a push, for the more architecturally gifted, a castle. 
Now, in 2013... building a Lego anything takes an engineering degree. I don’t have an engineering degree. I have a French and English degree. So if E.V.P. wants me to lecture him on Modern British Fiction since 1950 or tell him all about African Francophone literature, then I’m his girl. If, instead, he’s asking me to help him with the delicate construction of his new Lego fire engine, equipped with working flashing lights, minibar and a host of firemen, each with their own personal hopes, fears and insecurities? Not so much.

On the left you can see the Lego that I’m used to. On the right you can see the bane of my existence Lego that now appears to be the norm.
And as a petit sidenote: WHY ARE THE PIECES SO FUCKING TINY?! Children put everything into their inquisitive little mouths. I’D LIKE TO SEE A CHILD TRY AND SWALLOW THAT NICE, SAFE, CLUNKY BLOCK ON THE LEFT!

Don’t even get me started on clearing it all away.
It takes E.V.P. 2.5 seconds to empty the Lego box all over his bedroom floor.
It takes him 25 seconds of playing with it to decide that he's changed his mind and actually wants to do a penalty shootout in the front room, where all of the doors are made of glass and there is a fragile-looking television the size of the whole of Lenton's Odeon.
It takes me 25 minutes to put all the stupid, minuscule pieces of discarded Lego back in their box.
It takes me 2.5 hours to feel like myself again after the whole ordeal. 

I threw myself into the Lego building regardless, and on Friday we spent the majority of the afternoon working on the engine of a private jet, with me painstakingly reading out the required pieces and finding them in the mess of his other 50,000 pieces, while E.V.P. barked out instructions like, 'are you even going to help me build this thing?' and 'I might as well be doing this by myself at the rate you're going! Hurry up!'
It took hours, but I began to feel a sense of pride at the work that we'd done as a team (ha! I say team...), and even started to see the appeal of creating something from scratch that looked so... lifelike.
When we stood back to admire what we'd done, I felt fulfilled. I'll admit it: I felt satisfied. 2013 Lego is GREAT!!
Caught up in our victory I shouted, 'GIVE ME FIVE!' and turned expectantly to E.V.P. with my palm raised... Only to find he had already lost interest and was walking away to find his next game. Hmph.
We didn't get a chance to work on the jet after that, as. E.V.P. had other more pressing issues to deal with, what with various playdates and a big sleepover last night. But this morning I ventured into his room to get him dressed, and took the opportunity to go and gaze proudly at our Lego work of art once more.
I looked left, I looked right. I searched high, I searched low. All I could see was the usual debris of a million pieces of lego.
'Erm... E.?'
'...Where's our jet?'
'Oh I stood on it in the night, and it broke.'
Our jet ^

His games are not always disappointingly regimented though. The other day, during breakfast, he got creative with his Beyblade arena and improvised a couple of extra obstacles...

Now that I like.
There's hope for him yet.
I'll have him Zigga Zig Ah-ing along his landing in no time...

In other news, this is how I was gently roused from sleep yesterday morning...
8am, still dreaming, snoozing, having a great time, I vaguely hear a scrabbling noise and the unmistakeable sound of my (very high) door handle being anxiously grasped at. Then I hear a frustrated sigh, a jump, and the squeak of the door handle successfully being yanked down. Another little sigh. Then I hear footsteps. Tiny ones.
‘T’es réveillée?’ (Are you awake?)
‘T’es un petit peu réveillée?’ (Are you a little bit awake?)
‘T’es un tout petit peu réveillée?’ (Are you the tiniest bit awake?)
‘Not even a tiny bit.’

Turns out little boys are just as needy as big boys.