KITCHEN SINK DRAMA
The Youngest and I are standing in the queue outside Madame Tussaud’s, playing a game of Guess Who The Only Two Irish People In Here Are. It’s fair to say that she’s not doing well. One of them, I tell her, is the most recent addition to the waxworks, and is probably currently the most famous Irish person on the planet. Bertie Ahern, she says. I explain that in the UK, in London and especially in Madame Tussaud’s, recent Irish politics doesn’t feature very high on their list of interests, and besides, I prompt her, the Most Famous Irish Person In The Planet is in a band. Bono, she says. It’s a fair guess, but it’s wrong, and I tell her as much. U2, she offers. No, I say, referring her to the above reply. Bono, she tries again. Louis Walsh.
There are a million and one things I love about my youngest child, but one of them is the fact that although she is an 11-year-old girl, One Direction don’t even figure on her radar. Waiting in an unfeasibly long line outside the museum, I talked up the whole experience with a promise that the most famous people in the world were waiting within. ‘Matthew Broderick?’ she asked, her eyes widening. You gotta love that girl.
We are here, just the two of us, because the older two children finish up in school in a fortnight and she will have a whole further month of hard labour in uniform. The Boy, on the cusp of his first secondary school summer holiday, has already advertised his intention to make his younger sister’s life hell for that month, and so this trip is a sort of pre-emptive strike; a way of storing up happy memories in advance of the inevitable turmoil ahead. So in the hall of sports stars, we find one of The Boy’s heroes, Usain Bolt, and we send him a photo of a gloating Youngest pulling the characteristic lightning-bolt pose alongside the runner.
Happily, though, the rest of the trip’s itinerary is not designed around winding up The Boy. He couldn’t give two hoots about Matilda The Musical, for example, yet if it were down to me, it would be the single aspect of the trip that I would talk about forever. Honestly, it is one of the best things I’ve ever seen on a stage
Several people idling by the Oscar Wilde waxwork wondered aloud whether he was Jonathan Ross
and we spend the whole next day singing snatches of songs we’d never heard before and repeating sparkling dialogue to each other, while trying to figure out who the Other Most Famous Irish Person In The World might be.
As it happens, it’s a very unloved Oscar Wilde. Everything about his positioning in Madame Tussaud’s suggests he is heading for storage, and several people, idling past, wondered aloud if he was Jonathan Ross. I suspect that very soon he may well be — and on that basis I had my photo taken with him. ‘Is that Jonathan Ross?’ The Husband asked, when we got back. I’d like to think that Wilde would have had something pithy to say about that, to say nothing of Jonathan Ross.
If Matilda is my highlight, then one of The Youngest’s is undoubtedly the moment when I steer her through those electronic gates in Terminal One in Dublin Airport — the ones that shout at you to turn back because you can’t ever get out of there again — en route to the wrong gate. You know what happens next: we eventually pitch up at a deserted gate in a part of the airport that is apparently disused and then have to go through the motions of arrivals — including passport control — just to be allowed to start from scratch again. It is an astonishingly stressful 20 minutes and reminds me again of Douglas Adams’ brilliant observations about air travel, which begin with the immortal line: ‘It can hardly be a coincidence that no language on Earth has ever produced the phrase “as pretty as an airport”.’
For The Youngest, though, it’s an exciting seat- of-the-pants diversion, and, as she tells her father on the phone later, ‘it was great to see Mom screw up in public’. Clearly, she doesn’t spend enough time with me — though since we then spend every second of the next two days alone together, I’d like to think we addressed that just a little bit. And you know what? It turned out it wasn’t about The Boy at all. It was about me and my girl and Matilda and Matthew Broderick. Oh, and you know which was her favourite waxwork? Einstein. Like I say, you gotta love that girl.