My siblings, Cistern and Malkovski Harlot*, turned forty on the weekend. Cistern**, struck down with sudden maturity, decided to swim one hundred metres for every year of her life. That's 4 kilometres, my fellow sedentarians – 2.48 miles in the old money – a long way by anyone's standards, except Cistern's, who about five years ago decided to become an all-singing, all-dancing athlete-progenitrix-PhD-student. She cast aside her dissipated yoof, tossing off half-Marathons before breakfast, penning award-winning thesis chapters by lunchtime, traipsing the world and co-parenting a truly stellar specimen of nieceliness.
When a person manages to circumnavigate Pacific islands wearing nothing but a pair of goggles*** and when such a person invites her sister to join her in her birthday swim, and when her sister hasn't seen her other sister and assorted other stellar specimens of niecephewliness for yonkers, due to the fact that the sister who is I has run away to make her fortune in the Deep (dank) South, that same sister of course enters into a contractual arrangement with Mr Aeroplane Company and betakes herself to Sydvillea, City of Swimming Pools. And despite the fact that she (I) hasn't swum more than a hundred metres in the last year, she (I) manages to polish off a hundred metres for every year of her (my) life too, blessing her cotton socks for making her 9 years younger than the hero of this story. Rest assured, I have been retrospectively carbo-loading ever since, which is one of the best things about unwonted three kilometre swims.
"But what about the kittens?" you ask. "Where were they while you swanned up to Sydney to loll around in swimming pools?" Well, seeing you ask, they were at home, where internetian superhero and cat-tolerator, Timothy T, was simultaneously entertaining his mother and educating my quadrupeds in the finer points of G. K. Chesteron. At which point it behoves me to disclose that Timothy T is not only as excellent as you ever thought he was, but excellenter. He left Harlot Heights on Sunday night, not only the richer for his cat-wrangling, his G. K. Chesterton appreciation, and a carton of full-cream milk, but also stuffed to the ceiling with what I suspect is his brother's entire tomato crop. Let she who craves ratatouille have it in abundance.
Harriet and Beatrice, if this is possible, were even more lovely by Sunday night than they had been the previous Friday. They are growing in stature and catliness, and have learnt all sorts of magnificent feline skills. To wit: gnawing on the leaves of the potted bamboo; dismembering toilet paper rolls; nibbling on phone bills, and (less pleasingly) library books; mountaineering their way onto the kitchen bench and licking scraps from plates, and then mountaineering their way back onto the kitchen bench as soon as they are removed from the kitchen bench, and then mountaineering their way back onto the kitchen bench, etc; pouncing on things that move suspiciously under bedclothes; gazing wistfully into the loo.
Meanwhile, there remains the matter of my brother turning forty too. If anyone has any good present ideas for a person who likes beagles, sudoku and marzipan, speak now.
* Not their real names.
** Still not her real name.
*** And swimmers. And a cap. And contact lenses.