Friday, April 24, 2009

A letter from America

Dear Dawn, Katy, and Mate,

I have no real reason for writing you this letter. As of this moment, I am not ill, or expecting to be. I stopped smoking over 2 years ago, so whilst I appreciate, it could come back and bite me on the arse further on down the line, all is well on that front. As you probably know, I do like a beer or three, but even the amount of booze I consume has halved since we sold the pub. I am slightly over-weight, but you can blame that on the non-smoking, as I now have my taste buds back. I am sure you would agree that everything I cook tastes so gorgeous, so what’s a boy to do? That’s right, eat some more.

So my health in general is OK. Your mum can stress me out a bit, but we all suffer that one together, and her bark is more often worse than her bite. The only thing that gives me cause to pause is my memory. I think this is an affliction most of our generation are going to suffer with, and I blame the music industry. Your Granddad has always marvelled at how many song lyrics I can recite at the drop of a hat, he almost seems proud of me for it, but I am beginning to think it may have a downside.

I think the part of my brain that is used to store all the thousands of lyrics I have heard, is full up, and needs a new “storage solution”, as big yellow box would put it. Unfortunately, the bit of my brain devoted to tiny inconsequential stories about you lot, now has some lyrics mixed up with it. I could, if asked, sing the whole “Purple Rain” album, word for word, including that freaky backwards bit at the end of “Darling Nikki”, but ask me what Dawn’s favourite first book was, and all that springs to mind is “Revolver”, which is obviously not correct.

I can remember Katy’s first word (other than Mum and Dad of course) because it was PUB, and even in writing that, I still feel a perverse sense of pride. Ask me Dawn’s fist word, and all that springs to mind is “Confidence is a preference for the habitual voyeur of what is known as...” Now Dawn has always been an A grade student, but that can’t be right.

In my head, Katy’s first nursery was in Stanley Road, Dawn was born in a hospital in Baker Street, and Mate’s playgroup is on Warwick Avenue. I have looked all of these addresses up, and they are all wrong, so I have decided to write this letter, as some sort of ‘kick in the nads’ to my memory banks, and also something to embarrass you all with, if you are ever brave enough to bring home significant others.

I remember taking Dawn to Camber Sands when she was about 5, if you have never been, it is a long flat sandy beach, which can stretch for at least 200 metres when the tide is out. Dawn had brought her favourite teddy bear, Mr Wendal, along for the trip, and as soon as we parked the car and opened the door, she was off. They looked like a modern day Hansel and Gretel running towards the sea, but instead of a trail of breadcrumbs, we had to follow a trail of discarded clothes, straight to the sea. When the trail eventually ended, we were faced with a naked child, and a very soggy teddy, splashing about for all their worth.

For you Katy, I remember, that at the time we were thinking of having you, it was very fashionable to name your child after the place they were conceived. Even President Beckham and First Lady Victoria, named their child Brooklyn, a famous, if not seedy, part of New York where they were staying at the time. Your Mum and I were at a wedding, in a beautiful part of Cornwall, on the (drunken) night of your conception. We thought long and hard about it, but “Hotel Corridor” is not a name you should inflict on any child, even if that child then conspired to deprive you of sleep for 2 years.

That then leads us to Mate, always destined to be the baby of the family. Actually, you remaining the baby of the group had little to do with destiny, and lots to do with the operation I had to make sure it stayed that way. You see, your Mum comes from Irish Catholic stock, and that lot have kids into their sixties, and I don’t mean their age. With you, it is more about forgetting the things you have done, than remembering. You are the Steve McQueen of the family, always trying to escape. We had the zoo incident, the Tescos incident, and as a one year old, you actually broke out of your cot by bouncing. I kid you not, you jumped so hard and so often, you went straight through it. I wouldn’t mind, but it was not one of those cheap IKEA ones, it was a real wooden one from your rich Aunt, on your Mums side.

Such fun and such memories, all disappearing purely because some brain-box, working for a grocer, invented the IPod. If only I knew then, as I uploaded the 600+ CD’s in my collection, the end result would be a loss of your childhood exploits, then maybe I would have just listened to them the old fashioned way, one at a time. Although, if I download The Beatles Anthology, maybe I will forget about all the nappies I have had to change at 2 o’clock in the morning. Where’s the USB lead?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Woman's work is never done

Man, it’s been a busy week. What with one thing or another, I don’t seem to have stopped at all recently. I have friends that think being a househusband and stay at home Dad is a piece of cake, and I must admit I don’t do a whole lot to shatter this image. It has always seemed more fun to let them continue to think of me as a lazy bum, who sits around with his feet up all the time, than put them right. I genuinely enjoy winding them up, as they moan about work, by remarking how hard sitting in the garden had been that day. Feet up, beer in hand, listening to Elbow, or if I want to come across as middle class aloof, Coltrane or Brubeck. Not that I consider Jazz to be middle class music of choice, but the people I am winding up tend to.

So I have always been quite quick in agreeing with my mates about how easy a life I have, and it has recently come to my attention, that I am doing all the other housewives out there a huge disservice. I mean, most of the blokes I talk to are husbands themselves, probably with the sneaky suspicion that their own wives are sitting at home doing bugger all, and here comes me, confirming all their worst fears. So it is time to put the record straight, no exaggeration, be it over or under, just what our, (well mine really, they are probably right about their own wives), days are filled up with.

I started writing down what I did all day and it looked a bit like this.

· 8.30 School run.
· 9.15 Back home, change Mates nappy.
· 9.30 Twitter
· 9.45 Do washing
· 10.00 Do washing up
· 10.15 Twitter again
· 10.30 Play bricks with Mate
· 11.15 Pickup Katy

You get the gist of it, pretty boring mundane stuff. I was bored rigid typing it, so I can only apologise for how tedious it must have been to read, and I had not even got to lunchtime. I began to feel that this did not give you an accurate snapshot of what a hard working bunch we are, so I started to think about the weekends. This is the time to kick back and relax, potter about the garden, and generally unwind from the previous weeks work.

Not for us it isn’t. You would think that 2 parents = half the work, but unfortunately the first principle of “Kids Maths” kicks in. So now, 2 parents = twice the work + twice the mess. It is a hard equation to get your head round, and one that only the stay at home parents understand. I know you are trying to help, but all you are doing is just disrupting our routines. Seriously, how many sweets do you think you can give a child, just to get them quieten down so you can watch TV, before the sugar rush kicks in and all hell breaks loose? That’s right, you don’t know, but we do.

Last weekend I agreed to help my brother-in-law out, and deliver 100 catalogues to some of his previous customers. He runs his own kitchen showroom, and I have my eye on this beautiful Lacanche range cooker, so I agreed to help him out (so just remember, next time you need to get your kitchen done, give me a call, I could do with the commission). So having got up with the kids at 6.15am, washed, dressed, and fed them, I left them in the hands of my over-confident wife.

To her credit I only received 3 phone calls while I was out. The last of these I received when I was outside a 12th floor penthouse, and had to explain, much to the amusement of tenants of said penthouse, how to make a loaf of bread in our bread maker. I did not realise “It won’t rise if it’s too wet” was such a funny sentence, until I re-lived it in the lift down.

That finished, I then had to cook dinner, bath the kids, and put them to bed early as we were going to the 40th birthday party of one of my closest mates. I allowed myself a whopping 15 minutes to get ready, remembering the “wife maths” equation of, male preparation time x 4 = wife preparation time.

Eventually the monster-in-law turned up to babysit, and off we went. I could not drink for the first couple of hours as I had to go pick up Dawn at 10.30pm from a drama trip. To her credit she did show her gratitude for my abstention, when I picked her up she asked me to wait round the corner whilst her bags were being unloaded. I tried to convince myself this was because she did not want me to block the road, and not because of the usual Dad embarrassment factor.

I eventually got to back to the party and had to go through the weight yo-yo conversations again. To anyone that had not seen me in 18 months, I had lost a stone and a half, for anyone that had seen me in the last 6 months, I had put on a stone. It turned out to be quite a good party game, “dodge the insult, spot the compliment”. All in all, it was a good night.

The clocks went forward that weekend, and I duly changed all the clocks before we went to bed, all the better to deal with summer-lag. Unfortunately Mate is so clever, that he realised the clocks had changed, and promptly woke up at 6.15am, NEW TIME! I was understandably very proud of his 2 year old brain, and told him so, albeit through gritted teeth.

Sunday was spent ignoring my hangover, getting the vegetables planted, doing the school wash, doing the weekly shop, and general upkeep of myself and wine glass. I would like to say this was an unusual weekend, but alas, they all seem to be like this in one form or another, rushing from one task to another, with not much time to breathe in-between.

I have been trying to write one of these blogs per week, but this one has been 2 weeks in the writing. I apologise for the wait, it’s just I’ve been a bit busy.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Flirting by Numbers

I was not sure what to write about this week, as it has been a fairly slow news day in our house. There have been no (major) injuries to report, no real discord of note, no gossip. Mate learnt to say thank you, well what he actually said was “Ta bob”. He used to always end every garbled sentence with “bob”, and this became his nickname for a while, but the thanks were new. I know there is a whole “Ta versus Thank you” argument and the Thank you camp bristle at Ta, but I would rather my children express their thanks aged 2, than remain silent, and say a very nice Thank you aged 3.

There was one incident with the Mum’s at school. Alpha Mum left her son with me for 10 minutes on Tuesday. That’s right, with me, The Dad, the Odd one out, the colour blind fashionista. I am not making this up just to fill space, it’s true, I didn’t imagine it, it really happened.

She needed to get away quickly for some urgent Yummy Mummy-type appointment (hair, nails, gym, who knows), and asked if I would watch Julian, and take him into Nursery, if they ever bothered to open the doors. There were other Mums available for this task, admittedly not Premier League Mums, just the 2nd Division ones that I am allowed to talk to, but she still picked me to look after this precious cargo. For those 10 minutes, my two could have been building weapons of mass destruction for all I knew or cared, I was looking after Alpha Son. I kept all ruffians away from him (including, nay, especially my own), and escorted him into Nursery safely and in one piece.

I spent the rest of the morning basking in the glow that I may have cracked it, and made it into the big time. Could the group that every Mum wants to be seen with, actually be welcoming me into their midst. I realise my invite would only be out of a sense of charity and bemusement, as I had been on great form the last few weeks. I had not told them any of my stories from the collection my Wife calls “Oh my God you didn’t?” I had cut down my swearing to a “not within sight of the school” level, and I also had not trod on any of the children, not strictly true as I did tread on Mate once, but I just pretended his back teeth were coming through, and they must be playing him up, poor love.

I had also started trying a new tactic that I picked up from the National Geographic channel. It was about Lions, and the tactics they used when hunting a herd of Gnu (these animals must have been right at the back of the name giving queue). The Lions would not attack all the Gnu at once, they would pick them off one at a time, until their appetites were sated. I guess the moral of the story was, that even the most powerful of creatures could not expect to take on an entire herd and win, the trick was to take them out one at a time. Flirting by Numbers was born.

I am told that I can be quite charming and funny when I try (if you are into a bit of rough that is), so I dusted off the cobwebs from my flirting head, a la Worzel Gummidge, and proceeded with the plan. I would pick one Mum, and use all the wit, humour, and flattery at my disposal to charm them, but only for 2 days. Then I would move onto my next victim, I mean Mum. I figured this would confuse them enough to miss the attention I had bestowed upon them, and thereby seek it, thus falling into my carefully laid trap. It was a cunning plan, and I figured even Baldrick must have got it right eventually. One of the phrases Dawn hates me using the most is “A broken clock is right twice a day”. Well I was that broken clock, and my time was a coming.

My plan went well, I swear at one stage Alpha Mum 2.0 (a younger more streamlined version, with more pointless gadgets) fluttered her eyelashes at me, and was that a trace of moistness in her eyes. Actually it wasn’t. The nanny picked her son up at lunchtime, due to her boss’s severe Hay fever attack, never mind.

On the whole though, all seemed to be working well, I had been receiving a few more smiles, it might have been my imagination, but there seemed to be an extra whiff of expensive perfume in the air, all was good.

Anyway, I returned to school for the pickup, ready to make my acceptance speech, and take my rightful place with the Elite. I could not have read the situation more wrong. Alpha Mum completely blanked me, and joined the rest of the “Witches of Eastwick”. Apparently her appointment was with her accountant, who had advised her that she would need to start making some cut-backs, and skiing twice a year would no longer be possible. I was now no longer keen to remind her that I had done a sterling job looking after her son that morning. I backed away from the gaggle, and kept quiet.

After all, who wants to be remembered as the person that enabled her to receive bad news?