I feel my hackles rising. Having paid € 21 in entrance fees for the bioparents and I to take Tadpole to the mini-zoo in the Jardin des Plantes, my ungrateful child is not paying the animals any attention whatsoever. And this after chanting “go see the animals!” at least seventy four times during the métro journey to Gare d’Austerlitz.
Granted, the antelopes and wallabies are not very inspiring, lolling listlessly in the grass, not even twitching so much as an ear in our direction. And there are only so many different breeds of owl that one can look at, silently roosting in their cages, without having to stifle a yawn.
Nonetheless it is galling to see that Tadpole is more interested in giving dolly (Tico l’Ecureuil) a ride in her pushchair.
“Look over there!” I cry, in the patronising, over enthusiastic tones of a children’s television presenter, attempting vainly to draw her gaze towards a couple of stampeding ostriches who have just been let back into their enclosure, after being mucked out. “What big birds! Aren’t they funny?”
“Non mummy! I pushing the pushchair!”
My shoulders sag. I decide it is futile to try and show or teach Tadpole anything, and instead we just stroll around the menagerie, enjoying the warm sunshine.
The reptile house is more entertaining, not least because we have to leave the pushchair outside the front door. Tadpole, Tico and I marvel at the snakes, baby lizards, crocodiles, turtles and tortoises. The giant tortoises are a resounding success, reminding Tadpole of the Miffy postcard on her bedroom door. I explain, patiently, that it won’t be possible to ride on the tortoise’s back, regardless of what Miffy gets up to in “Miffy at the zoo”, and I manage to head off a tearful temper tantrum by pulling a banana out of my bag to divert her attention.
Fed up of the animal kingdom, we head up to rue Mouffetard to grab some lunch. The sky is a unlikely shade of azure for the month of October, and as I push Tadpole along the cobbled street lined with stalls selling ripe cheeses and all manner of rustic looking farm produce, manoeuvering past a man and woman who are doing a slow dance in the street accompanied by guitar music outside the café where Juliette Binoche was filmed by Kieslowski in Three Colours Blue, I feel a little stirring of my long dormant love for this city I live in.
That night, I manage to cajole Tadpole into eating a few leaves of iceberg lettuce, “just like the tortoises”.
All in all, it wasn’t such a bad day.