Recycling does brisk business in this household. Toilet rolls, tissue boxes and tin cans are either taken to school to be used for "junk modelling" or collected to be put in the box provided by the local council. On occasion, the twins like to help load up this box, which is how Claire stumbled across something familiar.
"What's this doing here, Mummy?" she cross-examined, brandishing a Mickey Mouse picture painstakingly coloured in by her a couple of days earlier. "Oh, dear," I fluffed. "I've no idea how that got there." Claire clutched the drawing protectively to her chest before a brainwave encouraged her to hand it over. "I know, Mummy. You can hang it up!"
If Claire's entire portfolio of art was kept, there would be enough to cover not just the entire wall-space of our home (a fair few square metres) but the house next door and, quite possibly, the whole street. Thus Darwin's survival of the fittest comes into play. Only the very finest of my daughter's etchings make the final cut, stuck in a scrapbook as a keepsake for when she's big and old like me. The crème de la crème are framed and hung in the kitchen.
When the twins aren't drawing, playing or junk modelling, they're busy experimenting with writing. Such prowess was put to recent use, penning a request for help to Gordon Brown – might he fund the odd climbing-frame or two, to turn their barren school playground into an enjoyable space?
Patiently they waited for a reply, running to check the post whenever the letterbox clanged. As days yawned into weeks (three in total), Oliver became impatient. "Well, I don't know," he huffed: "Father Christmas always writes a letter straight back."
Just as disappointment in the PM began to rocket, an envelope marked "10 Downing Street" plopped on to the doormat. "Look," I brandished the exhibit. "It's a letter from the Prime Minister." Excited, I read it out to them.
Dear Claire and Oliver
The Prime Minister has asked me to thank you for your letters about having toys in your playground. As you can imagine, he receives thousands of letters each week, so he is sorry that he cannot reply personally to yours.
Mr Brown has asked me to send your letter to the Department for Children, Schools and Families so that they can reply to the matters you raise on his behalf.
Direct Communications Unit, 10 Downing St.
There was a long silence. "What does that mean?" asked Oliver. "Are we or aren't we going to get toys for our playground?" Good question. The twins' heroic attempts had met with a wishy-washy passing of the buck. I explained that the PM had decided to let a man called Ed Balls ("That's a funny name," said Oliver), who was more specifically in charge of all things children, make the final decision. What I didn't say was that the PTA had better not suspend fundraising because that's the only way the playground will get its toys, even if the twins are in secondary school by then.
The letter was put on the "to be recycled" pile, but the swish coat of arms on the letterhead must have caught Claire's keen eye. "What are you doing, Mummy?" she asked, rescuing the correspondence. "This is from the Prime Minister. You can't get rid of it. I know [this was another brainwave], I'll put it in my scrapbook."
And so, in line with Darwin's theory, Gordon's letter survived while Mickey Mouse, unbeknown to my daughter, later bit the dust.