Topsytown, for those of you not blessed with a small child, is one of those indoor soft play arenas. These are designed to plunder the pockets of desperate parents, who, particularly in the winter months have to do something with the little buggers. After they’ve torn the house to pieces, it’s dark and cold/raining/foggy outside and the park is a boggy slough of despond, you have to go SOMEWHERE.
I thought I couldn’t detest people more than I do when they sit next to me in the cinema, scoffing something smelly and noisy (I once got someone eating a family-size packet of roast chicken crisps). But then I paid £4.95 to get into Topsytown. It’s vile at all times of day, but when it’s full to capacity, I achieve new heights of misanthropy. That said, it is fun trying to decide whether I hate the parents or the children more. I stared open-mouthed at the woman who called the manager over and screamed at him for twenty minutes because her little darling had been served food cooked in a microwave. She demanded her money back and threatened legal action, but at no point stopped the child eating the toxic concoction, and when the manager had gone, ate the rest of the meal herself.
Then there are the children. There’s something about all that brightly coloured vinyl that turns the loveliest kids feral. They hunt in packs, screaming, snatching things from smaller children and stage-diving off things in an ongoing attempt to inflict grievous bodily harm on themselves or anyone in the line of fire. The noise level is approximately the same as the front row of a Metallica concert, but with more screaming and banging.
My joy in this venue is made complete with their insistence that you take off your shoes, so, as you trail around after your own squawking loin-fruit, you may, at any time, step in an unidentified wet patch. Believe me when I say you’ll pray that it’s cold, and that someone spilled Fruitshoot.
At nearly seventeen months, Ted shows no sign of wanting to talk. He’s certainly vocal, he’s just not interested in forming any recognisable words. As a devoted and desperate mother, I’ve identified the sounds he makes that mean something. “Bee!” uttered, while pointing excitedly skywards, means “There is a bird/ plane/other airborne object”. “Buh!” is an all-purpose term for a bus/truck/moving vehicle. “Meh-meh!” means “Give me milk/food/love/comfort/attention”. With these sounds, plus a lot of pointing and saying “uh-uh-uh”, he seems to meet most of his communication goals.
It made me think. Maybe I have too many words in my vocabulary. I’m thinking of cutting down. I’ll need one monosyllable for “wine”, another for “coffee”, and a third which translates as “Sod off, I’m going to read my book in the bath”.
* It's not really called Topsytown. if I use the real name, I'll get blacklisted. And then where would Ted and I go for fun?