La Fille has decided what she would like from Father Christmas. She seems to be taking the credit crunch to heart because all she says she wants is a toy giraffe. "Great", I said to myself. "Just a giraffe. Not a spoiled brat after all." They she started describing the giraffe and I thought: "Are you sure you wouldn't prefer a real one, Madame?"
She did this to me last year. I had wrongly assumed she was too young to have an opinion on Christmas presents and would be happy with what she was given. Then a couple of days before the Big Day she announced she wanted a Teddy Bear and not any old Teddy Bear but a Blue Bear called Fred. I traipsed around London looking for such a bear answering to such a name and eventually found one. Day saved until a few months later I left Fred on a TGV along with all La Fille's favourite dolls.
So this year it's a giraffe, any colour, any name will do, but it has to have long string legs. Yup, "long string legs". Legs are not good enough. Long legs are not good enough. It has to be long string legs. (Apparently she saw a child in the park clutching such an animal.) I pointed to the photos of real giraffes we took in the zoo and said: "Something like that?" But no. Silly me. Real giraffes do not have long string legs. I did some research on the Internet, I looked in a couple of catalogues, I visited a couple of shops: no giraffes with long string legs. I phoned one of the department stores. Unfortunately just as they answered my brain pulled the plug and down the mental drain went the French word for "string" (corde). For want of anything better I used the word "string". This meant I was asking for a toy giraffe wearing skimpy knickers. The woman on the other end of the phone sounded puzzled, then shocked as I kept repeating "string, string, you know, string", then began sniggering. I made my excuses and hung up. If you happened to be toy shopping in Paris this week and wondered what a group of shop assistants clutching their ribs and rolling around were laughing about, now you know.
Since then I have been playing the Get Out of Jail (and other awkward situations) Card saying she will have to write to Santa Claus and it will depend on whether he can find one. I am good at shifting the blame. This option also allows me to a) buy any old bloody giraffe and blame the Fat Bearded One, b) trot out the old childhood chestnut about "not always getting what you want".
This morning on the way home from school she asks: "Can't we just phone Father Christmas and ask for the giraffe." I say: "He doesn't have a telephone. He lives at the North Pole where it's cold and snowy and there are no phones, no communications, no computers. That's why you children have to send him letters." She gives me one of those 'Oh-for-goodness-sake' looks in which three year olds seem to specialise and sighs: "Wouldn't it just be easier if we bought Father Christmas a telephone?" She's right; it would. Then the Fat Bearded One - or one of his doubles - could tell her himself: "Sorry, no giraffes in or out of lacy lingerie."