Archives for posts with tag: kids

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I just loved pubs.

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

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

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

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

It got to half past nine at night.

That was a surprise.

I had had a few drinks.

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

I was being selfish.

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

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

And I needed a wee.

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

I took them home and they sleepily went to bed.

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

I sat at the table looking at my hands.

Absolutely useless hands.

Selfish.

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

I did not write last night because I was drunk.

I don’t want to do that again.

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

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I am tucking the Proles into bed.

Prole2: Good night Dad. You can sleep in my bed if you want.

Me: No. You are too wriggly. Good night I love you.

Prole2: I love you more. What ever you love me I love you one more. I got in a space ship and went zooming miles and can’t measure how much I love you.

Me: Funny boy.

Prole2: Funny Dad.

Prole1 is reading a book.
He puts it down and gives me a big hug.
He kisses my cheek.

Me: Good night Bigman.

Prole1 snuggles into my jumper.
He pushes his face behind my ear and cuddles close.
He gently rubs his face against my right ear.

This goes on for some time.

Me: Oi. are you wiping your nose on me?

Prole1: Oh. Yes. Sorry Dad. I forgot. Goodnight.

Me: Yes. Goodnight.

Five minutes in the bathroom just checking the side of my head….

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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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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.

 

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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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I actually put my foot through the landing.

It has been making creaky noises for a while but being covered in carpet I just sort of ignored it.
Finally today it gave just a bit too much of a creaky crunch so I lifted the carpet to have a look.

I did a couple of exploratory stamps to simulate the Proles running to the loo and with a bit of a sideways slump the whole thing fell in.
It seems it was the carpet holding the carpentry together.

There was not much to go on but I managed to put something together to replace it.

It broke at about 2ish and it was finally ready to be walked on at 6.
During that same time period I collected the Proles from school, put a wash on and cooked them dinner.

Yeah, all men are rubbish at multi tasking.

They were remarkably non plussed by having a gaping hole to swing over to get up stairs.
I wonder if it is a good thing that they take it in their stride that large parts of the house could be missing when they return in the evenings?
I think I will chalk it up as a strength for now. The psychologist may re-classify it when they grow up.

Prole1 was a quivering mass any way.
He won the ‘Speak Out’ cup for his year at school.
I was quite impressed, it actually looked like a cup, a proper trophy.
He stood in front of the whole school and talked about our garden.

Our garden is a scrubby patch of grass that sits on the poisonous mining spoil of Redruth and every time you dig a new bit up all the copper in the stones kills everything.
I could not really imagine what Prole1 was going to talk to them about for all that time but some how he managed it.

I have his notes beside me now, he wrote them out and learned them by heart.
I cannot quite do justice to the typography but this gives you the gist:

Hello I am from Class 3I. I’am here to talk to you about My Wildlife Garden. Now my Garden is full of insect’s, the main place that they gather is in the insect house. the insect house is stact with twigs, Banboo, Shell’s and it even has an ant’s nest on it.
Not all the insects in my garden are in the inscecthouse the wood-lice Gather in the Bwshes at the side of my garden they nest under the logs there.
The plants in my Garden are healthy and waterd regularly By all the lovely rain we get in redruth.
The plants are a bay tree, Bluebells, a holly bush, a pine tree that we use as a christmas tree and dafidils. Some creachers gather behind the shed sutch as worms, beetles and slugs. Also we have a tramp-ileene in our Garden that we put out in the summer
Well thats all I have tim for I’d like to thank you for being a Briliant Audiunce and I hope you enjoy my speek out.

He practiced from the top of the stairs and sent me into the living room.
This was so he could practice his projection but had the happy benefit of meaning I could lie down with a blanket over my head, occasionally shouting “Yes” “Louder” or “Very Good” and it still counted as quality parenting.

Before going in today I wished him luck.

Prole1: Thanks Dad. I will do my best. I don’t really think I will win, I will try my best and try to enjoy it though. It should be good. It should be good. I just…the trophy does look really good though.

His face when he pulled it out of his bag to show me will stay with me forever.

Prole2 came out of class with a picture for me.
Daffodils with tall stems, painted on card.

When the Proles were taking their coats off Prole2 explained to his brother.

Prole2: It’s a Mothers’ Day card. For Dads.

It is lovely and pinned to the wall.
On the back it says “I luv yo Dad’

I know.

But if you think the spelling is bad, you should see the handwriting.

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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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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.