Come along for the ride!!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

"Brace yourself Rodney ...... "

Coming home from work is nice in itself – you don’t need me to tell you that. But there’s something wonderful about coming home from work to be greeted by your children.

Most days of course, our children are at nursery or school so this greeting can’t take place; this is another reason why I love Friday’s so much. Alternatively, on a Wednesday, Annabel is at home and Joseph and I both get the warm welcome from her.

I put my key in the door and let myself in and straight away I hear Annabel announcing our arrival with a loud “Jou Jou” - Joseph’s nickname – she is out of sight, in the TV room or dining room (you can never be sure) and …. wait for it ….. here she comes, sprinting around the corner at top speed, shoulders hunched to aid balance, eyes closing slightly as she narrowly avoids colliding with the wall and then she spots us, we’re in her sights and she is locked on, full speed ahead, ooh crikey, watch yourself Joseph, she’s running ……. I crouch down, drop my bag, arms outstretched and WHOOMPH, straight into me, falling forwards at the last minute, knocking the wind out of me AND knocking me backwards.

It’s a wonderful greeting.

The loveliest bit though, is when she rushes out to me but encounters Joseph first. She stops short of running into him and approaches him slowly, forming a pout straight away in anticipation of getting a kiss from him.

As always, the look on her lovely little face is a picture on the occasions when he does give her a cuddle and a kiss.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

"But you said .... "

I narrowly (but brilliantly) avoided a mammoth fit yesterday morning taking Joseph to breakfast club in the car. We’ve just driven off when he announces, “Is it Tuesday today?”

At first I just thought he was sharing this knowledge with me and I replied, “Clever lad, that’s right. How did you know today was Tuesday?”

However, he wasn’t sharing – he was enquiring and I could tell by the crumpling of his face and the way he was straightening his legs and kicking them into the back of the passenger chair that the day held some mighty significance.

“Yes,” I nervously replied. “Today is Tuesday. Why, what’s up?”

“Today is PE and you didn’t put my trainers on”. Cue impending freak out.

Oh Lord, think man, think.

“Yeah, and d’you know why I didn’t put your trainers on?” I spluttered, my mind racing so as to avoid having to pull over and strap him into his chair even tighter.

“Why?” he asked, his legs relaxing in anticipation of a valid reason.

“Why?” I stalled. “Why didn’t I put your trainers on? Why didn’t I put your trainers on instead of your shoes? Why did I do that? The reason I did that was …. well, it’s obvious why I did that. I mean, there can only be one reason why I would do something like that isn’t there? The reason is that (think man think) … is …. is ….. that, it rained heavily in the night, see the puddles on the pavement?”

He looks and I know that I may be saved.

“Well, the thing is, your shoes are made out of leather and leather shoes can get wet but still keep your socks and feet dry. Your trainers though, they’re made out of a different material and they won’t keep your feet nice and dry. I thought that if you walked to school from breakfast club in your trainers, then you might get wet socks and then your feet will be cold and soggy but your shoes, they’ll keep your feet toasty and dry. See?”

(Please see, pleeeease) He turns from peering out of the window to face me, smiles, laughs and then sits back in his seat, satisfied with the answer.

The whole episode probably only lasted 45 seconds but the repercussions could have been enormous; the difference between him freaking out and not wanting to go to breakfast club. The difference between turning around for his trainers and me being late for work.

Ok, so I avoid a mini-fit. Cut to the afternoon after I’ve picked him up from school.

We’re walking home and as we round a corner, we come across a huge puddle and I gulp; I know what’s coming next.

“Dad, can I jump in the puddle?”

“No. You haven’t got your wellies on”.

You have to bear in mind that the water level looked like it would’ve come up to his chin should he jump in!!

“But, you said my shoes were waterproof”

I did, didn't I.


“Yes, I know I did, but I wanted to clean your shoes for you this evening and I can’t clean them if they’re soaking wet now can I?”

It worked. Just. I polished his shoes last night so they were clean and “more waterproof” than yesterday.

AND to not prove myself a liar at the same time!

Good thinking Dad.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Word your fibs carefully!

£8,000! That’s how much it is possible to collect in 5 hours of a parish fayre. After prize money was paid out and the whisky bill for the abundant Irish coffee’s had been settled, the church (affiliated to Joseph’s school) was in the clear to the tune of about £6,500 - hey, what can I say? They like their Irish coffee’s!!

It was actually a very well executed day, lots of organisation paying off wonderfully, from the face painting and bottle raffle, the cake sale (for which M made two delicious banana and walnut cakes) and the Santa's Grotto which was a roaring success.

Ok, so the Santa had a strong Welsh accent. Ok, so he had a bit of a stammer. Ok, so he wasn’t exactly on the plump side but hey, we live in a politically correct world – Santa can look and sound how he wants as far as I’m concerned although I thought he could have looked a little less bemused when Annabel let rip with a yell that made your toenails curl – he must encounter the odd terrified child on his travels? They can't all love him? Actually, it was just as well she cried because up to that point, it did appear that she was prepared to “hide” behind her hands for the duration so at least we only spent a very brief period convincing Santa that they have both been very good this year!

So Joseph (with his face made up to look like Spiderman) got to tell Santa Claus what it was that he wanted for Christmas this year; a Hot Wheels racing track and a Buzz Lightyear (boy, is that toy standing the test of time!!).

Apparently however, when M was discussing with him later in the day that Santa would be bringing those toys down the chimney for him on Christmas morning, Joseph asked, “well what are YOU buying me for Christmas then? What are you and Daddy going to get me?”

M then had to explain that Mummy and Daddy still had to pay for the toys – Santa was just delivering them. Not sure Joseph believed this entirely but the story seems to be holding – for now.

So there you go; try to keep the magic of Christmas alive and what do you get?

Accusations from a 4 year old that you’re a stingy old bugger, that’s what!

Humbug Mr Baldrick?

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Storm equals tiredness

If you read these pages even very occasionally, you will know that Joseph is, or at least, I think he is, a smashing lad. No really, if he wasn’t my son and someone was waffling on about how good their child was, I’d be thinking “yeah yeah, whatever” type thoughts whilst smiling at them and glazing over.

He has his moments but, as I always say, on the whole he is a terrific boy.

This morning, the storm woke M and I up at about 5.15am. I lay there for a while and cursed my luck when I heard M slowly nod back off to sleep, leaving me looking at the ever-lightening shadows.

As I felt sleep returning, I hear Joseph stir, he coughs and talks a little bit and then M goes to see him; it is about 6.20am. I must have nodded off because the next thing I know is he’s leaning over me, wanting to get into bed for a cuddle. I budge over, he gets in and M sandwiches him between us and we try to go back to sleep.

It doesn’t work.

Eventually, he announces that he “wants to get out so he can go to his room and play”. We eagerly oblige and close our eyes again, not all that hopeful that we will get back to sleep.

But we’re wrong.

I wake and look at the clock, slightly disoriented, and see the numbers 7.28 peering back at me. Wow! We’ve “slept in” on a Saturday for a whole hour, what bliss.

Hang on, what's Joseph been doing for the past hour?

As you open the door to our room, you look down the long straight landing into Joseph’s bedroom and there, sat in the lovely old Parker Knoll armchair in his room, is Joseph.

He hasn’t heard me so I creep along the landing a little to get a better look.

Poops has a set of 30 Thomas the Tank engine books in a little presentation box and he loves them to bits. He isn’t able to read them by himself yet but there he was, engrossed in one of the stories.

But the best was yet to come.

I stand and watch long enough for him to finish one of the books. He was looking carefully at each page of one of the books and I know from experience that he memorises all of his books – he often finishes the sentences of stories that we read together – and he is doing this now. He looks intently at each page, his lips moving ever so slightly, “reading” from memory. Whether or not he is totally accurate doesn’t matter – I know he’s fairly close.

Anyway, he gets to the end of the book, he leans over to add it to the pile he has been working through over the past hour, reaches behind his back and takes another from the pile which is stood up between his bum and the chair!

That’s it, I can’t stay quiet (as usual) anymore!!

Walking into his room I ask, “what are you doing Poops, you’re reading ALL your Thomas books?”

He jumps slightly, obviously totally unaware I was there.

“Yeah”, he replies, smiling because he can hear the impressed tone in my voice.

I go over to him and hug him. It is not returned and he pushes me away, keen to get back to his “reading”.

“Good boy. Thanks for letting mummy and me sleep in a little bit”.

For “sleep in a little bit” read; now Daddy won’t be like a bear with a sore head all day!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Learn from your mistakes

As much as you want to guide your children, steering them safely clear of life’s pitfalls, there are times when you have to put the saying “live and learn” very firmly into practice from the slightly risky to the definite hazards .

AND the painful accidents.

Like yesterday for example.

If there was something more fun than hanging on the side or front of a shopping trolley whilst being pushed along, I don’t know what it was!! Of course, it was always wise to weight the trolley down with some shopping first.

I was walking ahead with Annabel and heard a crash of metal followed by a yell behind me. I ran back to see Joseph lying under the trolley after it had toppled over as he jumped onto its side. Apparently M heard his head thwack the ground hard but it was his leg he was holding on to.

It wasn’t until bath time that I saw the bruise on his right leg just above the knee, already going dark purple from the impact.

Oh-oh - time for the incredible healing properties of that magical little plant arnica, which I have mentioned on more than one occasion here.

A homeopathic remedy in tablet form or cream, it is an amazing healer for bumps and bruises and something that Joseph has (unfortunately) made good use of over the years. It brings the bruise out very quickly and stops it being tender for days and days and is something that will maintain a presence in our medicine cabinet indefinitely.

I’ll let you know how long before he jumps onto the side of a trolley again!!

Probably not all that long

The arnica plant – pretty and clever (a bit like Missy!)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Poor Adrian Mole

It’s funny how the mind blocks out certain stuff; usually the bad stuff.

Growing pains for example - my memories of having them are cloudy, which is undoubtedly a good thing.

Joseph is growing at a right old rate of knots at the moment and often wakes up crying in the night, clutching his leg just behind his right knee – always in the same place, poor thing.

While I believe these episodes are totally genuine, they did lead to a funny episode the other evening. Annabel has, we think, got a bit of an ear infection at the moment and so her body temperature is more than a little up and down.

As a result, we gave her some children’s Nurofen which, thanks to the yummy (sugar free!) taste, she happily took. Joseph was sitting nearby and when he saw this, exclaimed, “my leg’s still hurting”.

The funny thing was, he had reached down and held on to his left leg!

When I alerted him to the fact that he said it was his right leg which was hurting in the night, he looked down at his hands as if they were in the wrong place of their own accord, said, “oh”, moved his hands to his right knee and scrunched up his face in pain.

M and I burst out laughing at his cheek. He didn’t even contemplate keeping a straight face and joined in the merriment with gusto.

Annabel joined in even though she didn’t have a clue what was going on.

Bless her

Friday, November 17, 2006


Noun [U] OLD-FASHIONED ordinary clothes worn by people who usually wear uniforms, especially soldiers:
The admiral arrived in mufti.

Joseph’s teacher is very nice. A little mad perhaps, but very nice all the same (and tough!!).

Anyway, on Monday she announced that today was to be a mufti day and all children would be required to wear their pyjamas and dressing gowns, with a teddy and blanket where required.

I have to say I was sceptical at first – would this be fun???

She continued, “we’ll be staying indoors, I’ll be making hot chocolate and we’ll be telling stories the whole day”.

I take it back; it sounds bloody wonderful.

What I wouldn’t give to lollop around all day in a dressing gown, having stories read to me and hot chocolate to boot.

Boy, have things changed since the mid 70’s!!

Found this lovely picture of my primary school in South East London. I hope it hasn’t been turned into a block of luxury apartments!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Anything you can do ….

I want to do too.

This afternoon, Joseph wanted to go for something to eat when I picked him up from school. I reminded him of the last time we went to a restaurant after school when he wanted to go into this little Italian delicatessen nearby which does freshly made pasta with courgettes, peppers and a sprinkling of parmesan; he didn’t eat it!

This was surprising as he is usually a very good eater, willing to try most things - not on this occasion however. He literally licked the piece of pasta on the end of his fork, put it straight down and scrunched up his face!

Anyway, that was the comparison I made today but he was adamant; “I want to eat something”.

Living near Tooting, it may not have been the smartest choice to decide to amble along the high street until he saw something he liked the look of but that was what we did.

“There”, he announced, pointing very positively across to the other side of the road.

“Lahore restaurant? No way Poops, that food is very spicy; you won’t eat it, trust me”.

He then did this little break-dance which pre-empts a mini-fit heading your way.

So we go in.

And, to be fair to him, even the sight of the pre-cooked stuff didn’t put him off so we took a seat and ordered.

1 chicken biryani (his choice), 1 Aloo sag (spinach and potato – my choice), 1 plain naan bread and two sweet lassi’s to put out the impending fire. The waiter very kindly brought him over a complimentary poppadom which was received gratefully and which disappeared fairly quickly as it was “like a giant crisp”.

Our food arrived, I served us both and then I tucked in, hoping he would follow.

Again, to be fair to him, he did bite straight into a piece of chicken, rubbing his tummy exaggeratedly and smiling at me, followed by about zero point 6 of a second before the spices hit home!

Strike one, his face crumpled as his tongue announced the arrival of something rather warm; strike two as the aforementioned tongue ejects from head and gets held between thumb and forefinger as if this might cool things off; strike three, funny grunting noises aimed across the table at me just in case I hadn’t noticed that he might be in trouble.

I half want to laugh but don’t dare, so instead I remind him that his lassi drink will help out.

Cue much comedy drinking as I watch approximately half a litre of yoghurt drink disappear without him appearing to stop for breath.

In fact, he only stopped once to announce, “hot”, before resuming his aim in life at that precise moment of finishing his drink; we ordered him another right afterwards.

As with the pasta last week, I finished the meal.

Quite a funny episode I have to say.

Crikey, I rambled off a bit there, that wasn’t really what I wanted to write about at all. The bit I really wanted to tell you about was when we got home. Obviously, Joseph was hungry as he’d only eaten a poppadom so I did him one of his platters and served it to him in front of the TV so he could watch Power Rangers.

Annabel sees what he has and tries (unsuccessfully) to steal from his plate. This is shouted down so I put together a platter for her with exactly the same contents as Joseph’s.

We have this big old 'turn of the century' travelling trunk that we use as a table in front of the TV. Joseph sits at one corner on a little stool, so I pull up an even smaller stool at the other corner facing the TV and beckon Missy over. She sees what I am doing for her and she comes waddling over, quite pleased that she is getting the same treatment as Joseph and plonks herself down on the stool.

He’s got ham, she’s got ham, he’s got tomato, she’s got tomato, he’s got peeled cucumber, she’s got peeled cucumber, he’s got a stool, she’s got a stool, he’s looking straight at the television, she’s looking …….. over at him!!

It was the slightest of glances, almost out of the corner of her eye but I saw it and it made my heart squeeze ever so slightly.

Once again, it was one of those adoring gazes that a younger sibling saves purely for an older one.

It said, “look darling brother, I have the same as you. I’m eating a platter just like you. We’re together on a cold dark night, sitting side by side watching TV”.

Parents tell their older children how much their little brothers and sisters look up to them, how much they want to be like them, how much they love them.

Unfortunately, it isn’t until you have children of your own that you actually see that love in their eyes, in their actions towards their big brother or sister.

Tonight I saw it.


I hugged them both but he was annoyed as I was making him miss the Red Ranger kicking seven shades out of a particularly ugly extra terrestrial and she was annoyed because I was restricting her view of him.

In the words of the great Homer Simpson, “I have a habit of spoiling the moment”.

Way to go Dad.

I won’t give up though. I will try, however futile, to make Joseph see just how special he is to Annabel.

And if that fails, then thank the Lord for digital cameras for allowing me to preserve every precious moment I can possibly capture so I can say in years to come, "see, told you she loved you when she was only 1".

Right on sister, let me hear you say “YEAH”.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Laughter each day ......

….. keeps the doctor away; without a doubt!

Back in August, I mentioned how you don’t need the latest toys or gadgets to keep your children happy; this was exactly the case yesterday.

Whenever we go to my m-i-law's, Joseph insists on playing the same game. We take a small cushion to the top of the first floor staircase underneath the tall void overhead created by the loft conversion; I sit on the floor and he stands and we take it in turns to hurl the aforementioned small cushion upwards. We then look directly at each other and wait for gravity to take it’s toll on the cushion's trajectory.

The unspoken aim of the game is to get the cushion to hit the other person, ideally right on the top of the head for maximum comic effect.

Naturally I make a huge fuss whenever he lands a direct hit on me, whether it be my shin, shoulder or on top of the noggin.

It is wonderful to see your children helpless with laughter, not a care in the world. Annabel came along the landing to see what all the fuss was about and joined in the laughter. She didn’t need to know the joke; laughter is just contagious, especially when it’s your big brother doing the laughing.

The fantastic knock on effect of this is that whilst watching your children scream with laughter, all your worries fade away too; so what if the base rate has gone up another ¼%? So what if Talk Talk have managed to disconnect us rather than switch our broadband?

Do yourself a favour; whether you have children or not, do something fun tonight. Rent a DVD, go to a comedy club, read some jokes online.

You’ll feel all the better for it - trust me

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Comedy build-up

Joseph and I were discussing important issues last night while he was “on the throne”. Hey, this is quality time together!

Anyway, I was enquiring as to how he managed to rip his new trousers. He smiled and said, “I don’t know”.

The smile spoke volumes so I pressed the matter.

“What do you mean, you don’t know? Just tell me what happened – it doesn’t matter that you tore your trousers, I just want you to tell me the truth. Did you fall over?”

I guess what I was aiming towards was had someone else pushed him over hence his reluctance to divulge anything.


“Yes what? You fell?”


“What then?”

A smile again.

“Did a teacher see you fall?”



(says name of teacher)

“What did she say?”


“What do you mean, nothing? She must have said something?”

“No. She just did this” (imitates teacher beckoning with forefinger).

“Why did she do that? What were you doing?”

Another smile.


“Hiding with one of my friends”.

“Hiding! Hiding from who, the teacher?”

A smile starts to break out and he can contain himself no longer – he burst out laughing. Meanwhile, I am stifling my laughter until I get to the bottom of things.

“Yeah”, he continues, “we were hiding behind that tall thing (which I’m supposed to know but have no idea what he means) and Miss ______ saw us and told us to come inside”.

More laughter.

“Did you get in trouble?” I enquire worryingly, my mind's eye seeing him kept back a year, 12 years in a row for simply hiding behind a pillar aged 4.

“No. We just had to help tidy up the toys”.

He laughed again and I laughed with him but that was the end of the torn trouser drama.

Until the next one.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Remember, remember the 5th of November

Those paying close attention to the ramblings found here, might remember earlier this year when I won some tickets to go and see the Fimbles. We never made it because Missy decided to throw up all over the inside of the car and we had to explain to Joseph why we wouldn’t be able to go to the theatre (baby sick dripping from the roof and the back of my head clearly wasn’t enough of an excuse!!).

Anyway, since that day, Joseph has randomly mentioned how we were never able to go. You could be discussing what he wants for lunch when he suddenly looks over at you and says, “we couldn’t go to see the Fimbles ‘cos Annabel got sick; do you remember Dad?”

My point is that somewhere in his subconscious is a little marker which occasionally reminds him of this promised treat which has been left marked as “outstanding”.

With that in mind, I promised him some sparklers to celebrate Guy Fawkes Night. Unfortunately, these ended up being a bribe to behave following some out of character freaking on Joseph’s part. When my repeated threats to throw the sparklers in the bin fell on deaf ears, into the bin they went.

I remember being threatened with certain things when I was younger. “If you don’t stop arguing, we’re NOT going to Hastings!” my mum would say. We continued arguing and invariably we would still go to Hastings, albeit we would be in parental bad books. I think if my parents had waited for my brother and me to behave before setting off, we’d never have gotten anywhere!!

The point is, I remember that threats were often empty; not always but often. As mean as I make myself sound, I have found that threats work a whole lot better if you stick to them. With this in mind I binned the sparklers bending them in half for good measure.

Did I regret doing it? No.

Do I now regret it?


I’ll tell you why.

This morning I took him to breakfast club, we hung his coat and scarf up, took his bag of fruit from his bag and went in to sit down. I settled him down at the colouring-in table, he chose a picture of two pigeons on a bird table and said, “look Dad, they haven’t got any sparklers”.


As I drove away from his club, our fateful trip to the Fimbles came back to me and I thought how much he must regret not seeing something that was built up over several weeks that never then materialised.

I don’t want that to happen again.

“Hello there, can I have another packet of sparklers please?”

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Give us a clue!

Una Stubbs, Lionel Blair and Michael Aspel.

Charades on the telly – who’d have thought that would work???

Anyway, Missy’s vocabulary is still growing and she is particularly fond of words with two syllables.

One notable word yesterday had obviously been practiced with M before I got home and she looked very pleased with herself when M asked her, “tell Daddy your new word”.

She turned to me, smiling at the impending cheer she would get upon sharing her new word.

“Hap-pee” she giggled and we erupt into applause. I sweep her up as she laughs out loud and we twirl in the kitchen, the four of us sharing her cleverness. It’s not just that she’s learnt a new word though; it’s the clear pronunciation that also impresses.

As we had hoped, being able to speak has removed at least some of the frustration she must have been experiencing in recent months. She has also moved up to the next class at nursery and is once again with her friends.

These combined, Annabel seems far happier, more content in general.

She’s happier, so I’m happier, so everyone’s happier.


Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Trick or treat!

“Ok Joseph, I’ll cut the top of his head off and you scoop the insides out ok?”

No, not an extract from the film Halloween; just preparations for Halloween! We’d bought our pumpkins a couple of days before and it was time to get to work.

First the messy job of emptying them of seeds and general stringy goo and then the slightly tricky but extremely satisfying task of cutting out eyes, nose and zig zag mouth. One of these beauties was also given 2 holes in either side so that we could hang it from string above the front door, candle flickering inside while swaying menacingly in the wind.

As you can see from the picture, both pumpkins came complete with their own “warts” right by their mouths for added realism! Plastic go-in-the-dark spiders, polyester “cobwebs” draped over the front door, monster faces in the front window and the transformation is complete – from Edwardian semi to spooky home of The Addams family in one easy afternoon.

Next on the list; Joseph’s costume. Wizard’s hat and cloak, skull on a stick, spooky go-in-the-dark wellies and a pumpkin shaped bag to collect “treats” in and we’re done – let’s go spooking!!

Joseph’s friend from school was supposed to join us but called in sick so poor Poops was once again stuck with me. As always, everyone is very receptive to hundreds of children knocking on their door’s all night; all feigning fear and repulsion at generally rather sweet looking children in odd clothes. It only took about 40 minutes for Joseph’s pumpkin bag to get half filled with the kind of sweets that M only sees in her darkest nightmares. In fact, on our rounds, I wasn’t quite sure if some of the children were wearing false zombie teeth or they had in fact just been tucking into their carrier bags of sugar!!! Either way, I was pretty sure J’s bag would get the vetting treatment when we got home.

I needn’t have worried though. As is usually the case, Joseph came in, kicked off his wellies and sat down in the hallway to investigate his “treasure”. I opened the packets of jellies as he requested and watched as he bit into it, chewed for a bit, eyes widening followed by “mmmMMMMMMmmm”, a few more chews and then ………. “I don’t like that one” – in to the bin it goes. He did this with about 5 different sweets before giving up, leaving the remainder on the floor announcing that he was tired.

Straight to bed.

AFTER M had given him the tooth brushing of his life!

I don’t know how many years he’ll be happy to traipse the streets on Halloween night with his Dad but I hope it’s a few more yet.