My niece Maisie is cute, but she’s only three-and-a-bit years old so she still has plenty to learn about the World. This week, presented with a beach ball, she declared:

“I saw India on a ball like that. It’s where elephants and peacocks live and it’s a triangle.”

On seeing a black woman at the swimming baths she asked her mum, my sister:

“Why is that woman covered in chocolate?”

This is Maisie with her grandmother, whom she sees a lot of

my black mother with my rather paler niece

—though perhaps not in the same way as she saw a lot of the woman at the swimming baths. When grandma’s colour was subsequently drawn to her attention Maisie countered that my mum is “only a bit chocolate”. Extending her theory, Maisie decided that this meant that she was herself made of “white chocolate”. The girl’s future career as a chartered diversity consultant is already in jeopardy.

[Standard disclaimer: the chintzy decor in the background of the photograph above is nothing to do with my sister or brother-in-law’s taste in interiors at all; it came with the house and they haven’t got round to replacing it yet.]