Laden with bags, Tadpole and I leap onto a number 26 bus. I still have my carte intégrale – despite it being surplus to requirements most of the time because I now walk to work, and school, and only take public transport about twice a week – because there is no weaning me off that addictive drrriiinging sound said card makes as I swipe it over the scanner. But we still clamber onto the bus using the middle doors, along with the fare dodgers and women with pushchairs. We’re not going far, and this way it will be so much easier to get off again.
Right on cue, the driver plays a pre-recorded message asking people to refrain from entering the bus by the middle doors. For good measure he also plays a message which exhorts everyone to move along to the centre of the bus in order to make more room. We have broken one rule, all the better to comply with another, I think to myself. Perfectly reasonable behaviour.
“I going to show daddy all my new clothes!” says Tadpole excitedly. Shamed into action by Mr Frog’s remark the previous day about how most of Tadpole’s long-sleeved t-shirts barely graze her elbows, we’ve been on a spree at Du Pareil au Même. The bag I’m clutching is filled with garishly patterned cotton skirts and brightly coloured t-shirts, as well as a term’s supply of hair clips. Every day Tadpole leaves for school with a clip holding her curls out of her face, and every evening she emerges sans barrette. Somewhere in that school there must be a huge vat full of hair accessories, but whenever I’ve broached the subject with her teacher, she shrugs her shoulders and purses her lips.
“Hold the bar tightly with both hands!” I say sharply, just as the bus slams on the brakes at a zebra crossing and nearly sends Tadpole flying. But her left hand appears to be otherwise occupied, rummaging in the back of her trousers; her brow is furrowed with concentration.
“But mummy!,” she says indignantly, “I need to help her to escape!”
“Help who to escape?” I lean forwards to try and establish just who, or what could possibly be imprisoned inside Tadpole’s trousers.
“Ma culotte! She’s prisoner! My bottom is eating her!” Tadpole explains, switching into French, all the better to entertain our fellow passengers.
I should probably pitch in and help liberate the pants, or at the very least correct Tadpole’s use of pronouns, but instead, I just giggle, bend to plant a delighted kiss on her cheek and say: “Oh? And is she tasty?”
Slightly more serious posting over here, if you fancy joining the debate.