BY RACHEL MANSON S o, Long Stuff announced over the holidays that she couldn’t ever live in the UK again. The weather, she said. This was a bit rich coming from someone who’d caused chaos for 18 months after we left and so I listed, one by one and in detail, all the terrible times she’d had when we arrived in Hong Kong. Highlighting a tween’s inconsistencies isn’t a recipe for a peaceful day and it went downhill from there. Short Stuff disappeared in the afternoon and returned that evening with “the answer”, she said. She had gone through every photograph in her almighty collection and divided them into piles: the ones in which we are smiling, the ones in which we are not smiling and the ones she is not in. Then she had divided the Smile Pile into countries and counted howmany were taken in each place. She said we had to move to the country where the most smiling pictures were taken. You can’t fault her logic but I don’t want to live in Cambodia. We’d had a great trip round Siem Reap and most of her Smile Pile were pictures taken while we were eating ice cream or having our feet eaten by fish. For a child with some sensory issues, it had been heaven. I made a mental note to smile more in photographs taken here and be super grumpy overseas. That won’t be hard – it’s just a question of remembering. I asked her if pictures of Dog counted, because before we left him in kennels over Easter he was the happiest living thing I knew. Dog has the life of Riley – a luxurious, carefree existence – looked after by our wonderful helper and her equally wonderful friends in the village. He has friends on the beach, friends in the park and a great number of ladies up and down the road who know him by name and who carefully appraise me every day, checking I’m still up to the job of owning him. I don’t know what he did in a previous life to come back as Dog, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed for my next time round. Anyway, he has smiled in every photograph for the last three years, which is a record in our house. Short Stuff uhhmmed and ahhhed for a while about including Dog in her calculations but eventually decided that if she included Dog, she would also have to include Hamster 1 and Hamster 2. Then she said it’s hard to tell when a hamster is smiling – and again you can’t fault her logic. We had struggled to tell when a hamster was dead a few months ago, but that’s another story.
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