Archives for posts with tag: widower

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New cats have moved in next door.

This is the reason the cat is pulling her hair out.

The Nice New Neighbour introduced them to us.

I like the Nice New Neighbour, she has put up the smallest Polytunnel I have ever seen in my life.
It looks great, just..well..small.

In fact it looks a lot better than my garden at the moment.
Since I moved everything around there have been some bald patches to the grass as well as the cat.
I threw a few handfuls of grass seed down but they are making no sign of germinating.
I know it always takes longer than you think.
Every time I put grass seed down I am ASTOUNDED by how long it takes to grow.

This year is no different.
I know it takes ages.
Why do I keep going to look at it and thinking to myself “It’s taking ages” ?

Anyway there are two new cats next door.

I looked them over and they are a fair size, bigger than my bald cat.
I can see why she is intimidated.

Having said that I watched her with one of them earlier.

The Nice New Neighbour told me she had had the cats for sixteen years and they were a bit old now.

I was on the landing picking a Lego Wheel out from between the bannisters and I could see bald cat walking round the corner to the gate.

She came face to face with the new/old cats from next door and she totally flipped out and turned and ran.

Next door’s cat never moved and only turned to see what the noise was.

It is not that the next door cats are intimidating intentionally.
They are just so old they cannot be bothered to pay any attention to bald cat and this uncatlike behaviour is freaking her out.

She is pulling her hair out because the cats next door don’t move.

I have no hope of rehabilitating her at this rate.

Form the window I could also see where the grass seed is not growing.

Why is it taking so long?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Proles call the Calciner ‘the Dragon’.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I love it.

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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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While the Proles were at school I got the cuddly toys down from the loft.

In actual fact it was four bin liners full of cuddly toys.

Four bin liners full.

These are not the current population of the bedroom.

At present the cuddly toy level in both the Proles’ beds is pushing maximum density.

Prole1 has his in neat rows at one end of the bed, compressed into a block in height order, Winnie the Pooh at the back, the Hatty-fatners      at the front.

Prole2 swims in a soup of soft toys, tangled up in dalmations, monkeys, rabbits ducks and bears.

I have to sweep them aside when I put him to bed.
They spill across the floor and I occasionally find infestations of them behind the sofa or in a kitchen cupboard.
They lie helpless on the floor, staring glassy eyed at me as I try to sort the washing.
They appear in ones and twos, scattered down the stairs.
The cats make nests in them.

I always try to know the whereabouts of the Alpha toys, Eeyore and Teddy.
The rest are a plush, fun fur and fabric plague that could be anywhere at any time.
Tripping me up.
Getting stuck under doors.
Being trodden on.
Getting covered in what ever that grey fluffy stuff is under the sofa.

There is a certain amount of guilt that comes with all this.

I remember being six years old and trying to wish my toys into life.
I remember Peter Pan telling me never to grow up and promising myself through tears that I never would.
I remember Kermit the Frog singing that song about Rainbows and thinking “Yes Kermit, YOU speak for ME”.

And yes, I am a forty three year old man, but that was what I was formed out of.
Sentimentality does run through me.
I do have a squashy middle.

Not so much mind.
I remember when the building I was working in became a nesting place for pigeons and I was asked to clear them out.
The rest of the crew were supremely unhelpful so I ended up on my own.
Londoners hate pigeons.
This is well known and well documented.
‘Flying Rats’ is how they are often described.
Vermin.
In fact they are no more or less diseased than any other ‘urban animal’.
The population explosion of pigeons coincided with the post war Fast Food boom.
This was when Londoners stopped eating them and started hating them.

Being from Cornwall and living in or near the countryside most of my life  I approached the problem in a no nonsense manner.
The building had vermin.
My old geography teacher told us about vermin in his shed, he said that the best place to drown rats was in the sceptic tank.
It was a horrible job but it had to be done.
I cleared all the nests into a large cardboard box and, in the absence of a sceptic tank, tipped them all out into the Thames.

The Production Manager just stared at me.

Production Manager: You did what with them?

Me: I threw them in the river.

Production Manager: I said get rid of them, I didn’t mean…I meant….

He never finished the sentence, I have often wondered what he thought I was going to do with a box of pigeon nests.
Re-home them in Trafalgar Square I suppose.

The crew, made up of big people with bald heads and tattoos, barely said a word to me for the rest of the day.
Not all the nests had been empty.
Apparently this was considered bad form.

Anyway, it was with brutality like this in my heart that I mounted the ladder to the loft and pulled the bags down.

I grabbed a really big canvas laundry bag with a zip top.
I emptied the bin liners onto the floor and began stuffing them in fist fulls to the bottom of the bag.

I knew if I kept on going and really pushed them down I could get them all in.

These are the retired cuddly toys.
These were found in corners after weeks of being alone.
These were left in friends’ houses and forgotten.
These were cleared from the floor of the bedroom, corralled in shopping bags under the stairs until there were no more questions before being smuggled into the loft at night.
These were the ‘inconvenient’ toys, noisy, loud or not quite ‘fitting in’.
These were the toys from years of “everyone is a winner” tom bolas in town, interlopers that were rounded up within days of arriving and disappeared.

There were friends in here too.

Girraffey.
Possibly the worst named toy in the house.

Blue Dad.
Named after me.

Buzz Buzz.
The Bee. Probably. Might be a wasp. Or a kind of fish. I am not making that up.

Bananas the orangutang.

Those three Aliens we bought from that hopelessly trendy children’s boutique in Peckham.
Idiots.

Polar Bear 3
Not quite as popular as Polar Bears 1 and 2.

Max the Parrot.
A good friend in the early days.

The Cuddly Rastafarian.
The one that played “Don’t Worry be happy” when you squeezed his bottom.

The Kiwi.
It is hard to make a Kiwi cuddly, this designer had failed like so many others.

Nemo.
The fish that looked a bit like a character from ‘Finding Nemo’ but wasn’t.

Green Bear.
Smells like lavender. Why?

There were snakes, monkeys, endless bears, elephants, fish, parrots and more.
A menagerie of fluff.

So I stuffed them all down in the bag and I tried to get the song “You’ve Got A Friend In Me” from the film Toy Story out of my head.

When Loz died the boys were given toys.
Lots and lots of toys.
Cuddly toys were great, both Proles regressed into more juvenile behaviour.
Soft blankets, lots of cuddles, snuggling on the sofa and tucked in with cuddly toys were the sorts of thing they bot responded to well.
I read that on a Widowers’ website.
I tried to make it happen a lot and the landslide of cuddly toys that arrived in the next eighteen months were great for that.

Tucking the boys up in bed, with a favourite toy was part of our ritual.

But the Proles are bigger now and those bin bags have been up there for over a year.

Time to go.

No time to be sentimental.

I will take them to the Proles’ old nursery this week.
I have seen Toy Story 3 as well but, as I say, I have no time to be sentimental.

 

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

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

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

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

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

Music was something other people did.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was not just me.

We were a bit quiet when we came down.

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

“Like a cavaquinho for idiots”

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

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

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

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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.

 

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I could have gone to see Lee Scratch Perry tonight.

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

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

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

Sounds like it might have been a brilliant gig.

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

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

I can’t really explain why.

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

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

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

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

We move on.

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

We work well as a team.

As three.

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is really tiring.

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

It is not so surprising I suppose.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where was I?

Lee Scratch Perry being bonkers.

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

This exploration of the self is not something I enjoy.

I prefer the safety of us three.

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

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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 am hiding from the cat.

Sometimes at the end of the day, when I finally get the Proles off to bed, I sit down with a big sight and the cat jumps on to my lap.
Then it goes round and round in circles, shoving it’s bottom in my face, shredding my dressing gown with its claws.

I sort of want to throw it against the wall and shout “Stop sucking all the love out of me you parasites!” but the RSPCA take a dim view of that and anyway the cats are family or something.

Usually I just take it and wait ten minutes for it to settle, by which time I have to shift a bit because something is going numb somewhere at which point the cat jumps off and then five minutes later repeats the whole thing.

I have to be extra nice to the cat at the moment.
The cat is stressed.
I can tell because it has started pulling it’s fur out again.
We have new cats in the area. I think this is why it has started tearing it’s hair out.

It has done this before, a fifty pence sized bald patch on it’s side.
And its allergic to fleas, I have just de-flea-ed it but not before the tell tale scabs appeared.

That’s right, the cat is neurotic, part bald, scabby and prone to shoving it’s bottom in my face.

And I have to not make it stressed and cheer it up so it can get better.

So I am hiding.

I can’t say I blame it mind, I don’t know why but it has been one of those days.

Prole1 has a couple of bookings coming up for his burgeoning DJ career.

As gimmicks go, being in primary school and being a DJ has worked well.
I keep thinking he is going to get too old and not be cute as a DJ any more but so far he still keeps getting bookings.

He was playing through some odds and ends today.
Mr Brightside by the Killers.
I am often left cold by the Killers’ lyrics but they do make a right old glorious racket and suddenly I was in tears over the cooker.

This had followed a rather emotional trip to the pool.
Prole2 has been slowly, slowly convincing himself to join Surf Life Saving with Prole1.

When Prole1 started I just said “OK, in you go” and in he went.
If he had not wanted to go in he would have said “No thank you, thank you very much for asking” because that is what he says when he does not want something or is transfixed with fear.

Prole2 is a different kettle of fish.

I know swimming is nice once you are in.
I also know that Prole2 needs to convince himself of this.

Me: Do you want to go in?

Prole2: Yes.

Me: Off you go then.

Prole2: I am scared.

Me: Ok, don’t go in.

Prole2: But I want to.

Me: Ok, go in.

Prole2: But I am scared.

Me: You don’t have to go in if you are scared.

Prole2: But I want to go in.

Me: Well go in then, off you go.

Prole2: No Dad, no. I am too scared.

Me: Well…don’t go in or do go in….do something.

Prole2 But I am scared.

This went on for some time and when he finally did go in I had to have a quiet moment to get over it all.
Prole2 gets locked in uncertainty like that.
Prole1 would just get changed again.

I pulled myself together but by then some Mums had sat all around, and in one case on, my towels and coat so I sat at the end orf the row with some small girls doing colouring in. Them not me.

Prole2 walked past a few minutes later, splotch, splotch, splotch in a pair of flippers and a huge grin.
I was off again he looked so happy.

We finally got home and after ten months of asking we finally bought ‘Lilo and Stich’ and sat on the sofa to watch it.
Disney, not afraid to kill a parent or two at the start of the film to get you on side.

I should have known I would go again I suppose, ‘Toy Story 3’ hits the Achillies heel every time and even ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ has it’s moment.

I sat there sniffing on the bean bag while my scabby cat mauled more threads out of my dressing gown.

Prole2 has joined the Surf Life Savers.
I am so proud.

Excuse me.