Archives for posts with tag: emotional

Image

 

 

Advertisements

Image

 

From today Cornish people will be officially recognised as a National Minority under the Council of Europe Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities.

Now that Cornish people are officially recognised as a national minority under the Council of Europe Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities all sorts of questions have popped up from people asking what we were yesterday?

Didn’t Europe always think Cornish people were a national minority under the Council of Europe Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities?

That may or may not be true, the important thing is that the British Government in Westminster has admitted that Cornish people are a National Minority under the Council of Europe Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities.

Which is nice, after all these years of what has been blindingly obvious to anyone living or working in Cornwall for any amount of time.

What ever the legal status, I doubt it will stop people saying you are not proper Cornish until you have three generations in the graveyard at  Trewellard.
I do not have three generations in the graveyard anywhere in Cornwall.
None the less, I am from here, I live here and if I am really lucky I will be living here when I go West.
I am not from anywhere else and when I heard the news I have to say I sat for several minutes and shed a little tear.

This is just one step, one piece of the picture that makes up Cornwall but I hope it brings Cornwall a little bit closer to pulling itself out of the financial place it has bee in for so long.

Perhaps a legal status will instil a greater need for change. I really hope it is the beginning of something important, joyful and celebratory.
It certainly is for me.

The legal status is one that has been discussed a lot and this is one step closer to illuminating what may or may not be going on.

A National Minority status indicates there may be a Nation in discussion.

Actually Cornwall has stronger legal rights to be considered a separate Nation than Wales or Scotland.

I spent about quarter of an hour discussing the Foreshore Dispute of 1857 with an artist from London today.
I don’t do that often but there was something in the air today, what with the news and everything , they called to ask about Cornish coastline and suddenly we were off.

This is the document that spells out that there is a legal difference between England and Cornwall:

“1. All mines and minerals lying under the seashore between high and low water marks within the said County of Cornwall, and under estuaries and tidal rivers and other places below high water mark, are vested in His Royal Highness the Duke of Cornwall in right of the Duchy of Cornwall as part of the Soil and territorial Possessions of the Duchy.

2. All mines and minerals lying below low-water mark under the open sea, adjacent to but not being part of the County of Cornwall, are vested in Her Majesty the Queen in right of her Crown as part of the Soil and territorial Possessions of the Crown.
Part reading: Cornwall Submarine Mines Act 1858 [statute in force]”

Interesting use of County and Duchy.

Britain has two Sovereigns, the Queen and the Duke of Cornwall.

As the Prince of Wales, Chales has no Sovereign rights.
As the Duke of Cornwall, Charles does have Sovereign rights.

This is because Wales is subject to an act of union with England and Cornwall is not.

Essentially, if Alex Salmond lived in Cornwall he would not necessarily have to use a referendum to get the answer to his question.

He could just use a good lawyer.

There is of course the ugly spectre of Cultural Thuggism that rears it’s head whenever discussions of Nation and Patriotism are brought up.
I hope Cornwall is big enough to walk on by.

Anyhow, all this is not getting us any closer to celebrating.

Here is a recipe from “Cornish Recipes, Ancient and Modern” by the Cornwall Federation Of Women’s Institutes 1929.

This is probably the best book ever written, ever.
I may be wrong.
Probably is though.

1 LB Flour
Good Pinch Salt
Grating of Nutmeg
6 OZ Chopped Suet
3 OZ Chopped Mixed Peel
6 OZ Sultanas
6 OZ Currants

Method: Mix all well together and make into a stiff paste with Milk. Place into a scalded and floured cloth and tie loosely, plunge in boiling water and boil to a gallop for three hours. When dished up cut a piece out of top as large as a tea cup, place inside 4OZ of coarse brown sugar, one teacup of Cornish cream. Put in oven for two minutes and serve piping hot. There will be no leftovers.

Any recipe that instructs you to add a teacup of clotted cream at the end is by definition BRILLIANT.

Sadly I have not made this dish, called ‘Grandmother’s Birthday Pudding’ and so I will have to celebrate with a glass of Metheglin.

Google it.

Onen Hag Oll.

Image

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.

 

Image

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.

 

Image

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….

Image

I am hiding from the cat.

Sometimes at the end of the day, when I finally get the Proles off to bed, I sit down with a big sight and the cat jumps on to my lap.
Then it goes round and round in circles, shoving it’s bottom in my face, shredding my dressing gown with its claws.

I sort of want to throw it against the wall and shout “Stop sucking all the love out of me you parasites!” but the RSPCA take a dim view of that and anyway the cats are family or something.

Usually I just take it and wait ten minutes for it to settle, by which time I have to shift a bit because something is going numb somewhere at which point the cat jumps off and then five minutes later repeats the whole thing.

I have to be extra nice to the cat at the moment.
The cat is stressed.
I can tell because it has started pulling it’s fur out again.
We have new cats in the area. I think this is why it has started tearing it’s hair out.

It has done this before, a fifty pence sized bald patch on it’s side.
And its allergic to fleas, I have just de-flea-ed it but not before the tell tale scabs appeared.

That’s right, the cat is neurotic, part bald, scabby and prone to shoving it’s bottom in my face.

And I have to not make it stressed and cheer it up so it can get better.

So I am hiding.

I can’t say I blame it mind, I don’t know why but it has been one of those days.

Prole1 has a couple of bookings coming up for his burgeoning DJ career.

As gimmicks go, being in primary school and being a DJ has worked well.
I keep thinking he is going to get too old and not be cute as a DJ any more but so far he still keeps getting bookings.

He was playing through some odds and ends today.
Mr Brightside by the Killers.
I am often left cold by the Killers’ lyrics but they do make a right old glorious racket and suddenly I was in tears over the cooker.

This had followed a rather emotional trip to the pool.
Prole2 has been slowly, slowly convincing himself to join Surf Life Saving with Prole1.

When Prole1 started I just said “OK, in you go” and in he went.
If he had not wanted to go in he would have said “No thank you, thank you very much for asking” because that is what he says when he does not want something or is transfixed with fear.

Prole2 is a different kettle of fish.

I know swimming is nice once you are in.
I also know that Prole2 needs to convince himself of this.

Me: Do you want to go in?

Prole2: Yes.

Me: Off you go then.

Prole2: I am scared.

Me: Ok, don’t go in.

Prole2: But I want to.

Me: Ok, go in.

Prole2: But I am scared.

Me: You don’t have to go in if you are scared.

Prole2: But I want to go in.

Me: Well go in then, off you go.

Prole2: No Dad, no. I am too scared.

Me: Well…don’t go in or do go in….do something.

Prole2 But I am scared.

This went on for some time and when he finally did go in I had to have a quiet moment to get over it all.
Prole2 gets locked in uncertainty like that.
Prole1 would just get changed again.

I pulled myself together but by then some Mums had sat all around, and in one case on, my towels and coat so I sat at the end orf the row with some small girls doing colouring in. Them not me.

Prole2 walked past a few minutes later, splotch, splotch, splotch in a pair of flippers and a huge grin.
I was off again he looked so happy.

We finally got home and after ten months of asking we finally bought ‘Lilo and Stich’ and sat on the sofa to watch it.
Disney, not afraid to kill a parent or two at the start of the film to get you on side.

I should have known I would go again I suppose, ‘Toy Story 3’ hits the Achillies heel every time and even ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ has it’s moment.

I sat there sniffing on the bean bag while my scabby cat mauled more threads out of my dressing gown.

Prole2 has joined the Surf Life Savers.
I am so proud.

Excuse me.

Image

I have a painting on the wall from a well known American Artist.

I say well known, I had never heard of him.
In fact I have just been googling him to see who he is.

He has done a lot it seems.

This one is not actually worth anything though.

The man who digs the garden knocked the painting off the wall.

Actually he bumped it on the way up the stairs and it must have hung by a thread for half an hour before it fell.

We had been discussing the Smiths.
The man who digs the garden does not particularly love the Smiths, the band from the late eighties, but he does not mind them.
He sometimes listens to them.

I had gone so far as to saying I hate the Smiths.
Actually I just actively dislike the music.
In reality it is only Morrisey’s voice I don’t like.

It was something of a pain when I was young.
I hung around with many, many Smiths fans.
In the tribal way of teenagers I looked and dressed very much like my friends.
I looked and dressed like a Smiths fan.

I was not a Smiths fan.
It would have been easier if I had just pretended that I liked them I suppose.

This preconception of me and my musical tastes carried on and carries on now.
I still meet people who are surprised that I don’t like the Smiths.

Laura even made me a compilation CD (as one does on occasion in relationships) on which was “There is a light that never goes out”, a song I used to find particularly unpleasant when I was in my late teens.

However unpleasant I used to find it, nowadays it just reminds me that Laura loved it so much she put it on a compilation CD for me.

Nowadays I can listen to the Smiths and it just reminds me of all those friends I don’t see any more and how much of a laugh it was being young.
That is what Morrisey means to me now.
Thank you Morrisey.
Listening to your voice means something.
It means looking at the man who digs the garden, gnarled hands, bald head, bushy beard, and seeing him as an 18year old again.
I don’t play the Smiths but these days I don’t turn them off either.

Where was I?

The painting is on an old panel of wood inside a frame and it came down the stairs, spinning off the third step and crashed into the hallway.

It made a real racket and dinked a hole in the floor where it hit.

The painting cracked from top to bottom.

Right down the middle and a shiver of the panel came out.

It is an old panel of wood and very dry.

It comes from The Canon Emeritus of Salisbury Cathedral’s time as the chaplain at Marlborough School.
One of the students was leaving and gave the Canon Emeritus of Salisbury Cathedral one of his pictures.
He then went on to Art School and moved to New York where he became very successful.

The painting is from his time before Art School.

It shows a figure that looks like Christ sitting with his head in his hands, weeping.
He is seen through the ephemeral shadow of a Cambell’s soup tin.
Yep, Cambell’s soup can.
It was painted in 1968 by a school boy so we can cut the guy some slack.

Also, the use of the soup can is explained in a Latin inscription across the top and the painted note on the back.

The picture is called “The State of America, 1968″.

Being one of those things that a Clergyman might collect through his life it was eventually passed on to the Canon Emeritus of Salisbury Cathedral’s daughter.

Laura brought it with her when we moved to Cornwall together.

There were many casualties of our moves, we no long have the picture of ‘Donkey by Spanish Windmills” which used to be in Laura’s room when she was a child.
We did not keep the four foot high African fertility doll. Once Prole2 turned up that thing was gone.
We did not keep the 1930s arm chair.
The white chest of drawers went to a bonfire.
My book cases went to the charity shop.
At a conservative estimate about four hundred books went to new homes.

I sort of do and don’t like the painting.

When I first saw it I was not enamoured.
I did not actually dislike it as much as, say, the Smiths but I was not keen.
As the years have gone by I have mellowed towards it.

When I saw it damaged I was actually very upset.

It may be worth nothing to the art world and I don’t know what will happen to it in the future but I love the heritage, the links and the story of it.

I re-hung it and I know enough about these things not to attempt mending it on my own.

It now has a crack, a new piece of history, another page to the story.

Image

One of the nicest things I do with the Proles is the rolling display of ‘art’ around the house.

During an office move there were a series of picture frames that were up for grabs so with no real thought behind it I nabbed them.

Now every once in a while I take some of the landslide of ‘art’ the boys bring home and put it in the frames.

The frames are relatively large when compared to A4 paper so often one picture will act as a back drop for another or images will montage slightly as I cram them in to fill up the frame.

Being low on critical faculties the Proles don’t mind this so much.

Sometimes I need a little help in curation.

Prole1’s “picture of active sloth’ was presented in conjunction with ‘harbour scene’.
In itself  this was not considered a problem, after all, as Prole1 pointed out, they were both fairly brown.
The problem occurred in that the ‘harbour scene’ went into the frame the wrong way up.
Following the minute detailing of the image and the original intention by the artist I took it down, took the picture out, got distracted by the washing, went back and placed the picture upside down again.

Prole1 patted my hand.

Prole1: If you like it that way up Dad, you keep it that way up.

Then he kissed my forehead and went to spread patronising joy to the rest of the house.

In the hallway there is a small rectangular hole in the wall, this is where the door handle used to go when the door was opened fully.
Nowadays the door is double glazed plastic and I don’t think they really considered the architecture of Redruth when they constructed it.
The hole is no longer used and so we put a small picture frame around it and use it as a temporary display case for small sculptures and more three dimensional pieces.

It is no Tate Turbine Hall but the Proles can on occasion exceed all expectations.
“All the green lego” was a challenging installation, ‘my clay crocodile’ was a  psychedelic  exhibit and we are seeing the return of ‘snail money box’ by Prole2 at the moment.
There is a small piece of paper in there with his name on.

Prole2: So people know I did it.

Me: Great, why is there a picture of a castle on the paper?

Prole2: Extra art. More fun.

Me: Oh, yes of course.

The celebration of their ‘artwork’ is in a way to salve my own conscience.
As I have said elsewhere, ‘art’ comes in through the door at an alarming rate.

What to do with this landslide of mutilated paper and card is a real dilemma.

The Proles put heart and soul into their work, they can tell you all the tiny details of the process and their thinking.
This can be useful most of the time because it is hard to see if any thinking were part of the process at all.

They bring this stuff home and say things like: Here you go Dad, I did this specially for you.

And I can see in their eyes that I am holding their dream. A dream that this piece of work will make me happy. That this picture, dawned in paint and slightly crumpled, will in some way make my life complete.

I have seen the sort of thing they get me for Christmas, even with a chaperone, they have no idea what I might like.
But it is written all over their faces that they think, or rather believe with every quivering fibre of their being, that I love this stuff.

What to do when you hold so many dreams?

Well, not so much hold as stuff them under the stairs.
We have so much ‘art’ under the stairs a fire officer would have a fit.
Fortunately it is so thick with paint and glue I believe it may be th last thing to go up if the house burns down.

What to do?

There is a slow process of ‘retirement’, as you would imagine, but I am nervous of the shattered dream.

I am being glib about this of course but I do love it all as well.
The bright eyes as they talk about the current piece and they la it out o the table for me to look at.
It is wonderful.

But I can’t keep it all. I can’t really keep even a fraction of what they bring home.

My house is stuffed with so much of the past I cannot really afford to keep much more.

I have to clear back for the future.

I have to be brutal with painted pictures, squash clay models, tiny trousers, forgotten toys, worn out shoes, little tiny gloves, faded t shirts and first bicycles.

I don’t have tiny weeny little boys any more.
Riding the leading edge of their growth is like surfing on the front of an emotional wave, I have to be responsive and keep up or I will go under.

I have to take moments and images and artefacts where I can but leave the path clear for the future.
It is a small collection but it tis a vital one.
I am not just being sentimental.

I could clear it all out of course but then if they ceased to be for any reason, how could I ever get it back?

How will I know they were here?

Image

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.
Hmmm.

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.
Hmmm.

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.

Tonsure.
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.

Yes.
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.

Probably.

But you don’t know.

Image

I defrosted the freezer.

That’s a job I won’t have to do again for another eight years.

There is a strange sort of archaeology in the defrosting of a freezer.

Mine was not too bad by the way, it was supposed to be ‘frost free’ but I think after so many years it just gave up and took a break.
It is also quite small so the fall out area was contained.

The frost had really taken hold in the last six months.
A slight door malfunction had led to a lot of ice forming.
A slightly cracked drawer was probably to blame and being freed from the ice today meant I could clean and glue and slide everything back into place.

I do not have a hair dryer in the house any more and my fan heater is at work.
Actually my fan heater is now working for Cornwall Council somewhere, kidnapped in a chilly office move so I nicked theirs when they were not looking.
My fan heater is now probably in Truro, rattling away in some office.
I got it in Essex.
Well travelled, that heater.

I was not sure how to speed up the defrosting as the freezer is in the coldest part of the house.

In the end I pulled the tumble dryer out and pointed the vent into the freezer which worked a treat.

The ice melted, most of the water vapour from the dryer condensed in the freezer compartment and the towels dried at the same time.

I was feeling quite good about this small piece of lateral thinking until I saw the fluff that had blown out of the vent hose and all over the inside of my wet and now warm freezer compartment.
It came off easily enough but where it got in between the filaments it stuck, just out of dishwasher brush bristle length.
It looks black and mildewey.
Fluff and the aesthetics aside, it worked quite well.

I cleared out the stuff I could easily get to and waited to see what else would be revealed.
As the ice shelf receded, I found two vegetarian sausages, one fish finger, one frozen Yorkshire Pudding (don’t judge me, they were on special offer) lots of peas and a portion of Lasagne.
I also found the ice cube tray.
We used to make baby food by liquidising vegetables and freezing them in the ice cube tray.
At meal times you could turn out two cubes into a pan, warm them through and serve them up.
It was nice to see it again and be reminded that you cold fit three day’s solid food for one of the Proles in that tray at one time.
The ice cube tray was fortunately not full of baby food.

The Lasagne was quite old.
When Loz died people reacted in different ways.
While I am not really happy to make gender based sweeping statements I have to say that the men and women in my social group reacted in very stark ways.
There were people who talked.
There were people who listened.
There were men who got me drunk.
There were women who cooked me food.

Broadly speaking people fell into these groups if I ever saw them.
The one real exception to this was one of my friends who just mooched around my hose for a few days not saying much, watching telly with the Proles or throwing them around in the back garden and occasionally leaving cups of tea within reach. I am not sure we actually had any sort of conversation at all but it was kind of marvellous really. It was brilliant.

The talkers actually appeared before Loz had died.
On the morning they were to switch off the machines I was in the bed room getting dressed and my phone rang.
I sort of knew it would be a bad idea to answer but at the same time it was such an odd day to prepare for I thought perhaps some normality might help.

The nice lady on the other end of the phone said hello and then disintegrated into floods of tears telling me what a poor man I was on a day like today.
On the face of it I agreed with her but was a tad busy getting ready so I did have to politely cut the conversation short.
Grief is a terrible thing, it is relatively rare in our culture and so often hits people in an unexpected flood.
Most people who talked about it were experiencing shock, awe and panic in various sized doses.
So was I, so I had every sympathy in the world, even if the timing could be questionable.

The listeners were great.
I was experiencing shock, awe and panic and it was nice to try to make sense of it.
I sometimes made sense of it by trying to say it all out loud at once.
Most of the time I kept a bit of a lid on it but every now and then I would lose it completely.
I did feel myself reigning it in a bit when eyes became too wide.

Any how, gender specific reactions….

The men getting drunk thing was kind of to be expected really.
As a man who drank, it was a landscape I understood and I think I would have been the same in their shoes.
Lots of Gin, lots of beer, lots of rum.
I don’t remember us all talking about our feelings much.
Mind you, I don’t remember much.

It is unfair of me to insinuate that all women wanted to cook for me.
They didn’t.
But some did and they brought food round or cooked in my house or invited me to theirs for slightly too much pudding.
On one occasion I had to talk someone out of coming round with the ingredients for a casserole, all three of their children and their dog. It was an incredibly sweet gesture but I am not sure it would have had the desired effect.

I don’t remember any men coming round with a hot pot or similar, only women.
Make of it what you will I suppose but it is a phenomena borne out by the experience of other widowers I have heard from.
I actually started to put on weight.
Whatever the reason, I felt it was quite a primal thing and on occasion really very welcome.

The Lasagne was really lovely, I remember saving the last portion for a special day.
Well, I remember it now, and I remembered at the time, clearly there was a long time in the middle where I did not remember about the Lasagne at all.

I saw it today and I remembered all those people who came round in that first year.

All that time, all that care, all that love.

I never really got to say thank you to those people, thank you for the talking and the listening and the drinking and the food.
I won’t ever be able to tell them what that meant to me.
Because it meant they loved her too.

Anyhow, I threw the Lasagne away.
I am sentimental but there are limits.