Thursday, 24 February 2011

I can resist everything...except temptation

About a year ago I was very nearly banned from my local library.  This is a new one for me, an all time low.  I’ve been banned from pubs before; I’ve even been banned from a school rugby field, but never from a library.  On reflection the librarian probably did have a point.  However, there were no signs stating that a grown man couldn’t ride a child’s trike inside the library.

Let me explain.  When I was growing up my father was very strict.  Partly due to the fact that there were so many of us; I have four brothers, and partly due to the fact that he was just that type of bloke.  He wasn’t someone who messed about; he was a serious man. Quite how he managed to produce me, the complete opposite, is a mystery.  You see, I enjoy mischief.  In fact, it’s my raison d’etre.

As a result of my Dickensian upbringing, I promised myself that if I ever had children I would fool about with them.  So, when one day, my then two year old son asked me if he could ride his trike to the library, it was music to my ears.  There was an opportunity here for some fun and my inner devil simply couldn’t resist the temptation.

Initially it was just a straightforward father and son scenario – me pushing him along the pavement towards the library.  However, it is the very straightforwardness of it all that put me into the danger zone.  I’m not good at mediocrity; I always look to spice things up a bit.  I can’t help it.  So as we went along the pavement, I suggested that I sat on the trike and he push me.  I can still picture the sheer delight on his little face. He immediately burst out laughing and continued to laugh, as I dramatically attempted to sit on his trike.  Like me, he could obviously appreciate the visual humour and the physical absurdity of the scene.   

The trike in question was one of those really simple old fashioned wooden affairs and I could just about manage to sit on it. With my knees literally up by my chin and his little hands on my back pushing with all his might, we slowly crawled along the pavement until we reached the library – both of us roaring with laughter the whole way. At this point I should have got off the trike, but to be honest I couldn’t; I was stuck.  Once you get yourself into such a tight crunch, it’s not that easy to get up again, so I went into the library and rode around the aisles.

It wasn't long before 'the beard and sandals' came over and gave me the 'look'. Although she was quite polite about it! I needed a quick exit but I had gone down a one way aisle.  What followed was a test of patience for the librarian and a test of my poker face - she won that one.  I couldn't get up off the trike so I had to carry out a three point turn.  Except the turning circle on a trike isn't very generous so the manoeuvre turned into an Austin Powers moment with me going backwards and forwards over and over again until I finally managed to get the trike pointing in the right direction.  Throughout this whole episode I'm afraid I was giggling uncontrollably, which didn't go down well with the librarian.  My son however, loved it.
A few weeks later I was telling one of my brothers the story and he said to me: “can you ever imagine Dad doing this with us, when we were kids?” No, absolutely not.  And that’s the point – as a child I would have loved it if he had.  My son was having a wonderful time and so was I. I didn’t mind letting my guard down. It’s moments like these that create a bond between two people, and these are the very foundations of a great relationship. That’s something I’m very much looking forward to with my children.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

You're so like your mummy

You know when you ladies say to a man: “You’re such a typical bloke”... well here’s one right back at’chya.  I’ve learned something this week.  The last five days have confirmed to me what I’ve always suspected; women do not learn how to be both lovely and infuriating at the same time, it’s a ‘gift’ they are born with.  I know this because for the last five days I have spent as much time as humanly possible, looking after my 18 month old daughter while she recovers from her first really horrible cold; and she is a typical girl.
Here are some of the words I could use to describe the last five days; frustrating, exasperating, sweet, infuriating, lovely, draining, and frustrating – did I say that one already.
I have not been able to put her down without her crying.  That’s not the girlie thing, that’s just the: ‘I’m feeling poorly and need comforting thing’, so maybe I can’t use that one. I just needed to say it, to get it off my chest.  No, the girlie thing is the decision making. 
She can’t talk properly yet, so there’s a lot of pointing and saying “Uh”.  I’m getting pretty good at interpreting these cave man forms of communication, so if she wants a drink or something to eat, I’m on it.  The trouble arises when she points to something to entertain herself – pencils, crayons etc.  She looks up at me and issues her royal “Uh” and points to the shelf with the crayons on. I dutifully carry her over praying that she’ll take some crayons and play nicely on the floor for the next two days.  I’ve always been too optimistic; it’s a failing of mine. 
When we get to the shelf she takes the crayons and 3 seconds later decides she doesn’t want them anymore.  I look at her and groan: “You’re so like your mummy.” Instead she wants the Pritt stick.  This is contraband; she knows she can’t have it.  However this was on day three of the five day incarceration and by this time I was beginning to crack – there’s only so much torture a man without SAS training can take.  I check the lid is on tightly and agree to her having it, under my close supervision. 
Three seconds later she changes her mind again and instead points to even more black listed contraband – our collection of small plastic objects.  Experience has taught me, these objects emit a frequency audible only to babies. This translates into: “as soon as you pick me up, put me in your mouth”.
I had to draw the line somewhere.  This didn’t go down well.  This is the bit where I learned beyond all reasonable doubt, she was a typical girl.  She knew if she cranked up the emotional pressure, increased the volume and showed no signs of stopping she’d get what she wanted.  She was right. 
I’m afraid I gave in.  Then something surprising happened, as soon as she got her hands on the prized black listed contraband she stopped crying, her big blue eyes lit up with excitement, and she gave me a big kiss. I looked at her and smiled: “You’re so like your Mummy!”

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

It's a little bit funny....

Bless me Father for I have sinned. I’m afraid it’s been years since my last confession. My sin is against my own kind - the red blooded male.  I had to do the housework the other day...and I actually enjoyed it.    
As a cost cutting exercise I’ve reluctantly decided to P45 our cleaning lady.  Friday was to be my first day on the job and like most first days, I was a bit anxious.  I don’t really enjoy cleaning, least of all pushing the vacuum cleaner round.  In fact I’m rather ashamed to admit, that I would be embarrassed if anyone I knew walked by my house and saw me pushing the vacuum around.  It’s just not something a man likes to be seen doing.    
Before I got started I decided to bolster my spirit with some good old fashioned male bastions; loud music and a roaring log fire.  At first I did a bit of tidying, kids toys etc. but as time went on I could put it off no longer, the big moment arrived; it was time me and Mr Dyson got to know each other a bit better. 
Like all those jobs you put off for ages, once you crack the seal, it isn’t that bad.  The Dyson has a clear plastic tube to show you when it needs emptying.  This is perfect for blokes.  If a bloke is doing a job, he likes to know he’s doing it well (little tip for you girls!). 
Seeing all the stuff being sucked up into the cleaner was very satisfying and it spurred me on.  Soon enough I started to really put my back into it; in fact I was working up a bit of a sweat.  Half an hour later and I was stripped to the waist.  By this time the Ipod had shuffled onto ‘The Best of Elton John’ and the noise of the vacuum cleaner meant I had to crank the volume right up, just to hear it.
When you play really loud music, you feel compelled to sing along with it....don’t you? So let’s just picture the scene; I’m belting out Elton John songs, with my shirt off and pushing a vacuum cleaner round my house; all I needed was a Red Indian head-dress and a handle bar moustache and I’d have made it on to a Village People video.    
The reality was that I was having a great time. I got to play some music really loud, sing along with it and use a piece of kit that was really efficient. What’s not to like.  Cleaning the house was just a by-product. Next week I’m planning on tackling the ironing with maybe a bit of Barry Manilow...

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

One of life's magical moments

A few days ago I experienced one of life’s truly magical moments.  It was so moving that I’ll treasure it for the rest of my life. Just recently I’ve been feeling uncharacteristically down.  The nation’s gloom is getting to me, everywhere you look there’s bad news.  Since deciding to slow my business down, to get to know my children, I have good days and bad days. Mostly I worry about money, especially at 4 in the morning. 
Strangely I have the death of the composer John Barry to thank for helping to break my downward spiral of gloom.  I heard on the radio that he’d died and as usual the report briefly went through a list of the famous film scores he’d written.  James Bond theme, Dances with Wolves and Out of Africa.  Why is it, that when a composer or musician dies you immediately want to listen to their music? As a tribute the radio played the theme tune to the film Out of Africa.
It was a Monday morning and I was at home looking after my two children.  It’s a beautiful piece of music, very calming and because my daughter had been fractious that particular morning, I decided to pick her up and have a dance with her.  My daughter is at the age where she can run around and get up to mischief but she can’t talk.  Instead she communicates with expressions and body language.  During that dance she communicated such love and affection for me it literally brought a tear to my eye. It was a few precious moments of calm; her little face was so beautiful she clearly loved dancing with her daddy. The worries of the world vanished.   It didn’t cost me anything and made me realise what is truly important in life.
One day when she’s older I’ll tell her about that dance and how it helped me put things in perspective.   If you’ve never tried dancing around your living room with your children I’d recommend it, it’s good for the soul.