THE FAILED BUS JOURNEY FROM JAMES BOND ISLAND

"OH, P," I called back, "I JUST CAN'T HEAR YOUR HUMMING."

"I'LL SING MORE LOUDLY THEN. DA DA DA DA DA DA DAAA!"

"IT'S SPACE ODDITY BY DAVID BOWIE, P, BUT I DON'T THINK IT'S MUCH QUIETER THAN WHAT YOU GUYS WERE DOING BEFORE."

"THAT'S NOT LOUD!" And I don't know what's shoutier than caps lock, but he started singing in it to prove his point, and of course T had to join him and now it wasn't I-could-ignore-this giggling but unbearably-loud grunting, and I was busy retracting my unarticulated promise of chocolate and wondering how I could reel them back from this mess when Æ, sitting in the front seat, turned and used his booming Dad Voice.

"BOTH OF YOU NEED TO PIPE DOWN. THINK OF SOMETHING QUIET TO DO." And then we both thought, oh dear, that's torn it, and we waited tensely for the whole world to fall apart.

Six year olds are tricky creatures - they're smart. Calculating, sometimes. Chastened, embarrassed, and thoroughly fed up, P's mood turned in a heartbeat and he started computing his revenge. To the casual observer it might have looked, at first, as if Æ's instruction had worked, but all I saw from the back seat was air thickening and wheels turning. "Quiet eh?" he was thinking. "I'll show you quiet..." 

This picture of a cave interior, which our canoe paddler made me take on pain of not moving out of the cave, seems appropriate here. This picture of a cave interior, which our canoe paddler made me take on pain of not moving out of the cave until I had done, seems appropriate here.

"Let's have a singalong!" I suggested brightly, and also desperately. But in the aftermath of the Space Oddity disaster, both kids were even less willing to sing than they had been the first five times I'd suggested it. "Heads And Shoulders, anyone?" I started performing it like an idiot, but nobody joined in. "Not that one? How about If You're Happy And You Know It?"

"P's pointing at me!" T said suddenly.

"Yes, well he shouldn't be doing that, but please ignore him, he only wants your reaction. C'mon, let's sing Happy And You Know It instead." But she didn't - she lunged forward, waving her arms and screeching.

"T tried to hit me!" said P, triumphantly, from approximately half a metre beyond the fullest extent of her reach.

"You both need to cut it out. Now. Sing. With. Me."

"No! P's pointing again!" T wailed, and I thought, oh yes, thanks a lot everybody, this is much better than loud giggling, and T started growling and banging her fists together and kicking the back of the seat in front, and I thought, fantastic, she's going to blow, what can I do? What can I do quickly?

So I did that thing that's going to cost me an argument every time we take a car for the indefinite future. I unstrapped myself in the moving vehicle and scooted forward, wedging in beside Mr Consideration And Respect (who remained safely strapped and totally inert), so I could place one hand on T's shoulder and cup her cheek in the other, turning her face towards me. And as P pointed (the wavy point now - twice as deadly) and levied loud accusations and calls for justice I whispered to her, "T: I guessed P's song before - now it's your turn to sing. What do you want to sing?" 

Happy place. Happy place. Happy place. Happy place. Happy place. Happy place.

"I DON'T WANT TO SING!" she screeched.

"What about that one from Frozen - I think that's your favourite, isn't it? How does it start?"

"HE'S STILL POINTING AT ME!"

"But look at me, T, look at me." I turned her face gently again and shielded her eyes, using my hands as blinkers. "The snow glows.. the snow glows... what is it?" "The snow glows white on the mountain tonight STOP POINTING P! HE'S POINTING!"

"Look at me, T, that's it," I turned her head a little further and sung softly, bent down to her level, eyes locked. "The snow glows white on the mountain tonight... What's the next line?" She was listening. "The snow glows white on the mountain tonight... "

"Not a footprint to be seen..." She was singing now, too - progress. But her eyes flicked backed again towards her brother.

"Look here and sing, T. Not a footprint to be seen...?" I stroked her hair and grinned encouragingly.

"A kingdom of isolation, and it looks like I'm the queen." She paused for a moment, her face expressing the anguish of a deep abandonment, so I popped an imaginary crown on her head, and she smiled.

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