Archives for posts with tag: children

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I can’t post today.
It is too late and the wrestling has started.

Honestly, Kurt Angle is about to wrestle Rockstar Spud, I don’t have time for anything right now.

It got late somehow.

Someone said they were coming round for a Chinese and suddenly I had to tidy because it’s been a while, you know when you  forget to clean up that stain in the kitchen and suddenly it take fifteen minutes of soaking in bleach to get it off? Only you can’t find the floor bleach so you have to use toilet cleaner because time is short.

The Proles were no use at all because they had been given tiny little remote control helicopters to fly and they kept flying them into me and when I saw one of them, and here I am not joking, land one in the toaster they had to be sent to the hallway for an hour to play.

The hallway was fine but in a long thin enclosed space with two small boys and two remote controlled helicopters things were never going to end well.

At least Prole1 was wearing protective glasses.

Later on Prole1 decided to fly his helicopter in the trampoline because the protective net around the outside would protect it and keep it safe. Sadly he gave it full throttle and it climbed about thirty feet into the air, got caught by a light breeze and flew away over the fence.

It must be the 21st Century when a small boy knocks on your door and says “Excuse me, can I have my remote controlled helicopter back please?”

Anyway, I had a Chinese meal for the first time in ages and the wrestling is on and I have to re-glue the tail on a helicopter for tomorrow.

Good night.

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The Smurfs are a bit of fun aren’t they?

I am not talking about the films.
I have not watched the films on principle.
I have watched almost all the “Winnie The Pooh” films and I am the lesser for it.

I don’t want the films to spoil the Smurfs for me.

Unfortunately my view of the world of the Smurfs is being shaken.

I am pretty sure they are still the cute little guys I remember.
They might be.

The Smurfs might also be the most sexist series of books I have ever read.

It is only reading it now that I wonder.

In fairness to Peyo, who wrote them, I have not read them all.

On the other hand, Peyo was writing the Smurfs in fifties and sixties France, about a village of one hundred males and one female and if stereo types of the time are anything to go by there is slim chance things are going to improve.

If the stereo types are anything to go by.

Which is the point unfortunately.

To write off Peyo (who, up until now in my memory of children’s books, was a towering hero) as a stereo type is to fall utterly and completely into the trap.
Supposing I start making dour and downbeat remarks about one of France’s best loved publishing giants only to have some future person expose my biased and mildly xenophobic remarks?

I mean, I could be right.

“The Smurfette” might be indicative of, and an early advocate of, popular body modification trends in the early twentieth century.
Smurfette herself may be a key signifier of all that is wrong with the portrayal of female characters in popular culture.
She may be an inverted role model, a sort of less gobby Spice Girls.
Media oppression and objectification of femininity dressed up as “a bit of fun’ or ‘strong character’.

This may be the first spoon feeding of ‘cute’ negative role models that the Proles have fully absorbed.

I say fully absorbed because Prole1 is currently translating the whole of the Smurf Anthology volume 1 and 2 for Prole2.
They have been through the books about seven times each.

But I am hoist by my own liberal petard.

Because on the other hand….

It may just be a bit of fun.
The Proles might not take it seriously.

The illustrations are brilliant.
Some of the jokes are very good.
The stories are very funny.

So in order to find out the truth of the question “Is Peyo’s Opus valid reading for the twenty first century?” we probably have to read to the end of the series to find out.

Just to be sure.

You have to get to the bottom of the Honey jar, just to make sure it’s not cheese, right?

After all, as a friend pointed out the other day, you have to wade through quite a lot of early Herge racism before you get to the Tin Tin classics….

 

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We are packing to go away for a week.

I am packing, The Proles are frankly just standing in the way.
It is a talent they have, to find the one place in the house I want to work in and build a lego space base in it.

The Proles have slightly overpacked, they filled three shopping bags with toys they have not played with for months.

The editing process has started which involves me sending them back to whittle it down to the essentials.

There is some discussion about what “essentials” means.

Prole1: Only things that help you live and breathe. Like food.

Prole2: We have to take food?

Prole1: And water and stuff.

Prole2: What about Eeyore?

Prole1: I don’t know, you can’t…well he doesn’t…

I considered this was a moment to intervene.

Me: Ok how about we only take one bag?

Prole2: Yes, good plan Dad.

Me: Thank you.

Prole2: Can it be mine?

Me: Um..no, its a sharing bag.

Prole1: Full of food and water?

Me: No, when I say essential I mean things you really need to take with you.. things that would make you sad if you did not have.

Prole1: Ok Dad. We can sort this out.

Me: Thanks boys.

Prole1 tips all three bags out not the floor and starts rifling through Prole2’s possessions.

He selects a piece of Marble run and gradually and systematically works his way through the pile. I admire his methodical nature. And his unbelievable optimism.

Prole1: Essential?

Prole2: Yes.

Prole1: Ok, in the bag. This? Essential?

Prole2: Yes.

Prole1: Ok, in the bag. This? Essential?

Prole2: Yes.

Prole1: Ok, in the bag. This? Essential?

Prole2: Yes.

Prole1: Really? Are you sure? In the bag. This? Essential?

Prole2: Yes.

Prole1: Ok, in the bag. This? Essential?

Prole2: Yes.

Prole1: Ok, in the bag. This? Essential?

Prole2: Yes.

Prole1: Now there is no room for my stuff!

Prole2 You can take yours next time.

I wanted to listen more but today is a vanishing socks day.
One of those days where all the socks in the house have totally and completely evaporated.

Brilliant.

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While the Proles were at school I got the cuddly toys down from the loft.

In actual fact it was four bin liners full of cuddly toys.

Four bin liners full.

These are not the current population of the bedroom.

At present the cuddly toy level in both the Proles’ beds is pushing maximum density.

Prole1 has his in neat rows at one end of the bed, compressed into a block in height order, Winnie the Pooh at the back, the Hatty-fatners      at the front.

Prole2 swims in a soup of soft toys, tangled up in dalmations, monkeys, rabbits ducks and bears.

I have to sweep them aside when I put him to bed.
They spill across the floor and I occasionally find infestations of them behind the sofa or in a kitchen cupboard.
They lie helpless on the floor, staring glassy eyed at me as I try to sort the washing.
They appear in ones and twos, scattered down the stairs.
The cats make nests in them.

I always try to know the whereabouts of the Alpha toys, Eeyore and Teddy.
The rest are a plush, fun fur and fabric plague that could be anywhere at any time.
Tripping me up.
Getting stuck under doors.
Being trodden on.
Getting covered in what ever that grey fluffy stuff is under the sofa.

There is a certain amount of guilt that comes with all this.

I remember being six years old and trying to wish my toys into life.
I remember Peter Pan telling me never to grow up and promising myself through tears that I never would.
I remember Kermit the Frog singing that song about Rainbows and thinking “Yes Kermit, YOU speak for ME”.

And yes, I am a forty three year old man, but that was what I was formed out of.
Sentimentality does run through me.
I do have a squashy middle.

Not so much mind.
I remember when the building I was working in became a nesting place for pigeons and I was asked to clear them out.
The rest of the crew were supremely unhelpful so I ended up on my own.
Londoners hate pigeons.
This is well known and well documented.
‘Flying Rats’ is how they are often described.
Vermin.
In fact they are no more or less diseased than any other ‘urban animal’.
The population explosion of pigeons coincided with the post war Fast Food boom.
This was when Londoners stopped eating them and started hating them.

Being from Cornwall and living in or near the countryside most of my life  I approached the problem in a no nonsense manner.
The building had vermin.
My old geography teacher told us about vermin in his shed, he said that the best place to drown rats was in the sceptic tank.
It was a horrible job but it had to be done.
I cleared all the nests into a large cardboard box and, in the absence of a sceptic tank, tipped them all out into the Thames.

The Production Manager just stared at me.

Production Manager: You did what with them?

Me: I threw them in the river.

Production Manager: I said get rid of them, I didn’t mean…I meant….

He never finished the sentence, I have often wondered what he thought I was going to do with a box of pigeon nests.
Re-home them in Trafalgar Square I suppose.

The crew, made up of big people with bald heads and tattoos, barely said a word to me for the rest of the day.
Not all the nests had been empty.
Apparently this was considered bad form.

Anyway, it was with brutality like this in my heart that I mounted the ladder to the loft and pulled the bags down.

I grabbed a really big canvas laundry bag with a zip top.
I emptied the bin liners onto the floor and began stuffing them in fist fulls to the bottom of the bag.

I knew if I kept on going and really pushed them down I could get them all in.

These are the retired cuddly toys.
These were found in corners after weeks of being alone.
These were left in friends’ houses and forgotten.
These were cleared from the floor of the bedroom, corralled in shopping bags under the stairs until there were no more questions before being smuggled into the loft at night.
These were the ‘inconvenient’ toys, noisy, loud or not quite ‘fitting in’.
These were the toys from years of “everyone is a winner” tom bolas in town, interlopers that were rounded up within days of arriving and disappeared.

There were friends in here too.

Girraffey.
Possibly the worst named toy in the house.

Blue Dad.
Named after me.

Buzz Buzz.
The Bee. Probably. Might be a wasp. Or a kind of fish. I am not making that up.

Bananas the orangutang.

Those three Aliens we bought from that hopelessly trendy children’s boutique in Peckham.
Idiots.

Polar Bear 3
Not quite as popular as Polar Bears 1 and 2.

Max the Parrot.
A good friend in the early days.

The Cuddly Rastafarian.
The one that played “Don’t Worry be happy” when you squeezed his bottom.

The Kiwi.
It is hard to make a Kiwi cuddly, this designer had failed like so many others.

Nemo.
The fish that looked a bit like a character from ‘Finding Nemo’ but wasn’t.

Green Bear.
Smells like lavender. Why?

There were snakes, monkeys, endless bears, elephants, fish, parrots and more.
A menagerie of fluff.

So I stuffed them all down in the bag and I tried to get the song “You’ve Got A Friend In Me” from the film Toy Story out of my head.

When Loz died the boys were given toys.
Lots and lots of toys.
Cuddly toys were great, both Proles regressed into more juvenile behaviour.
Soft blankets, lots of cuddles, snuggling on the sofa and tucked in with cuddly toys were the sorts of thing they bot responded to well.
I read that on a Widowers’ website.
I tried to make it happen a lot and the landslide of cuddly toys that arrived in the next eighteen months were great for that.

Tucking the boys up in bed, with a favourite toy was part of our ritual.

But the Proles are bigger now and those bin bags have been up there for over a year.

Time to go.

No time to be sentimental.

I will take them to the Proles’ old nursery this week.
I have seen Toy Story 3 as well but, as I say, I have no time to be sentimental.

 

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It is Mothers’ Day here in Britain.
I dd not realise this happens at different times around the world.

The clocks have changed too which has made the whole sleep timing thing a bit of a lottery tonight.

There are no guarantees about sleep at the best of times but following the changing of the clocks and with the Proles squeezing in an unexpected car journey snooze I am not sure how this evening will pan out.

I used to love the car as a sleep inducer in children.

There was a rhythm to long journeys in a car.

Being front facing I could not see what the Proles were up to back there.

I am not a talker in the car.
When I am driving I like to watch the road.
When I was younger I looked forward to long journeys by car as an opportunity to stare out of the window and think.
I have and ingrained animosity towards family games like ‘I Spy’ and ‘Animal Vegetable Mineral’ because I remember them as points of friction in the family.
If I stared out of the window and said nothing there seemed to be no problems so over time I came to do that more and more.
Being on tour used to suit me for the same reason, an opportunity to sit and think.

These days when I have the Proles in the car I find the entertainment a real trial.
We do sing some times.
We do play word games sometimes.
We do have in depth or vacuously shallow conversations sometimes.

Most of the time the three of us sit in silence.
We don’t have a DVD player in the car, we don’t own tablets and the boys don’t have a DS between them.
The CD player is broken.
That leaves the radio or nothing.
Most of the time we have the radio on.
Since the boys have become more aware of music I have toned down the amount of Radio4 we all listen to.

They have always been fairly aware of music but in the last couple of years they have been able to suggest preferences and identify artists and songs.

I miss Radio4 terribly.
We flit between Radio2, HEART and occasionally Radio1.

The journeys are always punctuated every three songs or so by Prole2:

Prole2: Dad? Dad? Dad?

Me: Yes?

Prole2: I like this song.

Me: Yes.. it is..Duran Duran/Kid Creole and the Coconuts/Guns and Roses/The Pet Shop Boys/Motorhead…it’s good isn’t it?

Followed by silence for the next three songs.

In the past I could sense when the Proles were asleep.
I could tell within two minutes of Prole2 going from chatty, wriggly and weepy to falling asleep.

A peace would descend on the car and a quick glance in the rear view mirror and he was gone.
I can’t tell what had changed, with the engine and the radio and the sound of the tarmac beneath the wheels it is difficult to say it was just sound but something changed.
Tangible between the three of us.

I did not have such a success rate with Prole1.
Things would be silent for ages, I would glance back and he would stare back at me, or we would be half way through a conversation and suddenly he was gone, sleeping, head bumping against the window.

Prole2 has always been a bit odd though.
Like the time when he was four and it was his turn to click on the digital advent calendar door and he freaked, said he did not want to do it.
Me: Ok, ok, don’t worry, calm down. Why don”t you want to open it?

Prole2: I want to see the ducks doing the smashing.

Me: Right…you don’t want to open this one?

Prole2: No. I want to see the ducks.

Me: Right…um…will you swap with your brother?

Prole1: I don’t mind.

Prole2: Yes please thank you..

Prole1 clicked on the door and there was an animation of the London Eye.
The next day Prole2 clicked on the door and there was an animation of ducks trying to land on ice and skidding on it before breaking through and landing.

Prole2: Yay! Ducks.

Freaky, freaky, freak.

Today on the way back from St Austell there was a sudden peace in the car and I knew he was sleeping.
I glanced in the rear view mirror and they had both slumped sideways in their seats.
They used to fit, tucked into their chairs.
Now they pour in a gangly tangle across the back seat.

For a moment it was the most peaceful thing I have seen for months.
Then out of nowhere John Paul Young’s song ‘Love Is In The Air’ came on the radio.

A very Happy Mothers’ day to you all.

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The tom cat is back.

It won’t actually come into my kitchen any more since our last meeting.
Well it has not come in yet, who knows about the future.

For now it stands on the lawn and stares at us.

I am fairly sure this is the reason my cat is pulling all it’s fur out. She stopped for a couple of days but has just started again.

This is in part my fault, part Prole1’s fault and mostly the tom cat’s fault.

Following an emergency surgery session on our house me and the Proles have been on a clean up detail for most of the day.
There was sawdust, wood shavings and plaster dust all over the place as well as dozens of old loose screws that had for the most part just dropped out of the splintered woodwork.
The pieces I had mended it with were a mixture of what I found around the house and shed and a scrap piece from the local woodyard.
I am going to have to look at it all again one day but it’s holding so far.

We went surf life saving at the pool today which broke everything up.
Prole2’s second session and he was excited beyond words.
He had a brilliant time.
I did not.
He spent the whole time looking around, seeing what was going on while small children churned past him like small torpedoes.
He fell off swell boards, he dropped balls, he sank several times.
He only managed to do one length of the pool without stopping for a chat, check what everyone else was doing, examine the ropes between the lanes or just forget whatever he was doing and turn round and go back for more instructions.
He also seemed to think that doggy paddle was the best stroke to adopt in the pursuit of surf rescue.

He was having a ball.
I was having kittens.
I know he can swim.
I know he can do it.

I also knew that bellowing across the pool at him was probably not the best way to do it.
I sat for an hour watching through my fingers.
Still, let’s not crush his sporting aspirations.

Prole1 was great. His impersonation of a drowning victim was, if anything, a little too good for me but I can’t fault him for getting into the role.

I tried to help Prole2 take his goggles off in the male changing room but managed to pull his hair and make him cry.
I felt awful and determined not to interfere again.
Prole1 said he would take care of it so I waited outside.
It is odd to think of them as a small team, helping each other get dressed without me.
Being in the corridor seemed like a long way away.
They changed, came out and we headed home again.

Prole1 helped to sweep up. He did the kitchen and the stairs and swept it all out the back door.
Obviously as soon as he had finished and was not looking I did it all again but it was the principle of the thing I admired.
I had less admiration for Prole2 who spent a disproportionate amount of time ‘tidying’ his lego away. It seemed to take a very long time for not much result.
Still, let’s not stifle his creativity.

When Prole1 had finished sweeping he left the broom outside.
He had used our white broom, with the stiff bristles.
I could not find it so I finished off with the red broom, with the soft bristles.

A lot of my professional life was spent thinking about brooms, while I am far from satisfied with the ones we have I am not sure I could survive with only one broom.

What with one thing and another this afternoon I needed to sweep up again.

Wordwitch was coming round again for cookery club and we just needed to lose the ‘all boys together in a house’ tint that the kitchen had.
Her session was a good one as it happened.
Prole2’s gingerbread man production line began to resemble an Anthiny Gormley installation on the kitchen table.
Prole1 showed off his trophy and recited his weak out speech from school. (I don’t know what’s so special, I think I know it off by heart as well now.)
We ate biscuits and they had a folk dance with socks session in the front room.
Anyway she was coming and we needed to spruce up.

I stepped outside with some re-cycling and found the white broom by the back door.

Quick once around the kitchen and I was starting to load the dishwasher when I smelled it.
That tang of tom cat.

I started sniffing round the room.

I could not locate it.
It was coming from somewhere but I could not tell where.
The floor? Yes maybe.
The kitchen cabinets? Yes, I think perhaps…
My clothes? Had the horrible feline got my clothes somehow?
Why did my hands smell?

What on earth was going on? He seemed to have gone everywhere.
It was even on the broom.

The broom.

It had sprayed on the broom.

The broom had been outside all night and a cat had sprayed on it.

The broom I had just swept the whole of the kitchen with?

I had to put all my clothes in the wash, forbid the Proles from going into the Kitchen, bleach and mop the whole of the kitchen and hallway.

I hate that cat.

 

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Prole2’s teacher and I had a meeting today.
This is nothing out of the ordinary, it is just that time of year.

Me and Prole1 went along, Prole2 was at science club.
He was somewhere in the school putting Mentos into bottles of Coke.
Strange to think that he is being taught to do what he may get told off for doing at secondary school.

Have you ever put a Mento in a full bottle of Coke?
Give it a try one day, preferably outside.

Anyway, while Prole2 was covering the playground in sugar solution, me and Prole1 sneaked in another door to talk about him.

We met in the library, Prole1 was all a quiver that he was allowed to sit in the teacher’s chair.
Apparently, so he told us, he had never been allowed in the chair before, not ever in his life, no matter how often he asked.
He sat on the chair and stared down at the rug he used to sit on to listen to stories.
He wriggled with joy and then went on tending the Smurf Village he has been building on my phone.
He is under strict instructions not to plant certain crops in the game as they take a long time to grow.
You are alerted to fruition by an alarm.

Me: Did you plant Blackberries in your Smurf Village?

Prole1: Yes, Papa Smurf told me to. If I do it then Brainy surf will get Jokey Smurf’s punchline.

Me: When did you plant them?

Prole1: Just before tea time yesterday. They take about twelve hours to grow.

Me: Yes they do. What time would they be ready?

Prole1: Just before tea time today?

Me: No, think about it.

Prole1: Bed time? Just after tea? While we are having a bath? No, it should be the same time. Just before tea.

Me: How many hour in a day?

Prole1: Twelve. Every one knows that.

There is a long silence.

Prole1 looks at his fingers and quickly does some counting.

Prole1: I am sorry Dad.

Me: Yes, please don’t do it again.

Prole1: No, I won’t, sorry.

Me: That’s ok.

Prole1: Were you asleep?

Me: Very.

Prole1: Sorry.

A short pause.

Prole1: Ummm…did you…did you harvest them?

You can see the problem, what with me keeping my phone on the bedside table and all.
I love him but I was unable to explain exactly what I was thinking and doing when my alarm went off at 4am.

Anyhow the teacher and I sat down to talk.
I know it is a school but surely there are at least two chairs in the building that are adult sized?
With Prole1 in the only adult sized chair in the room the options were limited.

I sat down on a chair designed for a four to seven year old.
I instantly felt really uncomfortable and wanted to leave.

I never really liked sitting on those tiny chairs.
I went to four different schools between the ages of five and ten and I sort of equate them with feeling like an outsider.
Nothing like being in your mid forties and squeezing on to one to disempower you.

The teacher asked if I had any questions.

I had no questions.

She seemed incredulous at this and returned to it a couple of times during the meeting.
I began to think I should have some questions.
What should I ask?

She talked about how his writing could be better.
She suggested that when we write sentences together I should concentrate his work on neatness, finger spacing and constructing letters properly.

I nodded to show I understood.
I frowned slightly to show I was thinking about it.
I sort of part agreed, part laughed and part grunted in agreement.

Then I had to admit to her that we never write sentences together.

She smiled, nodded and looked at me in an understanding way.
It was still a look a bit like one would give if I had admitted I stab guinea pigs for fun but it was understanding.

She said she knew it was difficult to fit everything in.

I smiled and tried to look careworn.
I am good at this since I turned 40 but the effect was marred by me sitting in a teeny tiny seat.

Here I shall be honest about the writing, I can fit it in.
I have plenty of time.
I just never thought of doing it.
If someone had said we would have been doing it for years.

We do reading books every day.
We do the spelling sheets.
We do the sounding out sheets.
We read a bed time story together.

Why have I never been told about writing sentences with my kids?
What else don’t I know?
What else are all the other parents doing?
Is there a series of secret memos going round I know nothing about?

Was I just supposed to absorb this stuff by osmosis?
Does everyone do this and I don’t?

I felt very small in my teeny tiny chair.

I stared down at Prole2’s work book.

There was a picture of three figures on a cliff.
The big one with a smile, the middle sized one with a frown and glasses and the small one with crazy hair and a smile.
‘Botalic’ it said.

Botallack.
On a sunny day when we had gone to visit the place where Laura’s heart was buried.
The boys play in the old brick furnace tunnels there.

It is not about me in my teeny tiny chair.
It is about the Proles and wether or not they are ok.

Me: Is he ok?

Teacher: Oh yes, he is ok.

It will all come out in the end.
I have more to worry about with Prole2 than whether or not he writes with me.
We will start writing and we will continue and we will fail and we will do it all again.
Just like everything else.

 

I am so pleased he drew such a sunny picture of us all.

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The letter from Prole2’s teacher says he is going to get sex and relationship lessons soon.

I did not get sex education lessons when I was small.

I found everything out on the day I found a particularly elaborate prophylactic by the side of the road and being very pleased at my new found ‘balloon’.

I have never seen one quite like it since.

It was unused, in case you were worried.

Anyway, this sparked a quick and very precise conversation about reproduction which careered through the main issues in order to illustrate why I was not allowed to take it in the house, blow it up and/or take it to school to show my friends.

I never got ‘relationship’ lessons though.

I wonder if that is just a word they use these days to sweeten the pill of biology lessons in Primary Education or if they actually do teach about relationships.

It’s a tricky area.
I couldn’t teach about relationships.
Seems a bit broad.

What makes a good relationship?
I feel daunted by the subject.
Clearly I lacked guidance when I was at Primary School.

The other day Prole1 learned about Civil Partnerships.
I thought I had the subject pretty much locked down in my head but explaining the current situation surrounding Gay marriage in Britain is a mine field.
I have been trying to tease out the knotty subject of religion with him and am trying very hard to let him make his own mind up.

Prole1: So the first Gay marriage was in 1601?

Me: What?

Prole1: The first Gay marriage was in 1601. Why was it made not right? Why did people stop it?

Me: What?

Prole1: You know.

I didn’t.

Prole1: When men marry men.

Me: 1601? Really?

Prole1: Yes. I think so. A long time ago. Was it the Government that stopped it?

Me: Ummm…I’d have to look, it was probably them or the Church….

Prole1: Why would the Church do that?

Me: I am just cooking, can we talk about this later?

Later.
When I have had time to google the hell out of it and write down some bullet points.
I sort of need Stephen Fry and the Cannon Emeritus of Salisbury Cathedral in the room when we discuss it.
I always felt they would get on, despite apposing views in some areas.
I bet they both like the same puddings.

Prole1 is wrong about 1601 by the way.
Well, technically he is wrong, it happened in Spain not Britain.

And yes, I had to google that.

I could tell him what I think but my views are crushingly secular on this subject and others.
I can’t really talk about it all without getting cross.

I just hope Prole2’s lessons in relationships focus on the idea that most people are nice, respect should be given, that you can, if you try, be friends or friendly to almost every single person you meet and that love is something that chooses you, not the other way round.
I hope the lessons have nice pictures as well.

I was preparing the ground by trying to locate The Usborne Book of Where Babies Come From.

I have not seen it for a couple of months, it is one of those well thumbed publications that Prole1 read over and over, mostly for the nice pictures.
Prole1 keeps his books on top of the wardrobe.
He can reach them from the top bunk where he sleeps but I have to get a bathroom chair and stand on it.
From the chair, on tip toes, I can just see the top of the wardrobe.
The idiosyncratic way Prole1 ‘stacks’ his books means that inadvertent shifting of the stack could cause a book slide straight at you, at eye level.
If they miss your eyes you have to do the ‘don’t-hit-my-feet’ dance as hardbacks crash on to the chair.
Softback House At Pooh Corner is fine, hardback Harry Potter And The Order Of the Phoenix is a different toe crushing matter.

Prole1 watched with complete disinterest as I tried to make sense of his filing system.

I turned over a Secret Seven and found some folded pieces of paper.

On the front were the words: Alphabet Verson 2

Me: What is this?

Prole1: Oh, yes, I have worked out the whole alphabet in Dwarvish Ruins.

Me: Runes?

Prole1: Runes. Yes. I got them all from the Hobbit.

Prole1 has been given a leather bound hard backed copy of the Hobbit by the rockfather.
They sat together deciphering the first few letters of the Dwarvish Alphabet.
Prole1 has been sitting up the last two nights and has worked out the whole Alphabet.

Me: All of them?

Prole1: Yes, you have to go through the whole book and find them. Did you know there is no letter Q in dwarfish? You can use the ruins for C and W to make the sounds. I hope to copy this all up in best and then I will write the whole thing out in Dwarvish with and English translation instead of English with a Dwarvish translation. That will be Version Three.

Me: Right…

Would it have been tactless to suggest that he learn to spell in English first?

Can’t he learn Cornish? Or Mandarin?

I feel I should encourage him to learn a foreign language but should it be a dead language like Dwarvish?
And I mean dead in the sense that THE DWARVES OF TOLKEIN WERE NEVER ALIVE IN THE FIRST PLACE.

I looked at his writing, wobbly and uneven.
Every rune was copied out though and every one of them looked like a rune.

Me: It’s brilliant. Really brilliant.

Prole1: Thanks Dad.

I dug out The Usborne Book Of Where Babies Come From.

It has great pictures.

Half the battle is not what you learn but that you enjoy doing it.

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Earlier today Prole2 had got a  bit upset.

For some reason he had a very mild panic attack going in to school.

This sort of thing happens when you are at primary school, the world is a big place.
It’s fairly large when you are forty-three as well so heaven knows what it is like to be small.

He got over it very quickly, again, like you do when you are small but it came as a surprise.

It is unusual behaviour and my parent senses were tingling.
Upset for no reason.
This tends to herald in some kind of illness.

Sometimes you can watch children just run out of energy, stagger slightly and then flop over sideways. Ill.

I remember when Prole1 was just learning how to walk and he started to run a temperature.
He was like a huge, short sighted, butter bean in those days, all round like a big Teddy Bear.

I tried to cool him down but he just wanted to sleep, preferably on me.
He also went all floppy and listless.

It is terrible to admit but I had a brilliant day. He was all cuddly and poorly, I got to make a fuss of him, I had time off work and he stayed wherever I put him.
He was utterly undemanding and I got to catch up on loads of sleep.

Naturally I was worried sick as well, just having a great day at the same time.

Prole2 was all skinny and boney but he would often announce his illness:

Prole2: Dad…I am floppy….

And then falling down on the sofa.

For the most part illnesses have been limited to the sort of thing treatable with Calpol and a day on the sofa.
Prole2 loves a day on the sofa, with a duvet and the telly on.
He spent a day like this recently and after he had perked up a bit we visited friends.
They asked Prole1 if he would like a day on the sofa instead of going to school?

Prole1: Oh no, I would not like that, I love school. I love work. I would work all day with no breaks, just a snack for lunch. I love school.

One of the essential differences between my sons.

Calpol is a safety net, I am always worried it will go beyond the easily administered home medicine.

We did all catch a nasty gastric flu bug once.

It was fairly spectacular really.

We sort of moved round the house using up linen, towels and rugs until at one point all three of us were in the bathroom. I had removed almost everything except two beds on the floor made of towels.
Between my own ‘sessions’ I would take another load of stuff down to the washing machine, load up the dryer at the same time, pick up some more fluids for us all and go back up stairs.
Actually most of the time I would take a break half way up the stairs for some heavy breathing and a bit of perspiring and then get back to it.

At just the point I thought I would have to call in the cavalry (which is to say, call someone who would be able to help but who intern would then catch something nasty) Prole1 sat up and asked for grapes.

On that occasion the bug had the decency to be mild and to only stick around for twenty four hours.

There is, for those of you who live in Cornwall at the moment, a nasty bug going round again so my heart sank when Prole2 started acting weirder.

When he came out of school he looked a bit happier than when he went in but he still gave me an extra long hug.
Not totally odd but different enough.

At Pizza Club tonight he mentioned that he was not afraid of dying and, not wanting to start an existential discussion that I may not be able to finish I steered him back to the pizza.

Getting ready for bed I decided to do a little digging.

Me: You were upset this morning.

Prole2: What?

Me: Were you upset this morning?

Prole2: Yes. I wanted to cuddle and stay with you.

Me: Right, I saw that. Were you ok at school?

Prole2: What?

Me: Were you ok at school?

Prole2: Yes.

Me: OK, I was a bit worried.

Prole2: Well, my shoe fell off.

Me: Is that why you were upset?

Prole2: NOooo. I was upset when they laughed at me.

Me: This morning?

Prole2: At Assembly.

Me: Oh.

Proel2: And I had a burger.

Me: What?

Prole2: A burger. For lunch.

I felt we were heading a little off track.
Actually I did not know where we were.

Me: Oh I see, I was worried you were thinking about dying. Because you said so at Pizza Club.

Prole2: No. I am not afraid of dying because I will be…you know…up there…

He waved an arm at the light shade.

Me: I see.

Prole2: At least if you are up there you will be ok and you can walk about and jump and stuff.

Me: That sounds good.

Prole2: Yes, if you are bad you go down there and…well…no running….

Me: Ummm…what is down there?

Prole2: You know. Buried. Under the ground. In a box. You can’t jump.

Me: No I suppose you can’t.

Prole2: I will be up there.

Prole2 waved at the light shade again. We all looked up.

Prole1: Where?

Prole2: There.

Me: Do you mean heaven?

Prole2: Where you go when you are good.

Me: And you are good.

Prole2: Yes. I am annoying. But I am good.

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We made a plan to go swimming today.

Swimming is a mildly traumatic experience as a single parent. Lone Parent. Sole Caregiver.
Whatever label.

It’s tricky as a Dad on your own.

No one ever mentions the temperature.
It is warm in the swimming pool changing area.
And crowded.

There is a slow scuffle for a changing room that is slightly too small and the horrible ‘One Man And His Dog’ moment tot trying to get the Proles, who always appear to have lost any sense of urgency or direction, in to the cubicle.

And you are getting hot because you are carrying swimming gear for three.
And you are still wearing your coat because taking it off takes space and time and you have not had either and you know if you stop the Proles will stand in the middle of a corridor or passage way and half naked people will be trying to get past them.

And you get into a cubicle and the Proles don’t seem to grasp that you need to get in as well and you have to issue instructions.
And you are still heating up because you have your coat on.
So you know the Proles are heating up and a hot Prole is an unhappy Prole.

So you ask them to take their coats off and put them on the bench and one does and the other puts his coat in a puddle so you tell him to pick it up so he ‘moves’ his brother’s coat out of the way by putting it in the puddle he has just removed his own coat from.

And with three of you in there, there is no where to put the bag, except in the puddle.
Which you do, because you have to take your coat off because you are boiling.

And by the time you get your coat off and hung up there are one and a half pairs of Prole socks in the puddle too.
And you all three try to get changed together without knocking each other over.

I can do the ‘swimming trunks under trousers’ thing for a quick change but following a couple of big, loud, traumatic ‘accidents’ over the last few years I make sure the Proles change into trunks at the pool.
I can’t really go into details.
On one occasion I had to throw the trunks away, it was that bad.
That’s all I am saying.

So I have a plastic swimming bag to counter the puddle and I take a spare for the Proles to chuck clothes in.
And there is the minor stress of fitting three lots of clothes, coat and shoes into one small locker.
I could do two but then you have two of those daft ‘key on a broken watch strap’ things on your arm.

But it’s lovely once you are in isn’t it?

Except today we could not get near the pool because the ‘Race For Life’ was on and the road to the pool was closed.

The pool was open to anyone who could haul themselves all the way up the hill carrying children and swimming gear.
I was not too sure about it because of the tired, grumpy, ‘where’s my lunch and why do I have to walk’ return trip to the car but fortunately I had completely forgotten the swimming bag with all the towels and costumes.

It was next to the door when we got back home.

The rest of the day sort of unravelled as I had apologetic textual intercourse with all the people I had arranged to meet at the pool.

A friend took pity on us and too us home, fed us and sent us on our way but Prole2 was really upset and has been asking ever since when we are going back.

He is ‘turning a corner’ with his swimming and with so much in the house being about Prole1 I really wanted to keep things going for him.

He is fine and hardly ever complains and is very happy to go with the flow but today he wanted to swim and today he was let down.

Prole1 is very forthright and will suggest plans, negotiate and revise schedules. He likes to have objectives and a timetable. He is happy to discuss this with me at any time. He is happy to discuss this with complete strangers at any time.
The basic rule is that if you ask, ask nicely, and Dad can’t think of a good reason to refuse, then you can get what you want.

Prole2 hardly ever asks.
He asked today.
He has been sadly asking if we can go back all day.

I have promised him we can.

I am not keen on swimming but I want the boys to be able to swim so we go soften as we can.

I would actually go right now. In all the confusion I am still wearing my trunks and the Proles are in bed.

Polyester next to the skin all day.

I might just go and have a shower….