The day we went to London was also the day we met up with some cousins who had flown over from America. I hadn't seen them in years and I wanted to make a good impression.
The couple have two boys who are 10 and 12 years old. They didn't accompany them on this trip so I hand over a couple of small gifts for the parents to take back for them.
I had read somewhere that one of England's favorite children's writers isn't promoted in America as she is thought to be too subversive. I decide that I'll get my son to root through his box of old CDs and find the one with her stories. The boys will love them. I'll also pick up a couple of new books to go with them.
When my son gets home from school I ask him about the CD.
'You never bought me CDs Mum. It was always cassette tapes from the bargain section'
I vaguely remember this and I doubt if the boys will even have a cassette player.
I go online and find the CD, the price is good but the 1st class postage needed to guarantee delivery is a whopping £8. It seems a bit much when I could drive 5 miles and pick it up from a local bookstore.
It is the next day and I am in the store and have found the CD but am now wondering if the age range is a bit low. It states that it is suitable for children down to the age of 3. I'm quite certain that my own son was still listening to it when he was the same age as the younger one but I think I'll be pushing my luck with the 12 year old. And I'm now not that sure about what sort of books to buy them. I'll have to think of something else.
I decide to go into the shop next door and look at T-shirts.
Upstairs I start sorting through the sale rail. There are lots to fit the younger one. But nothing for his brother. Then I start to worry. I have no idea of what they might like. I still have items tucked into drawers that distant relatives kindly bought for my own son over the years. They either didn't fit or were hideously out of step with their choice.
And then I see a row of stripy T-shirts.
I love this look. Particularly on children. I find two of the same design but in the correct sizes, one blue and one green. I'm happy and relieved.
Later that night I show them to my son.
'But I thought you were buying them books and a CD?'
'Well...I thought maybe the CD was a little young for them and I don't really know their taste with books. It seemed like the best option'
'So you buy them stripy T-shirts instead? That's so boring. And you're inflicting your own weird sense of taste on other peoples children. You're sick'
I'm used to my sons scathing breakdown of any personality traits or defects he feels I may have.
'Well, I think they'll look lovely'
'Mum, not only have you got them your own twisted version of what you imagine boys would want to wear but you've also got them exactly the same. They'll hate you'
'They aren't exactly the same, I chose different colours'
'They'll always hate you'
A week or so after our lunch my cousin sends me an email thanking me for the T-shirts - the boys love them, she writes, they've worn them all week!
I'm thrilled and show my son.
'It's all lies Mum. She has to write that'
He looks at me pityingly.
'You've got to stop being so gullible. Even with family'