Another weekend ritual has emerged. Every Sunday morning, The Doctor gets down on his hands and knees with a special handheld light, and examines the darkened spaces under the cupboards or radiator-covers, or the holes below the skirting boards. Then, as carefully as if he were performing a surgical procedure, he extracts them; marbles.
Littleboy 1 has long been obsessed by marbles, and now his brother is also starting to take a keen interest. We left an old-fashioned plastic Helter Skelter marble set behind in England (it was shared with his cousins) and promised him a new set when we reached America, partly as a way of easing the move for him. (Advisory warning: this strategy is not necessarily clever. From the moment we touched down at JFK, practically every hour he would be heard to ask: "Are we in America now? Can I have my marbles?")
Finally, in the depths of Virginia, we happened upon a magical little toyshop selling this. Quadrilla is, naturally, made in Germany and exhibits all the Vorsprung Der Technik you would expect of such a product. Not only do the marbles roll neatly and smoothly down curving wooden tracks, you can build all manner of intricate towers and structures.
The Littleboys are now experts in the field, far better at it than me. (I'm expecting great things of Littleboy 1 architecturally; he'd better become the next Richard Rodgers, and make pots of money to keep me in my old age). The Doctor is also madly in the love with the toy, and has secretly ordered an extension on Amazon as a present for when he returns from a conference in Europe next week. A present for the Littleboys, I mean. I think.
It's obviously a boy thing, because my father also spent many hours playing with the marbles during his visit with us the other week. The boys would start the day with a cry of "Where's Grandad? I want him to build a marble tower..." before Grandad was barely out of his bedroom and into the shower.
So it cannot be denied that the marbles have been a huge success. They keep the boys amused for hours, and have been deemed far more interesting, even, than Go, Diego, Go (and that's saying something in this house).
The only problem is that, particularly on the highly polished wooden floor of our living-room, they also have lives of their own. The Quadrilla set came with 50 marbles; so far we have permanently lost about 10. The others lurk quietly in the furthest corners of the house, somewhere in the dark patiently waiting to be found. We are forever diving onto our stomachs trying desperately to stop them rolling under something else, or being asked to extract them from some dusty far corner of under-the-sofa. In fact, the sound of rolling is enough to have me leaping up from whatever I'm doing screeching: "Oh God. Where's it going now....?"
And, about once a day, someone in the house is heard to cry: "Don't lose your marbles...!"
I'm beginning to understand the origins of that phrase.