I was talking to Clyde at the track last night. Clyde is retired and was complaining that he didn't have the time to be retired, because of children's activities. He feels a little cheated, like a horse that discovers the carrot is plastic after galloping five miles for it.
"One has piano Tuesday nights, tennis Wednesdays and something else on Fridays," he told me. I forget what the something else was; some kind of martial art thing in which they wear white clothes and throw their limbs about.
"Two has violin two days a week and basketball on weekends," he went on, "and three - the youngest at six - has swimming and little athletics. Little athletics at six! And the parents coach from the sidelines." Clyde, a veteran runner, was shocked at the idea of 'coaching' a six-year-old.
I said something about the workhouses in Britain in the nineteenth century. "Children don't have time to play in the mud any more, or collect snails," I said. "On the bright side, they'll be over all the activities by age ten," I said. "And you'll have your life back."
Clyde laughed in a way that did not make him sound amused. "My wife is talking about changing child two's basketball coach. The current one is not getting results."
"She's just looking after his best interests, Clyde," I reasoned. "So if he doesn't turn out to be Itzhak Perlman he can be Charles Barkley, and if child one isn't Horowitz he could be Pat Cash, and if child three can't be Thorpe he can be a famous runner. I just can't think of the name of one right now."
Clyde said that didn't sound like the kind of household he could possibly live it, and then he told me that sarcasm was the lowest form of wit. I said that I thought I was being ironic, and that confused both of us.
I don't know how the conversation got around to children's enforced exercise and recreation regimes, but perhaps it was when I mentioned the pitfalls of raising children, which is the expression we used years ago before someone changed it to 'parenting'. I had made a peanut butter sandwich - fresh white bread, thick butter and thick, smooth peanut butter - and I was putting it into Thomas' kindergarten bag for a snack when William almost shouted, "No peanut butter at kinder, Daddy!" Clyde had laughed and then told me about his stolen life.
All this while jogging around a track on a warm evening in the dying days of summer.
Now we were finished and it was a cool night and the moon was three quarters full and it cast a pale light over the track. Several people were still jogging around. Running - or at least fast walking which is all I can manage these days - is good for the appetite.
I went home and made a quick and easy dinner.
Squid in peanut sauce.
Take half a cup of coconut cream, a quarter cup of water, three tablespoons of crunchy peanut butter, half a teaspoon each of chili powder, ground cummin, ground coriander and curry powder. Combine all ingredients in a pot. Bring to a high simmer, add 750g squid cut into rings or strips, turn down heat, cover pot, simmer up to thirty minutes. Serve on basmati rice and offer extra chili sauce for those who like it hot.