American Mom arrives back in Chelsea with the Brats two days before the new school term begins. They stayed with friends in Dorset while Notting Hill Carnival was on. American Mom hates it despite not living in Notting Hill and having never been. She was especially keen to remove the Brats from the Greater London area this year as the Eldest watched some videos of last year’s Carnival on Youtube. Seeing a policeman get twerked on by a bejewelled parade member piqued a hitherto unexpressed interest in attending.
‘What’s twerking?’ asks the Small One. Nobody answers him.
The family re-enter Central London after every speck of glitter and piece of plumage has been safely swept from the streets. Unfortunately for me, this means having only one day in which to take the Brats to buy three new pairs of school shoes, trainers and other endless items of unnecessary uniform, as well as pencil cases, of course. I pretend the visit to the stationery shop is a chore but am relieved that at least one element of the school days I remember with nostalgia remains unchanged.
The initial excitement of being back at school quickly wears off.
‘Wasn’t it nice to catch up with all your friends?’ I ask the Brats while they scoff kale and quinoa salad with impressive enthusiasm (American Mom’s supper instructions).
‘Catch up?’ the Eldest looks puzzled.
‘You know – hear all their news?’
His phone dings and he snatches it up. It dawns on me that there wouldn’t have been anything for him to catch up on – being as he is in constant communication. A day of lessons with no access to his phone was probably the longest period of time he hadn’t been in some sort of virtual conversation with his peers for the last two months.
‘Arabella went to Papua New Guinea,’ says the Middle One. ‘She couldn’t FaceTime or anything.’
Her eyes are wide. I don’t know whether it’s wonder or horror.
The prospect of having to look after all of her children simultaneously for an entire Saturday is, understandably, overwhelming for American Mom. The Small One has somehow discovered that a festival is taking place on the Thames and his current best friend Aeneas lives on a houseboat on Chelsea Embankment. American Mom has a lie-in while I take the Brats to watch a regatta from Aeneas’ deck. I’m expecting a quaint little barge. Instead we are ushered down a gangplank onto a vessel that resembles a cruise ship. Aeneas’ father loudly informs me that he owns the four neighbouring boats.
‘Mummy says only hippies live on the river,’ says the Middle One with genuine innocence.
‘Not any more, thank God!’ comes the reply.
I spend the rest of the afternoon waiting for him to stand close enough to the edge so that I can accidentally trip and knock him in. It’s a long afternoon on the water.