Child 3 had his end-of-term carol service yesterday afternoon, and children 2 and 4, plus Grandma and I, went along and afterwards we trooped off to a coffee shop, where Child 2 and I queued for hot chocolate, tea, millionaire’s shortbread and a ‘flapjack, do you think they’ll have a flapjack, I only want a flapjack,’ for my mother, who was suffering from low blood sugar and needed to eat something.
‘I’m sure they’ll have a flapjack,’ I said soothingly, muttering prayers under my breath, because I could hear the querulous tones of one whose blood sugar is plummeting to one’s booted toes, and when one’s blood sugar plummets to ones booted toes, one’s reason and sense of proportion distort accordingly. The incessant chatter of child 4, usually a source of unbridled delight to her doting grandmother, was beginning to bring a familiar furrow to that familiar forehead. In short, it was of paramount importance that the Powers That Be had decided that a flapjack, do you think they’ll have a flapjack, I only want a flapjack, should form part of the seasonal offering.
Alas. The hot chocolate was dusted with a bauble shapes; the millionaire’s shortbread was adorned with sugar holly leaves; even the chocolate muffin had been sprayed gold and topped with a glacé cherry. But of flapjack – even seasonally adjusted – was there none. Only a solitary Christmas Cranberry Granola Bar nestled amongst the bling.
‘What do you think?’ I asked child 2, who is a sensible creature as yet unfamiliar with the effects of low blood sugar but knows when it’s important that Grandma be looked after.
‘It looks like a flapjack,’ she said. She was right. There were many oats clearly visible, and the entire square had the solidity and heft that is the essential nature of Flapjack. Surely no one would deny the poor bar its flapjackness, whatever label it bore? I thought maybe we could just pick out the cranberries, if necessary. ‘But,’ child 2 continued, ‘I don’t think Grandma will like the green bits. They look like mouldy oats. I don’t think we should give Grandma mouldy oats.
‘Maybe they’re pistachio nuts?’ I suggested hopefully. ‘Or some kind of really healthy seed?’ Child 2 doubted it, and indeed I wasn’t so sure myself.
In the meantime, Child 4, who is not a sensible child and has developed no sense whatsoever about moderating her own immediate whims to suit the length of tether of whichever of her slaves is responsible for her, was beginning to sing. I plunged desperately for the Christmas Cranberry Granola Bar and hoped for the best.
My poor mother eyed the cake plate suspiciously.
‘Is this a flapjack?’ she asked as we unloaded the tray.
Was it a flapjack? It was certainly a baked product which at some level involved oats. But would it answer my mother’s definition of flapjack? I know what low blood sugar does to your head. I know that you get cross and snappy, and that nothing anyone can do for you is quite right, and that it’s got Nothing At All To Do with the fact that you haven’t eaten, and in fact eating will only make you worse. This moment is the universe’s revenge for my wedding morning, which my mother spent following me around with a piece of toast and marmite.
I look at the Christmas Cranberry Granola Bar and deplore whoever thought to pimp the essential nature of flapjack with dried cranberries and miscellaneous green bits. My mother is looking pale, although whether that’s the effect of the blood sugar or of Child 4’s unbridled glee at having solo access to a piece of cake the size of her head, I have no idea. I do know, however, that it force-feeding is both undignified and illegal.
‘It is,’ I announced sonorously, ‘the Flapjack by Any Other Name.’
And because this is Advent, I would like to propose that God is the slow-release carbohydrate that proved the salvation of my mother’s blood sugar. And I would like to propose that the cranberries and the green bits and the gussied-up name are akin to the non-essential clutter around his message, which is that we love one another as he has loved us.