The fruit bowl's contents are over ripe and ageing. A pear has a squashed bottom like it's wearing a sodden nappy. Three bananas are blemished with leopard spots. There are apples - Eden's rejects - beyond temptation, their wrinkly skins predicting dry, unappetising first bites - their cores probably browning with unflappable demise.
And I'm sat in a kind of limbo - not quite here, not quite there.
In fact we all are - Younger Dad, Little A and I.
I try to ignore the peevish whispers from the bookshelves 'pack me, pack me, pack me.' And I know how they feel - it's time to leave - to move into the new chapter of our lives, a brand new home for our family of three.
When will the contracts exchange? It's just paper twiddling and signing dotted lines damn it.
I am not made of patient stuff.
And Little A is both excited and confused, vacillating between 'mummy I'm going to live near my cousants (cousins)' and 'mummy I don't want to leave our flat.' There have been numerous nocturnal awakenings, although I suspect I layer her with too many warm blankets - it's hard keeping track with this mild-cold-mild-freezing weather. Then there is her concept of moving, 'mummy, can I take my toys with me when the big truck comes?' 'Sweet heart,' I reply, 'you can take ALL your toys and ALL your teddies,' reassuring her with dramatic emphasis on ALL. 'Oh sank you (thank you), sank you so much mummy!'
Yesterday, I invited her to join me in a spring sort out of her toys. Save for a few baby board books, a wooden boat, and plastic hammer and nail set, she refused to relinquish anything. Can't say I blame her - it wasn't good timing on my part. At the moment, Little A needs familiarity around her, even if it's the comforting relics she's neither seen nor played with in over two years.
But I know she's going to be just fine...
'Hello, I'm Little A, what's your name?' She asks a platinum blond forty something woman - maybe I should go that colour? - sat to her left at the only che' che' cafe in Croxley Green.'What are you having for lunch today?' The woman turns to the little person on her right. She smiles warmly, taken aback by Little A's chutzpah, and engages my daughter about the weather and her slice of cake.
Already winning friends and influencing people.
'Mummy - loooook - I'm doing dressing up and drawing,' a shrill voice calls as I'm filling out the registration forms at her new pre-school - only a minute walk from our new home. Those contracts better exchange soon. When I look up, my eyes work hard at locating her. Ahhh there she is. I spot her in a pirates outfit painting yogurt pots alongside the other children.
She's going to enjoy living here....
'We're seeing three childminders today,' she says to the first childminder we meet, 'can I do some painting now?' Paint brush in hand, Little A makes a colourful mess at a table in a sunlit conservatory. I carry on with the interview - she's very friendly, flexible, loaded with qualifications. Half way through, a little voice pipes up, 'can you read to me now?' The minder chooses a Barbie book - not my preferred choice - and proceeds reading about the size zero doll's morning routine.
She's not backwards in coming forwards.
'Can I have some lunch - can I have cheese on toast too?' Only ten minutes earlier, we'd arrived at the second childminder's home just as she was preparing food. 'Of course you can - settle yourself in a chair,' the minder replies. Little A sits herself at the kitchen table. She's accompanied by a baby in a high chair and the minder's very wilful daughter - same age as Little A - strapped in a booster seat. Little A is presented with beautifully cut melted cheese triangles - an alternating combination of cheddar and red leicester - positioned just so, overlapping, around the edge of the plate. In the middle, there's a delicate arrangement of salad leaves, tomatoes and cucumber like the air is carrying them. These are toddlers you're feeding. A heated exchange erupts. 'You're strapped in... you're strapped in.... potatoes bobatoes...you're strapped in.' 'No I'm not, I'm sitting in a normal chair,' retorts Little A. 'You're strapped in.... You're strapped in.' 'No I'm not,' Little A dismounts her chair and walks to the other end of the table, 'See, look, I'm not strapped in.' The minder and I are thinking the same thing - this clash can never happen again. Ever.
She can stand up for herself.
So we have much in place - a preschool, a childminder*, the removal firm - preparing Little A for her new life as a home counties girl. But until we have the keys to our new home, we're inhabiting a sort of a domestic no mans land. Hurry up solicitors, get a blinking move on would you!
In the mean time, I'll water the daffodils and buy some fresh fruit.
*We chose the third childminder - the one with an extra assistant, well selected books and mellow pre-schoolers.