Archives for posts with tag: tough day



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

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

I took a gamble and did not cancel any meetings.

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

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

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

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

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

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

They turned up at 13.15.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Before I knew it I was boiling the kettle again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I put a load of washing on.

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

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

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

All that tea…

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

Prole2: Why are we running?

Me: Just run…

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

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

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

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

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

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

I still have not seen Cash in the Attic.



At 5.30am Prole2 came into my room.
He went to the toilet and came back and I could tell he was on his way to see me.

He actually fell over all the cars he had left there in the doorway and a tiny bit of me rejoiced.

My house is not tidy, you would not call it a tidy house.
The floor surfaces are slowly being removed and the results are a dusty house.
There are things around.
You can find stuff here and there.
A lot of bits are in the wrong place.

It has a level of tidiness that I am happy with, we could not become more untidy, messy or dirty without me getting quite upset about it.
I think everyone has their level.
Mine just happens to be relatively low.

I have been asked if I would not feel better about the place if I was more tidy.
I can only say I am very happy living as I do. It is only when other people come round that I feel self conscious about it.
I am selective about who comes round these days.
I hate to upset people.

The Proles’ ability to colonise whole parts of the hose with extensions from “Busy Island” or exploratory expeditions by “Captain Skull” or, as in the case of last evening, a super long racetrack, is one that I tolerate for a while, anything up to a week, before punitive and wide reaching clearing up.

By the time I went to bed last night an extensive series of garages, service vehicles and mechanised transport was making up the Pit area of the upstairs raceway.
his Pit area was just inside the door to my bedroom.
I often tell the boys that these things are a trip hazard and so it was that after Prole1 had trotted off to the toilet I heard him come up the last three stairs, step into my room and fall over his own Pit crew.

This I felt, served him right.
He climbed into my bed and we both fell asleep without speaking.

I had a good sleep for the next hour and a quarter or so until the alarm went off.
I sat up and Prole2 lolled over in the bed.

Prole2: I feel sick.

I switched instantly Parent-With-Sick-Child mode.

Me: You feel sick? Do you need to be sick now?

I was moving and getting dressed. Or at least a bit more dressed. The landing window has a clear view of my young neighbour’s garden and the last thing they need is the sight of a half naked mid forties man carrying a vomiting boy first thing in the morning.

Prole2: Yep. I was sick last night too….

His words trailed off as he began gipping and I got him out of my bed just in time.
He retched and burped and chucked his way to the toilet.

The tally of sick, not including the sitting on the sofa with a bowl on his knee, was impressive.

He was sick on my bedroom floor.
He was sick on my socks and my shirt.
He was sick on the landing carpet.
He was sick on the bathroom floor.
He was sick on two bathroom mats.
He was sick on a bath towel.
He was sick on himself quite a lot.

His attempt to wee and be sick simultaneously was daring, courageous and not entirely successful.

I looked at the utter devastation and at Prole2 cured up and shivering on the one remaining clean bath towel.
This was going to be a day of disinfectant, washing machines and not going to work.

Looking after sick children is an odd experience as an adult.

I am worried enough that I cannot stop myself checking him all the time, just to see if he is displaying new and terrifying symptoms..
I am aware it is a day off school enough and remember what that means enough to really get quite excited.
Neither of these attitudes really prepares you for how boring it can be.

Washing, scrubbing the floor, spraying anti-bacterial nonsense around the house, this is not much fun.
Sitting watching my son breathe wears a bit thin after a while.
Getting any work done is a bit of a non starter.

Sleeping, while not actually illegal, is probably immoral with a sick child.

He did look really peaky.
We tried breakfast.
Well, he sort of flirted with it in a digestive sense before returning it to the bowl.

Prole1 saw the whole thing as a bit of an adventure.
he stood with his hands in his uniform pockets and ‘stray sick’ spotted for me while I tried to clean up.
He looked like a diminutive Health and Safety Officer.
I should have taken a photo, just to compare to when he grows up and becomes a real Health and Safety Officer.

The dangerous bit of the walk to school is crossing the road outside our house.
It’s a very narrow road and the only think I am worried about is drivers not seeing him trying to cross between all the parked cars.
I walked him across the road and he went off to school on his own.
He bounced round the corner and off he was so excited.
I stepped back through the door.

Prole2 was dozing on the sofa.
The cats had found him and were draped all over him.

I sat in the kitchen and had a cup of tea before round two of washing.

It was quiet.
It was odd not to be at work.

Life suddenly seemed really very fragile again.

I squashed all that back down and started the clear up.

Never finished that cup of tea,

Got to keep going, the alternative is awful.



At work today I used the last of the paper.

I managed to use a pack and a half.

What do they call packs of paper these days?
It used to be a ‘sheaf’ in one of the theatres in London.

Oddly archaic thing to be loading into a photocopier, a sheaf.
Pack these days probably.

These are the busy days at work, when all the answers need to be given and all the nerves need to be smoothed and a sheaf of Artists dreams need to be rendered into paper and scrutinised.
It took over an hour to photocopy everything and get it ready to go.
I used to email everything but bitter, bitter experience taught me to post hard copies as well.

It is very odd that nowadays we need to email and post.
Once we would have just posted but somehow that is not safe enough any more.
There was a time when there were up to three posts per day.
You could send a card in the morning and get an answer that afternoon.

I don’t hanker after time gone by as such, I just don’t feel so safe any more about the security of email.
Double nerves.

I don’t like losing people’s forms.

This is the third desk space I have had since I went back to work.
I got the job three months after Loz died.

I was in two minds about it.

Other people thought I should go back to work.
They all gave good reasons.
I was not so sure.

Sorting out our lives after Loz had taken weeks.
That is to say, sorting out the legal side of our lives had taken weeks.
It was to continue for five months after she died.
That was when we got the results of the autopsy.

Every day I would have a list of people to call.

Every day I would spend, minutes, hours listening to hold music.
I spoke to people all over Britain and in other countries as well.
Most were reading from a screen.
Most were very sympathetic.
Most got back to the script.

Some things never got sorted out.
You have to send off death certificates to certain places.
Things like banks, insurance companies, the DVLA, the bloody TV licence people.

I thought it would take a couple of weeks at the most.
It didn’t.

The DVLA swallowed a Death Certificate and then told me I had not sent it.
The lady on the end of the phone was the least sympathetic I spoke to.
She told me four times I had not sent them the Death Certificate because it was not on the system.

“You have not sent it.”

She did not say:

“I am sorry Mr Morrison, you may have sent it but I am afraid we do not have it on our system. I apologise for the inconvenience but is there any way you could send us another?”

She did say:

“You have not sent it”

Four times.

Swansea accent, if you are interested.

I decided I would try very hard never to do that to someone on the phone.
I don’t trust the post.

The next people who wanted the Death Certificate were the TV licence people.
A photocopy would not do.

Since the DVLA had my last one the TV people never got it.
As far as the BBC is concerned Laura Hardman is alive and well and watching telly in Redruth.

I hated that time.
I really did.
I hate the smell and feel and heart sinking gloom of hold music.

Hate is a really strong word.
I have chosen to use it and I stand by it.
I hated it.

The calls slowly dried up, or they slowed to a trickle, and instead I got on with being a full time Dad.

But Laura’s job had been advertised.

I was not qualified to drive a desk but I had seen her slowly construct her workplace and we had spent months discussing how what she had built might work.

Laura was not going to stay there full time forever.
She had aspirations in other areas but the job of building had not quite finished and things had not yet settled.

If I am honest I was terrified someone would take it who did not understand where it had all come from and just spin it out for a couple of years and then let it finish.

I applied and, with a lot of assistance from friends, I got the job.

Day one in the office.
Sitting at her desk.
The place I was to work.
The desk had been occupied in the interim but the only real change since Laura’s last day seemed to be a space cleared around the keyboard and a neatly typed note above the computer that explained ‘the system’.
The work had been continued since she had died but still, here was her pen, her diary, her memory stick.
He writing on everything, her files, her notes, her emails.
Letters and post, her chair, some photos in the drawer.
For several months I would get emails from the occasional person addressed to her.
Sometimes someone would call and talk about how sad it was.
Loz did not take my name when we married and often people never connected us.

Most people knew of course and we all pretended it was not weird that I had taken my dead wife’s job and was now sitting in her chair.

Not weird at all.

But there was method in this weirdness beyond wanting to continue her project.

The chair was probably less than forty feet from Prole2’s Nursery wall.

I would drop him in and cross the carpark entrance to the office.

Sometimes I could hear him through the window.

I would scoop him up in the early afternoon and we would go and spring Prole1 from his nursery at the school.
Twice a week Prole1 would be picked up by Prole2’s Nursery and they would both be waiting for me when I got out of work.

We would go to the cafe for a snack or walk back across the fair field and play on the swings on the way.

That was our new routine.
Walk to the school nursery and drop off Prole1.
Walk to the nursery by the office and drop off Prole2.
Be at my desk less than a minute later.

For a while, Prole2 and I would get days off together.
When he was old enough I began working four or five days a week.
If I work extra time I get the school holidays off.
How nice is that?

The job has moulded around me and the Proles.
I am very lucky, we have a great routine.

One of the nieces things, the thing that keeps me going on so many occasions, is knowing that all I am doing is running a little system that Loz set up.
She did it along side other very talented people but at the heart of it is a set of values and beliefs that she believed in.

I sometimes upset people in my job.
I work hard not to, I try and avoid it al all costs.
Sometimes it just happens.
That is life, getting upset, it’s how we know we are still breathing.

I was once on the side of Mount Sinai, climbing down to St Catherine’s Monastry in the dark and our guide suddenly turned and stared right in my face and said:

“What is your work, Jack?”

I muttered something about stuff and things.

“No” and he looked a bit scary “What is your work?”

And I had no answer for him at all.

I could not answer.

I am still not sure what my work is.

Perhaps the best I can hope for is to make the world a tiny bit better.

I think it is good to try just a little bit to make the world a better place than the one we came into.

If we can.

Even if it’s just being nice to someone whose forms don’t show up on your computer.


Several exciting deliveries.
A new operating system for this computer.

Why won’t the italics turn off? Why is everything in bold?

It is doing nothing for the mood I am in.

Today the new shoes arrived.

When I went into a high street shoe shop up Truro and got the Proles feet measured but left without actually buying anything  the staff gave me wry, knowing and mildly pursed smiles.

I had been blatantly showrooming.


Showrooming is where you go into a shop, look at or try on items or clothing and then leave, go home and buy them off the internet.

I have friends who work in retail.
I don’t know what to say except the world is moving and when you have a part time job and two kids you have to move with it.


I don’t do this a lot and I certainly think it is risky with shoes.

All is well if they arrive, they are the right shoes, they are the right size and they don’t leave your children with deformed feet for the rest of their lives.


But the reward, in this case, was that I got shoes at a third the price I could have got them in the shop.

A third.


I do sort of feel dirty, the high streets across Britain are dying and we should be trying to support them if we can.


However I can buy the same shoes as I can get from a nation wide retailer at a fraction of the price.


I was ready to send the shoes back but they are really very good.



No moral high ground at all but bargain.

I got home with the Proles and I pulled the shoes out of my bag.

Me: Here, try these on.

Prole1: Oh, right, Brilliant. Ok.

Prole2: What are they?

Me: They are shoes. Here, try them on.

He took them off me and held them in front of him.
He stared at them like they were a pair of dead seagulls.

Prole2: What are they?

Me: They are new shoes.

Prole2: What for?

Me: For you to try.

Prole2: I don’t understand.

I was laughing a bit and Prole1 was smiling.
Prole2 looked at me in disgust.

Prole2: What are these?

Me: They are a pair of shoes. For you to try on. If they fit you can keep them as your shoes.

Prole2: What?

Me: Just try them on.

Prole2: Why am I doing this?

Me: Because they might be your new shoes.

Prole2: What?

Me: Just try them on for me.

Prole2: I really don’t understand. I will do it but I think it is silly.

And then I heard the slight catch in his voice.
It was the way he sometimes talks to his friends in the play ground.
It is the way he sometimes talks to Prole1 when he really wants to push his buttons.
I looked at him.
He was standing there, not putting the shoes on and staring at me like I was an idiot.

He was eyeballing me.

I learned that from An Officer And A Gentleman.
I did not really understand it at the time but it is a thing people do.

My tiny little boy was eyeballing me.
He was being the quintessence of disrespect condensed into the body of a small child.
Suddenly he looked vile

He is young.
Really young.
He is testing boundaries.
He is finding out the rules.

I know all this because I live with him.

I also know that I suddenly wanted to send him spinning across the kitchen.

I have never hit the Proles.

I really hope I never do.

I know other people hit their kids.
I just don’t hit the Proles.

Every now and then they do make me really angry.
I can squash most emotion down most of the time but it does boil over some times.

During the ‘terrible twos’ when Prole2’s emotions were all over the place, he was throwing one of his more unreasonable tantrums, which in turn meant that we could not go out and meet friends.

We were running late and when Prole1 heard this he began to cry as well.

There are only three of us, I might have been able to calm him down and get him out the door but I also had to wrangle Prole1 as well.
Even if we made it to the park there was no guarantee we could do this without a relapse or a double explosion from them both.

I would have to spend the time monitoring them and keeping a lid on things which would mean I could not have an adult conversation for more than a couple of minutes.

This also did not even begin to take into consideration the fact that I did not want to be anywhere near either of them by this point.

Prole2 had lost it completely and was screaming “NO!” in my face.

I could feel my hands go cold and my knuckles begin to tingle.
Everything started moving slowly.

I remembered feeling exactly this way during a particularly testosterone filled day working with a crew in London.
A big guy kicked off a bit.

He was much bigger than me.
Sometimes you hire crew for their size.
If you need a huge pile of heavy things moved form one place to another then sometimes you need a Brute Squad.

Big men who work cash in hand often have mixed feelings about being given instructions.

This guy had been playing up all day and things finally came to a head when he tried to push through me instead of walking round.

I remember thinking that I was not going to back down, I was not going to get out of his way and I was prepared to face it out.

It ended with some pushing and shoving and being pulled apart from each other in a vaguely unremarkable way, like so many testosterone fuelled moments.

It sticks in my mind because I just don’t do that very often.

I really don’t.

I hate confrontation.

The next male that made me feel that way was my two year old son.

That is when I learned to put myself on the Naughty Step.

I have not felt that way since but I do get worked up sometimes and the Proles know that if I am on the Naughty Step they should probably go and play with lego somewhere.

But today I was being eyeballed and somehow it went straight through me.
I looked at his passive aggressive stance and his pretence at incomprehension.
He wore a slight sneer and he gently started to shake his head as he put the shoes on.

I picked him up, shoes and all and sat him on the stairs.

Me: I am really very angry at the moment.

Prole1: Oh.

Prole2: Oh…dad?

Me: I want you to stay here on the stairs.

I looked at Prole1.

Me: I want you to go and find something to do for a bit.

I thought for a second.

Me: I am going into the living room.

Prole1 went and played with lego in the bedroom.
Prole2 sat on the stairs.
I lay face down on the rug in the living room and tried to gather my thoughts and calm down.

I had to find a way to explain about non-verbal communication, attitude, respect, empathy and general demeanor to someone who has yet to experience the tooth fairy.

Finally I was ready.

Proe2 had transformed back into a curly haired angel.
Little git.

Me: What are these?

Prole2: Shoes.

Me: What do I want you to do with the shoes?

Prole2: Put them on.

Me: Why do I want you to put them on?

Prole2: To see if they fit.

Me: Whose shoes are they?

Prole2: My shoes. If they fit. They are my shoes.

Me: OK. Good. Great. Now move over.

Prole2: Why.

Me: Because I need to sit on the naughty step now.

Prole2: I will go and play with lego.


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


But you don’t know.


I defrosted the freezer.

That’s a job I won’t have to do again for another eight years.

There is a strange sort of archaeology in the defrosting of a freezer.

Mine was not too bad by the way, it was supposed to be ‘frost free’ but I think after so many years it just gave up and took a break.
It is also quite small so the fall out area was contained.

The frost had really taken hold in the last six months.
A slight door malfunction had led to a lot of ice forming.
A slightly cracked drawer was probably to blame and being freed from the ice today meant I could clean and glue and slide everything back into place.

I do not have a hair dryer in the house any more and my fan heater is at work.
Actually my fan heater is now working for Cornwall Council somewhere, kidnapped in a chilly office move so I nicked theirs when they were not looking.
My fan heater is now probably in Truro, rattling away in some office.
I got it in Essex.
Well travelled, that heater.

I was not sure how to speed up the defrosting as the freezer is in the coldest part of the house.

In the end I pulled the tumble dryer out and pointed the vent into the freezer which worked a treat.

The ice melted, most of the water vapour from the dryer condensed in the freezer compartment and the towels dried at the same time.

I was feeling quite good about this small piece of lateral thinking until I saw the fluff that had blown out of the vent hose and all over the inside of my wet and now warm freezer compartment.
It came off easily enough but where it got in between the filaments it stuck, just out of dishwasher brush bristle length.
It looks black and mildewey.
Fluff and the aesthetics aside, it worked quite well.

I cleared out the stuff I could easily get to and waited to see what else would be revealed.
As the ice shelf receded, I found two vegetarian sausages, one fish finger, one frozen Yorkshire Pudding (don’t judge me, they were on special offer) lots of peas and a portion of Lasagne.
I also found the ice cube tray.
We used to make baby food by liquidising vegetables and freezing them in the ice cube tray.
At meal times you could turn out two cubes into a pan, warm them through and serve them up.
It was nice to see it again and be reminded that you cold fit three day’s solid food for one of the Proles in that tray at one time.
The ice cube tray was fortunately not full of baby food.

The Lasagne was quite old.
When Loz died people reacted in different ways.
While I am not really happy to make gender based sweeping statements I have to say that the men and women in my social group reacted in very stark ways.
There were people who talked.
There were people who listened.
There were men who got me drunk.
There were women who cooked me food.

Broadly speaking people fell into these groups if I ever saw them.
The one real exception to this was one of my friends who just mooched around my hose for a few days not saying much, watching telly with the Proles or throwing them around in the back garden and occasionally leaving cups of tea within reach. I am not sure we actually had any sort of conversation at all but it was kind of marvellous really. It was brilliant.

The talkers actually appeared before Loz had died.
On the morning they were to switch off the machines I was in the bed room getting dressed and my phone rang.
I sort of knew it would be a bad idea to answer but at the same time it was such an odd day to prepare for I thought perhaps some normality might help.

The nice lady on the other end of the phone said hello and then disintegrated into floods of tears telling me what a poor man I was on a day like today.
On the face of it I agreed with her but was a tad busy getting ready so I did have to politely cut the conversation short.
Grief is a terrible thing, it is relatively rare in our culture and so often hits people in an unexpected flood.
Most people who talked about it were experiencing shock, awe and panic in various sized doses.
So was I, so I had every sympathy in the world, even if the timing could be questionable.

The listeners were great.
I was experiencing shock, awe and panic and it was nice to try to make sense of it.
I sometimes made sense of it by trying to say it all out loud at once.
Most of the time I kept a bit of a lid on it but every now and then I would lose it completely.
I did feel myself reigning it in a bit when eyes became too wide.

Any how, gender specific reactions….

The men getting drunk thing was kind of to be expected really.
As a man who drank, it was a landscape I understood and I think I would have been the same in their shoes.
Lots of Gin, lots of beer, lots of rum.
I don’t remember us all talking about our feelings much.
Mind you, I don’t remember much.

It is unfair of me to insinuate that all women wanted to cook for me.
They didn’t.
But some did and they brought food round or cooked in my house or invited me to theirs for slightly too much pudding.
On one occasion I had to talk someone out of coming round with the ingredients for a casserole, all three of their children and their dog. It was an incredibly sweet gesture but I am not sure it would have had the desired effect.

I don’t remember any men coming round with a hot pot or similar, only women.
Make of it what you will I suppose but it is a phenomena borne out by the experience of other widowers I have heard from.
I actually started to put on weight.
Whatever the reason, I felt it was quite a primal thing and on occasion really very welcome.

The Lasagne was really lovely, I remember saving the last portion for a special day.
Well, I remember it now, and I remembered at the time, clearly there was a long time in the middle where I did not remember about the Lasagne at all.

I saw it today and I remembered all those people who came round in that first year.

All that time, all that care, all that love.

I never really got to say thank you to those people, thank you for the talking and the listening and the drinking and the food.
I won’t ever be able to tell them what that meant to me.
Because it meant they loved her too.

Anyhow, I threw the Lasagne away.
I am sentimental but there are limits.


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.


Today nothing was achieved.

We got up and breakfast took a little to long.
I was sorting out washing and drying and school uniform and games kit and only had a quick cup of tea.
Getting the Proles dressed ended with them shouting at each other.
There were no socks.
Home work was tough and was finished just as we had to leave so we were a bit pushed.
A large lego spillage hampered our final moments in the house.
The Proles left their coats at a friend’s house at the weekend so we improvised wet weather gear.
I hoped it would not rain.
It rained.
School busy, dodged through toddlers and buggies.
Pavement crowded, dodged through toddlers and buggies and dog turds.
The grass in the park is still waterlogged so I had to walk the long way round.
I sat down at work to endless phone calls and emails and could not really solve any problem at all.
Computer refused to ‘save changes’.
Stupid computer.
Meetings over ran and I ate nothing.
Spent the whole day running up and down the corridor, never quite managing to take time to go to the loo.
I left work a couple of minutes late and had to hurry to school.
It rained on the way so I ran for a bit and got to school early but overheated.
Scooped the Proles and headed home to pack the car for Swimming lessons.
We set out as soon as we were ready but today the journey, that last week took half an hour, only took eleven minutes.
Swimming pool car park is on the college campus and students’ universal attitude to road safety FREAKS ME OUT.
We arrived at the swimming pool in the rain and ran inside.
We had to use the broken locker.
I hate the broken locker.
It is a sad locker.
We sat on a bench together for twenty five minutes waiting for the lessons to begin.
We had nothing to say to each other.
The Proles were well grumpy by the time they went in.
I was well grumpy when they came out.
The showers were all taken and we queued, the changing booths were all taken and we queued.
Pizza club at a friends house was a triumph, this time no tears or shouting.
Must remember this one island of joy.
Back out into the rain.
The journey home took half an hour again.
How am I to plan a regular routine with unpredictable timekeeping on the A30?
We got in and a cat had been sick by the stairs.
The boys argued as they got ready for bed.
We finished the strangely right wing and mildly offensive ‘One Hundred and One Dalmatians’.
I felt like I had been licked by a Tory.
Proles went to bed.

Prole2 gave me a kiss.

Prole2: Thank you for a brilliant day Dad. I can’t wait for tomorrow.

Prole1: Here Dad, you can borrow Harry Potter and read it after you have done all your work. I love you.

Prole2: I love you too. To the moon and back.

Prole1: Love you always Dad.

I looked at them both, tucked up in bed, snuggled in for the night.

They both smiled.

Sycophantic gits.


Today I spoke to my sister on the phone.
I also spoke to her friend who she is staying with but I could not tell the difference between their voices. I thought it was my sister when her friend picked up and I am still not sure when the phone got switched over so I think that counts as one person.
One conversation anyway.

This will probably be the only conversation with the outside world today.
Some days, if we don’t count interaction with shop staff, I only speak to the Proles.

In the early days after Loz died this would happens a lot.
Weekends would go by without any input from other voices.
Even once I started work things were relatively quiet.
I would small talk with colleagues. We would talk about work. I would even talk at length with people we were working with on the phone.
At the end of the day I would feel like I had clocked off and gone back to my other life again.

Going to work was like swapping trains, heading in opposite directions, at fifty miles an hour, without either of them stopping.
One had very little to do with the other.

In one life I would talk to people, in the other I did not.

The only thing is I really missed with ‘small talk’ about the boys was about the little things. How they were growing, how they were getting on.
All the rubbish stuff about phases they are going through, latest tricks, funny things they said.
I missed having someone to share it all with.

I could tell family members but that is not the same as sharing, in depth, with the other parent.
There is always an edge when you are talking ‘beyond’ the family unit.
I don’t want there to be an edge.
I just wanted to share the ongoing roller coaster ride between breakfast and bedtime with someone.

There is an apparent discrepancy between wanting to talk and really, really, really not wanting to talk.

Now, let’s be clear, I do not sit alone and worry about this stuff.

I am quite happy about this state of affairs.

What I miss is asking for confirmation that what I believe about the raising of my children is true.
I particularly miss getting that confirmation.
This does not mean that I don’t lie on the sofa with a cushion over my ears listening to the telephone ringing and hissing: “Go away…go away…go away…’ at it until the ringing stops.

Since all the rules, such as they are rules about child raising, were drawn up with Loz it is inevitable that I find a ‘disconnect’ between what I think we should be doing and whatever anyone who was not there in the early stages of child raising discussions might think.

I don’t like being told I am wrong about my children.
I didn’t mind being told I am wrong about my children by Loz.

A dislike of having my frailties brought out in public is not the only reason I don’t really talk to many people but it is certainly there.

After all, if I want to interact with the outside world I can do.
I have tried this in the past, I can pick up the phone and call any number of people and they would answer.
I could invite myself round to their houses and even stay over on sofas, spare beds or floors.
I have a large number of generous and tolerant friends.

In fact the one night of the week when I force myself to interact with the outside world is for the post swimming Pizza Club at the Manager’s house. Since he and his wife are also Godparents (Or, as he insisted on being called when first asked, ‘friend-parent’) it is a very jolly weekly affair where our two families can get together.
I talk more at these evenings about stuff and nonsense and odds and ends than I do for the rest of the week put together.
Must drive them mad.

I used to have an open invitation Ukulele night round my kitchen table.
People would come from all over to sit around and play ukulele.
We were all fairly awful musicians, people who could hold a tune really stuck out, but the playing was almost the least of it, chatting and laughing were what it was all about.

I really liked listening to all the talking. I loved the banter and the small talk and the awful jokes. I was starting to dread making the small talk myself.

One week I remember staring at the door and hoping no one would turn up because I had nothing to say.
They did turn up and I did have a brilliant time but a few weeks later there was no one free so I used that as an excuse to bring it to a halt.

Every now and then I would make the effort to get a baby sitter and go out for the night.
I would spend the entire time wishing and hoping it would be over so I could go home.
It sort of didn’t matter what activity was happening, I knew I would be happier lying on the sofa at home. Probably with the cushion close by in case anyone called.
Sometimes I would get as far as getting ready, heading out, pulling up in the car outside where ever I had arranged to go and then just turning round and heading home again.

I used to tell people I went home to be with the Proles.
No one ever questioned that when the Proles were small.

The Proles have become regular shields in this new world.
There have been times when I have been unable to get a baby sitter it is true.
I once called nine people and none of them were free so I gave up. I was so relieved.
These days it has to be something pretty special for me to go looking amongst my friends for someone to take the Proles.
Most of the time I decline all invitations on the grounds that I have a family.
Oddly I am happier taking the time out for work than for myself, once the burden of small talk is gone I can unclench.
Sometimes my brilliant friends do ask me to come out to play.
I do love them but I really do have to be in the mood.
Sometimes I am in the mood.
Often I am not.
In those circumstances it can be hard to justify it, to explain why a night in with facebook and Film4 is better than being social.

Evenings off are such monumental things, less than a dozen a year, that the pressure is enormous.
I so seldom go out.
Generally I don’t look forward to it and often I don’t enjoy it as much as being at home.

I sometimes dread invitations.
I hate to say ‘no’ to people, I really do.

I have been known to agree to go out with a group of friends, buy tickets and arrange an entire night without having the slightest intention of going through with any of it, just to stop them badgering me about it.

Twenty five pounds spent on a theatre ticket is money well spent if it gets people to leave you alone, even if you never use the tickets.
The way I reason it, I get an evening doing what I really enjoy and everyone else gets to go to the theatre.
I would spend twenty five pounds on that any day.
I certainly prefer that then actually going out to an evening I won’t enjoy.
After all, I am already twenty five pounds down on the deal, there is no need to be miserable as well.

But then….

Then there are the times when I do want to come out to play.
I am, after all, human.

I still like to see old friends, sit warm by a strange fire, drink in a pub, walk down a street at night, hug someone in the rain.

I still like to wear my old life like a coat on occasion.

I just have to take it off afterwards.

I can’t make this post as cheerful as it is in my head.
I am happy at home.
I have a great love for those around me.
I am grateful for all I have.
I smile often.
At the moment, I don’t need any more.


I sat down to write a post tonight but it was not coming together.
It will I suppose.

I went and had a bath to clear my head and come back to it afresh.

I read a small booklet that Cardiac Risk in the Young had sent through the post.

I also got a copy of the same booklet from the Cannon Emeritus of Salisbury Cathedral so I thought I would give it the once over.
You never know when you might be asked questions.

It’s a small booklet but I would not call it ‘light’ reading.

It is full of stories about Sudden Cardiac Death. Each one of them could have been my story.

The nurse who last took my blood pressure asked if I had any pains in my chest.

‘Only when I think about it’ I replied and she laughed.

Because it’s funny when men in their forties worry about their health.

Emotional heart ache exists of course but it’s not a medical condition as such so we did not discuss it.

I did not tell her that some nights I can’t sleep because it aches so much.
I couldn’t tell her that a song or a smell or a word could trigger my heart to ache for hours.
Only when I think about it though.

I don’t have a heart condition but my heart aches often.
Painkillers don’t work of course.
Because it is all in my head.

I am not going to finish that other post, I was trying to describe why sitting on the sofa is more fun than going out.
I don’t feel morose about the subject and I was trying and failing to reflect that.
I should not have to justify it, my sofa is brilliant.

I am going to sit on the sofa now because when your heart aches you should do what feels right.