Lynne Mortimer: We might all benefit from the institution of a ‘naughty’ step

Lynne Mortimer on the naughty step

Lynne Mortimer on the naughty step - Credit: Archant

When George, aged two years and nine months, misbehaves and does not desist when asked, he is consigned to the thinking step, the bottom stair.

Here he sobs with anguish and says sorry.

Then, when he has done enough thinking, he re-enters polite society and all is well.

It seems to me we might all benefit from an occasional spell on the thinking step – although mine would have to be a couple more steps up from George’s otherwise my chin would be on my knees. It’s hard to think objectively when anyone passing by can see your knickers.

There are other steps that could be useful.

A keep calm and carry on step for the times when modern life frustrates. For example, my computer security has been automatically renewed (£49.99) and we no longer have the computer. In order to get a refund I had to have a “conversation” online in which I was told we were “working together to find a solution.” The solution would be, I think, to simply refund my money. But no, we had to talk about it. In the end, I exited the chat and now I’m wondering if the 60-day refund limit will have expired before the conversation ends. What a palaver.

A remembering step. I would need to label it, naturally, otherwise I’d forget where it was. I would have been able to go there when I forgot the brilliantly funny thing I was going to write about this week. (I’m writing this instead.)

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I have also heard tell of a naughty step. Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure I am physically up to doing anything naughty on a step... although I suppose I could give it a go.

Despite being like Mary Poppins, practically perfect in every way (Are you sure about that, Lynne? ED), even I am prone to small lapses. Sometimes and I know you will find this difficult to believe of someone as balanced and temperate as me (ditto. ED), I blame my husband when I have forgotten to do something he knew nothing about.

Before making wild accusations I could send myself to the thinking step, one at a decent height, and consider why my shortcomings should be his fault.

Then there was the moment, on June 10, our 37th wedding anniversary (you don’t get anything special for that) when I believed we had an agreement not to exchange cards or gifts and my husband brought me roses and gave me a card.

After I had calmed down, there came a period of reflection – about a fortnight – during which I realised that my understanding that we would not observe the date might not have been shared by my husband because, I think, men apply their logic to such dilemmas and decide women are “only saying that”.

Thus, the more I insisted we should not do the anniversary thing, the more he felt I might be expecting some acknowledgement.

I blame Shakespeare. It was he (and no other, in my opinion) who penned the words: “The lady doth protest too much, methinks”. The quote is from Hamlet and has come to mean that the more someone tries to convince others of the sincerity of what they are saying, the more one, ironically, might doubt it.

This is where a spell on the thinking step might have been helpful. Or would it…

“Lynne said she didn’t want flowers or a card but was that simply her way of reminding me to get a card and flowers. What would be worse, Lynne being upset because I didn’t give her a card or Lynne being upset because I did?”

It’s a tough call and, in my thinking step session, I have to wonder if, after all, I did expect a card and flowers.

Moreover, I would have had to concede I wasn’t angry with him because he gave me a card, I was upset because I didn’t give him one… which is not a double entendre. I’m 60, I need a week’s notice for a double meaning.

In the end, and without the aid of a thinking step, I was quite touched by the gesture and forgave him pretty quickly. And I think it was only about a couple of days before I relented and gave him the card I had squirrelled away just in case. I must be mellowing with age.

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