Do you know what’s surprisingly disappointing? You may not know this, but the catering at a tea party hosted by four-year-old girls is seldom very good.
I wasn’t expecting high cuisine, but the first time the two four-year-olds invite me for tea, I was hoping for, I don’t know, something. Sure, the teacups were a little small to ever be fully satisfying, but frankly any kind of quenching liquid would have done me just fine.
“Is it good?” said the one four-year-old, and she and her sister looked at me very earnestly.
“Um,” I said. My mind was racing. Was there something wrong with them? Had they not noticed they poured nothing into my cup? I couldn’t in all conscience tell them that this was a good cup of tea. “It’s not very hot,” I said at last.
They considered that and nodded thoughtfully.
“The kettle doesn’t work very well,” said one of them. “Have a swiss roll.”
Do I need to tell you that there was nothing on the plate? Were they trying to make a fool of me?
Most unsatisfactory meal, but they kept inviting me back. “You’re their favourite guest,” their mom told me, but that didn’t ring true. If they liked me so much, surely they would take the time and trouble to get some real tea and some non-invisible swiss roll.
Last year they were five and invited me for a Father’s Day lunch. They assured me there would be spaghetti and also ice cream, but by that time I knew not to get my hopes up.
“Why don’t you have any children?” they asked me over the second course.
“Just lucky, I guess,” I replied.
They nodded thoughtfully, and said they were pleased about that, because if I had children of my own, I probably wouldn’t have as much time to play with them. I agreed that was probably the case. The good thing about children is they may not lay on a decent spread for tea, but they know which things are worth pretending about and which things aren’t.
“Do you have a daddy?” they wanted to know. No, I replied, he died when I was just a little bit older than them.
“We don’t have a daddy either,” they said. Maybe I could be their daddy, if I wanted? I told them I didn’t think that would really work out.
“We could pretend you are though, can’t we?” they said. “Not real, just play-play.”
I said I supposed so. Maybe.
“What can we call you?” they wanted to know.
I told them they could call me Darrel, which is what they had been calling me up till then.
They considered that. “What if we call you Darry?” they said. “Because that’s a little bit Darrel, a little bit Daddy.”
And I wanted to tell them that was fine, but it took me a while because my throat was suddenly strangely sore and there was something in my eye.
Edgars magazine, 5 March 2018