The children lost TV. Note, I say "lost TV" not "lost the TV". I am hoping they are not the kind of children who are careless with things. I really hate that in a person. They lost permission to watch TV because of some dark crime they committed which I cannot now remember. It must have been a good one because I unplugged the video and DVD player to ram home the point. I was not at all influenced by my mother's observation on her most recent visit: "You let them watch a lot more TV than you used to, don't you?" I denied this and promptly issued my fatwa. I would have shoved the set itself into a cupboard but I might run mad if I lost BBC News 24, so I hid the zappers in case temptation struck. I find it always helps, if temptation knocks, to forget where you put your zapper. Life is less complicated that way. Frankly, I have enough complications.
The good thing about banning TV; you move straight to the moral high ground. I do not get to go there very often. It is pretty and I like it. You drop small shiny pebbles into conversation: "Of course, the children aren't watching television at the moment. They're learning Latin." In reality, my children would rather lie glazed in front of the television than do almost anything else. If you offered them a golden ticket to a green cheese, pitted moon, they would probably say: "Great. When the programme is over."
The bad thing about losing TV; they insist on making their own entertainment. If that is how they carried on in the past, I am amazed anybody made it to adolescence. I stumbled out of the bedroom to go get the wailing baby. My husband is away again which always helps to ramp up the morning mayhem. It means I do not get to say: "Listen, she is singing your song," and nudge him gently out of bed. My six-year-old was hefting the baby along the corridor to me, staggering slightly, both of his arms wrapped around her sleep-suited body, unable quite to see over her head. This was kind and brotherly of him. Coincidentally, fishing the baby out of her cot, had freed up her mattress. It could join the other three mattresses the boys had carefully laid, end to end, down the very steep staircase in our rented house. He handed her to me and trotted back down the corridor. "Do not even think about it," I croaked as he shimmied into his nylon sleeping bag. He perched himself at the top of the Cresta Run. Grinned and launched himself into outer space. I do not know how the pair of them were not splattered against the wooden door at the bottom of the stairs like Warner Brothers cartoon characters. After all my concern about him bashing his head at school, I had this vision of carrying him unconscious, his head swathed in a knob of bandages, into class. The pyjama-clad four-year-old took my hand. "I don't go down in the sleeping bag, mummy," he said, "I just go like this."