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When Hippo opens his eyes, everything is grey. It is a grey morning, he thinks, as he snuggles up to his mummy. He is in no hurry to get up. This day will be no different from yesterday and the day before that. He can't remember what the days before were like. All he knows is that mama has always been there. He recognises her heartbeat and voice even though she doesn't say much. She pushes against him with her snout when she wants him to move. Imperturbably, she waddles on and he follows her automatically. He does not know why, but there is no reason to stay behind or to go another way. Mummy is big and grey and he knows her. He hasn't really seen the rest of the world yet. With his snout against mama, it is safe. Sometimes he smells the earth or the grass. The grass is the few blades that come out of the ground and that you can chew on if you get hold of them. It tickles a little, but as soon as he lies down or stands on it, the tickle is gone.
Today is Mummy's day, Mummy says.
You are lucky my child. We are going to the water. It is time for you to take a dip. You are old enough now.
Slowly she gets up and waddles away. She doesn't tell him to follow her because she knows he will anyway. Won't he? Then he's out of luck and won't get any food.
Water, what would that be?
You can bathe in it, Mummy says. She seems to be able to read his thoughts. It is not far.
Not far? Maybe not for her, but certainly for him. His legs are short and he can't run very well either. Mummy carries on rocking imperturbably. She knows the way, that's for sure, even though he can't remember that they have ever been here before.
For a moment she stands still with her head slightly raised and sniffs, but then she waddles on again, hardly caring about her son who is somewhat out of breath.
It's not far, Mum said, but it is far. By now it is no longer a grey morning but a sunny day.
We're almost there, Mum says, but he doesn't believe in it anymore and he's also hungry from walking. You'd like a sip. Milk, not water or whatever it's called.
He almost bumps into Mum when she stands still.
Damn, says mama. The best place is taken. She looked disdainfully at cousin Albert standing in the water.
Is this going to take long, she cries? My little one needs a bath!
There's plenty of room, come and join us, cousin Albert shouts, but Mummy doesn't want to. She doesn't like Cousin Albert. He talks and behaves strangely and she does not want him to have any contact with her little boy.
She looks ugly at Albert and roars, "I'll count to ten and if you're not out of the water by then, there'll be hell to pay! It is not appropriate to share the bath with a lady of standing and her newborn baby!
Albert looks glum but he knows how strong Mum is and that it would be wiser to leave the water before any blows are struck. When Mummy attacks with her weight, it definitely hurts.
I'm sorry, Auntie," cousin Albert roars and, as fast as he can, he crawls to the water's edge.
Congratulations on the birth of your son and have fun in the bath together.
Taking a bath with mummy is not so bad. We got wet together and dried off in the sunshine by the side of the water. Mummy looked happy and I think she fell asleep with a smile because cousin Albert is such a loser and let herself be chased away by her.