I went off to have supper with my mum last night, and so handed over Betty’s bed-time duties to Tom. When I left the house, Tom was busy poring over a pile of cookery books and concocting a gourmet meal for one, and Betty was busy chatting to some snails in the garden and trying to feed them sand.
I arrived home at about 10pm, and went into the kitchen, where Tom was despondently tucking into beans and toast. He looked sheepish, and frazzled, and said in very nervous and hushed tones, that it wasn’t the smoothest bed-time he had ever done – and that in fact it was ‘a bit of an ordeal’.
Apparently, Betty had taken a fistful of snails and red berries into the bath with her. Being the neurotic woman that I am, I have forbidden Betty from playing with these berries, for fear of them being poisonous, and both Tom and Betty know the rules. After much wrestling, Tom thought he had managed to get every piece of incriminating evidence from her - until he caught her quickly popping into her mouth a rogue berry, which, he later argued, ‘must have been hidden in the folds of her hand’. Tom then tried to show Betty who was boss and asked that she remove it from her mouth immediately and hand it over. And with that, Betty did a very elaborate cartoon swallow (just to labour the point that she rules), and then smirked triumphantly at Tom.
Not knowing for certain whether these berries were poisonous (although he was 99.9% sure they weren’t), and more importantly, not wanting to endure my wrath when I would inevitably find the berry in Betty’s poo the following morning, Tom panicked. He scooped a somewhat astonished Betty out of the bath, and charged downstairs to phone our landlord.
‘Betty was having her bath and swallowed a red berry from that tree in our garden – is it poisonous?’ Tom yelled down the phone at the landlord’s somewhat taken aback teenage son. The son then relayed what Tom had said to his mum and dad and Tom imagined that he could then hear the whole family laughing at him in the background. ‘Oh dear, is Elsie out this evening, Tom?” the landlord said. He then assured Tom that the berries were not poisonous, that in fact they were probably quite nutritious, and then enquired as to what Betty was doing with the berries in her bath. Tom was holding a naked, dripping wet, squealing-with-laughter, Betty, who was hitting him on the head with a plastic octopus, and so he abruptly thanked the landlord, put the phone down and rushed Betty back up to her bath.
At that point, it seems that Betty had grown tired of these shenanigans and once she was plonked back in the now-lukewarm bath she completely lost the plot. After angrily throwing a jug of water, a flannel and the plastic octopus at Tom, she then tried to precariously climb out, whilst demanding that he hand over the little pile of berries that he had left on the side. Being a glutton for punishment, and really not thinking very straight, he handed them over on the understanding that she play with them for five minutes before bed, and not eat them.
Tom and Betty then spent the next few hours locked in a battle of the berries, and when I returned home, Betty had only just gone to sleep. As a consequence of the little lady’s monkey business, Tom was eating beans on toast, instead of the elaborate salmon concoction that he had planned. He wasn’t consoled by the fact that I had had a very relaxing evening with my mum.