Archives for posts with tag: breakfast



Saturday 5th April.
Waterstones book shop

Prole1: How much pocket money do I have?

Me: Um…including today…I think you have about …

Prole1: Twenty pounds. I have twenty pounds.

me: Do you? You had sixteen but then you spent…but I owed you…

Prole1: I have twenty pounds.

Prole2: How much do I have?

Prole1: Including today?

Prole2: Yes.

Prole1: Two pounds.

Prole2: Oh.

Prole1: How much is this?

He tries to hod up a collection of Tin Tin books. It is the complete collection and he can’t quite lift it off the shelf.

Me: One hundred and twenty pounds.

Prole1: Oh.

Me: Half price though, so sixty pounds.

Prole1: Oh.

Me But I saw it on the internet for about forty pounds.

Prole1: Ah..ok…

Me: Ok look, i will go halves if you like. I enjoy Tin Tin, you two would enjoy it. Half each?

Prole1: OK! Yes! Let’s buy it on line.

The Car

Prole1: Did you buy it?

Me: Buy what?

Prole1: The Tin Tin books.

Me: Um…no, I am driving.

Prole1: Ok. Don’t worry.

Me: Thanks.

The Queue for the Ferry.

Prole1: There is no sound.

Me: What?

Prole1: Have you turned the engine off?

Me: Yes. We are waiting.

Prole1: You are not driving? Can you order the Tin Tin books?

Me: I need wifi to log on to the internet, I don’t have any here, sorry.

Prole1: Ok, Don’t worry Dad.

Me: Ok, I won’t.

Ferry Car Deck 5

Prole1: Do you have wi fi?

Me: Pardon?

Prole1: Can you order the Tin Tin books now?

Me: Can we get off the car deck?

Prole1: Ok Dad, ok.

Cabin 8124

Prole1: Is that your laptop?

Me: Yes.

Prole1: Are you going to get it out?

Me: I am going to bed.

Prole1: Not using your computer?

Me: No.

Prole1: We can order Tin Tin books tomorrow.

Me: Thanks.

Sunday April 6th
Ferry Cafe.

Me: Are you going to be sick?

Prole1: No.

Me: You look like you are going to be sick.

Prole1: He is being sick.

Me: Yes. Yes he is being sick.

Some road somewhere in France.
About 11am.

Prole1: Dad?

Me: Yes?

Prole1: Dad?

Me Yes?

Prole1: DAD!

Me: YES?

Prole1: Oh, sorry, um did you order the books this morning when we were sea sick?

Me: No, sorry, I was a bit busy.

Prole1: Ok Dad, don’t worry, I know you care.

Me: Thanks for that.

Croix Hellean
2:30-ish French time.

Prole1 is on the toilet, I am unpacking the wash bag.

Prole1: Are you getting you computer out soon?

Me: Yes.

Prole1: Can you order…

Me: I need to get the code for the wi fi.

Prole1: OK, ok, ok. Fine, we can wait.

Me: Thank you.


Prole1: Good night Dad.

Me: Good night, well done today, it was a long day.

Prole1: Yes, long day. Tomorrow we will order the Tin Tin books.

Me: Yes, of course.

Monday 7th April.
The Breakfast table
Prole1 whispers in my ear.

Prole1: Dad? Did you…?

Me: Yes. Yes I ordered the books.

Prole1: Oh. Good. Well done you.

Me: Thank you.



At 5.30am Prole2 came into my room.
He went to the toilet and came back and I could tell he was on his way to see me.

He actually fell over all the cars he had left there in the doorway and a tiny bit of me rejoiced.

My house is not tidy, you would not call it a tidy house.
The floor surfaces are slowly being removed and the results are a dusty house.
There are things around.
You can find stuff here and there.
A lot of bits are in the wrong place.

It has a level of tidiness that I am happy with, we could not become more untidy, messy or dirty without me getting quite upset about it.
I think everyone has their level.
Mine just happens to be relatively low.

I have been asked if I would not feel better about the place if I was more tidy.
I can only say I am very happy living as I do. It is only when other people come round that I feel self conscious about it.
I am selective about who comes round these days.
I hate to upset people.

The Proles’ ability to colonise whole parts of the hose with extensions from “Busy Island” or exploratory expeditions by “Captain Skull” or, as in the case of last evening, a super long racetrack, is one that I tolerate for a while, anything up to a week, before punitive and wide reaching clearing up.

By the time I went to bed last night an extensive series of garages, service vehicles and mechanised transport was making up the Pit area of the upstairs raceway.
his Pit area was just inside the door to my bedroom.
I often tell the boys that these things are a trip hazard and so it was that after Prole1 had trotted off to the toilet I heard him come up the last three stairs, step into my room and fall over his own Pit crew.

This I felt, served him right.
He climbed into my bed and we both fell asleep without speaking.

I had a good sleep for the next hour and a quarter or so until the alarm went off.
I sat up and Prole2 lolled over in the bed.

Prole2: I feel sick.

I switched instantly Parent-With-Sick-Child mode.

Me: You feel sick? Do you need to be sick now?

I was moving and getting dressed. Or at least a bit more dressed. The landing window has a clear view of my young neighbour’s garden and the last thing they need is the sight of a half naked mid forties man carrying a vomiting boy first thing in the morning.

Prole2: Yep. I was sick last night too….

His words trailed off as he began gipping and I got him out of my bed just in time.
He retched and burped and chucked his way to the toilet.

The tally of sick, not including the sitting on the sofa with a bowl on his knee, was impressive.

He was sick on my bedroom floor.
He was sick on my socks and my shirt.
He was sick on the landing carpet.
He was sick on the bathroom floor.
He was sick on two bathroom mats.
He was sick on a bath towel.
He was sick on himself quite a lot.

His attempt to wee and be sick simultaneously was daring, courageous and not entirely successful.

I looked at the utter devastation and at Prole2 cured up and shivering on the one remaining clean bath towel.
This was going to be a day of disinfectant, washing machines and not going to work.

Looking after sick children is an odd experience as an adult.

I am worried enough that I cannot stop myself checking him all the time, just to see if he is displaying new and terrifying symptoms..
I am aware it is a day off school enough and remember what that means enough to really get quite excited.
Neither of these attitudes really prepares you for how boring it can be.

Washing, scrubbing the floor, spraying anti-bacterial nonsense around the house, this is not much fun.
Sitting watching my son breathe wears a bit thin after a while.
Getting any work done is a bit of a non starter.

Sleeping, while not actually illegal, is probably immoral with a sick child.

He did look really peaky.
We tried breakfast.
Well, he sort of flirted with it in a digestive sense before returning it to the bowl.

Prole1 saw the whole thing as a bit of an adventure.
he stood with his hands in his uniform pockets and ‘stray sick’ spotted for me while I tried to clean up.
He looked like a diminutive Health and Safety Officer.
I should have taken a photo, just to compare to when he grows up and becomes a real Health and Safety Officer.

The dangerous bit of the walk to school is crossing the road outside our house.
It’s a very narrow road and the only think I am worried about is drivers not seeing him trying to cross between all the parked cars.
I walked him across the road and he went off to school on his own.
He bounced round the corner and off he was so excited.
I stepped back through the door.

Prole2 was dozing on the sofa.
The cats had found him and were draped all over him.

I sat in the kitchen and had a cup of tea before round two of washing.

It was quiet.
It was odd not to be at work.

Life suddenly seemed really very fragile again.

I squashed all that back down and started the clear up.

Never finished that cup of tea,

Got to keep going, the alternative is awful.



Prole2 and I were doing the reading homework again this morning.
I was sitting on both my hands and had both my lips clenched in my front teeth to stop me interjecting and telling him all the words.

It was a ‘make all your own mistakes and try to sort them out’ day.

I hate ‘make all your own mistakes and try to sort them out’ days.

I kind of prefer barking all the right answers at him while I poke about on Facebook but apparently this causes some kind of psychological problems in later life or something.

We had already had a run in over his choice of breakfast cereal.

After two years of asking I finally bought him Fruit Loops.

Fruit loops have been Prole2’s objective since nursery.
It is not that I have particularly forbidden him but I finally ran out of ways to confuse and obfuscate him in the Supermarket.

He has been fairly easy to distract up until recently and conversations about which cereal to buy have been like increasingly difficult mini games of chess.
Last week he finally got me in check and I could think of no good reason for him not to have Fruit Loops.

I am not a particularly draconian parent over food but I have always known that there would only be two possible outcomes in the introduction of Fruit Loops to our home.
Either Prole2 would never eat anything else, ever again, ever.
Or Prole2 would hate them and we would have to throw them away.

Prole2 hated them and we had to throw them away.

This was a blessing in disguise, I have had time to get used to the idea of throwing them away as the best outcome.
In spite of my dislike of throwing food away this was better than a life of slavery to Toucan Sam and his sugary-shackles-of-three-grain-fruity-circles.
It also gives me leverage to buy Supermarket-own-brand-cardboard-flakes next week.

The battle of the cereal might have been over quickly and I certainly felt I had the upper hand going into the book reading but I had to make sure I did not continue to crush Prole2’s confidence so I let him continue at his own pace and tried not to look at the clock.

The story went on for ages.

I tried really hard to ‘stay engaged’.

After a while I realised I had not seen Prole1 for a bit and it was all very quiet.

As soon as Prole2 had shuddered to a halt and the book was safely in his school bag I went looking for his brother.

Prole1 was working hard at the kitchen table.
He had several pieces of paper in front of him.

Me: What are you doing?

Prole1: I forgot my reading book so I am doing this.

Me: Forgot your book? What have i told you about that? You have to check before you come home.

Prole1: I know, I am sorry.

I look at the top piece of paper. On it are some concentric circles, drawn free hand, and some squiggly lines in between some of them.

Me: What are you drawing?

Prole1: Ah, well, yes, this is my all weather stadium I am doing for Rugby homework. You see it works like this, they all start in the middle here and race out to the outside line and the first one across that line wins. They can go any direction they like. BUT you can put obstacles in the way and that takes longer for them to get to the line so they don’t have to get to the outside line they can get to this one instead.

Me: Why are they in circles? Why don’t you put tracks in a straight line?

Prole1: But they can go any direction.

Me: But isn’t a straight line easier?

Prole1: I don’t know. It’s hard to get a snail to go in a straight line.

I looked hard at the paper and sure enough, Prole1 has designed an all weather snail racing stadium for his Rugby Homework.

I am not sure what sort of mark he is going to get.

I sort of wish I could be there to watch him hand it in but at the same time I am glad I won’t see the Rugby teacher for a while.

Me: Is it a Stadium though?

Prole1: Yes, I checked at school, it just has to be for sporting events in all weathers.

Me: But won’t this blow away in the wind.

He smiled indulgently and put his hand on mine.

Prole1: Dad, it is for the tables at school. There is no wind inside. Completely weather proof sport. See?

Me: Yes, I see.

How silly of me.

I have to take some blame for this.
I was talking a lot about snail racing about this time last year, it was once quite popular in rural areas and Cornwall was no different.
Something must have stuck in the mossy banks of Prole1’s mind.

Prole1 had laid out the rules for the various events.

Snail raceing.

Track 1
The flat Race

1  Put the snail’s in the start sircle.

2 first one to the edge is the wiiner.

Track 1
The obsticle Race

1 put the snail’s in the start sircle

2 putthe propon the track.

3 firstone to the is the first circle is the wiiner.

Slipery pole clime

1 Put the snailes on the start sircle

2 put the pole over them

3 first one to the top is the wiiner.

Me: It looks good.

Prole1: Yes, it will be brilliant when it is finished.

Something about his tone of voice sounded odd. I decided to play dumb.

Me: Oh, why, are you going to colour it in?

Prole1: No, I am going to get an old sheet and the fabric pens we got for Christmas and make the tracks, I need the garden sprayer because snails like it wet and then I need to get the pole in some sort of base.

He laughed and rolled his eyes at me.

Prole1: AND i need you to use the drill, I am really scared of drills.

Me: Why do you need a drill?

Prole1: I am just about to draw that bit…..


The fedge is looking good.

No, it’s no good, I still don’t like the word ‘Fedge’.

Anyway, the living willow fence down one side of the garden is looking good.

The man who digs the garden came round last night and we talked about…well non sense really.

I have known the man who digs the garden for thirty years now.
He is a dangerous person to know.
It is a little like being friends with a huge tomcat.
He comes around, makes himself at home, eats everything and leaves a trail of mild destruction behind him.
The place now smells of old cigarettes, the sea and earth.

The man who digs the garden pretty much only works in gardens or he surfs.

There does not seem to be any middle ground except when he is here with tins of beer.
Then we talk about rubbish and watch dreadful films.

Usually he is up and gone by six am but today he was still in the house when I got up.

I cooked pancakes for the man who digs the garden and the Proles.
Prole1 was talking about the trouble in the Crimea and discussing potential solutions.

Prole2 was counting pancakes and making sure they went to the right plates in the right order.

After breakfast the man who digs the garden took Prole2 out in the garden to do some digging.

While the man who digs the garden moved the honey suckle and black berry plants around Prole2 helped him.

Prole2: What are you doing?

The man who digs the garden: Digging.

Prole2: What?

The man who digs the garden: Digging.

Prole2: What?

The man who digs the garden: Digging.

Prole2: Digging what?

The man who digs the garden stood up slowly and stared at Prole2.

The man who digs the garden: The ground. I am digging the ground.

Prole2 looked in the hole.

Prole2: Oh.

I went and made a cup of tea since they seemed to be getting on so well.

Prole1 was staring at the map on the wall.

When I came back Prole2 had a spoon and was shovelling pellets out of an old coffee jar.

Me: What are you doing?

Prole2: I am putting chicken poop on the plants. Plants love chicken poop. You can’t put too much chicken poop on the plants. One spoonful of chicken poop is enough. I have the spoon so I don’t have to touch the chicken poop. The chicken poop looks like cereal but you don’t eat it because it is chicken poop. Chicken poop does not look like this when is comes out of the chicken. Chicken poop is more of a splat. This chicken poop has been turned into…into…what are they?

The man who digs the garden: Pellets.

Prole2: Pellets. Chicken poop pellets.

Me: What is you favourite word?

Prole2: Poop.

Me: I see, is it a good job then?

Prole2: Yep, yep, yep.

He hopped away flicking his chicken poop pellets around.

We moved plants and re-planted them in the fedge.

Stupid word, fedge.

I went back into the kitchen where Prole1 was sitting staring at the map on the wall.

Proe1: Do you think the Ukraine should join Russia or turn into two separate countries?

Prole2: I have been throwing chicken poop around.

Prole1: Cool.


Sometimes it is best not to stop and think about things.
When discussing parenthood with another father once I asked how he managed his four kids.

“If you sit down, you have lost” he said.

This morning was bound to be a busy one.

Pancake day and with swimming lessons and Pizza club in the offing for the evening the Proles were keen to have pancakes for breakfast.

This is fine as long as I get out of bed and force myself to accept that I will probably not sit down for the next forty five minutes or so.

The plan was slightly off kilter from the start because Prole2 turned up in my bed at about five thirty.

Prole2: I am scared of the dark.

Me: Ok, get in but try to be quiet and get some sleep.

Prole2: Ok Dad.

Then at six am he was curled up under the covers at the other end of the bed.
He had made a nest for himself and the cat and was ‘cooking her breakfast’.
He was being ‘quiet’ and after some time his whispered monologue faded away and I had a final, shallow, quick and deeply unsatisfying few minutes sleep.
Vivid dreams I could not remember.
The alarm went off and I was away.

Flour, two eggs, half a pint of milk, some melted butter.
Clear the table, lay it and roust the Proles from bed.

Prole1 looked particularly dishevelled but I paid no attention.

Pancakes fired onto the Proles plates fresh from the pan.
Half a teaspoonful of sugar for Prole1.
Lemon, caramel sauce and as much sugar as he could get on to his pancakes when I wasn’t looking for Prole2.

Prole2 was chatty and bubbly.
Prole1 was quiet and introspective with his head resting on his hand.

I finished the last of the pancake mix and sat down to drink my tea.

Prole1 glanced up at me and then sat back in his chair.
He did look odd I thought.
I really must get him a haircut because his hair is….
His fringe is…
He looks…

Me: Did you cut your hair?

Prole1: Ummm…um….yes…

He collapsed into fits of sobbing.

His fringe, which under normal circumstances rested just above his eyes, had been cropped back to just a few millimetres long.

He looked like a dodgey Monk from a bad historical reconstruction documentary.

Beautiful word.
Awful on a small boy.

I decided not to shout at him as he was clearly upset.
I was rather low on supportive banter though.

Me: You wally.

Prole2: What is a wally?

Me: HE is a wally.

Prole1: I didn’t know…I thought…oh dear….

Me: Ok…why did you do that?

Prole1: It was in my eyes when I was reading last night, so I cut it off. Does it look weird?

He looked weird.

Prole1: How does it look?

He looked awful.

Me: You look awful.

Prole1: Do I look bad?

Me: You look like a wally that has just cut his hair off.

Prole1 curled up in my lap and cried and cried.
I hugged him tight and let him cry.
I wondered how long this would go on for.
He broke wind over my knee and I felt that was a good moment to move on.

I told Prole1 to stop crying.
I told Prole2 to stop laughing.

School run starting soon.
What to do?
Keep going.
Don’t stop making decisions.

I sent Prole2 upstairs to get dressed.

I got the clippers out and put Prole1 in the chair.

The clippers are quite old and Prole1’s hair was long so it was slow going.
I trimmed back with the scissors and took the hair down to a grade three.
The hair at the front where he had got all Vidal Sasson on himself was considerably shorter.
I tried to blend it in.
I tried to work out if the shorter hair at the front and slightly longer at the back made his head look a funny shape.
The alternative was to take it down to a grade 1.
I decided that I preferred the wonky shaped head look to the ‘This Is England’ alternative.
He has a pretty wonky shaped head anyway so I felt we were playing to a strength.
Perhaps he would get sympathy or something?

Prole1 sat on his chair staring down at his hair all around him.

Prole1: How do I look now?

Me: Like a wally with short hair.

Prole1 had a shower while Prole2 and I had a conversation about sympathy and empathy and not laughing at Prole1 any more.

Prole1: I can hear you, you know!

He came out of the shower and I dried him down and tried to snip off the stray bits.

Me: Well…you look…good.

Prole1: Do I look like a wally?

Me: No. You look like a kid with short hair. You look good. If I passed you in the street I would just think you had short hair, nothing odd at all.

Prole1: Thanks Dad.

Me: Remember though, it’s what is on the inside that counts. On the outside you look great. On the inside you are still a wally that cut his own hair off.

Prole1 half laughed and half cried and we had another cuddle.

Me: I love you. You are not a wally. You just cut your hair off. You are still brilliant. You just did something daft.

Prole1: I won’t do it again.

Me: I bet you won’t.

We got into uniforms and headed off to school, bang on schedule.

Whilst I am boasting about being a domestic goddess I have to point out I also managed to stack the dishwasher and do two loads of washing.
I am Widower, hear me roar.

I kissed Prole1.

Prole1: Will they laugh at me?

He suddenly looked very small.

A very small, worried looking skinhead.

Me: Just tell everyone your hair was in your eyes and I gave you a haircut. I love you.

Prole1: Thanks Dad.

I really hope they didn’t laugh at him.

Work is hectic.
I won’t bore you with it, it is just busy.

I was in the middle of a conversation when my mobile went.
It was the Proles’ school.

Proles’ School: Hello there, I don’t want to worry you, it’s just that Prole2 is complaining about chest pains….

The conversation went on for a bit.
He had pains in the middle of the left hand side of his chest.
It could be a strained muscle.
It could be a stitch.
It could be indigestion.
It could be ‘growing pains’.
It could be anything.

As we talked I could feel the gears shift.

He had pains in the middle of the left hand side of his chest.
It could be a strained muscle.
It could be a stitch.
It could be indigestion.
It could be ‘growing pains’.
He might just need the toilet.
It could be anything.

I was ten minutes away and I would be right there.
It was probably nothing but I would drop by.
Best have someone watch him just in case.
It was probably nothing.

By the end of the conversation I had my coat and hat on and was heading out across the Fair Field.
Just keep going.

I was not worried.
My heart rate had not gone up.
I walked all the way there.

He had pains in the middle of the left hand side of his chest.
It could be a strained muscle.
It could be a stitch.
It could be indigestion.
It could be ‘growing pains’.
He might just need the toilet.
It could be anything.

It could be the manifestation of heart problems of some sort.
But it probably wasn’t.

I met a lady at a Cardiac Risk In The Young session, she was a couple of years younger than me.
She asked who I had lost and I said my wife.
I asked who she had lost and she said her six year old son.

There was probably nothing wrong but if Prole2 was going to die I decided it would be better if I was there.

The calm is horrible.

I have panicked before.
Panic is bad enough.

The calm is when everything you have been planning for comes together and you find yourself doing what you know has to be done.
I walked to the Proles’ school.
This is like a fire drill.
It is probably nothing but that is not the point, you must follow procedure because you don’t know if it is real or not.
I didn’t know if Prole2 was going to be ok or not.

If either of the Proles died I would have to be there and I would have to be useful in one way or another.

So no panic.
Just keep going.
It was just the most important walk I have taken for a while.

Prole2 was huddled over his burger chips and beans in the dinner hall.

He was not eating so that was a bad sign.

He stood up and climbed up onto my knee which was a good sign.
No blue lips.
No shortness of breath.
Not clammy, not hot.
No other pain anywhere else.

The pain in his left side was, as they had said, right over where his heart was.

I watched him for about ten minutes.

My house is a four minute walk from the school so I went home and got some Calpol.

When I got back he had still not finished his lunch but he had brightened up a bit.
I gave him some medicine  and watched him eating.

We left the dinner hall and walked down to the playground holding hands.

I watched him playing and after a while I said good bye, I hugged him, told him I loved him, and left.

On the way past the office I dropped in to say thank you.
I said if it happened again they should call me again.
They said that would be fine.

I walked back to work.

I used to think it was soppy to tell people you loved them every time you left, just in case you never saw them again.

These days it seems more like common sense.

I mean, don’t panic, you probably will see them again.

Statistics are on your side.


But you don’t know.


Today we went to the St Piran Play.

It is not St Piran’s day but the St Piran Play happens on the dunes on the nearest Sunday to March 5th.

Cornwall has a long history of outdoor theatre and the St Piran play is one I have been going to for a few years now.
It happens in episodes across the towans and the audience walk from scene to scene.

The Proles and I had arranged to meet people there in the towans but the weather did not look promising.

Prole2’s decision to wear and Iron Man t shirt, his brother’s trousers and a pair of crocs was over ruled by me in favour of several layers of winter wear.
Prole1 sorted out flags for them to carry.

Prole1: Looks like rain.

It was absolutely tipping down.

Me: Um…yes, it does.

Prole1: In fact it is.

Me: Yes. It is.

I took the precaution of packing spare trousers for them both and we set out.

Textual intercourse with those we were meeting seemed to result in a bit of a stand off, I got the feeling no one wanted to say that all that rain was going to stop play. We were all firmly committed.

On the way to Perranporth we stopped off at Smokey Joe’s.

The cafe was full of hung over people having huge breakfasts and others out for a healthy sized, reasonably priced Roast Dinner.

The menu is laid out in boxes of text.
Prole2 pointed to each box in turn and I told him what it said.
I read out the entire Menu to Prole2, from start to finish, including drinks.
I finished and looked at him.

Prole2: What?

Me: What would you like?

Prole2: What?

Me: What do you want?

Prole2: What do you mean?

Me: What do you want to eat? From the menu?

Prole2: What did I have last time?

Me: It was a while ago. Not sure. Maybe something like egg and chips I think. They do beans as well.

Prole2: What did I have last time?

Me: I don’t know. Would you like egg, chips and beans?

Prole2: Did I have that last time?

Me I don’t know. I can’t really remember. Would you like egg, chips and beans?

Prole2: Did I have that last time?

Me: Yes.

Prole2: Did I?

Me: I have not the faintest idea. Do you want egg, chips and beans?

Prole2: Is that all I can have?

I looked at the menu. It was a long menu.

Me: No, there were other things on the menu. You could have all sorts of things.

Prole1: Like what?

I decided to run through the breakfast menu again.

Me: Well…you could have sausage, egg, chips and beans or….

Prole2: No, I don’t like sausage.

Me: Ok, how about egg, chips and beans?

Prole2: Did I have that last time?

Me: Yes. Yes you did. And you loved it. You said if we ever came back that is what you would order.

Prole2: Did I?

Me: Do you want egg, chips and beans?

Prole2: Oh yes please Dad, that sounds yummy.

Me: What about you?

Prole1: I don’t know.

Me: Veggie sausage, egg, chips and beans?

Prole1: Thank you. yes.

Me: Really?

Prole1: With a glass of water please.

Me Ok. What about you, what would you like to drink?

Prole2: What?

Me: What would you like to drink?

Prole2: What did I have last time?

The food arrived, as an extra special unhealthy treat I ordered a slice of fried bread.
The Proles picked up half each.
There was the short sound of munching.

Prole2: Have you got any more of that bread?

Prole1: It was lovely.

Prole2: Remember I had that next time we come. I am going to eat that again.

With the arteries of my children hardening dangerously we set out for the towans.

It was raining.
You know those days when it’s raining and you look at the sky and you think “Well in a minute it might clear up, there seems to be some brighter sky over there, perhaps we will just hang on and see if it brightens up” but then it does not and you are stuck for ages in the rain?

Today was not like that.

Today it just rained the whole way through the show, no stopping.
At no point did it look like it was going to clear up.
Every now and then it would rain just a little bit harder to let us know how easy we had it up until then.
Then it would ease back into a heavy downpour.

My trousers stuck to my legs and the rain ran down into my boots.

I was freezing so I knew the Proles would be too.

However, this was a day for our national saint and a news crew had turned up from Wales to film it so we stuck it out as long as we could.
To represent.
One and all and all that.

I also hate leaving a show half way through, especially out door theatre.
I think as long as the cast can make it through the audience should give it a go too.

We all nodded a gritty agreement between us to stick it out as long as we could.

Prole2’s flag kept folding up into a damp rag in the rain.
I had to keep holding it up in the wind to make it unfurl again.

The wind was quite strong.
We watched as St Piran set out from the shores of Ireland towards Cornwall.
We were stood around a pond that was getting deeper as we watched.
The actor was in a coracle and making a brave show of paddling into the wind.
Sadly the wind kept blowing him back to Ireland.
I could feel the crowd willing him on.

Prole1: What’s he doing?

Me: Sailing to Cornwall on a millstone.

Prole1: Oh.

Finally, after nearly achieving the open water but getting firmly blown home again, St Piran had to get out in an Irish reed bed and make his way to Cornwall on foot.
There was a cheer from the audience as he jogged past us.

The Proles waved their flags at him.

Prole2: It’s not working.

Prole1: How long are we staying?

Me: Hold it up in the wind….there you go. We are staying for a bit longer, maybe it will brighten up.

Prole2: It’s not working.

Me: Hold it up in the wind….there you go.

Prole1: I am getting a bit cold.

Prole2: It’s not working.

Prole1: I can’t feel my fingers.

Me: Hold it up in the wind….there you go. We will go in a minute.

Prole1: How long does this play go on for?

Prole2: I’m hungry.

Me: Let’s go.


Today nothing was achieved.

We got up and breakfast took a little to long.
I was sorting out washing and drying and school uniform and games kit and only had a quick cup of tea.
Getting the Proles dressed ended with them shouting at each other.
There were no socks.
Home work was tough and was finished just as we had to leave so we were a bit pushed.
A large lego spillage hampered our final moments in the house.
The Proles left their coats at a friend’s house at the weekend so we improvised wet weather gear.
I hoped it would not rain.
It rained.
School busy, dodged through toddlers and buggies.
Pavement crowded, dodged through toddlers and buggies and dog turds.
The grass in the park is still waterlogged so I had to walk the long way round.
I sat down at work to endless phone calls and emails and could not really solve any problem at all.
Computer refused to ‘save changes’.
Stupid computer.
Meetings over ran and I ate nothing.
Spent the whole day running up and down the corridor, never quite managing to take time to go to the loo.
I left work a couple of minutes late and had to hurry to school.
It rained on the way so I ran for a bit and got to school early but overheated.
Scooped the Proles and headed home to pack the car for Swimming lessons.
We set out as soon as we were ready but today the journey, that last week took half an hour, only took eleven minutes.
Swimming pool car park is on the college campus and students’ universal attitude to road safety FREAKS ME OUT.
We arrived at the swimming pool in the rain and ran inside.
We had to use the broken locker.
I hate the broken locker.
It is a sad locker.
We sat on a bench together for twenty five minutes waiting for the lessons to begin.
We had nothing to say to each other.
The Proles were well grumpy by the time they went in.
I was well grumpy when they came out.
The showers were all taken and we queued, the changing booths were all taken and we queued.
Pizza club at a friends house was a triumph, this time no tears or shouting.
Must remember this one island of joy.
Back out into the rain.
The journey home took half an hour again.
How am I to plan a regular routine with unpredictable timekeeping on the A30?
We got in and a cat had been sick by the stairs.
The boys argued as they got ready for bed.
We finished the strangely right wing and mildly offensive ‘One Hundred and One Dalmatians’.
I felt like I had been licked by a Tory.
Proles went to bed.

Prole2 gave me a kiss.

Prole2: Thank you for a brilliant day Dad. I can’t wait for tomorrow.

Prole1: Here Dad, you can borrow Harry Potter and read it after you have done all your work. I love you.

Prole2: I love you too. To the moon and back.

Prole1: Love you always Dad.

I looked at them both, tucked up in bed, snuggled in for the night.

They both smiled.

Sycophantic gits.


We do home work at the worst time of day possible.

Children’s brains are supposed to be receptive and open at the end of a day.

I was finding that homework was becoming more and more erratic.

Some nights we go swimming, some nights we go shopping, sometimes Prole2 has a friend over for tea.
Prole1 never has friends over for tea but I imagine all his teachers have busy lives.

Homework was becoming a real stress.
Reading books are fairly straight forward.
Prole1 picks up his book, reads it through and gets me to sign the record for is teacher.
Most days he reads his book from start to finish.
He could achieve this at any time given the space to sit undisturbed.

Prole2 is more of a challenge as I have to sit next to him.

I never really considered what it might be like to do homework with your kids.
Seems unfair that the school should make me do this.
It’s not MY homework.
I know how to read the Monkey’s Magic Pipe, why do I have to sit around and listen to someone who doesn’t?

I pick up most of my references for a stable home life from the telly.
1970’s telly at that.

Reading with your child is one of those things that the Waltons made look easy.
The kids from the Little House on the Prairie seemed to breeze through reading books with ‘Pa’ before happily getting stuck into their ‘chores’.

Prole2: M…M…oh no wait a minute……O…O…L..O..N…LON…G….LON…um…LONG…um…LONG….L…O..N..G…LONG A, LONG AG…wait a minute…O….LONG AGO…LONG AGO….L…O..N…G…A…G…O….um…LONG AGO IN…I…N…IN…A….LONG AGO IN A…F…F…FAR…AWAY…FAR…um…FAR…um…FAR…AAY…um, no….

We do this for half an hour a day.

I don’t remember endless hours of the Walton’s time being taken up with John Boy ripping the English language apart and leaving it scattered across the floor along side his father’s patience. I don’t so much have rose tinted glasses on when listening to Prole1 try to tell me the story of the Monkey’s Magic Pipe as a faint red mist behind the eyes.

Then there are the Maths Packs, a fun maths game that all the family can play.
With some one winning.
And some one else losing.
So we keep playing until someone else wins.
Usually the one who is good at maths wins.
Which means the one who is bad at maths gets crushed over and over again and all their confidence is stamped out of them across the kitchen table.
We played a snail game for an hour and a quarter until Prole2 final won.
Prole2 finally won because I kicked Prole1 under the table and he deliberately got a sum wrong.
We all had to have quiet time on the sofa after that.
I don’t even open the Maths Packs any more.

But the upping of the homework tempo has meant we were squashing it in here and there and missing it out completely on occasion.

The solution has been to get the Proles up half an hour earlier each day.

Homework for half an hour.
Go to school.

We manage to get it all done all of the time but it also means getting up really early.
This has had a knock on effect to our bedtime routine but everything is settled down to a regular way of working now.

Sadly, at the beginning of the day children’s brains are thought to be sluggish and unreceptive.

Seems me and Prole2 are going to be spending a long time over his books.


In Wookey Hole there is an arcade, an arcade of slot machines that date from the thirties through to the seventies.
You can go to the money booth and swap your change for old pennies and play on the machines.

It is a little like a time warp and took me back to visits to Blackpool with my Great Grandfather ‘Pops’.
He took me to the arcade to play on the penny sliders, walked along the prom and taught me to steal the sugar from the cafes.
Next morning I had it on my Cornflakes at his house. I spent ages tearing the tops off the sugar packets and pouring brown sugar into the bowl.

The Proles had a great time playing on the bagatelle machines, I got to look at “What the Butler Saw” and the Cannon Emeritas of Salisbury Cathedral took the Proles round his favourite machine and automata.

At no point in the visit did he teach the Proles how to steal the condiments but I think they enjoyed themselves none the less.

There were several fortune telling machines.
You put a penny in the slot and got a small rectangle of card with a printed message on it.

Prole2 was none too impressed by the ‘TV Fortune Teller’ and shrieked in fear before hopping away accross the floor. I had to collect his card for him.
It took a moment to find him under the table hockey game.

Me: Do you want to hear it?

Prole2: No.

Me: Will you come out?

Prole2: No.

Prole1 put a Penny into the Champagne Charlie Fortune Teller and brought the card over for me to read out.

Prole1: What’s that?

Me: Its his fortune.

Prole1: Whose?

Me: Your brother’s.

Prole1: Where is he?

Me: He is under there.

Prole1: Where?

Me: There…see his feet sticking out…?

Proel1: What is he doing?

Me: He is hiding. I think he is scared of what the future might hold.

Proel1: What does it hold?

I read Prole2’s Fortune:

You appear controlled but I see deep in your mind you are searching for that special someone.
You are in luck!
Not two minutes ago I read the mind of the most kind and loving person imaginable.
About your age too – and good looking? You Bet!
You’re a perfect match. Trust me.
Quick now….your true love’s over there….
Introduce yourself with a passionate kiss

Prole1: Maybe he went to get a kiss?

Me: I don’t think so. He left before I could read it to him.

Prole1: Can you read mine?

I read Prole1’s fortune.

You are the kind of person who has a modern outlook and is always up-to-date.
I foretell that if you work hard and save you will soon be able to buy all the latest luxuries. I see a new Hoover under your stairs, and a wireless set on your sideboard. Then your wildest dreams will come true – a gramophone!
A friend will offer you a ride in a motor car.
It will lead to a gay adventure you won’t forget!

Prole1: Will it come true do you think?

Me: For you? Probably.

Prole1: If I work hard.

Me: If you work hard.

He took his card and looked at it.

Prole1: Dad?

Me Yes?

Proel1: That word, what does it mean?

Me: Which one?

Prole1: Sideboard?


A little while ago I was looking at the plaster on the wall in the living room.

I was unhappy in my living room.
It sort of made my teeth itch.
It was a little bit damp, a little bit shabby and there were just a couple of things sort of wrong with it.
Things I was living with, things we had lived with for years.
Things I was not really very happy to keep on living with but could not summon up the energy to do anything about because…well because I had kids and COULD NOT BE BOTHERED.

But there was a hole in the plaster about the size of a 50p coin and it bothered me every night.
I would look at it and I knew it masked a deep and lasting problem.
It was like probing a rotten tooth with your tongue, in the end something was going to have to be done.

The hole had been caused by the Christmas decorations coming down. A piece of Blu-tack had pulled off a circle of plaster
The plaster around the hole seemed to be separating and coming away.

One night I got up off the sofa and walked up to the hole. I found I could slide my finger in under the first millimetre or so and it began to come away.

I slid my hand in under and in a glorious swoosh pulled off the top layer of plaster from an area about the size of my kitchen table top.

The plaster underneath was older and rougher in places but seemed sound. Over a period of a couple of nights I removed the entire layer from the walls in the living room.

I wanted to know why the plaster had come off.
I live in a very old Cornish house, though everything is relative, actually for Cornwall it’s not even that old, about 120 years or so. The original plaster work turned out to be rammed earth. The walls had been plastered in mud.
You can wax lyrical about cob buildings, the incredible structures of Timbuktu and the heritage of rammed earth construction but it came as a bit of a shock to find that dried out mud was holding up my granite and slate house.

The walls themselves went down into the ground and any damp from the earth under the house would rise through the earth walls and evaporate off. Lime paint had been used as the original finish and lime kills mould. The damp would have evaporated away and regular fires in the hearth would have dried out the walls. Sort of. It was not a perfect system but it worked, until someone skimmed modern plaster over the top which stopped the water evaporating out. This caused a separation in the layers and ‘blew’ the plaster off the walls.

Modern houses don’t do this.
The way modern houses are made is a better system if you don’t want damp.
If you don’t want damp in an old house it is bad to use modern materials to mend them.
My house had been mended with a lot of modern materials.

As I got down to floor level it was apparent that the water that could no longer evaporate away had condensed and the backs of the skirting boards were rotten. I found this out by pushing my finger through one.

I pulled with two fingers and the fireplace surround came away and crashed onto the floor.

I had a peek under the the chipboard floor to find it was thick and black with mould. The joists under the floor were untreated wood sitting on bare earth and in many places had rotted to dust.

I was knocking on the wall to see if it sounded hollow above the skirting and a sheet of rammed earth plaster three feet high and four feet long slumped onto me.

My whole living room was rotten.

I moved the kitchen table into the bathroom.
The bathroom is the biggest room in my house, I don’t know why, my bedroom is a tiny cell that has 18″ space around the bed but the first time I walked into our bathroom I actually said ‘wow’, a phrase that is not often used in a positive context with regard to my house.
A large bathroom is BRILLIANT for maintaining the Proles though.
Oh, love it.

I put the sofa in the kitchen and the rest of the furniture in the shed.

Then me and the Proles packed up the living room and I ripped up the floor.
In the end there was nothing but bare earth.
The Proles drove their toy diggers in it.
The cats learned really, really quickly that it was not to be used as a toilet when I was around.
They also felt it was fair game if I was not.

It was awful in there. Full of rubble, dust and mess from the last hundred years.

I had to dig out the earth floor to clear out old rubble and rubbish, lay a completely new floor with damp proofing, strip off all the skirting boards and fit new ones to the mud walls, rebuild the fireplace and replace huge sections of blown plaster with wainscotting.

The first time my friend the Big Chippy saw the mess he said “Are you going to cover that in wainscotting then?”
I did what any man would do in my position, I nodded, screwed up my face a bit, sucked air in through my teeth, blew it out slowly whilst nodding my head in a noncommittal way and said “Meh…maybe.”

Then when he was not looking I googled “Wainscotting” just to be sure what he was talking about.

Wood panels.
I covered over the horrible mess with wood panels.

I spent a long time doing this.
I work part time, about 17 hours a week but I am allowed to do more and take the accrued time off during the school holidays.

This means I work four days a week during school hours. I would get one day off each week away from the Proles to work on the house.
A guaranteed six hours a week.
Sometimes longer if I could get someone to take the Proles.

Every now and then someone would come over and help and sometimes they wouldn’t.
I owe my friends a lot, an un-repayable debt.
Co-ordinating favours is difficult. I like my friends enough that I did not want it to be an issue.
I did not want danger in my relationships.
Easier to carry on, when people were there it was nice, when they were not I made all my own mistakes.

I could do some work at night but if I am honest I did not do much. By the time I had woken from a broken sleep, looked after the Proles and got them off to school, then worked all day and picked up the Proles again and taken them through to bed time I had already done a thirteen hour day. The thought of getting into dirty clothes and pointing a wall was often too much.

The telly was in my room as well.
Dangerous that.

Life rolled on, the Proles and I tried having mealtimes in the Bathroom but it was a disaster from start to finish.
We took to eating meals in the kitchen, them on the sofa and me in the armchair.
We became adept at moving the armchair back and forwards to access the bits of the kitchen it blocked.

We found new pathways through the house and new family rituals to get us through to bed time.

The Bathroom table was loaded with lego, the stairs and hallway were turned to a car track and I lost sight of the Prole’s bedroom floor under all the toys.
Occasionally we would do a big tidy up but the mess that was the front room endured.

Finally, after months, the floor was laid, the panels fitted, the sockets rewired, the fireplace rebuilt and the skirting boards were fitted.

After all that work I finally put all the furniture back, the table came out of the bathroom (which was suddenly vast again) and replaced the sofa and chair in the kitchen and the living room became cosy and warm again.

The room looks…pretty much how it always did.
It is my living room, floor, walls, window, fireplace.

The difference now is I am happy in it.