Emily and Phoebe

Friday, May 30, 2008


Emily has lost another tooth! This is her first for a few years and apparently (she has been keeping count, of course) it is her ninth in all.

"And I'm so happy, Daddy, because I'm nine years old, which is the best age to be (I've always wanted to be nine) and I've lost nine teeth. Nine and nine! Which is much better than eight and eight, because eight is an even number and odd numbers are better, aren't they and if you multiply nine and nine ... [I wonder what I should make for lunch today.] ... and when I'm ten ... [Maybe something with chicken. We haven't had chicken for a while.] ... and you won't forget, will you Dad? [Perhaps that Nigel Slater recipe with pesto and mozzarella.]

"What's that darling?"

"I said, I'm going to put the tooth under my pillow now. You won't forget, will you?"

"Of course not, darling."

(I did forget, of course, but luckily Nevi remembered, or Emily would have unjustly accused me of not paying attention to her. As if....)

Thursday, May 29, 2008


Kyria E, Phoebe's teacher this year, concentrates more on general education than on reading and writing. This is something we're perfectly happy about. First, it's quite a relief that Phoebe doesn't have to plough through the dull worksheets that Emily was being given at her age. And second, she has developed a genuine thirst for knowledge and keeps coming out with new facts and information she's learnt from Kyria E. (Such as: letterbox is a compound noun; the earth is blue because it has more water than land; Muslims worship in a mosque, not a church; water evaporates from the sea and then condenses to form clouds; a silkworm eats leaves and then silk comes out of its bum.)

It seems, however, that some of the children in her class must have been getting some extra help in literacy, because a few of her friends are already able to read short words. A few weeks ago, Phoebe told me, the class was looking at pictures of different trees with their names written underneath. "My friends knowed some of the words but I didn't knowed any of them, Daddy," she told me sadly. "I was waiting for my friends to say the words and then I was saying them too but I wasn't really reading, Daddy, I was just pretending." She gave a little sigh. "I was just being like a parrot, Daddy."

Phoebe is very proud, and knows that dissembling to preserve her dignity is beneath her, so ever since, she has been studiously copying words from books and practising how to write letters, bringing me the results of her labours carefully copied out on to little scraps of paper. And sure enough she has started being able to read simple words, which she is very happy about.

But more importantly, she has become aware that writing is more than just copying. She has begun to recognise that it is a means of communication. She may even have the first inkling that writing, even more than speech, is a means of recording one's inner life, one's profoundest and most personal thoughts.

And so it was that yesterday, Phoebe came to me with a piece of paper on which she had written not a word copied from a book, but a word which she had thought of all by herself and copied from inside her own head. "I thought of this word, Daddy, and then I thought of the first letter of this word and then I thought of the first sound [she means syllable] and then I thought of the second sound [syllable] and then I writed it down. Did I writed it well, Daddy?" I looked at the piece of paper she was holding out to me. She had indeed writed it well. For there, in confident block capitals, was Phoebe's first written word, her first creative act, a first glimpse into the deeper recesses of her mind.



Faster, higher, sillier...

Kyria E, Phoebe's teacher at the kindergarten, has announced that the end of year celebration will have an Olympic theme (to coincide with the Games taking place in Beijing this summer). The kidlets will have to wear white robes embroidered with a maiandros (Greek fret) design* while taking part in running and throwing events** and an Olympic torch relay.*** Plaster of Paris medals will be awarded and the class will also sing the Olympic Anthem.****

Phoebe also claims (although this seems highly unlikely) that there will be bicycle races (with the bikes done up as ancient chariots, perhap).

In keeping with recent events, I am toying with the idea of organising a pro-Tibet demonstration. I wonder if hurling myself in front of a child's bicycle while dressed as the Dalai Lama will be enough to raise the little ones' political awareness...

* Kyria E says it's really straightforward and it won't take the mums more than a few minutes to run them up on their sewing machines. Nevi will be so pleased to hear this.
** There go the school windows, then.
*** Obviously, this plan can only end in Woe.
**** Kyria E is nothing if not ambitious, as anyone who saw her Christmas spectacular (songs! dances! poems!) can confirm.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Number 2 in a series

of things-I-have-really-and-truly-found-myself-saying-presumably-in-a-subconscious-attempt-to-expose-the-girls-to-a-full-range-of-modern-idiomatic-English.

Today I appear to have stolen my dialogue from either My Fair Lady or Mary Poppins:

"We were a bit late getting up this morning, girls, so let's not dilly-dally!"

Friday, May 23, 2008


Emily is telling me what we need for her party tomorrow.

"First of all, I want nine candles for the cake. Blue candles. Plain blue, not with stripes. Then I want balloons. And you should get a ballooon pump too, because last year you tried to blow them all up and you ran out of breath. Then tomorrow we have to collect the cake and put up the balloons. Can you remember all that, Dad?. Oh, and Dad, you will wear something nice at my party, won't you. And please remember to shave."

If I wasn't so familiar with Emily's controlling tendencies, I might take this as some kind of hint that I am less than reliable (and somewhat unkempt)...

Thursday, May 22, 2008

European Champions 2008

I tiptoe past the kids' bedroom door on the way to bed - but obviously not quietly enough. Emily's eyes half open and she raises her head from her pillow slightly. "Who won, dad?"

"Manchester United," I whisper.

She smiles dopily. And with a barely audible "Yessssss!!!" falls back to sleep.

Monday, May 19, 2008


Emily's first words on waking up this morning:

"Daddy, are there any snakes in the house?"

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


Phoebe says that she's glad that her best friend is a boy because girls are silly. Her best friend, she claims, is the best boy of all because he's the cleverest in her class and "quiet like me". Quiet like Phoebe. What would that might mean, exactly?

Emily, meanwhile, is cross: her friends at school are making fun of her for spending so much time with one boy in particular. She indignantly reports that she and the boy in question are doing nothing except drawing Pokemen characters together. I fear that this is probably true...

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Let's party!!!

It's the (kids') party season. here in Athens. There were two yesterday (one early in the afternoon and one in the evening) and there's one on each of the next three weekends (so far). That's not including whatever we end up doing for Emily's birthday.

The first party yesterday made Phoebe so tired that she was really ratty by early evening. In the end I told her she couldn't go the the evening party (which only Emily was officially invited to anyway) because it wasn't fair to subject other people to her bad temper. She screamed and screamed and screamed (until, yes, she was almost sick) but once Emily had gone she calmed down and we played computer games on the bbc website and watched a DVD of Happy Feet until she fell asleep.

When she woke up this morning, she didn't mention the party I hadn't let her go to, but said what a lovely time she had last night. (Which was of great relief to Emily, who had of course been feeling guilty for abandoning Phoebe and going off to enjoy herself.)

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Things return to normal...

... after a week in Venice and we exchange gondolas and palaces for Emily shutting herself in the toilet to practise her recorder while Phoebe torments her from without.