Wednesday 28 September 2011
Monday 19 September 2011
Well, I can't be really, can I?
I mean, the cracks must have already been showing in my mental well-being if I thought it was a good idea to fly to - quite literally - the other side of the planet with a toddler, just so we can all eat, sleep, and travel around the countryside in a camper van. But I do think I've stretched the bands of sanity by disrupting the week and half before our departure, that any normal person would spend preparing for said trip, by having some builders come in and basically wreck our house.
As I type this my darling daughter is snoring her little head off while power cables and water connections are flapping wildly in the late September breeze around me. Stepping outside our back door would result in the lesser agile among us plummeting to their certain death into a hole that I can only hope serves some greater purpose than being the cause of my premature demise.
But hey, kids run around construction sites all the time. Breeze blocks and gas mains make great toys, and don't let anyone tell you that sawdust is bad for a child's digestion.
If I'm to take any consolation from the current state of my home, other than being able to pull off great 1980s Beirut theme parties, it's that the guy running the show seems to know what he's doing. Not that either of us understand a word of what the other is saying, pigeons would be insulted at being associated with our language skills. Nevertheless, he seems entirely confident that we need that trench right there, and that securing that power cable would be an act of folly.
So, with our minds firmly at rest, euthanised most likely, we are going to leave our crumbling home in his capable hands, and head to the wilds of New Zealand for a month. My original worry about being burgled in our absence has been replaced by fretting about the far more likely possibility of being sued by the family of whatever poor misfortunate thief ends up starving to death at the bottom of one of the canyons our trusty builder has provided for us.
If you'll excuse me, I must go lie down.
Thursday 25 August 2011
‘In auto?’ she asks again, dragging her raincoat and a bunch of keys to the living room door.
She wants to go for a drive in the car (auto).
‘Uit!’ (out!) she says with more urgency, clawing at the door trying to prize it open. ‘Deur stuk!’ she announces for a finish, before pottering off back into her own world, distracted by God only knows what.
-‘Yes, the deur is stuk’ (Door is broken)
Off she trots, busying herself with her ‘brush’, her ‘ball’, her ‘bug-eeee’ and all manner of other things, sometimes English, sometimes Dutch, peculiarly mostly beginning with B. All the usual one and two syllable words that any one and a half year old would use. Then out of nowhere she starts to sing. ‘Applebee, Applebee, Applebee’ repeating one of the many irritating tunes that regularly emanate from any one of numerous bits of bright coloured plastic dotted around the house these days.
With bedtime approaching she demands that she gets to brush her ‘deeesh’, before being put into her (sleeping) ‘bag!’. With a little coercion you might get a ‘night night’ out of her, or if you’re extra lucky, a ‘good night’.
Her ‘ted-dees’ need their ritual arranging before she finally gives in, rubbing her eyes and announcing it’s time for ‘slaapen’ (sleep).
A few mumbles escape as she works herself into her favourite position, before drifting off to have what I can only presume are truly multilingual dreams.
Trying to make my way down the hall while avoiding the creaky bits, I’m sure I hear her ask ‘In auto?’
Wednesday 3 August 2011
Changes of clothes, snacks, toys, and books. All part of the preparation involved in taking a toddler to the shops just 45 minutes away.
It’s overly complicated and clumsy, and while it gets easier the more often you do it, it doesn’t encourage you to take longer trips with anyone who regularly leaves snot on the knees of your pants.
Never being ones to do things easily, we’ve decided to take our offspring on a trip somewhat further afield, all in the name of 'a holiday'.
We’ve decided it would be a fabulous idea to spend 12 hours inside a germ filled metal tube, eat from tinfoil containers, not actually sleep, and share a bathroom with 300 others. With a toddler.
This joyful experience will sadly be disrupted by a 5 hour stopover in a city that may or may not be on the brink of hosting an overthrowing of its government. Once that potentially anarchical interlude is done with, we get to climb back into the germ rocket and repeat that 12 hour adventure all over again, this time with added sleep deprivation, body odour, and crankiness. With a toddler.
A full 32 hours and 18 thousand kilometers after we leave our home and worldly goods for all manner of burglars and thieves to scavenge through, we should arrive at our destination on the other side of the globe. There we will spend 4 days recovering from the inevitable jet-lag, attempted murder, and whatever bug or virus that will have been generously passed onto us by our passenger companions. With a toddler.
Once we have regained the use of our legs, realised that day is night and night is day, and established that the locals can’t pronounce the letter ‘e’, what else would we do other than pile everything and everyone back into a plane, which in my humble opinion is as healthy a thing to do as lick the anus of a leper, and fly to another city. Not just any city, but a city recently flattened by a massive earthquake. Where we will spend 3 days presumably sightseeing sights that no longer exist. With a toddler.
When we are done with our stint standing & pointing at empty spaces where cathedrals used to be, we up the tempo. We take the holiday to another level. We all pile into a camper van with all the speed and mobility of a fridge tethered to a lame hamster, and spend the next 2 and a half weeks driving three thousand kilometers through drunken rugby fan, sheep, and fault lines all the way back to where we started. With a toddler.
We can then reflect on the glory that was our Antipodean adventure on another 24 hour flight in leper’s undergarments. We will have another 18 thousand kilometers at our disposal to remember the laughs we had cleaning up vomit for the first 4 days, the piles of rubble from the 3 thereafter, and the road rage and loss of our deposit from the last 2 weeks.
Upon our arrival home at some unseemly hour, we can all pass out on the bare floor before calling the police and house insurance to report the theft of everything we hadn’t managed to drag to the other side of the planet and back.
What a great idea this was. I’m already getting excited at the mere idea of it.
Tuesday 19 July 2011
Some of you are currently living in the dying world of Harry Potter, entranced by spells and wands and magic. Others are loitering about impatiently waiting for a similar journey into the world of the Hobbit, holding Lord of the Rings marathons just to get you through the days before you venture once more towards Mordor.
Many of you live in the past, or future, depending on the depth of your scorn upon those who live in the world of Star Wars, dreaming dreams full of lightsabers, planet Kashyyk, and characters with names that double as slang for self abuse.
In our house we live in yet another world. A simpler world, with simpler heroes, simpler adventures. A certain little girl has developed a fascination with all the goings on in the animated world of Greendale.
Greendale is home to its local hero Pat Clifden. Pat is a postman, a role that has earned him the witty title of ‘Postman Pat’. Pat enthralls us with daily adventures in his wee red van, always accompanied by his sidekick Jess. A bloody cat.
Now, if we put aside the madness of a feline assistant, even in an unofficial capacity, Pat just doesn’t cut it as a postman.
In fact, Pat is without doubt the most useless postman on the planet. Considering I’ve discovered that in real life we never get any post delivered when it rains, to bestow such a title on Greendale’s fictional Postman Pat is no throwaway gift. While I’m sure the intention of his creators was to provide fodder for his daily adventures, I’m yet to see Pat successfully deliver a parcel in one piece. If Scottish terriers aren’t running off with Indian charms destined for a school show n’tell, or the bats (yes, bats) he has to deliver haven’t flown off somewhere, then he is too busy stopping Vicar-driven runaway trains to actually deliver any bloody post.
Even with this incompetence on display, I can’t tear the child’s eyes away from this televisual massacre. Or Pat’s incessant humming.
The theme song insists that ‘Pat feels he’s a really happy man’, well yes, so would you be if you were so thick as to make your cat seem the brightest intellect on your postal round, and yet you manage to retain your position with the national postal service. Either the creators have missed a beat with that one, or I’ve just missed the episode where it’s revealed Pat has photographic evidence of his CEO in a compromising position with a penguin. And several cabinet backbenchers.
My torment doesn’t stop with the star of the show, Greendale’s other residents have to be seen to believed. There is the Indian family with the surname ‘Baines’. Of the New Delhi Baines no doubt. I really hope that bizarre choice of surname to be a nod towards the fact that whenever I attempt a Welsh accent it ends up sounding Indian.
The town’s carless, not careless, doctor is Welsh, the decrepit Post Mistress is Scottish, and the rest of Greendale’s inhabitants all have accents from every corner of Britain and beyond, making it undoubtedly the most diverse town on the planet with a population of 14, every one of which my daughter simply adores.
Without Postman Pat humming like a simpleton in the background morning, noon, and night it’s quite the challenge to stop our beloved offspring going ballistic.
All of this I can cope with, just. It might very well be eroding the part of my brain that keeps me from attempting to climb up a tree in a sleeping bag but all these irritations I can live with.
All except for one.
The doorbells. Being a series based around the concept of delivering post, ‘Postman Pat’ sees a lot of doorbells being rung. This in itself would be fine, if it weren’t for the fact every doorbell in Greendale sounds exactly the same, and more importantly, exactly the same as ours. As a result, since my dear daughter’s obsession with this animated atrocity has started, I’ve spent about 30% of my days running to the front door or peering out windows for no good reason.
Screw you Postman Pat, you incompetent humming bastard, screw you.
Tuesday 12 July 2011
There are dozens.
Aged probably from 7 to 11 or so, all seemingly darting here and there like a snow flurry of prepubescents. Only when you focus can you see that there are little pockets of them not rushing about.
Little groups of 4 to 8 kids standing around the school yard. Boys and girls listening to, and telling exaggerated yarns, giving and receiving game instructions, hearing the latest updates of whatever it is that is important in that world.
Most are wrapped up well against the sharpness in the bright mid-morning March sunshine. The leaders, the cooler kids sacrificing body heat to stand scarfless, dictating to their subjects in unzipped jackets. The groups centre around these leaders, closely circled by others hanging on every word and gesture.
At the edge of one group there is a stray. An extra. A leftover. A boy or a girl standing three or four feet away from the rest. My bus moves on leaving them behind, and it unclear, whether the child was trying to work up the courage to join the group, or showing reluctance to leave it.
Just standing there with hands dug deep into his or her coat pockets watching the others.
7, maybe 8 years of age and already experiencing a nasty reality they can’t possibly yet comprehend. People are often mean for no reason, they exclude, they judge, they persecute. They do it at 8 years of age, they do it at 80.
A reality I know. A lesson I don’t welcome. A mental note of a school I won’t be sending my daughter to.
Thursday 7 July 2011
By 6, she is spent.
Her long day will be coming to an end. A day of crawling into every corner, edging along every piece of furniture, and intensely examining every object she can get her hands on. She will have wobbled over with laughter, animatedly preached to anyone who will listen to her untranslatable sermons, and danced the dance of a dozen demented head bangers.
She will reach up to me, and when accommodated, wrap her legs tightly around as much of my belly as she can span, and jig the jig of an over excited miniature jockey.
I recline in the chair, and on my thigh, she reclines into me. Together we will flick through her favourite songs, or watch video clips that make her laugh, or simply sit and babble back and forth.
Each equally, and irrelevantly, undecipherable to the other.
As another wave of fatigue swirls around her, she will raise her hand to my chin, and as if it were an apple on the branch, cup it, drawing it towards her. Once there she smiles sleep laden smiles as I place kiss after kiss after kiss on her cheek, her temple, her forehead.
Repeating it over and over, she drinks comfort from this exchange. Not knowing that it charges me infinitely more than it does her.
Lulled deep, the penultimate tide washes over her and without a thought she corkscrews, coming to kneel on my lap. With arms raised in surrender, she rests her face against my chest. Her final battle against sleep is played out in the form of her flopping from left cheek to right cheek and back again, before succumbing to her dreams and the warmth beneath.
The formalities of bedtime that follow seem almost unnecessary, and certainly unfair. On us both.
When by 6, she is spent.
Tuesday 5 July 2011
She is quite eye catching.
Now, I’m fully aware that to the outside world she might just as easily have a face like a hole dug in a muddy field, but taking the unshakable prerogative that exists for fathers of daughters I’m forging forward with my declaration of beauty.
It should be noted that I place little or no importance on the physical appearance or ability of babies. I already hear too many creepy comments alluding to the later life prospects of humans who are barely a few months old, it’s unnerving, unsettling, and utterly pointless.
Unless of course you find one in nappies with a killer backhand, a 400 yard drive, or the ability to trap dead a 50 yard pass with their left foot, then all bets are off and you should rush to fill their heads with all sorts of praise and nonsense in order to cement and secure your own future fortunes.
Digressions and caveats appropriately dealt with, what inspires my opening proclamation?
First and foremost it’s hair. The child was born with a considerable mop of the stuff. Now, almost a year on, her face is framed by the most remarkable flowing locks. Black, brown, golden, and even red waves of thick hair down to her shoulders that would strike jealously even into the heart of a Mother Theresa and Gandhi lovechild who’d been given up for adoption and raised by Nelson Mandela.
So yes, in my opinion, kind of cute.
Regardless, all this posturing and tangent surfing is quite irrelevant when my aim is to highlight the downside to all this. When you toss the coin of beauty and cuteness, it will inevitably, on occasion, land the side up that you hadn’t called.
There is always a price to pay.
A price to pay for a pretty animated creature with flowing locks. There is no free lunch, or rather, no lunch free from what has become the bedevilment of my days; spoon feeding a shaky-headed, long haired baby.
The elation of having your offspring eagerly gobble up a few spoonfuls of liquidised kidney beans becomes somewhat muted when, with a swish of her head, the dish of the day attaches itself to her flowing mane. 6 spoons later and baby is sporting carrot moistened ringlets making her look like a demented cross between Shirley Temple and an Hasidic Jew.
Quick action is of the utmost importance, failing to wet wipe dinner from your child’s follicles before the main course hardens will leave you facing a baby with hair as matted and tangled as a Cocker Spaniel’s arse after a morning in the woods.
So you see, baby beauty isn’t all it’s hyped up to be. There are pitfalls, slippery slopes, and bangs welded to cheeks with green beans to contend with.
Beauty is very much in the eye of the knot-comb holder.7th February, 2011.