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I have to write a cheque for Prole1’s chess tournament.

It’s a Megafinal apparently, which sounds pretty impressive until you realise there is a Gigafinal and a Terafinal after that.

They need him to register for the Delancey UK Schools Chess Challenge MEGAFINAL XI.

Sounds posh.

I am not sure of Prole1’s chances.
He did well to be selected and this is obviously the fruition of his dream to ‘be and athlete and represent the school at chess’ which he has had since the run up to the Olympics a couple of years ago.

The motto of the 2012 Games in London was “Inspire a Generation” and it certainly seems to have worked in our house.

“Inspiration”, incidentally, is the action of taking air into the lungs.
Part of “Respiration”.
Inspiration is to breathe in.
It’s nice to know the Government were able to sell something back to us that we all do every day.

I may be being jaded but from my perspective down here in Cornwall but Prole1’s particular drive to be Faster, Higher and Stronger at Chess is the one tangible legacy of the Olympics in my house.
I was fairly jaded about the Olympics in the first place it has to be said so in fairness I must be open to the possibility that sport has in some way affected and transformed my life in other ways since the Games in London.
I just can’t say I have noticed.
Last time I was in London I did not see lots of people ‘saying hello to each other in the street’ or being ‘quite nice’ to each other, which was much commented on at the time but seems to have been un-sustainable in the modern climate.
In fact it was announced that the local running track was to be sold and turned into shops and possibly a multiplex cinema centre, thus spawning a public outcry from the users of the other local cinemas in the area who are all struggling to stay afloat.

It is true that, as a single parent with two kids, it would be easier to shove them into a car outside the house, drive them to a Multiplex carpark, go in and then drive home afterwards than it is to negotiate the several roads and crossings necessary to visit my home town cinema, the place that I have been seeing films in for decades.
I love my local cinema and I will continue to take the boys there in the future.
It would just be easier to drive to a multiplex if there was one.
What a world. I am not sure I all progress is getting us anywhere.

So apart from a scattering of oddly coloured post boxes I am not sure what the Olympics have done really.
Except Prole1 says I am not allowed to call it the ‘Dull-ympics’ any more.

I wonder if, sandwiched as they are between China’s extravaganza and the up coming Brazillian bonanza, they will be remembered as the ‘plucky, little games’ as Cameron has suggested or just a little bit embarrassing?
Like the time Skooch represented the UK at the Eurovision Song Contest?

Anyway, brilliant opening ceremony wasn’t it?

Where was I?

Chess.

It had to be chess really didn’t it?
Given Prole1’s track record and given his position in the school, it had to be chess.
I caught Prole2 laughing at the Smurf books the other night and asked what the joke was.

Prole2: Brainy Smurf is just like my brother….

And he was off giggling again.

Brainy Smurf really is like his brother.

Also my suspicions about his hand eye co-ordination and ball skills were tested on the beach today with the Sport Dads.
I was not there of course, I have long given up pretending and was sitting with the Mums, looking at rashes on babies and talking about the best bubble solution to blow bubbles with.

The Proles were playing foot ball, volley ball and keepy-up with a variety of Dads and children.
Prole2 occasionally came over for some reassurance after a 50/50 tackle or actually making contact with the ball.
Prole1 appeared to spend most of the time qualifying the rules and falling over.

He did well in the school chess tournament.
Well enough to qualify for the Megafinal anyway, which is not to say he won that many matches, more that he managed to win the most matches in his year.
History has not recorded how many other people in his age group he actually played against so I am not sure how to calculate his ‘form’ for the up coming event.
With a fair wind behind him he might do ok.

Personally I am just over the moon he has the opportunity.
I must also count my blessings that it is not the sort of competition where I will have to stand on a touchline with other Dads and talk about the progress of the match or enter into discussion about tactics.
I don’t imagine anyone is going to be asking me if I have seen the latest match from the Russian Chess League or ask me if I favour Carlson Magnus or Levon Aronian for the top slot next year.
I am rather hoping for a quiet sit down rather than ninety minutes of bellowing at my son at the top of my lungs to ‘watch that bishop’ or ‘pawn to queen five, PAWN TO QUEEN FIVE’ along with the rest of the spectators.

It’s a long day though, 10am kick off (Is that right? What do you call it?) and 5.20pm prize giving.
Seven hours of chess with time for a packed lunch.

The other finals, later on this year are altogether more tense and high stakes affairs.
The Gigafinal is in Reading and the Terafinal is at Loughborough School.
Since each final will be creaming off the winners from each area I imagine Loughborough will be full of highly coached and hot housed kids whose parents missed out on the opportunity of touchline yelling and have refocussed the family efforts into the Delancey UK Schools Chess Challenge instead.
I have so far resisted treating Prole1’s brain like a Prize Marrow and trying to pick up rosettes with it but I can see that others might be tempted.
He is not exactly a savant and his talents are a little patchy and unpredictable but with some investment of time, some real practice, private tuition and some real focus on his learning I am sure I could completely steal his child hood away and re-live my failed life vicariously through his successes.

Sadly I am bound over by a moral promise to try to make his life fun, which precludes three hours of Chess training every day.
I clearly did not think it through properly when I started this parenting thing.

To be honest I am not even sure we will make it to the first tournament at all.

I think he is confident enough and I am sure he should be able to win at least one of his games but the problem is a little deeper than that.

Searching through the drawers of the bureau in the living room I have turned up four Paying In books and six Cheque Books, all for various accounts now defunct.

I cannot find my cheque book.

I have tried ordering a new one online but with no success and I am not sure I can bear phoning them up for an hour and a half, inching my way through the system.
I can’t remember the last time I actually went into a bank.
It seems the last time I had to write a cheque was over four years ago.
They won’t let me pay the registration fee by cash.

We may have to stay home.

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Last night, Saturday the 19th of April, I was unable to post on WordPress.

I have not really wanted to go into why I write this stuff or the ‘process of writing’, mostly because I don’t really have anything intelligent to say about it and I am not really sure.

Anyway, I woke this morning and was really disappointed.
I honestly felt like I had lost something.
Like my watch was gone or my wallet was not around or something.
I had not written some words on WordPress and it meant I could not go back to sleep.

I want to say there was a technical reason for not posting.
I want to say that the broad band dropped out or WordPress was playing up or my computer crashed but unfortunately none of these things happened.

Yesterday I went to visit friends and I started drinking before the boys went to bed.
We went to a bar with the children.

I don’t often visit pubs any more.
There was a time when I would go to a pub at least three times a week, usually five or more times.
I loved pubs.
I liked pubs for the warm, closed in feeling of good conversation and a bit of a cheeky laugh.
I liked the philosophy and the fencing with ideas.
I loved meeting complete strangers and somehow having a complete and unforgettable adventure with them.
I had favourite pubs in the same way people collect favourite hats or shoes.
I liked being in London and knowing twenty pubs I liked to drink in across town.
I liked finding new pubs and trying them on like a jacket.

I loved Sunday afternoons with all the papers and no reason to leave.
I liked Friday nights when the theatre staff all kicked out and I knew everyone in the pub.
I liked a quick pint in a loved pub.
I liked a pilgrimage to a particular place to meet particular friends and sit in particular seats to watch the world go by.

I just loved pubs.

The etiquette of buying a round and the subtle changes depending on which group I was with.
The flow of people through an evening.
The constant search for the perfect pint.

I felt bigger in a pub.
More confident.
I trained really hard to hold my own until I could last until closing time and still walk home.
I knew my limits (mostly) and I loved exploring them.

I felt it last night.
The Proles got a packet of crisps and a drink each in the snug and I sat at the end of the bar and surveyed the drinkers.
I had a pint and I could feel myself growing.
Beer.
Brilliant.
I drank a pint quickly, made sure the Proles were ok and went back for another.
I started to worry lees and less about them.
It was like being in the 1970s.

I was feeling more confident, I had missed all this.
The light from the beer taps, the feel of the beermat.
The smell.
I started to feel less like a parent and more like a man.
I could feel the warmth running through my system.
I remembered fighting and romance and working hard.
I thought about how long it had been since I had done this.
I suddenly became aware of my hand holding the beer glass and as I looked at it it seemed to come into focus and it surprised me because it looked so….right.

It got to half past nine at night.

That was a surprise.

I had had a few drinks.

I went to check on the Proles who were flopped on the sofa.
Prole2 was trying to build a nest in the coats and jumpers.
They should not be in a bar.
They should be in bed.

I was being selfish.

I could feel it all pouring back out of me.
I was slightly out of focus, I was slightly unsteady.
I could not have a conversation with my own children without it sounding weird.
I felt loose and baggy and I had to really concentrate to focus on what they were saying.

I was small.
Rubbish, useless and out of control.

And I needed a wee.

I don’t drink to enjoy myself any more, I drink to get drunk, it is the most selfish thing I do these days.
It is not about good conversation or company, it’s about getting drunk.
A drunk is no good as a parent.
Everything else was there, love, care, hope, dreams but the part of me that could guide my family safely was gone.
It was past bedtime and Dad was drunk.

I took them home and they sleepily went to bed.

I chatted with my friend for a bit and then I stayed in the house as he went back to the party.

I sat at the table looking at my hands.

Absolutely useless hands.

Selfish.

When I woke this morning I could not get back to sleep.

I did not write last night because I was drunk.

I don’t want to do that again.

I am not giving up drinking completely, not yet, but I need to see if I can stay in some sort of control and I hope I can keep posting here every day for a while to come.

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Sometimes I am just blessed with an illustration of how lucky I am.

We were up on a path between Paul and Lamorna, over looking the sea.

The sky was clear blue with a faint haze on the horizon.

The sea was a wash of glistering splinters of white light on blue.

The sun was beaming down but a light breeze coming up off the sea cooled us.

The boys and I were amongst friends and we were talking about boats and food, places we had visited and things we wanted to do.

Prole1 was off somewhere in the group discussing the difference between Elvish and Hobbit psychology with the Wordwitch.

I was just ahead of Prole2 who was wearing a thick wooley cardigan and a cowboy hat.

We came up over a rise and Prole2 held my hand.

We could see all the way from St Michael’s Mount round to the tip of the Lizard, just there in the haze.

There were boats in the bay and the sky was empty and huge.

Me: Look at that. Isn’t it beautiful.

Prole2: What?

Me: Look at the view.

Prole2: What?

Me: The view, I am saying it is beautiful.

Prole2 stopped and adjusted the doc leaf he had wrapped around his hand.
Nettle sting.
Nettle.
The Prole’s deadly enemy.
Prole1 had an identical battle wound with a matching doc leaf field dressing.

Prole2 clambered up onto a rock and peered out across the bay.

Prole2: What?

Me: The View. It’s beautiful.

Prole2: What’s a view?

Me: Everything you can see. That’s the view.

Prole2: The sea?

Me: No, I mean everything you can see.

Prole2: I can see the sea.

Me: Yes. The sea is part of the view, the view is everything you can see. I just thought it looked nice.

Prole2 went quiet and stared hard out into the distance.

He looked at me.

Prole2: What?

I had been here before.

Me: Do you think it is a nice day?

Prole2: Yes.

Me: Good.

I gave him some cucumber and he skipped off munching.

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The washing machine broke.
It just stopped working.

This time I had splashed out on an extended warrantee.

I called the warrantee people but they wanted the receipt.

I called the firm I bought the machine from and they emailed me the receipt.

I called the warrantee people and sent them the receipt and they said fine, get someone to mend it, you pay up front and send us the invoice and we will pay thou back.
Or the warrantee people could sort it out for me but that would take five days.

I said I could do it and I found someone local.

He could come round today.

I asked when he might be here and he said he did not like being tied down while he had things on.

I was just checking I was calling the right number when he volunteered he could be here between two and four today.

Brilliant.

He arrived at ten to four.

He took one look at the machine and said he thought I should just call the manufacturer.

All these machines have electronics he said.

They all have them these days.

I explained that he had to mend it or the warrantee people would not pay me to pay him.

He looked surprised that I should want him to mend the machine and took it apart a bit more.

Then he borrowed my computer and made a phone call.

He told me it would be silly money to get it fixed.

I said I did not mind because I was getting the money back.

He pulled a circuit board out of the machine, looked at it gloomily and told me I should call the manufacturer.

Electronics he explained.

It’s the electronics.

One day he might get his card for electronics but it’s hardly worth it for the amount he sees.

I paid him TWENTY POUNDS for telling me the washing machine was broken and he got a free coffee.
Milk no sugar.

I called the manufacturer.

They put me through to a department.

They could not find details of my warrantee so I explained it was not with them.

They explained they were unable to help and would put me through to the right department.

They took my details and opened an ‘account’ for me which they said would help when they put me through to the next department.

They put me through to the main switchboard.

The main switchboard had no idea who I was, what my account number meant or anything I was talking about.

They put me through to a department.

They took my account number and then asked me all the details on it to ‘verify’ who I was.

They could not find details of my warrantee so I explained it was not with them.

They explained they were unable to help and would put me through to the right department.

They told me to have my account number ready, which would help me when they put me through to the next department.

They put me through to the main switchboard.

The main switchboard had no idea who I was, what my account number meant or anything I was talking about.

They put me through to a department.

They took my account number and then asked me all the details on it to ‘verify’ who I was.

They could not find details of my warrantee so I explained it was not with them.

They explained they were unable to help and would put me through to the right department.

They told me to have my account number ready, which would help me when they put me through to the next department.

I said hello to the main switchboard again and said in as clear a voice as I could manage “I want to pay someone money to come to my house and fix my washing machine. I want to pay them money’.

They put me through to a department.

I gave them the details of my account and all the verification details as well.

The person on the other end of the line was annoyed because I had answered all the security questions before they had a chance to ask them and they needed to ask three questions before they could log me in to my account.

I asked if answering the questions before they asked them was a problem.

Apparently they have to ask me three direct questions but I had exhausted all the facts on the system.

I suggested they pretend I had not said anything and they said they might just have to do that.
We settled on the first three answers I gave and we pretended we had not been talking.

They could not find details of my warrantee so I explained it was not with them.

They asked who it was with so I told them.

They said I probably wanted option one then.

I asked what option one was.

They said option one was where I paid them money and someone came round to my house and fixed my washing machine.

I said that sounded good but they stopped me and said they had not finished because they had to read all the terms and conditions out.

Then they read out all the terms and conditions and asked if I wanted option one.

I asked how many options there were.

Three options they said.

I should have kept my fat mouth shut.

I asked what option two was.

They explained that in order to access option two they needed to know how old the machine was.

I said it was just over a year.

They asked when I bought it.

January, I replied.

They told me since it was over a year old it was outside it’s warrantee.

I agreed, they really seemed to be getting under the skin of the issue.

They asked where I got it.

I told them it was brand new from an Ebay store.

They explained that just because I got it in January that did not mean it was brand new when I got it.

I said it was brand new when I got it.

They asked how I knew it was brand new when I got it.

I said I knew it was new because I bought it new.

They said that just because I bought it new did not mean that it was new to the people who sold it to me and they needed to know when it had been new new.

I explained that it came from a named high street store in Yorkshire with an Ebay section.
I went on to explain that when it arrived there was plastic, and polystyrene and restraining bolts and those plastic strap things you can use to break into cars wrapped round it.

They asked how I knew it was new.

I said it was new, new from a shop and everything.

They said they were only trying to help.

I asked what option two was.

They explained that option two was where I took out a warrantee with them before they did the work and I kept on paying for some months.

I said I was not sure about that.

They asked if they could carry on reading the terms and conditions.

I said that would be very helpful.

They read the terms and conditions and asked if I liked option two.

I said I would go with option one.

They asked why I did not like option two.

I said it was because I already had a warrantee.

They said I didn’t.

I said I did, just not with them.

They asked who it was with.

I told them again.

They agreed that was not with them and asked if I wanted to hear about option three.

I said I had found option two a little upsetting and was just having a cup of tea to calm me down so perhaps option one was best.

They were quiet for a moment and then agreed.

I asked when an engineer might come round and they said I was getting ahead of the system again.

I apologised and decided to have a digestive.

They took me through the process.

They asked for the upfront payment and asks if I wanted to pay by card.

I said yes please.

They said they were just getting ready to process that.

There was a long pause.

I could hear the office in the back ground.

It got a little uncomfortable.

They asked if I was still there.

I said yes.

They said they were waiting for me to speak.

I asked what they wanted me to say.

They said they wanted my account number.

I started to give it.

They stopped me and asked me for my full name.

I gave them my full name for the third time, then the number, security code and so on.

They seemed pleased.

I asked when the engineer might come round.

They said they were checking.

They were checking.

They were checking.

They said the engineer would come round in eight days time but would text me the day before to let me know the ‘three hour window’ they would be at my house.

They asked if this was convenient.

I was not honest.

I said it was.

They asked if there was anything else they could help me with and did I want to buy any cleaning products from them.

I looked at the clock. This had all taken some time.

They went on to say that if I did not they would understand because their shift was about to finish.

I said I felt my shift was finishing too and so no there was no further assistance they could be and I would not like any of their cleaning products and we stopped the conversation.

Somehow, and I have no idea how, I am twenty pounds down having actually had a real life person in the room with a screwdriver and a washing machine repair van outside my house AND I still managed to spend an hour on the phone AND I still have to wait more than a week for someone to come and look at my washing machine.

 

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One of the Proles favourite things in the world is to play in an Arsenic Calciner.

We visit the one at Botallack quite regularly.
It sits on front of the Count House and up above the Crowns.
It must qualify for one of the most awe inspiring parts of the cornish coastline.
The Proles use the word ‘Awesome’ a lot but the cliffs of Botallack really are.

Once the faintly sombre part of our visits is over the boys just go wild for about half an hour.

At Botallack the remains of a huge Calciner are laid out on the cliff top.

The one at Botallack has been cleaned out and all the poisonous chemicals are gone now.
At one point the whole place must have been covered in a mildly lethal dust.

The process was to fire the ore and different chemicals would be vaporised with the heat.
The gasses would pass along tunnels, slowly cooling until they condensed on the walls of the tunnel.
Different chemicals would condense at different heats and so would cover the walls of the tunnel at different points.
The chemicals could be scraped off the sides of the tunnels and collected.

It was once a place of heavy, dangerous, deadly industry.
It is now greened in turf and furze over the red brick and granite.

The Calciner in Botallack is big enough to walk through in single file.
Not the open air dressing floor where the workers stood, women mostly, handling the toxic ash.
Actually inside the furnace and tunnels themselves.

The roof is missing for most of it so I am able to walk the length of it and only bend down to get through some of the smaller tunnels.
It takes around five minutes to walk from the furnace end to the chimney.

The tunnels are laid out in a rough ‘U’ shape, beginning with the furnace at the top of the ‘U’ and ending at the chimney at the other side.

The furnace door arch is still there so we walk through the door into the open square furnace shell and along a narrow bridge into the tunnel.
We are guided up a slight hill by the walls on either side for a while and then the tunnel snakes backwards and forwards in tight bends.
This is where most of the chemicals would have been gathered and each ‘end’ is framed by a doorway where it turns back on itself into the hillside again for about fifteen feet where it turns back on itself again and comes back to the next doorway.
There are a number of these parallel tunnels in and out of the hillside.
This zig zag series wiggles on and on until the tunnel travels up and over an arch at the base of the U shape.

This arch is easily big enough to walk under and then the tunnel continues on it’s wriggly way back up the other side of the U to the chimney.

The chimney is red brick and intact and reaches high into the air.

The whole walk is oddly mesmerising, like walking a maze.

The Proles call the Calciner ‘the Dragon’.

They rush in through the furnace’s open mouth and run as fast as they can through the tunnel to the tail, or ‘Dragon’s Bottom’ at Prole2 calls it.

Prole2 loves the word ‘bottom’ and it makes him giggle uncontrollably.
Prole1 hates the word ‘bottom’ and it can reduce him to tears if it is used a lot in conversation.
I am not sure which is the better way to be.

This is a chase of course.
I run behind making scary Dad noises.
The Proles squeak and shreak and run as fast as they can to get away.
In the past it was easy to keep up but they are getting rangy and slippery these days so it is more of an effort.
Also I am in occasional danger of knocking myself senseless on an occasional low lintel.
And I am in my forties, the odds are slowly moving in their favour.

The Proles love running from door to door, from tunnel to tunnel.
They climb all over it and scramble through it.
We play games of ‘catch’ and ‘tag’ across the dressing floor between the tunnel door ways.
They could and would do this for hours.

Often I can just stand waiting for them to return and hear nothing but echoey distant laughter from the tunnels.
The sound spins around and it is hard to know where abouts it is coming from.

Botallack is where Loz and I got married and the setting is where our wedding photos were taken.

All my very favourite photographs of that day are in and around that landscape.
I have a black and white image that our friend the New York Dancer took of us and I see it every morning.
I love Botallack and I cannot go there without thinking of her.

We also carried out a small ceremony there a few years ago for her.
She is there for me in amongst the ruins.
She is there in the cliffs and the blue of the sea, in the birds and the wind.
She is in the wild and the plants and the air.
If I want to know where Laura’s smile is then I go there.
She is in everything.

So when we go, we arrive quietly and stand for a moment.

Then the Proles go loopy and crash around the place like idiots.

I love it.

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A light has been turned off downstairs, I heard a click.

In bed, when it’s dark, I can hear the house.

I can tell which cat is running up the stairs.
I know which boy is snoring.
I can hear the wind on the back windows and the occasional clop of the cat flap.

I like sleep, I like sleep when I know everybody is safe, the doors are locked, the windows are shut and I have a warm duvet.
Oddly I like winter best, when I know it is cold out and it is all the more special that I am inside, warm.

I can hear Loz coming up the stairs.
She has a special rhythm to how she climbs them.
Our first step is lower than all the others and as a rule neither of us step on it when coming up the stairs.
The top step is a full three inches high than all the rest.
It is also the step you use to pivot round onto the landing so there is often a longer pause on this step.

The bannister creaks as she pulls herself round onto the landing.

The landing creaks.
It has chipboard laid over the original floor boards and the layers scrunch together in certain places.
They have a slight music of their own, the sound of the house being used.

She is coming up to the bedroom door and I can feel the room change slightly as she comes in.
It is dark but I can hear her take off her dressing gown and throw it on the floor.

We have hooks on the back of the door of course.
We just never use them.

I am aware of all this as I slowly wake up.
I have been deep down in a dream and it’s all still warm and fuzzy.
I should be annoyed because it is so late and I was happily asleep but it’s so lovely having her around, I don’t mind a bit.
I am just glad she is there.

I move over slightly so her side of the bed is clear and I can hear her sit down on the edge of the bed.
I am just thinking how nice it would be to give her a hug but I am just starting to get the shakes a little.

I can feel myself coming out of sleep and I am pleased because she has finally decided to come to bed and I don’t know what my growing worry is all about but it’s getting bigger and bigger.

And then the scales tip just a little too far and I start to remember and I am back pedalling and trying really hard to shut out the wakening and get back into a dream.

And I can’t.

And it’s not fair.

And there is this huge wall of unfairness and brutality and I slam headfirst into it.

And with a rush I am awake.

And Loz has been dead for years now.

I still get this dream sometimes, when she decides to come home again.

I know it happens to other people as well.

It’s rubbish.

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Today was beautiful again.

We went swimming in the morning but as the day wore on it got nicer and nicer and by the time we came out of the pool it was gorgeous.
Sadly we had to go shopping for food, the cupboards were very bare for breakfast following our return to the house.

An hour in Falmouth’s finest monster supermarket gave us the necessary supplies and me the infuriated irritation that meant we would not have to go back for another week.
People.
Shopping trollies.
I mean, really.

We arrived home after lunch.
There was still work to do on the insect house after yesterday’s foiled attempts to re home the invertebrate population of Redruth.
I also felt like today was the day to unpick the compostable nappy question.
The compost bins stand like sentinels of doom at the end of the garden, visible from my chair as I have breakfast.
I used to see them as pillars of hope, slowly but surely churning vegetation into compost.
Since they were utilised to process the organic nappies and results of Prole2’s digestive system the delicate balance of the four compost bins has been ruined and now they just stand there, on rainy days they leak an oozy jelly like substance.

The compost bins need solving.

I decided to dig a big hole and use the old pallets we had made the insect house out of to shutter round it.
I emptied the contents of three of the bins into this new space and then covered over with topsoil and a couple of handfuls of grass seed.
Then I stacked the remaining pallets by the hawthorn tree and got the Proles to fit them out as an insect house again.

I made that sound quite breezy but of course when mankind tries to get close to nature it never goes quite to plan.

The Man Who Digs The Garden ‘borrowed’ my wheel barrow about four years ago.
He is bringing it back.
He tells me he is so it must be true.
For now I know it is in another friend’s garden in Truro.
I sometimes go and visit it.

Without a wheel barrow I was forced to use a laundry tub to shift Prole2’s produce from the old compost bins to the new resting place.
The fork would pick them up but would not let them go again so in the end the simplest way to get the elderly nappies into the tub was to kneel down and pull them out by hand.

Kneeling in the remains of a compost bin and knowing that the compost had been created by worms digesting what my son had previously digested was a little too close to nature for my liking.
The process took about forty five minutes but it seemed…well I was a different person by the end.

The Proles had been encouraged to help in the garden.

Prole1 had been convinced that the garden was a good place but was ‘a little tired from swimming to do any work’.

Prole2 whole heartedly agreed with his brother.

They were no averse to being outside and they made it very clear they fully supported my decision to work in the garden and if at any point they could offer moral support or advice they were more than happy to do so.

I reckoned that being outside on a glorious day was better than inside so I kept on picking and shovelling while Prole2 built a lego car and Prole1 read Tin Tin.

Close to nature is better than away from nature I suppose.

After an hour or so when everything looked like it might be coming together I was just wondering if the Proles might like to come and help when there was an explosion of pigeons from next door’s garden.

The cats had been mooching about all day, occasionally proving that their digestive systems could make a contribution to the garden eco system as well and I assumed it was one of them causing trouble.
A couple of weeks ago it would have been my tabby cat but since she went bald she does not go out much.
I say bald. Bald in places.
I thought the bird scare could have come from the big black tom but he has difficulty jumping onto the washing machine since The Man Who Digs The Garden fed him last week.

The birds flapped and thwacked away over head, right over where I was standing.
I was just turning to see if the Proles had taken any notice of this display of wildlife when the air in front of me became a tangle of wings and flying feathers.
It was over in a second, a flapping white dove pinned to the ground beside my shovel.
A sleek brown shadow above it.
I saw the hawk at about the moment it saw me and we both realised how close we were.

The hawk and the dove leapt away skywards again and the dove fought up with the last of the pigeon flock.
The hawk peeled away and swept low past the garden and was gone across the houses.

I was breathless and disorientated, it had been fast and close, I had adrenaline in my mouth.
There were a scattering of white downey feathers and one large white flight feather landed, twisting in the grass.

I looked across to the Proles.

Prole1 was looking at me.

Prole1: Dad!

Me: Yes?

Prole1: Tin Tin’s dog can talk to him, well it comes out in speech bubbles, but Tin Tin can’t understand him.

Me: Did you see the birds?

Prole1 looks back at his book and then back at me.

Prole1: Which story are they in?

 

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We pulled the insect house apart today.

It was a lovely day so I imagined it would be good to do something outside as a family.
Also I had some unpacking to do and it had just got to the part where everything looks really messy, just before it all gets tidy again, and I had completely lost interest in folding pants.
I know it has to be done. It will be done.
But the sun was out, the last of the Daffs was nodding away, a cat was chasing a butterfly and the fedge (Stupid word) has begun to sprout.
What was I to do?

I like the insect house but I have to say it is a remarkably inactive thing.
The  Man Who Digs The Garden is never drawn to comment on it which means he probably feels it is a waste of space.

The Man Who Digs The Garden is actually downright rude about my compost bins, I could almost take offence but when I see how industrially he deals with his own composting I can see his point.

Anyway The Man Who Digs The Garden has not been doing anything in my garden for a while, which is sort of good because setting him to work in my tiny green patch is a little like that scene in Fantasia when Mickey mouse is the Magician’s Apprentice and sets the broom going and it all goes wrong. I asked The Man Who Digs The Garden’s opinion about moving and pruning apple trees and when I came back with the tea he had moved and pruned two trees. Two trees. I did two teas and half a dozen Digestives on a plate and he dug up two apple trees, dug new holes for them, replanted them and was dragging the hose out to water them in by the time I got back.

The cats love The Man Who Digs The Garden, probably because he smells of moss and the sea, partly because he occasionally feeds them but mostly because often when he comes round he digs in the garden which means they have somewhere new and exciting to defecate.
If he does not actually dig the soil over they generally just urinate near him.

I get The Man Who Digs The Garden to feed the cats when I am away.
He is more reliable than The Girl From The Circus but they do look quite tubby if I am away for more than a week.

The move of the insect house was prompted by the discovery of Australian Flatworms at it’s base.

Australian Flatworms are, if one were to read the Daily Mail, a new menace that will soon irradiate the native earthworm and thus kill all gardens, everywhere, totally dead, soon.
Or they may have been around since the 1960s and, along with the NewZealand Flatworm, now populate most of Britain, which may indicate that native and invasive populations of worms have struck some kind of equilibrium.

Whatever belief system you favour, a kind of worm that wraps itself round another worm, oozes digestive slime all over it and digests it whole from the outside is a thing of particular horror.
I wanted to see how bad the problem might be so looking under the insect house was the only way really.

I imagined we would strip down the layers of the insect house, finding woodlice, spiders, slugs and snails.
I imagined setting the Proles tasks like carrying the solitary bee nesting sites to a safe place or gathering up the pine cones into a bucket.
I imagined having a break half way through and having a snack and a drink in the sunshine.
I imagined finding a nest of Australian Flatworms and discussing with the Proles the morals of what to do with them.
I imagined a glorious re build, an insect house 4.0, redux, Mark II, a super space for invertebrates, created by us all.

I imagined a lot of things.

I took the house apart, Prole2 danced to Radio Six in the kitchen and Prole1 practiced magic tricks in his bedroom.

Prole1 would occasionally come into the garden and show me a particularly unimpressive rendering of a Magic Circle classic.
Prole2 banged his head on the kitchen table twice and needed immediate soothing and a cuddle.

Every time they distracted me like this one of the cats would sneak past and urinate or defecate on whatever I had just been working on.
I swear the inhabitants of my house have disproportionately huge digestive systems which are primed to kick in whenever I relax.

The Proles were, in short, utterly useless and stopped me doing what I was doing.

I did not finish the job.
The rebuild is still an hour of digging away.
The Australian Flatworm nest was not the seething mass of carnivorous slime-vermin I was imagining either.
Two worms, sticky and strangely beautifully coloured.
I squished them.
Prole1 was not around to discuss the morals of this which I think serves him right.
He will be no use to GreenPeace if he is not on the frontline fighting the cause. No one from the Rainbow Warrior ever go arrested for practising magic tricks.

I left the pieces of the house scattered around the garden to get the Proles ready to go out.

When I got in Prole2 showed me The Jiggling Bottom Dance, which to my great relief was performed fully clothed.

Prole2: Do you like it Dad?

Me: Yes, I think so. Do you think you will do it in public?

Prole2: What?

Me: Will you do it in front of other people?

Prole2: No. I made it just for you.

Me: Oh good. Lovely. Good.

Prole1 made some rabbits appear from nowhere, or quite obviously from his other hand.
He actually stopped talking to do the swap from hand to hand.

Prole1: Did I fool you?

Me: No.

Prole1: Oh.

Me: But I loved the patter, I loved the way there was one rabbit at the start and then it’s family turned up. It’s just I might have just seen a bit of a hand swap at one point.

Prole1: Yes that’s the tricky bit.

Me: Yes, tricky.

Prole1: I hope the audience don’t look like you do.

Me: Pardon?

Prole1: I hope they don’t look. At the trick. Like you do.

Me: Oh, yes. I see. No.

Prole1: Thanks for being a great audience, I really must go and practice some more.

The house is a wreck, the garden is a wreck.
As mornings go I could not really fault it.

 

 

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Prole2: I want to STOP!

Me: Are you ok?

Prole2: Yes. I want to STOP!

Me: You aren’t doing anything.

Prole2: Yes I am, I am dreaming.

Me: Are you?

Prole2: Yes and you said if I was dreaming and I did not like it I could shout “I want to stop’ inside my dreams and it might get me out.

Me: But you are not in a dream. You are in the kitchen.

Prole2: Yes but the floor is all funny and wobbly and I am dreaming.

Me: Ahhh…no, that’s motion sickness. Do you still feel like you did on the ferry.

Prole2: Yes, am I sick?

Me: Not…well we call it sick, hopefully if you get a good night’s sleep it won’t be there in the morning.

Prole2: So I am sick, not dreaming?

Me: Um..sea sick…sort of.

Prole2: So I don’t have to go to school tomorrow?

Me: Um..it is half way through the holidays.

Prole2: I am sick. Do I have to go to school tomorrow?

Me: UMmmm…no, no you don’t have to go to school; tomorrow.

Prole2: YES! Yes, yes, yes, Yes!

Me: Good night.

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We travel back on the ferry tomorrow.

Even though it is a daytime crossing I have booked a cabin.
I never used to, they are really expensive and there are lounger chairs you can book if you need to sit down or snooze.

When the proles were little we used to walk round and round the ferry for six hours, exploring steps, chairs, tabes, decks, doors shops and anywhere else they wanted to walk.
They did not really stop, Prole1 leading the way and waving fatly at complete strangers and shouting ‘Bon-joor‘ at them, Prole2 dragging a cuddly toy and trying to hop.

This would go on for hours, broken only by occasional stops on the circuit for food.

It was tiring but fine, if I steeled myself for it and was prepared then things generally went well.

This time however the Proles were properly sea sick, for the first time, when we came out.

We have done the trip many times.

For the most part the crossings have been flat and level.
I remember a bumpy night time crossing but the Proles were tucked up in a cabin and slept through the night, up as bright as daises the next morning.

There was mildly bumpy afternoon crossing, no cabin this time but the Proles were so small they curled up on me and we all dozed in a heap on a lounger.
I woke to find Prole2 warmly and gently vomiting into my armpit.
These were still the days of nappies and irregular and exciting bodily functions on the part of my children so a little bit of watery gip in my shirt was nothing really.
I just swapped it for a spare, changed Prole2’s outfit and we all perked up enough for dinner.

I am slightly more apprehensive about the future.
I remember being fine on boats for a while when I was a kid.
I remember a long period of not being fine too.
I am still prone to sea sickness but try to take measures against it.

If the Proles are around I am usually focussed on keeping them up, about, mobile, fed, watered, entertained and gipless and this seems to take my mind off things.

This last trip was odd, it caught them both the same way at the same time.
I was none too bright either but better than them.

The thing is, they are getting big now, harder to carry one under each arm.
They eat more as well and it is not the same as little tiny baby possets anymore.

I have mentioned Prole2’s eating habits and digestive system before.
He pulls no punches and in the crowded arena of the cross channel ferry he could be a potential heavy weight up-chucker.

The thing I am worried about is ‘association’.

In the days when the Proles staggered around bumping into things and looking at shiny things and were relatively free of long term memory and continence taking them on a ferry was a new experience every time.

Now they remember.

Prole1 said tonight that he hopes he does not get sick again.
Which means he will think about it.
Which means he could bend his massive intellectual imagination around the subject of potential feelings of wooziness.
If he does his mental preparation right he may have got into the zone before we even touch the access ramp.
That boy could be ripe to go before we leave port.
Before we loose moorings even.

Prole2 has been eating nothing but pudding all week, three meals a day, second helpings where possible.
Other foodstuffs have been tried with little success.
I have second hand reports that he might have ‘been’ twice.
He must be like a loaded gun.
Even if he has ‘slipped a couple past us’, I still have to deal with the very real possibility that he could go off like a custard, cream and pastry fountain at some point on the trip.

We face a new set of dangers this time round and I have to be prepared.

Let us see what the sea brings.