Archives for posts with tag: meal times

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interesting use of County and Duchy.

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

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

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

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

He could just use a good lawyer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Google it.

Onen Hag Oll.

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Cars these days are really good.

New-ish cars hardly ever break down, they go quite fast and they are quite economical.
Compared to old-ish cars that is.

It all seems more convenient.

I have been driving for a while now, I have had the catalogue of driver’s experiences with cars.

I remember feeling terribly worried that there was no fresh oil leak under the car because that meant it had no oil in it at all.
I drilled holes in the bottom of one car to let the water out.
I had a car that you had to climb underneath and snip the chord that was holding the bonnet down to fill the screen wash.
I used to drive a work van that had a green dashboard. The plastic was black, the mould was green.
I have spent my share of hours on the edge of motorways waiting for assistance.

I do all of these things less than I used to.

I still experience problems but I generally feel that I will probably get where I need to go if I get in the car.

I think cars have got better.

I am not sure this is really a good thing.
I am not sure it is a ‘right’ to be able to drive, I think it is probably a ‘privilege’.

We are not really supposed to drive.
We don’t have wheels.
A car is made up of an awful lot of processed and refined products and no matter how Eco your car is it is still the product of several factories and earth killing processes.

I am not going to give mine up though.
I just find it curious that I am so happy to accept that I need it.

I can feel the gentle pull towards car culture in Britain.

Part of the back bone of our construction industry is out of town shopping centres.

We need to drive to them.
Once we do they are really convenient.
Better than the high street in town.
So the high street dies.
So we have to use out of town shopping centres, convenient or not.

I watch the speed of the cars coming past my house in the morning.
I can hear some of them changing up into third gear on our hill.
There are no real pavements on our hill and with parked cars on both sides there is only room for single lane traffic.

It is scary how fast people drive up that hill.
Parents with children on the way to school.
Scares me every morning.

You couldn’t do that in an old car.

I do it too, on roads where I don’t live.

We were making crumble today and I found to my horror that the tin I thought was custard was in fact rice pudding.

Dinner was on, the Proles were washing hands after the creation of the crumble.
Apple and mixed berries by the way.

I had three choices.

No Custard on Crumble.
This seems like no choice at all if you ask me.

Turn off oven, go out in pouring rain, get Custard from shop.
It was raining. Dinner would probably be ruined. Crumble would be ok though….

Send Prole1 out in the pouring rain to get Custard from shop.
We have, just around the corner from us, what used to be referred to as a ‘convenience store’.
Prole1 does not eat custard but if I dress it up as an adventure and ‘responsibility’ he might just go for it.

Prole1: I don’t eat custard.

Me: I know, it’s just that dinner is on and I can’t leave the oven.

Prole1: I see. I don’t eat custard.

Me: I know  but it would mean a lot to me and your brother if you could do it.

Prole1: It’s raining. I don’t eat custard.

Me; Well, you are the only one I can send out on a day like this. You are the only one responsible enough to take on an adventure like this.

Prole2: What?

Me:Your brother is going to get some custard.

Prole1: What?

Prole2: Yaaay!

Prole1: Wait a minute, it’s raining.

Prole2: I will go too.

Now.
I don’t know if you know how old the Proles are and I don’t want to start a debate here.

I will tell you what I think.

Prole1 is sharper than I am but gets confused with ‘push’ and ‘pull’ on doors.
Prole2 is a quirky, skippy little bubble head who falls over a lot.

Prole1 can go to the nearest shop on his own.
It is close by, it is just round the corner and it has an automatic door.
He has done this once before and from what I can gather from his garbled report after his return he spent several happy minutes talking to the people in the queue who have no doubt now reported us to child services.

Prole2 will not be allowed out of this house alone until he stops putting his trousers on the right way round.

But….

We did not have any Custard…

I could not leave the house…

Prole1 could, in theory, repeat his visit to the shop…

Prole1 would not leave the house without someone who eats custard going with him…

I could, in theory, send them both.

When I was their age I used to cycle to friends houses, go exploring in the countryside and pick up shopping in the village.
That was the 1970s.

How different could it be?
All they had to do was get across the road outside our house and it was pretty much a straight run to the shop.

Was this going to develop into a tantrum? or an opportunity to develop responsibility and self esteem? or an utter and total disaster that would tear our daily apart once and for all?

But we still didn’t have any custard.

And you can’t have Crumble without custard.
Unless you are Prole1.

But…

They might die on the road or get snatched by child molesters.

And I wondered how long I would feel like not letting them go out for.
Another year?
Two?
Ever?
Only once they can drive?

So…

I got their coats on.
I gave them a bag and adjusted it on Prole1’s shoulder.
I gave him two pounds and watched him store it in his pocket.
I gave him his instructions, to look out for his brother and to not come home without custard.
I took all the lego out of Prole2’s pockets.
I told him Prole1 was in charge.
I told him to do everything he was told.

I hugged them both like soldiers going off to war.

I saw them across the road and watched them turn, out of sight, towards the shop.

I was a nervous wreck.

I burned the onions.

Every time a car went past I jogged nonchalantly to the door and peered out.

Finally I saw them, two dots in the rain.

They approached the road.

It was all clear.

They looked.

They looked.

It was all clear.

Prole1 pulled Prole back against the wall.

Something had obviously spooked him.

Prole2 pointed up the hill.

They looked.

Prole1 pointed down the hill.

They looked. I decide to get my coat and help.

It was all clear.

They had a bit of a chat.

They looked again. My coat was on.

A large van sped past the house and barrelled down the road towards them.

The Proles were looking the other way.

Prole1 led the way to the place where the curb would be if our stupid hill had pavements.

They looked down the hill.

The van was almost on top of them.

They looked up the hill.

They waited.

The van slowed to a stop and let them cross.

Prole1 waved to the driver and they came home.

I have taught them to cross the road over the years.
At some point I have to trust.
I don’t want to.

I know what it is like to lose someone close to you.
I know what it feels like when someone dies.
I am not a stupid man and I don’t really risk my children’s lives over a pudding.

I am so scared.

I know that if I think too much about how fast cars go these days I would never put my children in one.

I know that if I think too much about the speed people drive up and down my hill I would never let the boys out of the house.

I don’t ever want to sink that low or feel that much ever again and I know that each and every one of us could go at any minute.

But…

I can’t live in fear forever, I have to let things grow.

Either this world is one I want my children to live in or it is not.

How will I ever know if I don’t let them test it?

That is enough for this month though.

We sat on the sofa for pudding and watched cartoons.

Nice crumble.
Nice custard.

Perhaps convenience is not everything you need in life.

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Prole2 and I were doing the reading homework again this morning.
I was sitting on both my hands and had both my lips clenched in my front teeth to stop me interjecting and telling him all the words.

It was a ‘make all your own mistakes and try to sort them out’ day.

I hate ‘make all your own mistakes and try to sort them out’ days.

I kind of prefer barking all the right answers at him while I poke about on Facebook but apparently this causes some kind of psychological problems in later life or something.

We had already had a run in over his choice of breakfast cereal.

After two years of asking I finally bought him Fruit Loops.

Fruit loops have been Prole2’s objective since nursery.
It is not that I have particularly forbidden him but I finally ran out of ways to confuse and obfuscate him in the Supermarket.

He has been fairly easy to distract up until recently and conversations about which cereal to buy have been like increasingly difficult mini games of chess.
Last week he finally got me in check and I could think of no good reason for him not to have Fruit Loops.

I am not a particularly draconian parent over food but I have always known that there would only be two possible outcomes in the introduction of Fruit Loops to our home.
Either Prole2 would never eat anything else, ever again, ever.
Or Prole2 would hate them and we would have to throw them away.

Prole2 hated them and we had to throw them away.

This was a blessing in disguise, I have had time to get used to the idea of throwing them away as the best outcome.
In spite of my dislike of throwing food away this was better than a life of slavery to Toucan Sam and his sugary-shackles-of-three-grain-fruity-circles.
It also gives me leverage to buy Supermarket-own-brand-cardboard-flakes next week.

The battle of the cereal might have been over quickly and I certainly felt I had the upper hand going into the book reading but I had to make sure I did not continue to crush Prole2’s confidence so I let him continue at his own pace and tried not to look at the clock.

The story went on for ages.

I tried really hard to ‘stay engaged’.

After a while I realised I had not seen Prole1 for a bit and it was all very quiet.

As soon as Prole2 had shuddered to a halt and the book was safely in his school bag I went looking for his brother.

Prole1 was working hard at the kitchen table.
He had several pieces of paper in front of him.

Me: What are you doing?

Prole1: I forgot my reading book so I am doing this.

Me: Forgot your book? What have i told you about that? You have to check before you come home.

Prole1: I know, I am sorry.

I look at the top piece of paper. On it are some concentric circles, drawn free hand, and some squiggly lines in between some of them.

Me: What are you drawing?

Prole1: Ah, well, yes, this is my all weather stadium I am doing for Rugby homework. You see it works like this, they all start in the middle here and race out to the outside line and the first one across that line wins. They can go any direction they like. BUT you can put obstacles in the way and that takes longer for them to get to the line so they don’t have to get to the outside line they can get to this one instead.

Me: Why are they in circles? Why don’t you put tracks in a straight line?

Prole1: But they can go any direction.

Me: But isn’t a straight line easier?

Prole1: I don’t know. It’s hard to get a snail to go in a straight line.

I looked hard at the paper and sure enough, Prole1 has designed an all weather snail racing stadium for his Rugby Homework.

I am not sure what sort of mark he is going to get.

I sort of wish I could be there to watch him hand it in but at the same time I am glad I won’t see the Rugby teacher for a while.

Me: Is it a Stadium though?

Prole1: Yes, I checked at school, it just has to be for sporting events in all weathers.

Me: But won’t this blow away in the wind.

He smiled indulgently and put his hand on mine.

Prole1: Dad, it is for the tables at school. There is no wind inside. Completely weather proof sport. See?

Me: Yes, I see.

How silly of me.

I have to take some blame for this.
I was talking a lot about snail racing about this time last year, it was once quite popular in rural areas and Cornwall was no different.
Something must have stuck in the mossy banks of Prole1’s mind.

Prole1 had laid out the rules for the various events.

Snail raceing.

Track 1
The flat Race

1  Put the snail’s in the start sircle.

2 first one to the edge is the wiiner.

Track 1
The obsticle Race

1 put the snail’s in the start sircle

2 putthe propon the track.

3 firstone to the is the first circle is the wiiner.

Track2
Slipery pole clime

1 Put the snailes on the start sircle

2 put the pole over them

3 first one to the top is the wiiner.

Me: It looks good.

Prole1: Yes, it will be brilliant when it is finished.

Something about his tone of voice sounded odd. I decided to play dumb.

Me: Oh, why, are you going to colour it in?

Prole1: No, I am going to get an old sheet and the fabric pens we got for Christmas and make the tracks, I need the garden sprayer because snails like it wet and then I need to get the pole in some sort of base.

He laughed and rolled his eyes at me.

Prole1: AND i need you to use the drill, I am really scared of drills.

Me: Why do you need a drill?

Prole1: I am just about to draw that bit…..

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The fedge is looking good.

No, it’s no good, I still don’t like the word ‘Fedge’.

Anyway, the living willow fence down one side of the garden is looking good.

The man who digs the garden came round last night and we talked about…well non sense really.

I have known the man who digs the garden for thirty years now.
He is a dangerous person to know.
It is a little like being friends with a huge tomcat.
He comes around, makes himself at home, eats everything and leaves a trail of mild destruction behind him.
The place now smells of old cigarettes, the sea and earth.

The man who digs the garden pretty much only works in gardens or he surfs.

There does not seem to be any middle ground except when he is here with tins of beer.
Then we talk about rubbish and watch dreadful films.

Usually he is up and gone by six am but today he was still in the house when I got up.

I cooked pancakes for the man who digs the garden and the Proles.
Prole1 was talking about the trouble in the Crimea and discussing potential solutions.

Prole2 was counting pancakes and making sure they went to the right plates in the right order.

After breakfast the man who digs the garden took Prole2 out in the garden to do some digging.

While the man who digs the garden moved the honey suckle and black berry plants around Prole2 helped him.

Prole2: What are you doing?

The man who digs the garden: Digging.

Prole2: What?

The man who digs the garden: Digging.

Prole2: What?

The man who digs the garden: Digging.

Prole2: Digging what?

The man who digs the garden stood up slowly and stared at Prole2.

The man who digs the garden: The ground. I am digging the ground.

Prole2 looked in the hole.

Prole2: Oh.

I went and made a cup of tea since they seemed to be getting on so well.

Prole1 was staring at the map on the wall.

When I came back Prole2 had a spoon and was shovelling pellets out of an old coffee jar.

Me: What are you doing?

Prole2: I am putting chicken poop on the plants. Plants love chicken poop. You can’t put too much chicken poop on the plants. One spoonful of chicken poop is enough. I have the spoon so I don’t have to touch the chicken poop. The chicken poop looks like cereal but you don’t eat it because it is chicken poop. Chicken poop does not look like this when is comes out of the chicken. Chicken poop is more of a splat. This chicken poop has been turned into…into…what are they?

The man who digs the garden: Pellets.

Prole2: Pellets. Chicken poop pellets.

Me: What is you favourite word?

Prole2: Poop.

Me: I see, is it a good job then?

Prole2: Yep, yep, yep.

He hopped away flicking his chicken poop pellets around.

We moved plants and re-planted them in the fedge.

Stupid word, fedge.

I went back into the kitchen where Prole1 was sitting staring at the map on the wall.

Proe1: Do you think the Ukraine should join Russia or turn into two separate countries?

Prole2: I have been throwing chicken poop around.

Prole1: Cool.

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Sometimes it is best not to stop and think about things.
When discussing parenthood with another father once I asked how he managed his four kids.

“If you sit down, you have lost” he said.

This morning was bound to be a busy one.

Pancake day and with swimming lessons and Pizza club in the offing for the evening the Proles were keen to have pancakes for breakfast.

This is fine as long as I get out of bed and force myself to accept that I will probably not sit down for the next forty five minutes or so.

The plan was slightly off kilter from the start because Prole2 turned up in my bed at about five thirty.

Prole2: I am scared of the dark.

Me: Ok, get in but try to be quiet and get some sleep.

Prole2: Ok Dad.

Then at six am he was curled up under the covers at the other end of the bed.
He had made a nest for himself and the cat and was ‘cooking her breakfast’.
He was being ‘quiet’ and after some time his whispered monologue faded away and I had a final, shallow, quick and deeply unsatisfying few minutes sleep.
Vivid dreams I could not remember.
The alarm went off and I was away.

Flour, two eggs, half a pint of milk, some melted butter.
Clear the table, lay it and roust the Proles from bed.

Prole1 looked particularly dishevelled but I paid no attention.
Hmmm.

Pancakes fired onto the Proles plates fresh from the pan.
Half a teaspoonful of sugar for Prole1.
Lemon, caramel sauce and as much sugar as he could get on to his pancakes when I wasn’t looking for Prole2.

Prole2 was chatty and bubbly.
Prole1 was quiet and introspective with his head resting on his hand.
Hmmm.

I finished the last of the pancake mix and sat down to drink my tea.

Prole1 glanced up at me and then sat back in his chair.
He did look odd I thought.
I really must get him a haircut because his hair is….
His fringe is…
He looks…

Me: Did you cut your hair?

Prole1: Ummm…um….yes…

He collapsed into fits of sobbing.

His fringe, which under normal circumstances rested just above his eyes, had been cropped back to just a few millimetres long.

He looked like a dodgey Monk from a bad historical reconstruction documentary.

Tonsure.
Beautiful word.
Awful on a small boy.

I decided not to shout at him as he was clearly upset.
I was rather low on supportive banter though.

Me: You wally.

Prole2: What is a wally?

Me: HE is a wally.

Prole1: I didn’t know…I thought…oh dear….

Me: Ok…why did you do that?

Prole1: It was in my eyes when I was reading last night, so I cut it off. Does it look weird?

He looked weird.

Prole1: How does it look?

He looked awful.

Me: You look awful.

Prole1: Do I look bad?

Me: You look like a wally that has just cut his hair off.

Prole1 curled up in my lap and cried and cried.
I hugged him tight and let him cry.
I wondered how long this would go on for.
He broke wind over my knee and I felt that was a good moment to move on.

I told Prole1 to stop crying.
I told Prole2 to stop laughing.

School run starting soon.
What to do?
Keep going.
Don’t stop making decisions.

I sent Prole2 upstairs to get dressed.

I got the clippers out and put Prole1 in the chair.

The clippers are quite old and Prole1’s hair was long so it was slow going.
I trimmed back with the scissors and took the hair down to a grade three.
The hair at the front where he had got all Vidal Sasson on himself was considerably shorter.
I tried to blend it in.
I tried to work out if the shorter hair at the front and slightly longer at the back made his head look a funny shape.
The alternative was to take it down to a grade 1.
I decided that I preferred the wonky shaped head look to the ‘This Is England’ alternative.
He has a pretty wonky shaped head anyway so I felt we were playing to a strength.
Perhaps he would get sympathy or something?

Prole1 sat on his chair staring down at his hair all around him.

Prole1: How do I look now?

Me: Like a wally with short hair.

Prole1 had a shower while Prole2 and I had a conversation about sympathy and empathy and not laughing at Prole1 any more.

Prole1: I can hear you, you know!

He came out of the shower and I dried him down and tried to snip off the stray bits.

Me: Well…you look…good.

Prole1: Do I look like a wally?

Me: No. You look like a kid with short hair. You look good. If I passed you in the street I would just think you had short hair, nothing odd at all.

Prole1: Thanks Dad.

Me: Remember though, it’s what is on the inside that counts. On the outside you look great. On the inside you are still a wally that cut his own hair off.

Prole1 half laughed and half cried and we had another cuddle.

Me: I love you. You are not a wally. You just cut your hair off. You are still brilliant. You just did something daft.

Prole1: I won’t do it again.

Me: I bet you won’t.

We got into uniforms and headed off to school, bang on schedule.

Whilst I am boasting about being a domestic goddess I have to point out I also managed to stack the dishwasher and do two loads of washing.
I am Widower, hear me roar.

I kissed Prole1.

Prole1: Will they laugh at me?

He suddenly looked very small.

A very small, worried looking skinhead.

Me: Just tell everyone your hair was in your eyes and I gave you a haircut. I love you.

Prole1: Thanks Dad.

I really hope they didn’t laugh at him.

Work is hectic.
I won’t bore you with it, it is just busy.

I was in the middle of a conversation when my mobile went.
It was the Proles’ school.

Proles’ School: Hello there, I don’t want to worry you, it’s just that Prole2 is complaining about chest pains….

The conversation went on for a bit.
He had pains in the middle of the left hand side of his chest.
It could be a strained muscle.
It could be a stitch.
It could be indigestion.
It could be ‘growing pains’.
It could be anything.

As we talked I could feel the gears shift.

Yes.
He had pains in the middle of the left hand side of his chest.
It could be a strained muscle.
It could be a stitch.
It could be indigestion.
It could be ‘growing pains’.
He might just need the toilet.
It could be anything.

I was ten minutes away and I would be right there.
It was probably nothing but I would drop by.
Best have someone watch him just in case.
It was probably nothing.

By the end of the conversation I had my coat and hat on and was heading out across the Fair Field.
Just keep going.

I was not worried.
My heart rate had not gone up.
I walked all the way there.

He had pains in the middle of the left hand side of his chest.
It could be a strained muscle.
It could be a stitch.
It could be indigestion.
It could be ‘growing pains’.
He might just need the toilet.
It could be anything.

It could be the manifestation of heart problems of some sort.
But it probably wasn’t.

I met a lady at a Cardiac Risk In The Young session, she was a couple of years younger than me.
She asked who I had lost and I said my wife.
I asked who she had lost and she said her six year old son.

There was probably nothing wrong but if Prole2 was going to die I decided it would be better if I was there.

The calm is horrible.

I have panicked before.
Panic is bad enough.

The calm is when everything you have been planning for comes together and you find yourself doing what you know has to be done.
I walked to the Proles’ school.
This is like a fire drill.
It is probably nothing but that is not the point, you must follow procedure because you don’t know if it is real or not.
I didn’t know if Prole2 was going to be ok or not.

If either of the Proles died I would have to be there and I would have to be useful in one way or another.

So no panic.
Just keep going.
It was just the most important walk I have taken for a while.

Prole2 was huddled over his burger chips and beans in the dinner hall.

He was not eating so that was a bad sign.

He stood up and climbed up onto my knee which was a good sign.
No blue lips.
No shortness of breath.
Not clammy, not hot.
No other pain anywhere else.

The pain in his left side was, as they had said, right over where his heart was.

I watched him for about ten minutes.

My house is a four minute walk from the school so I went home and got some Calpol.

When I got back he had still not finished his lunch but he had brightened up a bit.
I gave him some medicine  and watched him eating.

We left the dinner hall and walked down to the playground holding hands.

I watched him playing and after a while I said good bye, I hugged him, told him I loved him, and left.

On the way past the office I dropped in to say thank you.
I said if it happened again they should call me again.
They said that would be fine.

I walked back to work.

I used to think it was soppy to tell people you loved them every time you left, just in case you never saw them again.

These days it seems more like common sense.

I mean, don’t panic, you probably will see them again.

Statistics are on your side.

Probably.

But you don’t know.

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Today we went to the St Piran Play.

It is not St Piran’s day but the St Piran Play happens on the dunes on the nearest Sunday to March 5th.

Cornwall has a long history of outdoor theatre and the St Piran play is one I have been going to for a few years now.
It happens in episodes across the towans and the audience walk from scene to scene.

The Proles and I had arranged to meet people there in the towans but the weather did not look promising.

Prole2’s decision to wear and Iron Man t shirt, his brother’s trousers and a pair of crocs was over ruled by me in favour of several layers of winter wear.
Prole1 sorted out flags for them to carry.

Prole1: Looks like rain.

It was absolutely tipping down.

Me: Um…yes, it does.

Prole1: In fact it is.

Me: Yes. It is.

I took the precaution of packing spare trousers for them both and we set out.

Textual intercourse with those we were meeting seemed to result in a bit of a stand off, I got the feeling no one wanted to say that all that rain was going to stop play. We were all firmly committed.

On the way to Perranporth we stopped off at Smokey Joe’s.

The cafe was full of hung over people having huge breakfasts and others out for a healthy sized, reasonably priced Roast Dinner.

The menu is laid out in boxes of text.
Prole2 pointed to each box in turn and I told him what it said.
I read out the entire Menu to Prole2, from start to finish, including drinks.
I finished and looked at him.

Prole2: What?

Me: What would you like?

Prole2: What?

Me: What do you want?

Prole2: What do you mean?

Me: What do you want to eat? From the menu?

Prole2: What did I have last time?

Me: It was a while ago. Not sure. Maybe something like egg and chips I think. They do beans as well.

Prole2: What did I have last time?

Me: I don’t know. Would you like egg, chips and beans?

Prole2: Did I have that last time?

Me I don’t know. I can’t really remember. Would you like egg, chips and beans?

Prole2: Did I have that last time?

Me: Yes.

Prole2: Did I?

Me: I have not the faintest idea. Do you want egg, chips and beans?

Prole2: Is that all I can have?

I looked at the menu. It was a long menu.

Me: No, there were other things on the menu. You could have all sorts of things.

Prole1: Like what?

I decided to run through the breakfast menu again.

Me: Well…you could have sausage, egg, chips and beans or….

Prole2: No, I don’t like sausage.

Me: Ok, how about egg, chips and beans?

Prole2: Did I have that last time?

Me: Yes. Yes you did. And you loved it. You said if we ever came back that is what you would order.

Prole2: Did I?

Me: Do you want egg, chips and beans?

Prole2: Oh yes please Dad, that sounds yummy.

Me: What about you?

Prole1: I don’t know.

Me: Veggie sausage, egg, chips and beans?

Prole1: Thank you. yes.

Me: Really?

Prole1: With a glass of water please.

Me Ok. What about you, what would you like to drink?

Prole2: What?

Me: What would you like to drink?

Prole2: What did I have last time?

The food arrived, as an extra special unhealthy treat I ordered a slice of fried bread.
The Proles picked up half each.
There was the short sound of munching.

Prole2: Have you got any more of that bread?

Prole1: It was lovely.

Prole2: Remember I had that next time we come. I am going to eat that again.

With the arteries of my children hardening dangerously we set out for the towans.

It was raining.
You know those days when it’s raining and you look at the sky and you think “Well in a minute it might clear up, there seems to be some brighter sky over there, perhaps we will just hang on and see if it brightens up” but then it does not and you are stuck for ages in the rain?

Today was not like that.

Today it just rained the whole way through the show, no stopping.
At no point did it look like it was going to clear up.
Every now and then it would rain just a little bit harder to let us know how easy we had it up until then.
Then it would ease back into a heavy downpour.

My trousers stuck to my legs and the rain ran down into my boots.

I was freezing so I knew the Proles would be too.

However, this was a day for our national saint and a news crew had turned up from Wales to film it so we stuck it out as long as we could.
To represent.
One and all and all that.

I also hate leaving a show half way through, especially out door theatre.
I think as long as the cast can make it through the audience should give it a go too.

We all nodded a gritty agreement between us to stick it out as long as we could.

Prole2’s flag kept folding up into a damp rag in the rain.
I had to keep holding it up in the wind to make it unfurl again.

The wind was quite strong.
We watched as St Piran set out from the shores of Ireland towards Cornwall.
We were stood around a pond that was getting deeper as we watched.
The actor was in a coracle and making a brave show of paddling into the wind.
Sadly the wind kept blowing him back to Ireland.
I could feel the crowd willing him on.

Prole1: What’s he doing?

Me: Sailing to Cornwall on a millstone.

Prole1: Oh.

Finally, after nearly achieving the open water but getting firmly blown home again, St Piran had to get out in an Irish reed bed and make his way to Cornwall on foot.
There was a cheer from the audience as he jogged past us.

The Proles waved their flags at him.

Prole2: It’s not working.

Prole1: How long are we staying?

Me: Hold it up in the wind….there you go. We are staying for a bit longer, maybe it will brighten up.

Prole2: It’s not working.

Me: Hold it up in the wind….there you go.

Prole1: I am getting a bit cold.

Prole2: It’s not working.

Prole1: I can’t feel my fingers.

Me: Hold it up in the wind….there you go. We will go in a minute.

Prole1: How long does this play go on for?

Prole2: I’m hungry.

Me: Let’s go.

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Prole1 was in the St Piran’s day parade today.

St Piran’s day is the fifth of March but the parade happens on the nearest Saturday.

This means it coincided with St David’s day today so there were lots of Welsh flags out as well.

The Proles have Cornish flags, with the cross of St Piran.

Prole1 put his uniform on and walked us down to the meeting point at the school.
He signed in, was mildly indignant that my actual, physical signature was needed to release him, bought a flower to wear and sorted out where I should meet him after the parade.
He then stood with his friends.

Taking this as a sign that we were no longer needed, me and Prole2 went for a bun.
I could see from outside the bakery there was a queue nearl to the door as the town was busy with everyone waiting for the parade.
I ended up some way back, just inside the door.
Inside the bakery is a sloping glass counter so you can see all the cakes.
Prole2 went down to the front of the queue to see what he wanted.

When I finally got to the front of the queue I found him leaning full length on the counter front, arms wide, face pressed to the glass, gazing at the  cakes and buns.
I peeled him off and made a quick apology to the staff. There was a big steamy mark on the glass were his mouth and nose had been.
They sort of smiled at me. Sort of.

Smiling server: Can I help you?

Me: What do you want?

Prole2: What can I have?

Me: You can have a cake.

Prole2: What cake?

Me: Which cake do you want?

Prole2: Can I have one of those cones?

He pointed to an ice cream cone full of marshmallow and topped with lurid Hundreds and Thousands.

Me: No.

Prole2: Why not?

I have to say there is a gap in my well thought out map of the bakery product world and the real blank spot is the ice cream cone full of marshmallow and topped with lurid Hundreds and Thousands.

In my opinion the pre made nature of the ice cream cone makes a mockery of being in a bakery.
The mulchy goo of the marshmallow is not as good as the marshmallows I can get from the sweet shop where I can buy a bag full for the same price.
Who eats those things?
They always have at least twenty in there whenever I go in.
They serve only to trigger a sugar rush that kicks in just as you realise you bought the wrong thing from the bakery.
As far as I can make out the ice cream cone full of marshmallow and topped with lurid Hundreds and Thousands does not fill you up and in my experience is sort of sweet while being sort of tasteless and sort of stale.

I suppose it also comes from NEVER being allowed them when I was little, which made them the most exotic things I could imagine so when I was finally allowed into town on m own I went and bought one and was devastatingly disappointed.

Clearly I am mildly worried about creating such a situation in my own children.

Clearly not worried enough to actually buy them one of those things.

Me: Because.

Prole2: Because what?

Me: Because it’s my money and the whole point of this is to get you something more wholesome than that.

Prole2: Can I have that?

Me: Umm…yes…Excuse me, can my son have a Rhubarb and custard dough nut…um…the one with the pink sugar on top please.

Smiling server: Anything else?

I may as well follow him on the wholesome route.

Me: I’ll have one too.

I felt a bit guilty about the ice cream cone full of marshmallow and topped with lurid Hundreds and Thousands but Prole2 was utterly blown away by his doughnut.

Prole2 (In a whisper of awe): It’s got…custard…on the inside…

Which was in direct contrast to him who had a large amount of custard on the outside.

No wet wipes today so I tried and gave up cleaning him up.
I came back from putting the wrappers in the bin to find him licking his coat.
At various points in the day I could see him do this when he thought I was not looking.

Prole1 came marching up the road, eyes bright and a spring in his step.
When the parade had looped round and come back to a stop by the monument we tried to get near him in the crowd.

I saw his head go back, he raised one hand in the air and shouted.

Prole1: Oggy! Oggy! Oggy!

To which the whole crowd of people around him said absolutely nothing at all.

I stayed where I was, partly because I did not want him to see us watching him in his embarrassment, partly because I did not want any one else to see us with him.

Later I collected him from the Head teacher who remarked on what a character he was and how loud he could be in assembly.
I think this is a good thing but you never know really do you?

I smiled, she smiled and Prole1 nervously smacked me in the head with his flag.

Prole2 licked his coat.

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If I close my eyes and imagine the Proles I see them about six months younger than they are.

They are both eating like small horses at the moment so I was very pleased when the enthusiastic young man in the supermarket cafe under charged us.
This meant the Proles got the usual macaroni cheese, garlic bread, drink, small chocolate bar and fruit, Prole2 chose a cherry flapjack, Prole1 a fruit scone (no cream, no jam, no butter) and I had fish and chips, a macaroon and a pot of tea for six pounds forty.
In my defence I did say ‘Are you sure?’ to the enthusiastic young man and he waved me away saying it was a meal deal and I got a discount.

Certainly did I thought when I looked at the receipt later.

The Proles ate and drank everything on the table, we did some shopping and when we got home they had an apple each.

This means a growth spurt.

Funny word.
Spurt.
Not sure I like it.

I sort of take it personally when they grow out of clothes.
Prole1 has grown out of what I consider to be his ‘new’ school trousers.
Some times I get a real stab of regret that a piece of clothing they look SO DAMN GOOD IN has got too small.
I have a small bag of memory clothes in a trunk upstairs, first babygrows, tiny hats, first shoes but also those brilliant trousers, that checked shirt and those three piece suits.
Lovely stuff that makes me go all gooey whilst the Proles look on, slack jawed and blank eyed, staring at me holding up old clothes and sighing like I am mad.
Which of course I am not.

That said, Prole2 fell in love with a pair of combat trousers, trousers that were more hole than knee, worn paper thin so if you held them up the light shone through them.
I put them in the bin and two days later found them in his bed with Eeyore ‘sleeping’ in one leg and Puppy ‘sleeping’ in the other.

What to do?

The Proles are getting big.

I had to buy new school trousers.
I don’t have the absolute scruffiest kids in the world but they are pretty close.
It does not help that they have zero sense of style.
I am not one to talk about such things but at least I know to wear my pants inside my trousers, a simple mistake that Prole2 has made twice now.
Perhaps he was just trying to hold his trousers up.
He seems to have no hips.
Since I can remember, trousers have always slid off him.
His style of low slung trouser is often commented on, he looks particularly ‘street’ and I don’t mean Sesame.
He is not exactly cool though, Prole2 is also the only child I know who managed to tuck his tee shirt, his jumper and his coat into his pants and walk out of the supermarket toilet that way.
Prole1 is getting much better and is very good at getting all the clothes on and in the right order but somehow he looks like someone who has read a book about clothes and is trying them out for the first time.

Prole2 inherits all his brother’s clothes, a system he does not seem to mind at all.
One day there will be some kind of mutiny but they seem to share clothes like they share toys.
One or two iconic pieces ‘belong’ to one or another of them, everything else is up for grabs.
Sometimes it works out fine, sometimes they just look odd.

I buy most of their clothes from E-Bay.
I was nervous of this to start off with, you never really know what you are getting and who knows where they come from?
However, in my experience, the sort of people who can be bothered to sell on children’s clothes on E-Bay are also the sort of people who see some sort of intrinsic ‘value’ in children’s clothes and are likely to have looked after them.
This was borne out this last week by the unpacking of Prole1’s latest wardrobe.

Each item in the bundle was individually wrapped in cling film.

They smelled like lemons.

The whites had a bluey white I liked.

They were ironed.

They absolutely did not belong in my house.

I swear I would have paid the money all over again just to get the Prole’s existing clothes looking that way.

I am not a ‘label’ person (partial to a Sherry’s suit and a Ben Sherman shirt but nothing too fancy) but these were all Jasper Conran, Kangol and even the cheap bits were from Next.

Once, Prole2 put on one of the E-Bay jumpers and we got stopped by three people asking where we got it.
Such things were not usually seen in Redruth.

The beauty of the E-Bay system is that you choose how much you would pay for the bundle, in total, including postage.
Personally I reckon two pounds fifty per item including postage is fair enough.
That way, even if the clothes are a bit duff you have not lost out too much.

So far though, we have been really lucky, loads of brilliant clothes.

A week later, you can’t tell them from the rest of his clothes now of course.

The trouble is that this state of bliss is coming to an end one day.
One day they will actually want to choose what they wear instead of just grabbing the nearest thing from the nearest drawer and dragging it on.
They will want to cultivate style and a ‘look’ and suddenly Dad buying second hand clothes off E-Bay just wont cut it any more.
And it will suddenly start costing money.

Meh.
If they want decent clothes they can buy them with their pocket money.
Their cousin is saving up his pocket money for a Landrover when he turns 18, Prole2 can start saving for a decent pair of slacks.

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Prole2 was sitting having his dinner.

He generally wriggles and jiggles in his chair but not nearly as badly as Prole1 who prefers to stand next to his chair with one knee up on the seat to eat.
They are both fairly good at sitting properly when told to but during animated conversation they both forget and squirm back in to contortions.

Prole2 was staring at the floor.

Prole2: What’s that?

Me: What’s what?

Prole2: What’s that? That mouse.

Me: What? Sorry?

Prole2: What’s that? That mouse. What is it?

Me: I can’t see….um….what?

Prole2: There Dad, there. That mouse there. What is it?

There on the floor, plain as day, sitting beside his chair and shivering slightly, was a mouse.
There were also two cats in the room, sitting fairly close by and something about the way the mouse was shivering made me feel that perhaps the cats had been paying it some special attention before dinner.
I thought they were acting odd.
It was not a very happy looking mouse but it seemed content to sit beside Prole2’s chair whilst we looked at it.

Me: Well. It’s a mouse.

Prole2: What’s it doing?

Me: It’s just sitting there.

Prole1: What is it?

Me: It’s a mouse.

Prole2: It’s a mouse.

Prole1: What’s it doing?

I waited for Prole2 to fill him in but Prole2 was staring expectantly at me.

Me: It’s just sitting there.

Prole2: Yes. It’s just sitting there.

Prole1 peered over the tops of his glasses in the manner of Lady Bracknell and then went back to his vegetarian sausages.

Prole1: A mouse. Just sitting there.

Prole2: On the floor.

Prole1 (chewing): On the floor.

I decided to move things on a bit and got a glass and gently placed it over the mouse.

Prole2: Mind his tail.

Me: Thank you.

I grabbed Prole2’s reading book from the work surface and slid it gently under the mouse and glass.

Prole2: What’s it doing now?

I took a look through the glass. There was no mistaking what it was doing.

Me: It’s weeing and pooing on your book.

I ignored Prole2’s helpless laughter and took the mouse out to the insect house. I let it go in the pine cone department.
This is my favourite part of the insect house, in the summer the cones are dry and open and all lock together, in winter they close up and go a greenish colour.
The insect house is a stack of pallets in one corner of the garden, the gaps in the pallets are filled with the sort of things solitary bees and lacewings like to live in.
I have never seen a solitary bee or a lacewing anywhere near it.
I am not sure I would even know a lacewing if I met one.
The pinecones are not good for either solitary bees or lacewings but I like them.
The mouse sat for a moment, them squeezed between two pine cones and was gone.
The mouse poo and wee was flicked into a bush and Lime Fresh Dettol Surface Cleaner was liberally applied.

Prole2 was head down on the table, shoulders shaking.

Me: What’s up with him?

Prole1: Still laughing.

Prole2 (indistinctly from the table): He…did a…did a…wee on my book…

All small animals do this to us.

The first time I caught a frog last year I knealt down and put it on my knee and let it go so the Proles could see it hop away.
I talked about it’s legs and skin and showed them it’s eyes, designed to be used in the water.
The frog clearly wanted to lose some ballast and emptied it’s bladder into my trousers and then half heartedly flopped sideways into the grass.

Oh how they laughed.

The very best one ever though was at a friends house where a Slow Worm was found on the back door step.
Five small boys were clustered round it, eyes and mouths open in wonder.

I decided to do the Dad thing and scooped up the Slow Worm.
It twisted through my fingers. They are silky smooth and have firm bodies, this one seemed content to be held.

It made no attempt to move it’s bowels onto me.

We all looked at it for a while and the various boys got up close to inspect it.

I offered it around the group.

Me: Would anyone like to hold it?

Shrieks of terror and much backing away.
Then Prole1 stepped forward.

Prole1: I am a bit scared but I will try.

I was so proud.

Being brave is to be scared but do the thing you fear anyway.
Good boy.
I took his hand and placed the Slow Worm in it.

Me: Gently now, just let it settle, don’t squeeze it.

Prole1: What is it doing?

Me: Well it’s doing….it’s doing a poo….

Who knew there could be so much inside one small Slow Worm?
Slow Worm poo, just for the record, is very like bird poo.
Whatever the consistency the other four boys in the group fell about laughing and Prole1 spent ten minutes in the bathroom washing his hands.

Part of me felt sorry for him but not the part of me that had changed all his nappies.

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I have a mistrust of ultimate truth.
The sweeping statement, however useful on occasion, fills me with dread.

I feel a cerebral chill when I hear people talk in hard and fast truths when referring to people.
The problem as I see it is that anything can be disproved to the point where it would be disallowed in a court of law.

I think that ‘reasonable doubt’ can be cast over much of the received wisdom we accept as ‘truth’.

I think sweeping statements and stereotyping helps a society hang together and I am certainly not immune to either of these things.
I think society is made up of a series of shared ‘beliefs’ that previous and successive generations would find risible and bizarre.

I am part of society and therefore as guilty as any.

It still unsettles me occasionally.

There are ‘truths’ that have become fashionable.

For example, the argument about whether the toilet seat should be up or down.

The received thinking in the media of the early twenty first century is that it should be down.
We have been told this in humorous jokes, rom-com films, newspaper articles, radio and television phone ins and endless other forms of media. It has been the subject of impassioned rants in papers and journals and has started countless, countless domestic rows.
The end result of which is a general acceptance by the mainstream that the toilet seat should be left down but uncaring males often leave it up.

But this files in the face of what I actually know to be true.
The whole thing is a myth.
We could be living with a very dangerous misconception.

I have lived and worked in many male only or male dominated environments and my current status is that I live in a house with two other males.
They may be small but add me into the mix and our average age is 19.

Three males, average age 19, all in the same house.
Imagine for a second.

This is the thing.
If I go into the bathroom and I see the seat is down I do not think “Good”.
I do not think “A blow for intelligence and equality has been struck here”
I do not think “Well done me, I have raised fine, modern, caring sons who put the seat down”

I think none of these things.

I think “I wonder if either of those two bothered to lift the seat last time they went for a wee standing up?”

And I think “Maybe I will just give that seat a once over with a wet wipe before I use it.”

I want to be really clear here.
I do NOT think the seat should be left up.
I do NOT think this is a trivial matter.

What I think is that the received wisdom missed the point.

The battle should not be about the SEAT.

The battle should be about the LID.

We should all be putting the lid down.

That way all people approaching the loo should have to lift, and all people should have to close again afterwards.

The battle over the seat manages to ignore the fact that many males, when faced with an urgent situation will not bother lifting the seat at all.

When I say many males I am specifically referring to 66% of the inhabitants of this house these days.

Never trust a toilet if the lid is up.

Seriously, until this is sorted out, carry your own wetwipes. I do these days.

We got a leaflet from a ‘Sing and Sign’ afternoon once.

The Proles loved Sing and Sign, all sitting in a circle and singing songs with accompanying sign language.
It was great and it really did help Prole2’s speech development.
Prole1’s more strident voice probably didn’t need so much help but he loved it too and as such we had a great time and trusted what we learned.

The leaflet had a picture of a smiley Sunflower and a happy looking Carrot on the front and in big bubble writing it read:
“Kids will love gardening with you.
You can plant seeds and watch them grow with your children, taking time with them to water the young plants as a family.
They will love harvesting the plants you have grown together and eating them as part of a family meal.”

This, you will notice, is delivered as if it is absolute truth.

Note particularly the two uses of the word ‘will’

“Kids WILL love gardening with you”

“They WILL love harvesting the plants you have grown together and eating them as part of a family meal.”

Even taking into account the slightly more vague middle line that strongly hints at a truth without actually committing to it, this is fairly definitive stuff.

I will be honest.
I believed these LIES.

The leaflet did not say that your kids will not be interested in the slightest.
It does not say one of them will appear to be spontaneously allergic to mud.
It does not say they will argue over who gets the trowel and who gets the fork.
It does not say that the one that gets the trowel will go back later with the fork and re dig everything ‘so they get their go’.
It does not say there will be many woeful watering can accidents.
It does not say that interrupted time on the trampoline to come and do ‘family activities’ would be resented.
It does not say that tantrums will be thrown because Dad ‘hurt the carrots’ when he pulled them up.
It does not say that your children may refuse to eat any of their dinner at all because ‘you killed all our plants’.
It does not make clear the weeks of misery.

If lawyers were free, and cartoon characters could stand up in Court, that Sunflower and that Carrot would be up in front of a judge right now for peddling such lies.

There is no such thing as absolute truth.

Especially in cartoon bubble writing.

Anyone who says there is is trying to sell you something.