Archives for posts with tag: listening

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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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Saturday 5th April.
Waterstones book shop
4.40pm

Prole1: How much pocket money do I have?

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

Prole1: Twenty pounds. I have twenty pounds.

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

Prole1: I have twenty pounds.

Prole2: How much do I have?

Prole1: Including today?

Prole2: Yes.

Prole1: Two pounds.

Prole2: Oh.

Prole1: How much is this?

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

Me: One hundred and twenty pounds.

Prole1: Oh.

Me: Half price though, so sixty pounds.

Prole1: Oh.

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

Prole1: Ah..ok…

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

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

The Car
7.20pm

Prole1: Did you buy it?

Me: Buy what?

Prole1: The Tin Tin books.

Me: Um…no, I am driving.

Prole1: Ok. Don’t worry.

Me: Thanks.

The Queue for the Ferry.
9:10pm

Prole1: There is no sound.

Me: What?

Prole1: Have you turned the engine off?

Me: Yes. We are waiting.

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

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

Prole1: Ok, Don’t worry Dad.

Me: Ok, I won’t.

Ferry Car Deck 5
9:25pm

Prole1: Do you have wi fi?

Me: Pardon?

Prole1: Can you order the Tin Tin books now?

Me: Can we get off the car deck?

Prole1: Ok Dad, ok.

Cabin 8124
9:50pm

Prole1: Is that your laptop?

Me: Yes.

Prole1: Are you going to get it out?

Me: I am going to bed.

Prole1: Not using your computer?

Me: No.

Prole1: We can order Tin Tin books tomorrow.

Me: Thanks.

Sunday April 6th
Ferry Cafe.
7.47am

Me: Are you going to be sick?

Prole1: No.

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

Prole1: He is being sick.

Me: Yes. Yes he is being sick.

Some road somewhere in France.
About 11am.

Prole1: Dad?

Me: Yes?

Prole1: Dad?

Me Yes?

Prole1: DAD!

Me: YES?

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

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

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

Me: Thanks for that.

Croix Hellean
2:30-ish French time.

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

Prole1: Are you getting you computer out soon?

Me: Yes.

Prole1: Can you order…

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

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

Me: Thank you.

Bedroom.
Bedtime.

Prole1: Good night Dad.

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

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

Me: Yes, of course.

Monday 7th April.
The Breakfast table
9.40am
Prole1 whispers in my ear.

Prole1: Dad? Did you…?

Me: Yes. Yes I ordered the books.

Prole1: Oh. Good. Well done you.

Me: Thank you.

 

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We are packing to go away for a week.

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

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

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

There is some discussion about what “essentials” means.

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

Prole2: We have to take food?

Prole1: And water and stuff.

Prole2: What about Eeyore?

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

I considered this was a moment to intervene.

Me: Ok how about we only take one bag?

Prole2: Yes, good plan Dad.

Me: Thank you.

Prole2: Can it be mine?

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

Prole1: Full of food and water?

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

Prole1: Ok Dad. We can sort this out.

Me: Thanks boys.

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

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

Prole1: Essential?

Prole2: Yes.

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

Prole2: Yes.

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

Prole2: Yes.

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

Prole2: Yes.

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

Prole2: Yes.

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

Prole2: Yes.

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

Prole2: Yes.

Prole1: Now there is no room for my stuff!

Prole2 You can take yours next time.

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

Brilliant.

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I saw a Cavaquinho for sale in a shop window in Sao Paolo.
It was about the most beautiful instrument I had ever seen.
Glossy like a boiled sweet.

Samba, the Samba of Sao Paolo, was a complete and utter revelation to me.
Coming from Cornwall where one might be mistaken for thinking every local festival HAS to have a Samba Band thumping along the street at some point BY LAW, the Brazilian music I heard was from another planet.

I don’t play the cavaquinho and probably never will.
I saw it being played with such skill by so many people out there, no way I could do justice to the sound.

We had a banjo on the wall when I was growing up.
I remember it being played twice.

I took piano lessons for ages as a child. After what must have been years, I got through to the end of ‘Teaching Little Fingers To Play’ and shut the book, never to be opened again.

Music was something other people did.

It was always embarrassing when part of a theatre company, to be devoid of any performance skills at all.
I say embarrassing, I was not supposed to have any, it would have gone against the grain somewhat if I had.

Our job as Stage Managers was to create a safe environment for performers to work in.

It was a good job, part alarm clock, part policeman on a bad day, really exciting and challenging on other days.
I liked that people came to me and I would try to help solve any problem.
I hated that people would come to me and expect me to solve every problem.
In the end the problems all boiled down to a breakdown in communication somewhere.
Given that the industry is all about communication, this could get tiring.

I loved theatre.
I was fairly well discouraged from starting a career in theatre but I spent the best part of twenty years doing it.
I wasn’t brilliant in the job, I just tried to be on time and not go too mad.
For the most part it worked and I stayed in employment.

It was a small world of tight families, put together for a few months and then disbanded.
Really very intense at the time.
Nothing to talk about afterwards.

I have many friends in Theatre but unless I am working with them we don’t have much to talk about when I first see them again.
Work was everything.
It was why I got out of bed each day.
I wanted to be in there, drinking it in, feeling the day, helping things happen.
You could feel the mood of the company.
You could watch the big personalities.
You could build through the day to the show and if it was a good show, that you believed in, there was nothing better.

I loved moments of silence in a full theatre, when hundreds of people would hold their breath in a moment together.
I loved the moment of opening a show and the final sweep up at the end.
I loved being dog tired, in the clothes you slept in, seventy hours into the week and no let up with two shows and a session of tech to get through and knowing that you were part of the team that could make that happen.
I loved the empty theatre when everyone had gone home.
I loved the pub and the stories of falls, drops, accidents and the wit of the people the public never see.
I loved being nine feet tall and walking down the street, knowing I was on the best show in town.

I did not tour much, relative to other Stage Managers I knew, but it did take me to some brilliant places.

Sao Paolo is one of the biggest cities in the world.
We were on our way to a tower with a viewing platform at the top.

When we got up there we could see the city for miles in every direction.
If every window we could see was one person…
If every building we could see was one person…
If…no I could not quite take it in.

And it made me think about how small my little theatre ship was and how vast, how unutterably vast the human race is.
And it made me think about my real family, thousands of miles away.

And I realised that everything had to change because the world is so big and we are so small and in the end who would notice if we were not here any more?

My vision of the world was centred around me. Here I could see a million homes.

Would I even make the papers out there in Brazil if I ceased to be in that instant?

The people who would miss me were no where near at all.

It was not just me.

We were a bit quiet when we came down.

I determined that I would leave something behind with the people I love most.
Walking back through the city to the station later on, one of the musicians told me not to buy the cavaquinho or anything else as a souvenir to hang on a wall.
He told me to save my money, buy a ukulele and learn to play.

“Like a cavaquinho for idiots”

He told me to learn to play so I could teach my kids.
He said they would not care if I was any good or not, just that it would be fun.

Because the best audience of all were back at my house and I should bring give them everything.

I don’t work in theatre any more.
I am not nine feet tall any more.
I do still try to make a difference to an audience.
I play ukulele really badly, to the Proles every night while they have a bath.

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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 could have gone to see Lee Scratch Perry tonight.

Lee Scratch Perry is the producer who originally mixed all of Bob Marley and the Wailers famous tracks.
He ran the incredible Studio called The Ark and created some of the most innovative music and techniques used in early Reggae and Dub.
He continues to make great music.

He has also been known to wear bladderack sea weed in his dreads and a toaster on his head.
The Wailers sued him for ripping off their music, he burned down his studio and was seen walking backwards through his home town hammering the ground on the day of the arson.

He was a bit bonkers and I have no reason to believe he has changed.

Sounds like it might have been a brilliant gig.

Anyway, I nearly went.
Or rather I poked my head above the parental parapet and thought ‘That is the sort of thing I used to love doing’.

And then I thought it might be a bad thing to do.

I can’t really explain why.

Most of the time me and the Proles function as a trio.

We walk about together, we look at things and we move them around.

One of us will see something they think is interesting and show it to the other two.

We will all look at it.
We talk about it.

We move on.

I have some extra duties in this metaphor that include making sure no one gets squashed, feeding us all and clearing up the metaphorical or reality based poop.

We work well as a team.

As three.

If I am honest, there are many things they are not interested in.
Having watched me do the washing, cooking, occasional cleaning, gardening and minor DIY they are stupendously un interested in any of these things.
If I do something new, however, they appear like wide eyed Midwitch children, stares boring into my soul.
They  used to watch me speak on the phone.
It would ring and before it had been picked up they would emerge from the wood work and just watch me.

I would try walking around the house but they would follow, staring at me.

I would be forced to break off whatever I was saying and tell them to go and find something else to do and leave me alone.

This would invariably result in some kind of fight between them.
I have no idea why they could get along fine for hours at a time but as soon as my attention was on the BT call centre and not on the washing up they dissolved into anarchy and fighting.
They still do this.

It is worse when a real physical person is there, in the room, talking to me.
They can’t really handle it unless I put on the telly or set fire to something to distract them.
People must think my kids are attention seeking lunatics.
Honestly, they are really dull and boring when other people are not around.
They mooch about looking at lego and eating pears.

As soon as someone else turns up they become a cross between ‘Laurel and Hardy’ and ‘Binky and the Brain’ with a complete lack of emotional control for good measure.

It is really tiring.

If I wanted to win £50,000 by making my children cry without touching them, looking at them or using any emotional pressure at all I would just start a conversation with another adult.
That seems to do it every time.

It is not so surprising I suppose.

In out trio I am not supposed to break off and discover new things without sharing with them.
Even if those new things are just idle chat about weather and the price of broccoli.

I see it happen with parents all the time, I suppose I notice it a lot because my two states of being are ‘work’ or ‘with kids’.

I don’t really do the ‘spare time’ thing much.

Spare time is all about the self,your sense of self identity.
Exploring music, food, strange parts of town, other people, ideas and feelings.

This is the stuff that gave me an identity, that defined my ‘self’.

I am also aware that these days ‘spare time’ lives right along side ‘selfish’.

I don’t mind ‘selfish’ really. Or to be precise, because there is a difference, ‘self centred time’. A work friend was recently was telling me how much they needed a holiday. I think they were right, they needed some time with them self. Some time centred around them self. Self centred time.

It is not such a bad thing as language and culture would have us believe.
We may invent new words for it like ‘me time’ to dress t up a bit but tending yourself, your centre, this is important stuff in our culture.

The Proles don’t really know that is what I am doing.
They just want to be there, be in it, experience it too.
And I don’t want them to.
I want them to go away and leave me alone to do my adult ‘me time’ stuff.

And they have no idea why I would be so selfish.

I can be level headed about it to a point but at times, when I am actually having a real conversation for the first time in a week that does not involve “Culture and the Arts Movement and it’s Impact on the Dispersed Communities of the Region” or “Lego” and one of the Proles decides this is a good time to start head butting me I can go quite incandescent inside.

And this is the odd question.
If I don’t take ‘me time’, if I do little that is ‘self centred’, if I expend a minimum amount of time thinking about my ‘self’ then me and the Proles argue less.
I have less of a feeling of injustice.
I am less bitter about my life and my inability to do whatever I want.

If I give all that up, live a quiet life, don’t go out, work hard and keep my head down, it all works out.

If I try to go out, live a little luxury, spend time with other people and indulge myself a bit, me and the Proles shout at each other more, I get depressed and it stops being fun.

I would love to go out more.
But then we would have less money.

I would love to go on holiday.
But what would I do without them?

I would love to have more adult conversation.
But then I would have to face the fact that I have become a bit of a recluse over the last five years.
This is the tricky bit.
I would have to confront my inability to think of anything to say during small talk.
I would have to surpress my deep love of sofas and Professional Wrestling and engage with people.
I would have to look at my hands and think that the last time I went out regularly like this was twelve years ago, before I had the excuse of the Proles to stay in and before Loz propped me up and made me whole.

Because these days an adult conversation that does not involve kids or work is such an unusual thing that I don’t know what to say any more.
I don’t know how to be my self.

Having said all that I hate being defined through my children.
Surely I am more than that?
Surely I am more of a person, more my self than that?

Perhaps I have just put my ‘self’ away for a bit, just until the tricky bit of grieving and child rearing is over.

Once the kids have grown up and I can listen to more than the first three bars of ‘Moon River’ without dissolving into the foetal position in a pool of tears I am sure I will be ready to get my ‘self’ back out there.

Where was I?

Lee Scratch Perry being bonkers.

It would be good to go out more but it is easier and less emotional if I don’t.

This exploration of the self is not something I enjoy.

I prefer the safety of us three.

I am as lost as the Proles when they are not around.