Nice Man showed me this fascinating article in The New Yorker. It's about a psychology experiment designed to measure self-control. Four-year-old kids were left alone in a room, sitting at a desk. On the desk was a marshmallow. The kids were told they could have two marshmallows if they waited and didn't eat the first one. If they ate the first one, that was their lot. Predictably, some of the kids could delay gratification and others crumbled and ate the first marshmallow.
But the scientists followed them up years later and discovered that the 'delayers' had higher IQ's and fewer behavioural problems than the non-delayers. In fact, the delayers managed life much better all round.
I wonder how long I'd have held off eating the marshmallow.
I remember when I was about five, asking my mum for an ice cream just before dinner. She wisely said no. I ran to my dad and asked for 2 pence (yes, 2p!) and with that 2 pence I bought a Mr Whippy cone with strawberry sauce. I think I took two licks of it, then threw it behind a wall, like Judas with the thirty pieces of silver.
I liked the end of the article where it said that 'even the most mundane routines of childhood, like not snacking before dinner, or saving up your allowance, or holding out until Christmas morning - are really sly exercises in cognitive training.' Apparently this is the most valuable training your parents can give you. And I realise my parents gave me all of the above.
Once I instigated an argument with Nice Man when he ate a roast chicken leg just before we went to my parents' for dinner. Yikes, it's not as if I can just benefit from the delayer 'rules'. Sometimes I have to annoy myself by my inflexible adherence to them years later. It obviously runs deep.
Still, I'm guessing I'll steer Mr Hugh away from any ice cream vans just before dinner time. Or I'll tell him that when the van plays the music, it means they've run out of ice cream.
Billy Connolly once said there is no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes. I can see what he's getting at. But, Billy (comedy God that you are), you live in LA for most of the year. I have been wearing the same clothes since January - if you know what I mean. I still cannot jettison the 'double trew' (leggings under my jeans) and I think my black cashmere polo-neck and red scarf are genetically modifying themselves with my DNA to become part of my person. I long for the air to be warm. I long to feel the sun on my bare ankles.
Most people are glad to see their council tax spent on practical things like making the pavements smooth and safe for all. When Hugh is crying in the pram, trying his utmost to get over to sleep, I steer headlong towards the bumpiest paving stones, aiming for every manhole cover and water-mains lid. It's his best chance.