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I was at a friend's house chatting away over a cup of tea at the kitchen table. True to my friend, the table was laden with unplaced shopping, undone homework, uneaten Xmas treats and an unstored arrangement of flotsam and jetsam. As we gossiped away, one of her daughters appeared, snorkelled her way through the top of the table and surfaced with a partly eaten packet of jelly snake lollies.

"Can I have these, please?" the innocent sounding young lady begged.

"But you have already eaten half of the packet today!" my friend softly reasoned.

"But, Mum, they are so tasty and I really like them," came the reply.

Silence. A pause in the air that needed to be cut with a sharp knife.

I admired the young lady's tactics. She had asked very nicely, she was doing it in front of a visitor, and she had the laws of embarrassment on her side. Should I take my leave, I thought, and let them have a good ding-dong? My vision of an argument with any teenager is not a pleasant one. My experience is that a verbal tug-of-war with any human being between the ages of thirteen and sixteen has to be a simple choice of fight or flight and flight seemed a good option for me.

However, my friend calmly reached over and gently removed the packet from the said child's hand and soothed,

"Ok ... let's have a look at how many are left."

And, with the dexterity of a practiced weight watcher, she quickly analysed the calorie content of the remaining sweets as she cunningly reminded her daughter of how good she wanted to look in her new Xmas bikini. She whipped the formula up and serenely stated a case ... not her case ... but a case.

The logic was that there really wasn't a problem with the lollies being eaten, and that the daughter was most welcome to eat them, but that by doing so she would be consuming 700 calories, and that it took a brisk 3 kilometre walk to burn off 100 calories, meaning that she would need to walk to her friend Emily's place and back at least four times if she didn't want the snakes to protrude in little rolls over the top of her bikini bottoms.

More silence. Another pause in the air.

"But that's ridiculous!"

"But that's the fact."

The snakes were offered back. The child's appetite was diminishing.

"Shall I ring Emily's mum and let her know you'll be over later?"

With a quick reflection the daughter declined, mentioned something much more important she needed to and she floated off saying she would eat them another day.

An imperceptible smile from my friend acknowledged that we both knew those snakes would be forever tainted by the thought of rolls over a bikini top and this became a lesson to me. I am a bit of an impulse buyer and there is nothing wrong with that, but, if I am going to indulge, I must first weigh up any later consequence. You can have whatever takes your fancy so long as it can be balanced out against all other things. Which of my animals may have to miss out or is there any extra income on the horizon to compensate? The snakes became a great watchdog for me too.

 

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