‘Look at my big nichons mummy,’ Tadpole shrieks, fingering her (papier mâché) breasts.
It is 10.30 am on Saturday morning and Mr Frog and I have come to watch Tadpole’s annual school carnival, while The Boy, not wishing to step over any invisible lines, remains at home. This year the children are all dressed up as works of art and the overall effect is a joyous riot of colour. The costumes, made out of stiff paper, are worn like pinafores, covering the children’s clothes and turning them into walking sandwich boards. As we stand at the edge of the school playground, behind improvised police-tape style barriers, rubbing sleep from our eyes, the children file past hand in hand.
Tadpole, unable to keep a secret, had whispered to me weeks earlier that the costume she was making was a Niki de Saint Phalle sculpture. I’d recognised most of the names she’d been bandying about over the past few weeks – ‘we did a painting just like Pollock mummy, we put the paint on the paintbrush and then did throw it in splodges onto the paper’ or ‘I did a picture of a lady with a very wide face, just like Fernando Bottero’ – but Saint Phalle was not a name I was familiar with. ‘I’m going to be a sculpture,’ explained Tadpole helpfully, as I waited for the relevant page to power up on Wikipedia. ‘A sculpture of a lady with great big nipples and a big fat bottom wearing a swimming costume.’
It was The Boy who, at the mention of Niki de Saint Phalle, pointed out that the fountains in place Igor Stravinsky, in the shadow of the Centre Pompidou are Saint Phalle sculptures. I knew them well, but never would have put two and two together.
‘Shall we go on the métro on an adventure?’ I suggest to Tadpole on Sunday afternoon.
‘Ooh yes, I love the métro,’ she replies, darting across the room to fetch her shoes. If only everyone were so easy to please.
When we reach our destination, Tadpole shrieks with delight and I catch The Boy’s eye, silently thanking him for coming up with the idea. We make several tours of the huge rectangular bassin, Tadpole racing on ahead, examining each sculpture in turn, trying to decide which one she likes best. My personal favourite is the reclining mermaid with water squirting out of one huge, multicoloured breast, but Tadpole is just as amused by the huge pair of lips, the spinning bowler hat, the Elmer-like Elephant and the majestic crowned bird, wings spread, reminiscent of a Mayan condor god. We take a few snaps of Tadpole, posing by the sculptures, squinting into the sun and grinning like the Cheshire cat.
When the skies darken and the first raindrops fall, we hurry into the Marais to find a restaurant where we can grab a bite to eat. Tadpole doodles on the back of a napkin with a biro unearthed from the bottom of my handbag.
Elbows on the table, chin cupped in my hands, I look from The Boy to Tadpole and back again, marvelling at how simple and how right everything feels.
For Gonzales (aka fella?).