Archives for posts with tag: unpredictable

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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?
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.

 

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Me: We all know the rules. No swallowing. Right?

Prole1: Right, I am so going to win.

Prole2: Right!

Silence.

They giggle.

I reach to the bowl in the middle of the table.

I take a marshmallow.

I put the marshmallow in my mouth.

Me: Fluffy Bunny.

Prole1 puts a marshmallow in his mouth.

Prole1: Fluffy Bunny.

Prole2 puts a Marshmallow in his mouth.

Prole2: Fluffy Bunny.

They giggle.

I put a marshmallow in my mouth.

Me: Fluffy Bunny.

Prole1 puts a marshmallow in his mouth.

Prole1: Fluffy Bunny.

Prole2 puts a Marshmallow in his mouth.

Prole2: Fluffy Bunny.

I put a marshmallow in my mouth.

Me: Fluffy Bunny.

Prole1 looks serious, Prole2 looks like a crazy hamster.

Prole1 puts a marshmallow in his mouth.

Prole1: Thif if filly.

Me: You in or out?

Prole1: Fluffy Buffy.

Me: What?

Prole1: Fluffy…ang on…Fluffy Bunny.

Prole2 puts a Marshmallow in his mouth.

Prole2: Fluffy Bunny.

I put a marshmallow in my mouth.

Me: Fluffy Bunny.

Prole1 puts a marshmallow in his mouth.

Proel1: Thif if filly, I gone an a goo if.

Me: Sorry? What did you say?

Prole2 giggles.

Prole1: Fluh-ee Wuh-ee.

Prole2: Wha?

Prole1: Fluh-ee…fluh-ee…wuh…fluh…

Prole1 spits four soggy marshmallows out into his hand

Prole1: Fluffy Bunny. This is silly. One of you can win.

Prole2 is giggling a lot.

Prole2 puts a Marshmallow in his mouth.

Prole2: Flupy Buh-ee.

Me: Pardon?

Prole2 pokes his index finger into his mouth and rummages around.

Prole1: Stop! Stop! Stop! Stop! No swallowing, why is he allowed to do that?

Prole2: Fluffy Bunny.

Prole1: That is not fair. I am going to read a book.

He stamps off and can be heard treading on lego with bare feet on the landing.
Me and Prole2 eyeball each other.

Me: Four marshmallows now? You must really want this.

Prole2: Wha?

Having a chat with four marshmallows in your mouth is not easy so I decide not to pursue the trash talk.

Me: Nothing.

I put a marshmallow in my mouth.

Me: Fluffy Bunny.

Prole2 tries to smile and drools a little. He is still making giggling noises but can barely keep his mouth shut. He has never gone above four.

Prole2 puts a Marshmallow in his mouth.

Prole2: Fluh-ee Buh-ee.

Me: What? I can’t understand.

Prole2: Fluh…fluh….fluh…

Me: Fluh? What’s a fluh? Why are you saying fluh?

Prole2 starts to giggle louder.

Five marshmallows.

He goes bright red with silent laughing.

Me: You are drooling on the table. No drooling. Stop drooling and stop saying fluh.

Prole2 laughs out loud, inhales a marshmallow and spits five wet sticky marshmallows across the room and the table.
Some of the fall out sprays the bowl of marshmallows in the middle of the table.
He turns in his seat, still laughing and vomits gently into the top of the radiator.

Prole2: You…you…you…win….

I look at the mess.

I am still the champion at Fluffy Bunny in my house.

Why don’t I feel like a winner?

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The washing machine broke.
It just stopped working.

This time I had splashed out on an extended warrantee.

I called the warrantee people but they wanted the receipt.

I called the firm I bought the machine from and they emailed me the receipt.

I called the warrantee people and sent them the receipt and they said fine, get someone to mend it, you pay up front and send us the invoice and we will pay thou back.
Or the warrantee people could sort it out for me but that would take five days.

I said I could do it and I found someone local.

He could come round today.

I asked when he might be here and he said he did not like being tied down while he had things on.

I was just checking I was calling the right number when he volunteered he could be here between two and four today.

Brilliant.

He arrived at ten to four.

He took one look at the machine and said he thought I should just call the manufacturer.

All these machines have electronics he said.

They all have them these days.

I explained that he had to mend it or the warrantee people would not pay me to pay him.

He looked surprised that I should want him to mend the machine and took it apart a bit more.

Then he borrowed my computer and made a phone call.

He told me it would be silly money to get it fixed.

I said I did not mind because I was getting the money back.

He pulled a circuit board out of the machine, looked at it gloomily and told me I should call the manufacturer.

Electronics he explained.

It’s the electronics.

One day he might get his card for electronics but it’s hardly worth it for the amount he sees.

I paid him TWENTY POUNDS for telling me the washing machine was broken and he got a free coffee.
Milk no sugar.

I called the manufacturer.

They put me through to a department.

They could not find details of my warrantee so I explained it was not with them.

They explained they were unable to help and would put me through to the right department.

They took my details and opened an ‘account’ for me which they said would help when they put me through to the next department.

They put me through to the main switchboard.

The main switchboard had no idea who I was, what my account number meant or anything I was talking about.

They put me through to a department.

They took my account number and then asked me all the details on it to ‘verify’ who I was.

They could not find details of my warrantee so I explained it was not with them.

They explained they were unable to help and would put me through to the right department.

They told me to have my account number ready, which would help me when they put me through to the next department.

They put me through to the main switchboard.

The main switchboard had no idea who I was, what my account number meant or anything I was talking about.

They put me through to a department.

They took my account number and then asked me all the details on it to ‘verify’ who I was.

They could not find details of my warrantee so I explained it was not with them.

They explained they were unable to help and would put me through to the right department.

They told me to have my account number ready, which would help me when they put me through to the next department.

I said hello to the main switchboard again and said in as clear a voice as I could manage “I want to pay someone money to come to my house and fix my washing machine. I want to pay them money’.

They put me through to a department.

I gave them the details of my account and all the verification details as well.

The person on the other end of the line was annoyed because I had answered all the security questions before they had a chance to ask them and they needed to ask three questions before they could log me in to my account.

I asked if answering the questions before they asked them was a problem.

Apparently they have to ask me three direct questions but I had exhausted all the facts on the system.

I suggested they pretend I had not said anything and they said they might just have to do that.
We settled on the first three answers I gave and we pretended we had not been talking.

They could not find details of my warrantee so I explained it was not with them.

They asked who it was with so I told them.

They said I probably wanted option one then.

I asked what option one was.

They said option one was where I paid them money and someone came round to my house and fixed my washing machine.

I said that sounded good but they stopped me and said they had not finished because they had to read all the terms and conditions out.

Then they read out all the terms and conditions and asked if I wanted option one.

I asked how many options there were.

Three options they said.

I should have kept my fat mouth shut.

I asked what option two was.

They explained that in order to access option two they needed to know how old the machine was.

I said it was just over a year.

They asked when I bought it.

January, I replied.

They told me since it was over a year old it was outside it’s warrantee.

I agreed, they really seemed to be getting under the skin of the issue.

They asked where I got it.

I told them it was brand new from an Ebay store.

They explained that just because I got it in January that did not mean it was brand new when I got it.

I said it was brand new when I got it.

They asked how I knew it was brand new when I got it.

I said I knew it was new because I bought it new.

They said that just because I bought it new did not mean that it was new to the people who sold it to me and they needed to know when it had been new new.

I explained that it came from a named high street store in Yorkshire with an Ebay section.
I went on to explain that when it arrived there was plastic, and polystyrene and restraining bolts and those plastic strap things you can use to break into cars wrapped round it.

They asked how I knew it was new.

I said it was new, new from a shop and everything.

They said they were only trying to help.

I asked what option two was.

They explained that option two was where I took out a warrantee with them before they did the work and I kept on paying for some months.

I said I was not sure about that.

They asked if they could carry on reading the terms and conditions.

I said that would be very helpful.

They read the terms and conditions and asked if I liked option two.

I said I would go with option one.

They asked why I did not like option two.

I said it was because I already had a warrantee.

They said I didn’t.

I said I did, just not with them.

They asked who it was with.

I told them again.

They agreed that was not with them and asked if I wanted to hear about option three.

I said I had found option two a little upsetting and was just having a cup of tea to calm me down so perhaps option one was best.

They were quiet for a moment and then agreed.

I asked when an engineer might come round and they said I was getting ahead of the system again.

I apologised and decided to have a digestive.

They took me through the process.

They asked for the upfront payment and asks if I wanted to pay by card.

I said yes please.

They said they were just getting ready to process that.

There was a long pause.

I could hear the office in the back ground.

It got a little uncomfortable.

They asked if I was still there.

I said yes.

They said they were waiting for me to speak.

I asked what they wanted me to say.

They said they wanted my account number.

I started to give it.

They stopped me and asked me for my full name.

I gave them my full name for the third time, then the number, security code and so on.

They seemed pleased.

I asked when the engineer might come round.

They said they were checking.

They were checking.

They were checking.

They said the engineer would come round in eight days time but would text me the day before to let me know the ‘three hour window’ they would be at my house.

They asked if this was convenient.

I was not honest.

I said it was.

They asked if there was anything else they could help me with and did I want to buy any cleaning products from them.

I looked at the clock. This had all taken some time.

They went on to say that if I did not they would understand because their shift was about to finish.

I said I felt my shift was finishing too and so no there was no further assistance they could be and I would not like any of their cleaning products and we stopped the conversation.

Somehow, and I have no idea how, I am twenty pounds down having actually had a real life person in the room with a screwdriver and a washing machine repair van outside my house AND I still managed to spend an hour on the phone AND I still have to wait more than a week for someone to come and look at my washing machine.

 

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A light has been turned off downstairs, I heard a click.

In bed, when it’s dark, I can hear the house.

I can tell which cat is running up the stairs.
I know which boy is snoring.
I can hear the wind on the back windows and the occasional clop of the cat flap.

I like sleep, I like sleep when I know everybody is safe, the doors are locked, the windows are shut and I have a warm duvet.
Oddly I like winter best, when I know it is cold out and it is all the more special that I am inside, warm.

I can hear Loz coming up the stairs.
She has a special rhythm to how she climbs them.
Our first step is lower than all the others and as a rule neither of us step on it when coming up the stairs.
The top step is a full three inches high than all the rest.
It is also the step you use to pivot round onto the landing so there is often a longer pause on this step.

The bannister creaks as she pulls herself round onto the landing.

The landing creaks.
It has chipboard laid over the original floor boards and the layers scrunch together in certain places.
They have a slight music of their own, the sound of the house being used.

She is coming up to the bedroom door and I can feel the room change slightly as she comes in.
It is dark but I can hear her take off her dressing gown and throw it on the floor.

We have hooks on the back of the door of course.
We just never use them.

I am aware of all this as I slowly wake up.
I have been deep down in a dream and it’s all still warm and fuzzy.
I should be annoyed because it is so late and I was happily asleep but it’s so lovely having her around, I don’t mind a bit.
I am just glad she is there.

I move over slightly so her side of the bed is clear and I can hear her sit down on the edge of the bed.
I am just thinking how nice it would be to give her a hug but I am just starting to get the shakes a little.

I can feel myself coming out of sleep and I am pleased because she has finally decided to come to bed and I don’t know what my growing worry is all about but it’s getting bigger and bigger.

And then the scales tip just a little too far and I start to remember and I am back pedalling and trying really hard to shut out the wakening and get back into a dream.

And I can’t.

And it’s not fair.

And there is this huge wall of unfairness and brutality and I slam headfirst into it.

And with a rush I am awake.

And Loz has been dead for years now.

I still get this dream sometimes, when she decides to come home again.

I know it happens to other people as well.

It’s rubbish.

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We travel back on the ferry tomorrow.

Even though it is a daytime crossing I have booked a cabin.
I never used to, they are really expensive and there are lounger chairs you can book if you need to sit down or snooze.

When the proles were little we used to walk round and round the ferry for six hours, exploring steps, chairs, tabes, decks, doors shops and anywhere else they wanted to walk.
They did not really stop, Prole1 leading the way and waving fatly at complete strangers and shouting ‘Bon-joor‘ at them, Prole2 dragging a cuddly toy and trying to hop.

This would go on for hours, broken only by occasional stops on the circuit for food.

It was tiring but fine, if I steeled myself for it and was prepared then things generally went well.

This time however the Proles were properly sea sick, for the first time, when we came out.

We have done the trip many times.

For the most part the crossings have been flat and level.
I remember a bumpy night time crossing but the Proles were tucked up in a cabin and slept through the night, up as bright as daises the next morning.

There was mildly bumpy afternoon crossing, no cabin this time but the Proles were so small they curled up on me and we all dozed in a heap on a lounger.
I woke to find Prole2 warmly and gently vomiting into my armpit.
These were still the days of nappies and irregular and exciting bodily functions on the part of my children so a little bit of watery gip in my shirt was nothing really.
I just swapped it for a spare, changed Prole2’s outfit and we all perked up enough for dinner.

I am slightly more apprehensive about the future.
I remember being fine on boats for a while when I was a kid.
I remember a long period of not being fine too.
I am still prone to sea sickness but try to take measures against it.

If the Proles are around I am usually focussed on keeping them up, about, mobile, fed, watered, entertained and gipless and this seems to take my mind off things.

This last trip was odd, it caught them both the same way at the same time.
I was none too bright either but better than them.

The thing is, they are getting big now, harder to carry one under each arm.
They eat more as well and it is not the same as little tiny baby possets anymore.

I have mentioned Prole2’s eating habits and digestive system before.
He pulls no punches and in the crowded arena of the cross channel ferry he could be a potential heavy weight up-chucker.

The thing I am worried about is ‘association’.

In the days when the Proles staggered around bumping into things and looking at shiny things and were relatively free of long term memory and continence taking them on a ferry was a new experience every time.

Now they remember.

Prole1 said tonight that he hopes he does not get sick again.
Which means he will think about it.
Which means he could bend his massive intellectual imagination around the subject of potential feelings of wooziness.
If he does his mental preparation right he may have got into the zone before we even touch the access ramp.
That boy could be ripe to go before we leave port.
Before we loose moorings even.

Prole2 has been eating nothing but pudding all week, three meals a day, second helpings where possible.
Other foodstuffs have been tried with little success.
I have second hand reports that he might have ‘been’ twice.
He must be like a loaded gun.
Even if he has ‘slipped a couple past us’, I still have to deal with the very real possibility that he could go off like a custard, cream and pastry fountain at some point on the trip.

We face a new set of dangers this time round and I have to be prepared.

Let us see what the sea brings.

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We are packing to go away for a week.

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

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

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

There is some discussion about what “essentials” means.

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

Prole2: We have to take food?

Prole1: And water and stuff.

Prole2: What about Eeyore?

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

I considered this was a moment to intervene.

Me: Ok how about we only take one bag?

Prole2: Yes, good plan Dad.

Me: Thank you.

Prole2: Can it be mine?

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

Prole1: Full of food and water?

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

Prole1: Ok Dad. We can sort this out.

Me: Thanks boys.

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

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

Prole1: Essential?

Prole2: Yes.

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

Prole2: Yes.

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

Prole2: Yes.

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

Prole2: Yes.

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

Prole2: Yes.

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

Prole2: Yes.

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

Prole2: Yes.

Prole1: Now there is no room for my stuff!

Prole2 You can take yours next time.

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

Brilliant.

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The letter from Prole2’s teacher says he is going to get sex and relationship lessons soon.

I did not get sex education lessons when I was small.

I found everything out on the day I found a particularly elaborate prophylactic by the side of the road and being very pleased at my new found ‘balloon’.

I have never seen one quite like it since.

It was unused, in case you were worried.

Anyway, this sparked a quick and very precise conversation about reproduction which careered through the main issues in order to illustrate why I was not allowed to take it in the house, blow it up and/or take it to school to show my friends.

I never got ‘relationship’ lessons though.

I wonder if that is just a word they use these days to sweeten the pill of biology lessons in Primary Education or if they actually do teach about relationships.

It’s a tricky area.
I couldn’t teach about relationships.
Seems a bit broad.

What makes a good relationship?
I feel daunted by the subject.
Clearly I lacked guidance when I was at Primary School.

The other day Prole1 learned about Civil Partnerships.
I thought I had the subject pretty much locked down in my head but explaining the current situation surrounding Gay marriage in Britain is a mine field.
I have been trying to tease out the knotty subject of religion with him and am trying very hard to let him make his own mind up.

Prole1: So the first Gay marriage was in 1601?

Me: What?

Prole1: The first Gay marriage was in 1601. Why was it made not right? Why did people stop it?

Me: What?

Prole1: You know.

I didn’t.

Prole1: When men marry men.

Me: 1601? Really?

Prole1: Yes. I think so. A long time ago. Was it the Government that stopped it?

Me: Ummm…I’d have to look, it was probably them or the Church….

Prole1: Why would the Church do that?

Me: I am just cooking, can we talk about this later?

Later.
When I have had time to google the hell out of it and write down some bullet points.
I sort of need Stephen Fry and the Cannon Emeritus of Salisbury Cathedral in the room when we discuss it.
I always felt they would get on, despite apposing views in some areas.
I bet they both like the same puddings.

Prole1 is wrong about 1601 by the way.
Well, technically he is wrong, it happened in Spain not Britain.

And yes, I had to google that.

I could tell him what I think but my views are crushingly secular on this subject and others.
I can’t really talk about it all without getting cross.

I just hope Prole2’s lessons in relationships focus on the idea that most people are nice, respect should be given, that you can, if you try, be friends or friendly to almost every single person you meet and that love is something that chooses you, not the other way round.
I hope the lessons have nice pictures as well.

I was preparing the ground by trying to locate The Usborne Book of Where Babies Come From.

I have not seen it for a couple of months, it is one of those well thumbed publications that Prole1 read over and over, mostly for the nice pictures.
Prole1 keeps his books on top of the wardrobe.
He can reach them from the top bunk where he sleeps but I have to get a bathroom chair and stand on it.
From the chair, on tip toes, I can just see the top of the wardrobe.
The idiosyncratic way Prole1 ‘stacks’ his books means that inadvertent shifting of the stack could cause a book slide straight at you, at eye level.
If they miss your eyes you have to do the ‘don’t-hit-my-feet’ dance as hardbacks crash on to the chair.
Softback House At Pooh Corner is fine, hardback Harry Potter And The Order Of the Phoenix is a different toe crushing matter.

Prole1 watched with complete disinterest as I tried to make sense of his filing system.

I turned over a Secret Seven and found some folded pieces of paper.

On the front were the words: Alphabet Verson 2

Me: What is this?

Prole1: Oh, yes, I have worked out the whole alphabet in Dwarvish Ruins.

Me: Runes?

Prole1: Runes. Yes. I got them all from the Hobbit.

Prole1 has been given a leather bound hard backed copy of the Hobbit by the rockfather.
They sat together deciphering the first few letters of the Dwarvish Alphabet.
Prole1 has been sitting up the last two nights and has worked out the whole Alphabet.

Me: All of them?

Prole1: Yes, you have to go through the whole book and find them. Did you know there is no letter Q in dwarfish? You can use the ruins for C and W to make the sounds. I hope to copy this all up in best and then I will write the whole thing out in Dwarvish with and English translation instead of English with a Dwarvish translation. That will be Version Three.

Me: Right…

Would it have been tactless to suggest that he learn to spell in English first?

Can’t he learn Cornish? Or Mandarin?

I feel I should encourage him to learn a foreign language but should it be a dead language like Dwarvish?
And I mean dead in the sense that THE DWARVES OF TOLKEIN WERE NEVER ALIVE IN THE FIRST PLACE.

I looked at his writing, wobbly and uneven.
Every rune was copied out though and every one of them looked like a rune.

Me: It’s brilliant. Really brilliant.

Prole1: Thanks Dad.

I dug out The Usborne Book Of Where Babies Come From.

It has great pictures.

Half the battle is not what you learn but that you enjoy doing it.

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We made a plan to go swimming today.

Swimming is a mildly traumatic experience as a single parent. Lone Parent. Sole Caregiver.
Whatever label.

It’s tricky as a Dad on your own.

No one ever mentions the temperature.
It is warm in the swimming pool changing area.
And crowded.

There is a slow scuffle for a changing room that is slightly too small and the horrible ‘One Man And His Dog’ moment tot trying to get the Proles, who always appear to have lost any sense of urgency or direction, in to the cubicle.

And you are getting hot because you are carrying swimming gear for three.
And you are still wearing your coat because taking it off takes space and time and you have not had either and you know if you stop the Proles will stand in the middle of a corridor or passage way and half naked people will be trying to get past them.

And you get into a cubicle and the Proles don’t seem to grasp that you need to get in as well and you have to issue instructions.
And you are still heating up because you have your coat on.
So you know the Proles are heating up and a hot Prole is an unhappy Prole.

So you ask them to take their coats off and put them on the bench and one does and the other puts his coat in a puddle so you tell him to pick it up so he ‘moves’ his brother’s coat out of the way by putting it in the puddle he has just removed his own coat from.

And with three of you in there, there is no where to put the bag, except in the puddle.
Which you do, because you have to take your coat off because you are boiling.

And by the time you get your coat off and hung up there are one and a half pairs of Prole socks in the puddle too.
And you all three try to get changed together without knocking each other over.

I can do the ‘swimming trunks under trousers’ thing for a quick change but following a couple of big, loud, traumatic ‘accidents’ over the last few years I make sure the Proles change into trunks at the pool.
I can’t really go into details.
On one occasion I had to throw the trunks away, it was that bad.
That’s all I am saying.

So I have a plastic swimming bag to counter the puddle and I take a spare for the Proles to chuck clothes in.
And there is the minor stress of fitting three lots of clothes, coat and shoes into one small locker.
I could do two but then you have two of those daft ‘key on a broken watch strap’ things on your arm.

But it’s lovely once you are in isn’t it?

Except today we could not get near the pool because the ‘Race For Life’ was on and the road to the pool was closed.

The pool was open to anyone who could haul themselves all the way up the hill carrying children and swimming gear.
I was not too sure about it because of the tired, grumpy, ‘where’s my lunch and why do I have to walk’ return trip to the car but fortunately I had completely forgotten the swimming bag with all the towels and costumes.

It was next to the door when we got back home.

The rest of the day sort of unravelled as I had apologetic textual intercourse with all the people I had arranged to meet at the pool.

A friend took pity on us and too us home, fed us and sent us on our way but Prole2 was really upset and has been asking ever since when we are going back.

He is ‘turning a corner’ with his swimming and with so much in the house being about Prole1 I really wanted to keep things going for him.

He is fine and hardly ever complains and is very happy to go with the flow but today he wanted to swim and today he was let down.

Prole1 is very forthright and will suggest plans, negotiate and revise schedules. He likes to have objectives and a timetable. He is happy to discuss this with me at any time. He is happy to discuss this with complete strangers at any time.
The basic rule is that if you ask, ask nicely, and Dad can’t think of a good reason to refuse, then you can get what you want.

Prole2 hardly ever asks.
He asked today.
He has been sadly asking if we can go back all day.

I have promised him we can.

I am not keen on swimming but I want the boys to be able to swim so we go soften as we can.

I would actually go right now. In all the confusion I am still wearing my trunks and the Proles are in bed.

Polyester next to the skin all day.

I might just go and have a shower….

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I like the idea of the Fluid Propulsion Drive.

I have just been reading about it.

it is one of those theories that people argue about but no one knows if it will change things for the better because it has not been fully tested.

It goes a bit like this, though pardon me if I haze over the details, I am a Stage Manager not a Rocket Scientist.

There is a long tubelike space ship.
At each end is a Spaceman.

They are taking it in turns to throw a cannonball to each other.

Each time the cannon ball strikes the other end of the spaceship it moves the spaceship forward a tiny bit.

Every time the other Spaceman throws the cannon ball back it moves the space ship back again.

This is the law of action and reaction and also the rule that energy/propulsion cannot be created just by re arranging the contents of an object floating in space.

But, if the second spaceman was able to slow the cannonball down a bit on the return journey, by using a parachute or similar, the cannon ball would be striking with more force in one direction than the other.
The force with which the cannon ball was thrown would be equal at both ends but it would hit harder at one than the other.

In theory this would result in our spacecraft slowly, slowly moving through space.
As long as the Spacemen don’t get tired the spaceship could pick up quite a bit of speed too, over time.

There are arguments for and against the Fluid Propulsion Drive.
No one knows if it can be made to work or not. Not yet.

I was thinking about it today.

Actually I was thinking about Prole2’s digestive system, a topic that has often been synonymous with Fluid Propulsion of one sort of another.
Sadly he is of no interest to NASA but fortunately I find his movements fascinating.

Don’t worry, I am not going to go on about size or turgidity, I have just noticed that in this respect he seems to have rejoined the rest tot the Human race.

I mentioned elsewhere the number of times he has fallen in to the toilet.
On the one hand it is quite an achievement to fall in but when one considers the hours and hours he has spent on the toilet in the last three years the really impressive thing is that he has not fallen in more often.

He is a wriggly little thing at the best of times.
Twenty minutes in to a ‘session’ would see him crouched on the edge of the seat like a small bird, staring out the window or talking to the cat.
He played with lego, read books, drew pictures and stared slack jawed at the floor.
He often fell off as well as in.
The loo roll holder is at a funny handle as it was often the only thing to save him as he went down.
Sometimes he would un-roll all the toilet paper and then try to re-roll it again so I would not notice.

Prole2: It’s harder to get on than it is to get off.

Me: Isn’t it though?

Prole2: Yep. Tricky. Tricky.

On one occasion that I saw he spent several minutes seeing how much of his hand he could fit in his mouth.
He did this stuff every week for years.
Just sat there.

Anyway I noticed the other day he is spending much more time with us.
Which means he may be growing into his bowels at last.

Mind you this led me on to thinking about the lane on the way to school.

When we moved in to this house one of our neighbours was the father of an Artist we knew.

He was really happy to tell us all about the other neighbours and the local area.

He told us about the parking wars and the bin bag feuds and the noisy neighbours and the curtain twitchers.

He also told us that the little lane that led to the school was called “Dogshit Lane”

At first I though this was a little strong in such a lovely area but he was not wrong.

It is the single defining attribute of that lane.
There is nothing to be said about that lane and it is hard to come up with a name for it or refer to it as anything other than “That lane with all the Dogshit in”

You can’t even re name it.
Who would want a name associated with wast appears to be some kind of open sewer for canines?

The strange thing is I have never seen a dog doing a poo in that lane.

Never.

They must come in the night.
I say they, it could be one big incontinent mastiff.

The only way of processing the poo out of the lane is to wait for it to dry and blow away, wait for it to rain and hope that washes it away or wait for the school run where hundreds of small children will pick it up on their shoes and carry it away, to be worked in to the tiles in the school halls.

This natural process of poop erosion is hampered by one in every five poos being tied up in a plastic bag and left in the lane.

THEY GO TO THE TROUBLE OF PUTTING THEIR DOG’S POO IN A BAG AND THEN THEY PUT IT BACK ON THE GROUND WHERE IT WAS!

There is a bin.
For poo.
At the end of the lane.

What kind of a person do you have to be to do all the horrible bit and then not put it in the bin?

And they have not done it ‘to pick it up later on the way back’, some of those bag-o-poops have been there as long as I have lived here.

They have taken something disgusting and horrible and made it disgusting, horrible and un-biodegradable.

I have wondered if perhaps I could get some smooth peanut butter and warm it in a pan with some beef dripping and bovril, stir until smooth and add just enough peanut oil to make it the consistency of tooth paste.

Then I could keep it in an old ketchup bottle and whenever I pass a poop in the lane I could squirt a bit on top.

Then perhaps when the corpuscular crapper comes out as the sky gets dark it might just eat up everything it did the night before.

It is an untested theory which could change humanity forever.

Someone should look into it.

If you think it is a daft idea, all I can say is it’s better than putting dog poo in plastic bags and then not putting them in the bin.

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The Wordwitch came round and we talked about things you are not allowed to talk about.

The sort of things that could have got you thrown out of Sing and Sign.
I said the words that would have branded me an outsider from Baby Massage.
We talked about things I would never have said in Sure Start.

When Prole1 was born, in the few minutes and hours afterwards I had a lot of feelings, relief, joy, excitement for the future and a huge realisation that my life had changed.

None of these feelings were particularly focussed around Prole1, except the last, the life change, and even then it was by proxy.

I was relieved that Loz was alive, well and not in any more pain.

I had been really worried, it was a difficult birth, I was really really happy that he and the baby were well, I knew this meant the world to her.

Now was to begin the next phase of our lives together as parents, the thing we had been planning for years.
It was here it was now.

Things with me and Loz would never be the same, we were setting out together on the big adventure, we were going to be a family.

And then.

There was this wriggly over grown baked bean of a baby, squashed up like a pink prune.
It didn’t look like mine particularly.
By that I mean, it just looked like a baby.
Just someone’s baby.
A baby in the room with me.

Loz was fast asleep.

I had dressed this baby in the tiniest of clothes, clothes that were far too big for it.

It was asleep too.

I am not surprised, if I had been through what he had I’d be knackered too.

But as I sat in the darkened delivery room, with just me and my wife and my baby, I looked down at him in his cot and I felt absolutely nothing at all.

This is the awful truth that is only hinted at or spoken about in the third person.

Some parents do not instantly love their babies.

I did not instantly love Prole1.

I did not have a ‘Road to Damascus’ moment of blindng vision.
I did not feel an unbreakable bond.

In truth, a couple of hours before, when the drugs were not working and the alarm bells were ringing and the surgeon was called I just wanted him gone, out, away from my wife.

I was not like Cary Grant or Rock Hudson, pacing the waiting room and ready to manfully take the bad news.
I was there, holding her hand, watching and listening to her pain and just wishing it would all go away.

When we went into the delivery room with seven, seven, seven members of staff all clustered arount Loz and I was back against the wall and looking at them all I thought about how much I wanted to pick her up and take her home and forget all about this baby business.

I just wanted her out of there.

Then suddenly, everyone was gone and I was left with a nice nurse who had obviously showed hundreds of shell shocked fathers how to dress their offspring for the first time.

And then she left and Prole1 and Loz fell asleep.

There was this baby.
I don’t know what I expected really.
I suppose I expected something.
Anything.
I felt nothing.

And no one had said I would feel nothing.

So I instantly thought what a terrible person I was.
I mean, we had talked about it often enough and I had read enough books and websites.

This feeling did not go away.
It was like being given a really expensive watch that you wouldn’t particulary have bought for yourself.
I could see he was precious.
I could see everyone else liked him.
I was constantly being asked if I liked him, if I loved him, if I thought he was cute and I always said ‘yes’.

Even though the answer was ‘not really’.

I mean, what is there to like?
New born babies are little squashed up things.
They yell a lot.
They do not look happy.
You have to endlessly feed, change nappies, wash clothes and not sleep.

Where is the magic?

AND YOU CAN”T SAY ANYTHING TO ANYONE ABOUT IT.

I couldn’t say anything to Loz, she had enough going on re arranging her internal organs, not sleeping, trying to replace fluids after continuously vomiting for twenty hours and producing enough hormones to knock out a bull and matador combined.

She was also trying to lean the correct method for breastfeeding, a chapter of our lives together that rates as one of the most traumatic ever.
The early days were bad enough but it took a couple of weeks for Prole1 and Loz to work out breastfeeding in a manner which suited them both.

I could not say anything to any of the Grand Parents. They all would have taken a dim view at that stage.

I could not say anything to any of my friends because I felt like a wretched ungrateful piece of crap the entire time.

Those first few days were just awful really.

I did not think we had made a mistake.

I did not want to go back, I knew we couldn’t and anyhow the present was full and I needed to get on with it.

What worried me in the first few days was that I seemed to have no feelings for Prole1 at all.

It was like a huge secret, like I was having an affair or was suffering from an illness I had to keep from everyone.

It changed of course.
After the first few days I became depressed and after a while the world closed in and I pretty much hated everything about everything.
And I got help.
And Loz and I talked and talked.
And I worked at it, and Loz worked at it and we got through.

I can’t remember when I started loving Prole1.

It came slowly.

It started a couple of days in and grew I suppose.

There was no lightening moment.
There was no morning realisation that I now loved him.

There was a slow build as we bent our lives into a family and settled into our new skins.
We were better as three.
I loved that she loved him.
I loved that he became calmer when I was around.

He stopped being a baby and became my son and I would never have swapped him for the world.

But it is one of my ‘mental markers’, one of the things I have promised myself I will remember so I know where I have come from and what made me.

That time when I looked at him and waited for the ‘flood of love’ that did not come.

It is safe to talk about all these years later.

Sometimes it is love at first sight.

Sometimes you have to start working at a relationship straight away.