Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Quite Nice Children, Really

I have written about this before, but spending time alone with any of my children is a revelation.

Our household is noisy and busy. Mornings are crazy, kit-frenzied affairs. Swimming, dancing, football, multisports, netball - they all feature on different days for different people. Each one requires 'stuff' that disappears somewhere into the ether between the last session and the next. It doesn't matter how organised we are. See my last blog post here for a picture of how organised we are. Breakfast orders are barked out and the breakfast table resembles Picadilly Circus.

And Eddie's voice, as a third child, has, through natural processes of evolution, reached decibels above that of his siblings. Its pitch can be migraine-inducing. Sometimes he makes noises like a Jurassic Park velociraptor just for fun. A genus of dromaeosaurid theropod dinosaur that existed approximately 75 to 71 million years ago during the later part of the Cretaceous Period regularly lives and breathes - and screams - in our kitchen.

The velociraptor analogy is apt because he is also extremely temperamental and you are therefore always only one wrong step or one wrong word away from getting your head bitten off. 'Terrible twos' bred thuggish threes, leading to ferocious fours and now frightful fives.

Ane he is not the only one. Often it doesn't feel as if we are getting actual human people ready for a day's living, but creatures of some sort. It is like herding cats, it is worse than trying to put a lid on a box of frogs, it is minding mice at crossroads and any other similar idioms you care to mention.

So it is refreshing when, in the relative calm of half term, I get to spend time with each of them individually. They are quite nice, on their own. I was surprised. They can talk sensibly without shouting. They are sort of like actual human people. Even Eddie. They have manners and are polite. They can sort of be interesting. Who knew?

Now to figure out how to break the pack mentality...

Currently reading: Nora Webster by Colm Toibin.

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Misery Driving Obsessive Compulsion: Back to School

I hate this time of year: the dread of returning to work, coupled with the change in the weather that means that tans fade faster than you can say, 'back to school'.

And it is even more bitter-sweet this year as number three finally begins his formal education and my last baby dons a school uniform for the first time.

So now there will be three sets of school shoes to find, three coats, three school bags, three water bottles, three lunch boxes; three times the level of stress in the morning.

A miserable, wet Saturday afternoon has therefore driven me to this:

So, for approximately five minutes, I think we might be one of the most organised households in Sussex.

Currently reading: Restoration by Rose Tremain

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Home Alone: Lost in Surrey, Sussex and Kent.

Picture a four-year-old, bursting with excitement at the prospect of his first flight, waiting at the departure gate watching lots of planes take off.  He's jumping up and down, unable to believe that he is just moments away from going on one himself for the very first time.

We've never done this before as a family. Usually we pack up the car and drive through the tunnel to France. But this year is special. We are going 'all-inclusive', to the Red Sea. The hotel has a water-park!

Our row is finally called. We are right at the front of the plane. Eddie is beside himself now.

And then, suddenly, he is told that he cannot board the plane. With five months left on his passport, not the required six, the family holiday is ruined. (Even though we double-checked with the agent a month before travel...)

No matter, the agent representative reassures us. You can get an appointment at the passport office and extend your passport in less than four hours. If three of us get on the plane, Daddy can take Eddie to London, get it sorted, and be on the next flight out.  Holiday hiccup, but salvageable.We are last to board the plane. We have about three minutes to make up our mind. (Would have had three hours if it had been picked up at check-in.) Let's do it.

The flight is six hours. By the time Gertie, Gilby and I arrive in Hurghada, the passport problem will be solved. Hearth-Daddy and Eddie might even be on their way!

But no.  Because we were ill-advised again. It actually takes a week to get a child's passport. Only an adult one can be done in that short space of time.

So now I'm stuck with five suitcases (all our diving gear, plus Eddie's luggage as well as our own) and two despairing children.  It is Gilby's seventh birthday in the morning. It is our tenth wedding anniversary in a few days time.  How to make the best of this? What if we flew back and then went somewhere in Europe where the valid passport might still be valid?  We could still enjoy some family holiday time and Gilby could just celebrate his birthday a few days late.

But no.  Because the agent won't allow us to do that.  Hearth-Father can join us (at his own expense) but for Eddie, the holiday is over before it began.

Grandparents, friends and auntie to the rescue for ten days of being absolutely spoilt rotten for Eddie. Theme parks and restaurants and cinema and beach trips and arcades and toys and new clothes and sweets and fun, fun, fun.  Just not the same fun that the rest of his family was having. Because, as Eddie explains to everyone he meets, "My passport is broken..."

I'm still too cross to compose my letter of complaint to the travel agent, but it's coming...

Currently reading: Of Human Bondage by Somerset Maugham

Thursday, 16 June 2016

The F-Word

Saying the F word is not big and it's not clever.

The F word being...'Foof'.

An innocent sounding word. Not even a word, in fact.

But in our house, saying this word is akin to being eaten alive by piranha fish. It is code for 'Please tickle me as hard as you can, immediately.' I dare not write it again, in case a little person happens to be looking over my shoulder. The origins of this word are obscure. Its potency and longevity are, however, not in doubt.

It happens at least once a day. Sometimes it is deliberate, sometimes someone is cajoled into saying 'f**f'. It always results in hysteria.

In other news, Eddie brought home his hand-made Fathers' Day card from nursery. The pre-schoolers are encouraged to dictate something 'personal' which is faithfully recorded by their key-worker inside the card.  I'm delighted to report that Eddie's reads: to daddy who is very good at play dough. When questioned, Eddie explained with a shrug that it was 'all he could think of'. Which made his father feel very special indeed. For foof's sake.

Currently reading: Oranges are not the only fruit by Jeanette Winterson

Friday, 3 June 2016

Saxophones, Mid Life Crises and Magic Dragons

I have recently taken a step towards a long-held ambition to play the saxophone. Not really sure why this particular instrument other than being a teenager of the 80s: surely the decade of the sax solo. I'm thinking of Haircut 100, the bit in The Lost Boys, Bruce Springsteen's Bobby Jean, and my personal favourite from INXS, Never Tear Us Apart. So, as I approach mid-life crisis territory it suddenly seems important to emulate these inspirations from my childhood.

From a 'murder mystery' evening, but this is perhaps how I am picturing my saxophone playing self...
I'm on lesson number four and so far so good.

Apart from the fact that suddenly, last week, I couldn't get a note from the thing. Now, my 'embouchure' isn't terrific, being a beginner, but I can usually make some sort of sound, and, let me tell you, now that I have learnt B flat I am capable of a mean (if slightly slow) rendition of Puff the Magic Dragon. So - what was wrong?

Something looked a bit bent out of shape at the top of the sax.  I had my suspicions, and quizzed the kids about whether any of them had been in to the study and touched it.

"Nope. I definitely wasn't there when it...dropped," Eddie reassured me.

Ok. So we have established that it 'dropped'. Well done, Eddie. Hoisted by your own command of the English language, aged 4. How much Eddie actually had to do with the 'dropping' remains speculation.

£45 of repairs later, the rules about not playing with Mummy's saxophone have now been firmly established. Puff continues to - well, if not quite 'frolic' then perhaps 'wallow'.

Currently reading: The Reader on the 6.27 by Jean-Paul Didierlaurent, translated by Ros Schwartz

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Ever Wondered What Darth Vader Would Look Like If He Went Swimming?


At least according to Gilby. 

A small insight into the mind of a six-year-old boy. You're welcome. No, I didn't have an answer, either.

Currently reading: Look Who's Back by Timur Vermes

Monday, 9 May 2016

Malfunctioning Jumpsuits

Eddie's latest obsession is with wearing a vampire bat costume that he got at Halloween last year.

For the last few days he has lived in it.  Including during yesterday's 26 degree heat. On the plus side, this meant that I didn't have to be overly concerned about sunscreen - since it covers more or less every inch of him.

Here he is, bottom left, wielding his devilish pitchfork. (He does that metaphorically, most days, but this is an actual one.  Or at least one made out of plastic.)

This morning, whilst getting ready for gymnastics (in obligatory bat costume - Grandfather was taking him, I didn't have to worry about explaining that one...) he noticed that the label said it was a 'jump suit'.

I was impressed. This reading lark is really taking effect.

Except that he had a major concern.  'So, it says it is a 'jump suit', but it doesn't actually jump.  Do we need to take it back?

Currently reading: A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James