Capital Idea

The kids are wandering around muttering, “She’s off again.”

Frankly, I think this disparaging tone is completely unnecessary. It all stems from my kind motherly decision that they ought to learn all of the world capital cities. There are only 196 of them, so the project isn’t toooo tricky. Few of them change, so this lump of knowledge would stand them in good stead for the rest of their lives. What would a pub quiz be, I pointed out to them, without a couple of world capitals tossed in? How delightful to be able to place Yerevan, Thimpu, Bandar Seri Begawan, N’Djamena, Yamoussoukro, Dili, Tegucigalpa and Bishkek. It’s brilliant that the capital of Tuvalu is Vaiaku Village.

As I love wonderful names, the kids have known from the age of 3 that the capital Mongolia is Ulaanbaatar.  Add a few easy ones like London, Paris and Washington DC and we’re rolling. Only 192 to go.

We started off at A. After Afghanistan (Kabul) we carried on to Albania being Tirana and Algeria being Algiers. Then I realised that we were about to crash through a number of small African states with pronunciation-challenging capital names. So I decided that we ought to branch out into the easier ones including straightening out that Australia is Canberra, not Sydney; Brazil is Brasilia, not Rio; and Canada is Ottawa.

Popularity points waned as I suggested we moved into deepest, darkest Europe. Luckily you don’t get elected to the post of mother. Canvassing for all four votes at once could prove tricky. Although the kissing babies, speeches on rectitude and parades would be fine, I’m not so sure about the handing out of leaflets and smiling constantly. Grinning should be intermittent, like indicator lights, although perhaps less regular.

Everybody has got sucked into the project. My husband is now used to arriving home to be greeted with “Hi dear.  Lithuania?”

“Vilnius” he replies. “Had a good day?”

“Capital of Croatia, Natasha?”


“Bulgaria, Sophie?”

“Sophia. Get it right, Mother.”

“Be grateful I called you Sophie and not Bulgarie, sassy child.”

The kids oddly enough don’t seem to be enormously grateful. You’d think they would be after all I do for them. My 14-year-old son, for example, complained that he was ravenous at school by 11am, so now every morning I make him a full cooked breakfast. I look like Russell Brand in a pink dressing gown, (hair resemblance, not beard) drinking tea, pushing sausages and bacon round a pan with one hand, pouring juice, making toast, beans and scrambled eggs with the other three. Today’s offering looked rather voluminous.

“Morning, Charlie,” I greeted him. “Hungry?”

“Budapest,” he replied.


About alisongardiner1

Writer of YA series of books. Broadcaster/podcaster Litopia After Dark.
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