Sadly for quite a lot of this summer P has been under the weather with one thing or another. This, we are assured by the doctor, is simply a result of his having started nursery after Easter and will eventually give him the constitution of an ox. In the meantime, however, we have been treated to long stretches of sleepless nights, rivers of snot, and the occasional torrent of vomit.
The most recent lurgy to assail him took the form of some sort of flu-like bug, which gave him a raging temperature and completely took away his appetite, to the extent that he wouldn't even eat bananas, previously his all-time favourite food.* After about four days in which he ate half a yoghurt and virtually nothing else, I discovered he could be persuaded to nibble on a dry biscuit and decided any nourishment was better than none.
This proved to be my undoing: as a result he appears to have developed an addiction to "Moon biscuits" and to believe, now that he is well again, that he should be able to have as many as he likes. Consequently he now spends large portions of each day clinging to the side of the fridge, looking hopefully at the top, where he knows the biscuits reside, and shouting. Refusal to give in and let him have one** results in anguished howling, sobbing, and theatrical displays of despair/apparently fainting from hunger owing to the cruelty of his heartless parents. This all miraculously stops of course as soon as he actually gets a biscuit, the receipt of which is greeted with a cheerful (and slightly self-satisfied) "ta!" before he beetles off nomming happily, not infrequently with the whole crescent-shaped thing wedged sideways in his mouth.
Thus far "ta" and "hiya" seem to be about the only recognizable words in P's vocabulary (and ones which he must presumably have learned at nursery), though he's getting pretty close with lots of others. Indeed, not infrequently he does manage to say something quite clearly, but he's not very reliable and can seldom be persuaded to do it again, especially in company. Last week he seemed to be practising the letter B and, after a fair amount of coaxing, managed to say "bird", "bubble", "banana" and of course "biscuit",*** but the minute I proudly relayed this information to anyone, he stopped. This week seems to be being brought to us by the letter M, so all the bubbles have mysteriously become mumles instead.
In the absence of comprehensible vocabulary we have been trying to teach him to imitate animals and make the appropriate noise for the appropriate critter. After much quacking, clucking, miaowing, and barking, he finally pointed at a picture of a duck in his book of animals and, in reply to the question "What noise does the duck make?" said "'Ack".
His proud parents were thrilled with this, until we discovered that according to P, dogs, cats, all birds, some sheep, and in one case a hippopotamus all also say "quack". Every encounter with a cat or dog in the street is now accompanied by pointing and a volley of frantic quacking.
The only animals, it appears, that do not say "ack", are bees. These he knows say bzzzzzzzz (or in P's version bvvvvvvv). Even this achievement, however, has been slightly tempered by the possibility of misunderstanding. The other day I realised whilst giving him his lunch that he was buzzing as he normally does when he sees a bee. Looking about to see if one had got into the house I drew a blank, but finally realised that what he was actually doing was buzzing every time I said to him "Eat your beans", raising the interesting possibility, not only that he thinks we've been feeding him bees on toast, but also that he considers the lavender hedge to be infested by bumble-beans.
* Indeed he pretty much mugged an old lady for hers at Blenheim Palace the week before and had to be carried off kicking and screaming.
** On the flimsy grounds, for instance, that it's 8am, he's only been up for 20 minutes and we're just about to have breakfast.
*** Oh, and (owing to me dropping a tin on my foot) "bollocks", which needless to say was the only word he imitated spontaneously without hours of repetition.