A few years ago I made a promise to James that I would write him a book. It seemed like a good idea and also rather easy, seeing as his favourite book at the time was something like That's not my Penguin. Then he moved onto The Gruffalo and my offer seemed more challenging, but still achievable. Now that he can happily wade his way through a Percy Jackson or Alex Rider with ease, the task has become rather daunting and I'm hoping he doesn't come across Dostoevsky any time soon.
So I really ought to get started on it soon. For years my excuse was that I was looking after David and I really didn't have the time to write. Once he goes off to school all day, I would say, then I can write. Well, he's now in school all day and for the first time in nine years, I have no excuse. Apparently, "I really can't be bothered" doesn't count as an excuse. As a matter of fact, the reason I started this blog was as a way of reminding myself how to write and I have to admit to rather enjoying it. Maybe writing a novel won't be anything like as daunting as I imagine. Maybe.
And while I've been faffing around trying to rekindle my mojo the rest of the family have been quietly getting on with their own endeavours without any need for the right mood, or the right space, or any of that other stuff you apparently need to be truly creative. Okay, perhaps not quietly, but getting on with it, certainly.
David is busily learning to read at the moment, with the help of the wonderfully named Jollyphonics. This seems to involve learning two new letters every day by giving each sound an accompanying action to remind you of it. S comes with a wiggling of the arm, like a snake, A involves brushing something off your arm, M involves rubbing your tummy, etc. I can't wait to see him act out his name - I'm expecting something like a little cheerleading dance.
"Gimme an i..."
David has also been improving his personal and social skills. He no longer thinks of himself as a train (although he still runs as if his arms are traction rods) and he has been busy making "best friends". We thought it was sweet when he announced that one particular boy in his class was his best friend. Then it was one of the girls. Then it was a girl from one of the other classes. Then a girl from the year above. Then James' best friend was his best friend... and then it started to get surreal. For a time one of his toy cars was his best friend, then a funny shaped stick. Here he is hugging last week's best friend.
James, needless to say, immediately installed himself as the maths genius of his year and already the only real competition he has comes from his teacher. But surprisingly, maths is no longer his favourite subject having been pushed into second place by humanities (in my day we called it history and geography) which seems to be a strange mixture of topics. This half-term they're studying water, next half-term will be The Second World War.
His football is no better though, despite now being in the world's most football-obsessed country. At break-time and lunchtime he has the option of chasing after the pigskin along with forty or fifty other boys, but instead he has chosen to align himself with the nerds and seems to spend all his spare time studying practical aerodynamics (making endless variations of paper planes) or discussing game theory ("what's your favourite game on Club Penguin?")
For Helen, life out here has been nothing but work, work, work ever since we arrived. Sometimes it's writing an article, sometimes it's dealing with office admin and endless bureaucracy, sometimes it's networking or interviewing people, then it's all three put together. And that's just Monday, the rest of the week is much busier! Still, she does get to look sharp while she's doing it, and she's taken far more seriously than her tracksuit-attired husband.
She's also been practicing magic while she's out here. Simply by repeating the magic phrase, "I write for the Economist", she's succeeded in opening locked doors, making important people appear in restaurants and even transporting herself into the presence of politicians. For example, here she is with President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (Lula to his buddies), clearly sharing some private joke about an integrated public transport infrastructure policy for São Paulo, or something similar.
As Lula is currently the most popular man in Brazil, I'm wondering how much more magic we can create by showing the photo to everyone we meet. Now if only I could photoshop in Pelé on the other side of her...
So there you have it - our working life in a nutshell. As you see, it's not all sun and fun out here - not all the time, anyway. Sometimes even in paradise there's a stuffy room and a desk and a laptop and a small child telling you your attempts at humour are really, really lame.