Little Niece displays a distinct lack of interest in television and is frustrated with our preference for paying attention to the screen with moving pictures rather than her. At one point, even her sonic screwdriver fails to distract me from the terrified face of Amy Pond. She is forced to her last resort. Positioning herself directly in front of me, she drops her trousers. "Excuse me, miss, are you trying to get my attention?" I enquire. She giggles naughtily, pulls up her trousers and flings her arms around my neck. "Yes," she replies.
We breakfast with Little Niece the next morning. While we eat our porridge with baby bagels (Little Niece-speak for Cheerios), we contemplate our plans for the day. The bloke & I decide to go for a cycle ride.
“Auntie nanila, I need to take a picture of you before you go on your bicycle ride.”
Little niece places her hand across her forehead.
“Smile,” she orders.
She looks at me intently for several silent moments.
“Okay, you can go now.”
“You have to play with me when you come back though.”
“I will,” I promise.
We ride down the track to Milton Abbey, enveloped by the scent of wet wild garlic. The cows watch us pass, regarding our attempts to moo to them with a kind of placid disdain. When we return, Little Niece holds me to my promise. We colour animals in her new colouring book. We make them swirling pinks and purples. Some have bright blue spots. "These are not very realistic," I observe. "No," she says. "They're better."
We are in the hot tub. Little Niece is wearing water wings.
“What’s going on here?” she says, referring to the bubbles.
“I’ll tell you what I think,” I answer solemnly. “I think we’re in the belly of a giant parp monster who never stops parping.”
She stares at me flatly. “You made that up,” she says accusingly.
I have no answer for this.
Little Niece is "helping" me to make porridge. This involves standing on a chair next to me while I anxiously try to keep her from touching the hot pan or pouring in an entire container of milk. We hit on the happy notion of both holding the wooden ladle to stir. As I dish up for each of the family, she solemnly adds baby bagels (Little Niece-speak for Cheerios) to each bowl. An extra handful automatically goes to Mummy, but Uncle Bloke would have gotten short shrift were it not for the intervention of Auntie nanila.
The bloke and I are playing pool in the conservatory. Little Niece follows us around, insisting on chalking our cues before each shot. The bloke invites her to take a shot, placing her little stool in the appropriate position so she can reach the table. She picks it up and moves it elsewhere. He insists that she move it back or she won't be able to take the shot. She lowers her face and leaves the room, muttering.
"Go and get her," he tells me.
I shake my head. "She'll get bored and come back. You watch."
Three or four shots later, Little Niece returns. "This is my sad face," she announces, sticking out her lower lip. Our laughter rings from the glass ceiling. Little Niece can't help herself. She joins in.
As I stand talking to her daddy, Little Niece comes in with her hand on her head. "I bumped my head," she wails. Daddy bends down to kiss it. "Nooo," she wails. "Who do you want to kiss your head?" asks Daddy. "Mummy," she answers. "Mummy can't because she's outside," he tells her. "Auntie nanila," she sniffs. Daddy asks, "Who do you like better, Daddy or Auntie nanila?" Little Niece stares at him defiantly, bumped head completely forgotten. "Auntie nanila," she declares. "That's not very nice, miss," I gently reprove her. "Probably true, though," Daddy says wryly.
The bloke & I have to depart earlier than the rest of the family, who are staying the entire week. As we prepare to depart, Little Niece comes in to "help" with the packing. She reveals herself to be even more clever than I thought, as she stealthily removes items from the bags I have just put them into and runs off to put them away in the living room. Little Nephew distracts her with an attempt to steal her crayons long enough for me to finish. I am performing the final sweep of the room when she returns, stomach foremost, hair in disarray, looking at her feet. "Auntie nanila, I don't want you to leave," she pouts. "I'm sorry honey, I have to go," I reply, hugging her. "But I don't want you to," she says, wrapping her fists around two sizeable chunks of my hair. I am still trying to detach her when Mummy walks in. "Love hurts," I tell her over my shoulder, as Little Niece tightens her grip.