Archives for posts with tag: growing up


Prole2: Can you teach me a joke?

Me: A joke?

Prole2: Yes I want to tell my brother a joke and make him laugh.

Me: Ummmm ok, let me think of one.

Prole2: Can you remember any?

Me: None that I can tell you.

Prole2: What?

Me: What do you call a Deer with no eyes?

Prole2: What?

Me: It’s a joke. What do you call a Deer with no eyes?

Prole2: I don’t get it.

Me: I haven’t finished it.

Prole2: What?

Me: That was the first bit.

Prole2: When is the funny bit?

Me: Well give me a minute I am trying to get there.

Prole2: What?

Me: Ok. What do you call a Deer with no eyes?

Prole2: What?

Me: No Idea!

Prole2: What?

Me: Are you saying ‘What’ because you didn’t hear me or because you don’t understand?

Prole2: What?

Me: No Idea. What do you call a Deer with no eyes?  No…Eye…Deer. No Idea.

Prole2: Oh…No Eye Deer…that’s funny….

Me: Thank you, I thought so.

Prole2: What do you call a Bunny with no Eyes?

Me: Ummm…Ok…what do you call a Bunny with no Eyes?

Prole2: No Eye Bunny.

Me: Very good.

Prole2: Is it funny?

Me: To me? Yes.

He skips over to his brother who is watching ants.

Prole2: Hey! What do you call a Bunny with no Eyes?

Prole1: I don’t know, what do you call a Bunny with no Eyes?

Prole2: No Eye Blind Animal Dead.

Prole1: What?

Prole2: Dad thinks that is funny.

Prole1: Dad?



The man from the washing machine repair service turned up today.

I was working this morning but they said they would text me a two hour window I had to be at home for.

I took a gamble and did not cancel any meetings.

They texted me last night: We estimate our engineer will arrive between 10.00 and 13.00 on Monday.

I was not sure how far to true a company that gave me a two hour window that was three hours long.

I also thought it might be nice to spend a day doing nothing.
I say nothing, I have loads of stuff to do in the house and the garden but a bit of me was also loking forward to having an excuse to sit around doing nothing and being able to write something pithy and mildly self effacing about it later.
It seemed like a good plan to me.
Like when you were off sick from school and you got to spend all day in bed reading comics and it was really boring but slightly thrilling at the same time.

I called the office to say I was not coming in.

Giving the repair team the benefit of the doubt I supposed the engineer would arrive between 10.00 and 12.00 and the extra hour was for the ‘repair’ they might have to do?

Seemed reasonable, after all if they turned up in the last couple of minute they would need time to do the job.

They turned up at 13.15.

When I asked him about this he said that he was due in by one and he had to come from the other end of Cornwall where his other jobs had been.
Seeing his job sheet with my number on and having been told that all his other work was an hour’s drive away I was naturally curious as to why he had not called me to tell me his plan.
I decided not to ask though because it’s been ten days without a washing machine and I did not want to spook him. I felt like I was holding my breath all the time he was here. All 29 minutes of it.

I was not actually holding my breath of course, I was actually taking away at the kitchen table because work never stops and we are up against a deadline at the office.
I say ‘we are up against a deadline’, in actual fact the Artists I work with are up against a deadline.
I say ‘Artists I work with’, in actual fact they do all the work, I just chat to them and gabble on about Cornwall, funding and Art.

I know a little bit about Cornwall because I read a book once, the rest I make up. Working so far.

Anyway, word got out that I was waiting for a service engineer so the morning’s bookings just relocated to my house.

Of course I was pleased about this but it did mean I had to stop stripping the paint off the stairs.

This is a job I have been putting off ever since I put my foot through the landing.
My 125 year old stairs are covered in thick layers of paint.
At some point someone really thoroughly covered absolutely everything in thick dark purple vinyl paint.
The strata seems to be Magnolia, Magnolia, White, Dark Satanic Purple, White, Whitewash.
I had half heartedly started doing this, thinking I might take a tea break later and watch a bit of daytime tv.
I have never seen Cash in the Attic and I have often wondered what all the fuss is about.
I have seen five minutes of Jeremy Kyle once but that was by accident I think.
Anyway, under extreme sufferance and with a heavy heart I was preparing to take my favourite mug and have a quiet digestive in front of the telly.

I had managed two half steps when Old Man Winter came in with Madame and sat at the Kitchen table.
We had a cup of tea.

Half an hour later Dissertation Girl arrived and joined in the talk.
I made another cup of tea.

After they left I had a phone call which I suppose turned into a ‘phone-meet’ with a community artist.
I heard this phrase once in a meeting with some smart looking people.

I have often wondered how much of a hurry you have to be in to shorten the word ‘meeting’ to ‘meet’?

It’s like my Calendar, they have shortened the word ‘June’ to ‘Jun’.
How much ink were they hoping to save?

I wandered around the kitchen while we talked, sort of playing hop scotch on the kitchen tiles and balancing on one foot a lot.
I would lean right forward to see how far I could go without falling over.
Cordless phone and no one watching, I can’t help myself.
Everyone does that, right?

Before I knew it I was boiling the kettle again.

As I hung up on them there was a knock on the door and two more artists stepped over the cat into the kitchen.
I made some more tea, including a Nettle tea which we have very little call for these days, and had a long and wide ranging talk about what it all means.

Things have shifted a tiny little bit in Cornwall this last week. You wouldn’t notice it right away but things are different.

The repair man arrived and I made another cup of tea.

The cats thought it was Christmas by the way.
Lots of visitors on a Monday, some of whom actually paid them some attention.

I tried to hide the bald one but it kept getting free.
I tried to look like the owner of a cat that had just had an operation.
No one questioned it o I can only assume I got away with it.

At 1.45ish the repair man left and the Artists got up as well.

I put a load of washing on.

I ran over to the office and caught up with the Rockfather in the cafe.
He had coffee, I had tea.

Suddenly with ten minutes before I had to leave to collect the Proles I was given a complicated data base problem to solve.
Actually, it was not a complicated problem at all but I use the Access Database so rarely I have to relearn how to do it every single time.
It’s only been four and a half years.

I suddenly realised I had not been to the loo for ages.

All that tea…

Arrived at the school just in time and met the Proles.

Prole2: Why are we running?

Me: Just run…

We got home and I put a load of washing on and I went to the loo.

We bundled into the car and we did a quick shop in the super market and I went to the loo.

When we got back we unpacked, Prole1 fed the cats, Prole2 broke his helicopter again and I went to the loo.

I put a wash on and there was a knock at the door.

Old Man Winter arrived again and went to talk to Prole1 about serious Company business, Prole1’s career is going slightly better than his father’s.
Then Fannie and Fox arrived with all the Proles’ artwork from their gallery show and it was all so lovely and exciting I went to the loo again.

Suddenly the house was empty, the Proles went to bed and I came down here.

I still have not seen Cash in the Attic.



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.


Me: We all know the rules. No swallowing. Right?

Prole1: Right, I am so going to win.

Prole2: Right!


They giggle.

I reach to the bowl in the middle of the table.

I take a marshmallow.

I put the marshmallow in my mouth.

Me: Fluffy Bunny.

Prole1 puts a marshmallow in his mouth.

Prole1: Fluffy Bunny.

Prole2 puts a Marshmallow in his mouth.

Prole2: Fluffy Bunny.

They giggle.

I put a marshmallow in my mouth.

Me: Fluffy Bunny.

Prole1 puts a marshmallow in his mouth.

Prole1: Fluffy Bunny.

Prole2 puts a Marshmallow in his mouth.

Prole2: Fluffy Bunny.

I put a marshmallow in my mouth.

Me: Fluffy Bunny.

Prole1 looks serious, Prole2 looks like a crazy hamster.

Prole1 puts a marshmallow in his mouth.

Prole1: Thif if filly.

Me: You in or out?

Prole1: Fluffy Buffy.

Me: What?

Prole1: Fluffy…ang on…Fluffy Bunny.

Prole2 puts a Marshmallow in his mouth.

Prole2: Fluffy Bunny.

I put a marshmallow in my mouth.

Me: Fluffy Bunny.

Prole1 puts a marshmallow in his mouth.

Proel1: Thif if filly, I gone an a goo if.

Me: Sorry? What did you say?

Prole2 giggles.

Prole1: Fluh-ee Wuh-ee.

Prole2: Wha?

Prole1: Fluh-ee…fluh-ee…wuh…fluh…

Prole1 spits four soggy marshmallows out into his hand

Prole1: Fluffy Bunny. This is silly. One of you can win.

Prole2 is giggling a lot.

Prole2 puts a Marshmallow in his mouth.

Prole2: Flupy Buh-ee.

Me: Pardon?

Prole2 pokes his index finger into his mouth and rummages around.

Prole1: Stop! Stop! Stop! Stop! No swallowing, why is he allowed to do that?

Prole2: Fluffy Bunny.

Prole1: That is not fair. I am going to read a book.

He stamps off and can be heard treading on lego with bare feet on the landing.
Me and Prole2 eyeball each other.

Me: Four marshmallows now? You must really want this.

Prole2: Wha?

Having a chat with four marshmallows in your mouth is not easy so I decide not to pursue the trash talk.

Me: Nothing.

I put a marshmallow in my mouth.

Me: Fluffy Bunny.

Prole2 tries to smile and drools a little. He is still making giggling noises but can barely keep his mouth shut. He has never gone above four.

Prole2 puts a Marshmallow in his mouth.

Prole2: Fluh-ee Buh-ee.

Me: What? I can’t understand.

Prole2: Fluh…fluh….fluh…

Me: Fluh? What’s a fluh? Why are you saying fluh?

Prole2 starts to giggle louder.

Five marshmallows.

He goes bright red with silent laughing.

Me: You are drooling on the table. No drooling. Stop drooling and stop saying fluh.

Prole2 laughs out loud, inhales a marshmallow and spits five wet sticky marshmallows across the room and the table.
Some of the fall out sprays the bowl of marshmallows in the middle of the table.
He turns in his seat, still laughing and vomits gently into the top of the radiator.

Prole2: You…you…you…win….

I look at the mess.

I am still the champion at Fluffy Bunny in my house.

Why don’t I feel like a winner?



I knew it was going to be a difficult conversation but I steeled myself for it and ploughed on.

The walk home from school.
It is still early in the term, day two but I thought I may as well dive straight in anyway.

Sometimes it is hard for families to share.

Sometimes it is difficult to talk about the little things.

I know the Proles don’t like to talk about this particular subject but as a parent I feel I have to try.

Me: So….how was school today?

Prole2: What?

Me: How was school today?

Prole2: What?

Me: Did you have a good day today?


Me: Playing with your friends? A good day? Did you have?

Prole2: What?

Me: Did you have a nice time with your friends at school today?

Prole2: What?

Me: Ok, you know your friends?

Prole2: Yes.

Me: You know the time since I dropped you off at school?

Prole2: What?

Me:  All the time you haven’t seen me? While you were at school?

Prole2: Today?

Me: Yes.

Prole2: Yes.

Me: Well, did you have a nice time with your friends at school today?

Prole2: I can’t remember.

I looked back down the slope to where I had picked him up and then up the slope to the school gates.
We had not quite left the school premises and his mind was a complete blank.

Me: Did you do any playing at break time?

Prole2: Playing?

Me: Yes, playing. At break time. Did you do anything?

Prole2: What?

Me :What did you have for lunch?

Prole2: Roast. Mash, carrots, green thing and gravy. Meat. Meat roast. And a fruity thing. Roast.

He did his hoppy skippy run-dance-thing , lost control of his feet and fell over.
In days gone by I would stop, pick him up, dust him down, check for scrapes, bumps and bruises, give him a cuddle and a kiss and set off again.
Honestly though, if I did that every time he fell over I would never get anywhere ever.
He falls over walking across the kitchen.
Every day.
These days I check to see he is still moving and trudge on.

We were in the school run trudge out of the gates.
You can stop to pick up a fallen child but it is the social equivalent of breaking wind in a lift or taking four sugars in tea.
People sort of smile and pretend they understand but you can see the distaste in the air.

The trudge moves at the slow amble speed of the push chair going uphill.
I am sympathetic to this. I have been a pushchair driver and I know the hell of a hill.
The trudge is further slowed by the pushchair drivers who stop in the gate way, right next to the lollipop man and the people with sniffy dogs on long leads and have a chat with other pushchair drivers.
I tried not to do this as a driver but I cannot, hand on heart, say I never did it.
This stuff just happens, come to peace with it.
Don’t judge me.

This buggy-dog-toddler-lollipop-man-chat-zone creates a bottle neck of misery for everyone trying to get out of school.

We negotiated this squash by way of tortuous emotional and social turmoil which included leaving another small part of my soul on the pavement and carried on with the slow amble along the pavement.

It is a Lollipop Man before you get all cross.
The Lollipop Lady is at the other gate.
I am being gender specific because he is.

Come on, get back on the pony.

Me: So…how was your day at school?

I signalled the Prole I was talking to with a slight squeeze of Prole1’s damp hand.

Prole1: What?

Here we go.

Me: How was your day at school? Good?

Prole1: Well I FINALLY got a new reading book, it has taken ages, I have been looking for a good book for a long, long time now but there was just nothing on the shelves for me.

Me: I thought you got a book to take home….

Prole1: No Dad. This is from the library. For reading in free time at school.

Me: And there have been no good books in the library?

Prole1: No dad, there are LOADS of good books in the library, I am just not allowed near them. We have to choose books of our shelves and we are not allowed any books from the..the whirly thing…the spin thing…the carousel…spinning book rack?That’s got all the books for the year above and I can tell you there are A LOT of Pirate books when I move up but you can’t get to the Harry Potter books until the year above that. I mean, I spoke to them about it, I asked the teacher in charge of the library and she said I had to choose from the shelves for our year. Actually, I tried to take out a Harry Potter book with the computer, I typed it in and asked to take it out and I had to enter my name and the computer said “We are sorry, you are not in the correct year to take out this book (exclamation mark) Pupils at this school are only allowed to take out and read books from their own shelves(exclamation mark)” so I could not take it out.
I had to take out a Secret Seven book and I sort of like the Secret Seven but they are not as good as the Famous Five, sort of…well half as…I think three…no two Secret Seven Books would make up one Famous Five book.
But of course what I really want is to read the Harry Potter books.

Me: But…you have them at home, you have read them.

Prole1: I have not read Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban for about two years.

Me: Three months.

Prole1: I have not read Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban for about three months. Anyway, I finally got a book I like.

Me: Have you asked to read other books?

Prole1: Oh yes, yes, I have asked. I have asked and asked. I spoke to the teacher in charge of the library today. I said I would like to read Harry Potter or…well a Pirate book or any book from the other shelves and she said I couldn’t. I told her about the computer. She said the computer was right and that at our school the little kids don’t read the big kids books. She said the school was allowed to give us books according to our year. I said I had read all the Harry Potter books and she said that did not matter, she told me the rules again. Little kids are not allowed to take the big kids books out of the library. It was just one of those rules.

Me: Were you ok with that?

Prole1: I said I understood completely.

Me: What did she say?

Prole1: She told me to get out of her classroom because her lessons had started.

Me: I thought you were in the library?

Prole1: We were but I followed her back to her classroom to talk about it and as we were chatting the lessons must have started I suppose. She told me rules were rules and to get out.

Me: I bet she did.

There seems to be a petty unfairness about the allocation of books at Prole1’s school but on the other hand they have to put up with Prole1 all day so it seems a fair swap.

Prole1: Maybe rules can be changed in time….

He went quiet and I decided not to pick open what ever was going on in his head.

I squeezed Prole2’s hand.

Me: Did you go to the library?

Prole2: What?

Me: Nothing……



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

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

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

Sounds posh.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anyway, brilliant opening ceremony wasn’t it?

Where was I?


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

Prole2: Brainy Smurf is just like my brother….

And he was off giggling again.

Brainy Smurf really is like his brother.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I cannot find my cheque book.

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

We may have to stay home.



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Me: Look at that. Isn’t it beautiful.

Prole2: What?

Me: Look at the view.

Prole2: What?

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

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

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

Prole2: What?

Me: The View. It’s beautiful.

Prole2: What’s a view?

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

Prole2: The sea?

Me: No, I mean everything you can see.

Prole2: I can see the sea.

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

Prole2 went quiet and stared hard out into the distance.

He looked at me.

Prole2: What?

I had been here before.

Me: Do you think it is a nice day?

Prole2: Yes.

Me: Good.

I gave him some cucumber and he skipped off munching.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Proles call the Calciner ‘the Dragon’.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I love it.



Today was beautiful again.

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

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

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

The compost bins need solving.

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

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

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

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

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

The Proles had been encouraged to help in the garden.

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

Prole2 whole heartedly agreed with his brother.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I looked across to the Proles.

Prole1 was looking at me.

Prole1: Dad!

Me: Yes?

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

Me: Did you see the birds?

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

Prole1: Which story are they in?




We pulled the insect house apart today.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I imagined a lot of things.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prole2: Do you like it Dad?

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

Prole2: What?

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

Prole2: No. I made it just for you.

Me: Oh good. Lovely. Good.

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

Prole1: Did I fool you?

Me: No.

Prole1: Oh.

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

Prole1: Yes that’s the tricky bit.

Me: Yes, tricky.

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

Me: Pardon?

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

Me: Oh, yes. I see. No.

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

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