Archives for posts with tag: play

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Proles call the Calciner ‘the Dragon’.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I love it.

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I sort of made a promise to myself that I would not write about ‘writing’ if I could help it.

Lots of people do and they do it better than I ever could.
I don’t consider myself a writer because I sit here every day and do this, any more than I consider myself a cook or a driver or a child minder. It is something I just do as part of the day.
I used to make short films every now and then with Loz but I would never consider ‘film maker’ as part of my make up.

I do try to write each day and posting on WordPress is an easy way to challenge myself.

I find myself at a bit of an impasse.
We are on holiday and there is too much and not enough.

But I did say I would try to post every day so I do have to face this screen at least once a day.

The stuff I feel confident with writing about is the stuff with just me and them.

On a holiday like this it is hard to comb out the moments.

Just one moment from today then:

On the way across the fields today Prole1 and Prole2 had a dandelion clock fight.

It took ages.

I can’t tell you who the winner was.

Probably me.

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The tom cat is back.

It won’t actually come into my kitchen any more since our last meeting.
Well it has not come in yet, who knows about the future.

For now it stands on the lawn and stares at us.

I am fairly sure this is the reason my cat is pulling all it’s fur out. She stopped for a couple of days but has just started again.

This is in part my fault, part Prole1’s fault and mostly the tom cat’s fault.

Following an emergency surgery session on our house me and the Proles have been on a clean up detail for most of the day.
There was sawdust, wood shavings and plaster dust all over the place as well as dozens of old loose screws that had for the most part just dropped out of the splintered woodwork.
The pieces I had mended it with were a mixture of what I found around the house and shed and a scrap piece from the local woodyard.
I am going to have to look at it all again one day but it’s holding so far.

We went surf life saving at the pool today which broke everything up.
Prole2’s second session and he was excited beyond words.
He had a brilliant time.
I did not.
He spent the whole time looking around, seeing what was going on while small children churned past him like small torpedoes.
He fell off swell boards, he dropped balls, he sank several times.
He only managed to do one length of the pool without stopping for a chat, check what everyone else was doing, examine the ropes between the lanes or just forget whatever he was doing and turn round and go back for more instructions.
He also seemed to think that doggy paddle was the best stroke to adopt in the pursuit of surf rescue.

He was having a ball.
I was having kittens.
I know he can swim.
I know he can do it.

I also knew that bellowing across the pool at him was probably not the best way to do it.
I sat for an hour watching through my fingers.
Still, let’s not crush his sporting aspirations.

Prole1 was great. His impersonation of a drowning victim was, if anything, a little too good for me but I can’t fault him for getting into the role.

I tried to help Prole2 take his goggles off in the male changing room but managed to pull his hair and make him cry.
I felt awful and determined not to interfere again.
Prole1 said he would take care of it so I waited outside.
It is odd to think of them as a small team, helping each other get dressed without me.
Being in the corridor seemed like a long way away.
They changed, came out and we headed home again.

Prole1 helped to sweep up. He did the kitchen and the stairs and swept it all out the back door.
Obviously as soon as he had finished and was not looking I did it all again but it was the principle of the thing I admired.
I had less admiration for Prole2 who spent a disproportionate amount of time ‘tidying’ his lego away. It seemed to take a very long time for not much result.
Still, let’s not stifle his creativity.

When Prole1 had finished sweeping he left the broom outside.
He had used our white broom, with the stiff bristles.
I could not find it so I finished off with the red broom, with the soft bristles.

A lot of my professional life was spent thinking about brooms, while I am far from satisfied with the ones we have I am not sure I could survive with only one broom.

What with one thing and another this afternoon I needed to sweep up again.

Wordwitch was coming round again for cookery club and we just needed to lose the ‘all boys together in a house’ tint that the kitchen had.
Her session was a good one as it happened.
Prole2’s gingerbread man production line began to resemble an Anthiny Gormley installation on the kitchen table.
Prole1 showed off his trophy and recited his weak out speech from school. (I don’t know what’s so special, I think I know it off by heart as well now.)
We ate biscuits and they had a folk dance with socks session in the front room.
Anyway she was coming and we needed to spruce up.

I stepped outside with some re-cycling and found the white broom by the back door.

Quick once around the kitchen and I was starting to load the dishwasher when I smelled it.
That tang of tom cat.

I started sniffing round the room.

I could not locate it.
It was coming from somewhere but I could not tell where.
The floor? Yes maybe.
The kitchen cabinets? Yes, I think perhaps…
My clothes? Had the horrible feline got my clothes somehow?
Why did my hands smell?

What on earth was going on? He seemed to have gone everywhere.
It was even on the broom.

The broom.

It had sprayed on the broom.

The broom had been outside all night and a cat had sprayed on it.

The broom I had just swept the whole of the kitchen with?

I had to put all my clothes in the wash, forbid the Proles from going into the Kitchen, bleach and mop the whole of the kitchen and hallway.

I hate that cat.

 

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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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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.

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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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The kitchen table has been a lego city all week.

After two days of building and tinkering I stopped by to see how things were going.

Me: Looks good. Which bit did you do?

Prole1: I did this half. This is the garden where they all meet, these guys standing in the garden are in a queue for the shop. The shop, as you can see, has a counter and this is where the assistants can take your order.
Behind them is the second counter where the people from the warehouse put the orders together and deliver them to the assistants.
Up on top here is the office and control centre. That lady there is in charge of everything. She passes messages and reads the sensors and has all computers and boxes. He is in charge of the warehouse and they are in charge of the assistants.
Out the back is the service road where motor bikes or trucks or small spaceships can pick up or deliver.
That’s the security guard.

Brilliant. Prole1 has designed Argos with a three tier management system.

Me: Right, good, what about you?

Prole2: I made all these mobiles and space ships.

Me: What a lot of cars and …things. Did you make that building as well?

Prole2: Yes. It’s a cage where baddies go. There is a big lock on the door and strong walls and all guns all over and cameras and things and if they try to get out all these guys on top bash them and catch them. Look, he has a thing and it spins and his thing is bigger than he is and can sweep down like this…BASH!

And Prole2, true to form, has designed a series of improbable vehicles and a Maximum Security Prison.

Me: Are there any houses? Do the people live anywhere in your city?

Silence as the Proles stare at their work.

The silence becomes uncomfortable.

Me: What is your city called?

The Proles stare at the table some more.

Me: Does the city have a name?

Prole2: It’s called ‘No Bedroom City’.

Sadly the No Bedrom City, has been tidied away.

It was a nice place to visit but I am fairly pleased it has gone.