We're looking after my mum's dog. As is increasingly the case in events connected to my life, I'm not sure why. One minute I was making vaguely enthusiastic humming noises down the phone to reassure my mother that I was indeed listening, while prising a half-burnt/half-raw chicken breast from the oven; the next I had yet another pair of needy eyes fixing my gaze, wanting stuff.
"Albert O says that dogs lick their bums, but that's naughty isn't it?" the four-year-old muses as we traipse through our local park on Saturday morning, mongrel in tow. It is cold and grey, but the park is blessedly quiet, save for the monotonous whirring of the buggy wheels and the occasional snore from the sleeping one-year-old. The effect of which is rather soothing.
"Well, it's not naughty but it's not very nice either," I respond happily, drinking in this rare moment of calm. "I never lick my bum," my daughter adds. I squeeze her hand. "This is nice, isn't it?" I smile. Because it is nice.
In companionable silence we stroll over the bridge towards the café, and the promise of hot chocolate. "I love you mummy," she says, looking up just in time to witness a tidal wave thwack me square in the face as a Lycra-clad runner sprints past, causing an entire puddle to coat me in cold, liquid filth.
My daughter's eyes widen, reflecting the horror in my face. Attempting to reassure her with my eyes, which are oozing with grit and mascara, I lead her away from the direction of the café. "It's all right, darling," I corral. "I think they'll have napkins at that pub."
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