Otter spotter

Crossing a foot-bridge over the River Mersey, Eliza cried, “I’ve seen an otter!” More likely to have been a water rat, I advised her. She pointed to where it had submerged and we followed the trail of bubbles as it swam across the narrow river. It surfaced and there was the long body and strong tail of an otter. We watched it gain the bank, carrying a fish and disappear into the undergrowth. My ecstatic reaction amused the kids. I apologised to Eliza, who may have enjoyed bettering me than seeing the otter in the first place.

The otter spot happened on a day’s leave during the holidays. The day, like many of their kind when we have hours ahead to amuse ourselves, began with upset and dispute over what we were going to do. And, equally typically, the compromise about which most were unhappy ended with a fulfilling trip – cycle ride along the river and back – boosted by the otter spot.

The kids spend days in the school holiday, when both L and I work, at holiday camps. These are equally controversial. The cricket club is too sporty and lacking in friends for Eliza. The local secondary school places Gabe in an environment without friends. Robin muddles through, burning off energy, scoring goals, moaning when tired. None of them ever returns as unhappy as they may seem when the day at the club begins.

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