Time for magic in the kitchen

By John Lewis

When I was small I was in the Boy Scouts for a month but I got thrown out when I grew my fingernails to play guitar like Jimi Hendrix.

Apparently you can't have long fingernails, play Purple Haze and earn your dog grooming proficiency badge at the same time.

Anyway, the one thing I took away with me from the Scouts was the old motto ‘Be Prepared'.

I used this valuable piece of advice last weekend when I was told my two grandchildren, aged four and five, were coming for a visit.

When this happens the Chief Gardener usually gets out her block of clay while PetGirl makes Lego puppies for four hours.

Not this time — I was on my own.

Undaunted, I cleared the kitchen table and set out three strips of drawing paper with an artillery barrage of coloured pencils, fluoro pens and wax crayons lined up. I made sure each strip of paper had its own pencil sharpener. I even poured three glasses of water in case the drawing got really frenzied. As a back-up, I filled a bowl with strawberries.

That should keep the little blighters busy for at least two hours, then we can watch Paw Patrol — and bingo! Time's up and it's back to verandah time for me.

I paced around the kitchen like a chicken for 10 minutes checking there were no sharp objects, broken glass, old dog food, half-drunk bottles of Chateau Le Fuzzhead, or chewable dead insects.

I straightened the pencils, polished the strawberries and looked at my watch.

It was noon — blast-off time.

Suddenly the front door burst open and the loungeroom was a landscape of spinning tops, beach holiday shells and descriptions of how dad can tie three knots in a shoelace and how fish poo comes out in a straight line and how Africa is a really scary place because it sounds like AAAAhfrica.

Then came the harmonicas, PetGirl's ukulele, the calfskin Indian drum, Lego rockets and a jazz piano version of Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On played with elbows.

Things were getting busy.

Boxes of Lego were upturned and the cat's tail stepped on.

I looked at my watch. It was five past 12.

Then I remembered the drawing paper and the barrage of coloured pencils in the kitchen.

So there were explosions of sunshine, whales doing massive spews, trees with huge fingers and rockets flown by robots.

Anything could happen. And it did. The glasses of water were tipped over and the strawberries became a bold new art style of flavoured impasto on papier-mâché.

I looked at my watch. It was 10 past 12.

I remembered something from my college years about child psychologist Jean Piaget, who said the years from two to seven are about magical thinking — when if you believe something strongly enough it can happen.

This explained what was happening in my kitchen and loungeroom.

It was indeed magic, and it was timeless, and it was outside of time.

I had forgotten — it's been a long time.