Tag Archives: southern Africa

Bookish But NEVER Boring…

5 Mar

Reporting back from the promise in my previous blog – to expose the kiddywinks to those Public Information films that so many of us were nurtured with in post-war Britain, I have to say that I am rather disappointed.  We watched many – and the general consensus was “Freaky! Creepy!” or “well you never took no notice of them did you? ‘Cause you’re always talking to strangers in the supermarket. You shouldn’t be so friendly, Mum.”

In fact, my youngest (6) pointed out that “you make us read much more scarier books than those weirdy films what you had to watch.” And I have to confess that this is true. Not a day goes by without me exposing them to one of the classics. Last week it was ‘David Copperfield’ (the 19th century Dicken’s hero – not the overly-tanned n’ toothy American illusionist) and this week we are onto ‘The Man In The Iron Mask.’ (But please note – that clever little devils though they are, my two are not super-brats. I am talking about the graphic novel versions. With me there to read and to explain. No – I don’t shove them in the cellar with a dusty pile of The Classics first editions. Although believe me, the temptation is there on some days…)

In 'The Beano.' Again. But this time for an even more wonderful reason...

In ‘The Beano.’ Again. But this time for an even more wonderful reason…

Today has seen much cheer in the household – as we celebrate World Book Day. My daughter (10) commented to me that; “it was Dennis the Menace who got me reading wasn’t it? And who got me my first radio performance and magazine appearances,” (like she shares the same agent with Big Dennis or summat…) And this is all true. The dyslexic tendencies had led her to hide her school reading books and when I stumbled across an ancient pile of The Beano annuals, it transpired that I had suddenly found something that got her hooked into the world of books.  Which, some longer-term readers on here will know led us to a marvellous project that involved us trying to get reading materials to street children in southern Africa….(read the month of May 2014 for more info – and my girl’s own blog on it all here… https://funnylass.wordpress.com/2014/06/19/comic-remedies/  )

And the journey to the written word took the same ‘Beano’ pattern with the second child (who doesn’t have dyslexia) and who is now one of the biggest Dennis fan in the world. (Indeed, last night he informed me that he wanted all Horrid Henry books removing from his room (“I don’t like Henry. He’s not like Dennis. He’s a bit…. what’s the word…you always say? Sinister. That’s it.”)

Read... or you can watch the film. Or just summarise the story for someone else. The oldest methods are the best...

Read… or you can watch the film. Or just summarise the story for someone else. The oldest methods are the best…

My own thirst for new stories and fresh books (in between trying to write my own – which I am right now, patently avoiding doing…) is also never quenched. In fact, my daughter loves to read the books that I happen to be stuck into at any given moment. Albeit vicariously. Last night it was “I see that you’ve finished The Book Thief. Please PLEASE tell me what happens before I go to bed! Does she kick Hitler’s butt? Or what? Please don’t tell me she dies… I couldn’t bear it! I’ll never get to sleep if she dies..!”

But if you don’t happen to have access to small children yourselves in order to brainwash them with superb reading material – I would still recommend that you immerse yourself in the ancient art of reading aloud. Or of storytelling. Me and my other half  – before reproducing reared its head – covered thousands of miles in southern Africa as I read aloud to him on those deserted, long, straight and dusty roads (because they don’t have Radio 4 there and there are only so many times that you can listen to ‘Wicked Hits of The 80s’.) And even today I always keep a book in the car.  Of course, in the UK we have the opposite traffic problem. Standstill. So if we are having to suffer some (cough) ‘comedy play’ on Radio 4, then I just whip out a tome or two from the dashboard (“But just get to the point of the story,” he always says “You know that I can’t be doing with poetic and flowery so-called literary tosh.”)

Still. There are days when I don’t feel like reading to the kids. Or when they bring a book to me that happens to be a bit more drivelly; you know, something that I really don’t fancy wasting any of my precious minutes on. For example they learned a long time ago NEVER to try and get me to read the Disney book-version of anything out loud to them. And that I also really struggle with reading anything about superheros. (Unless The Life of Jesus counts, because that’s always a great one with which to go off on contemporary and political tangents with; “So sweetie. Jesus saved that lady from a horrid death. Do you think that it’s okay to chuck stones at a woman until she’s dead just because she might have been caught snogging a man who wasn’t her husband? Well that’s what happens in many countries all over the world today!”)c hamster 1

Yes, the world of my own offspring’s books tends to be funny, thrills n’ spills filled and … sometimes dark. Which reminds me of perhaps our ultimate favourite cheeky lad. That 6 year old Calvin and his precious ‘imaginary but real’ tiger, Hobbes.

I first found out about C&H when I was 14 years old and quickly amassed all of these incredible books by the insanely talented and hilarious writer/illustrator, Bill Watterson.  Watterson’s work is far cleverer and far more ‘LOL’ than Peanuts and the like. Calvin and Hobbes should be on the Must Read list of anyone who has ever been a child. In fact, it should be on prescription on the NHS for anyone who every suffers from ‘the blues.’ c hamster 2

As a young teenager I could identify horribly with the plights of Calvin and the nefarious schemes that his evil parents and schoolteachers always employed in order to stop him from simply enjoying life, not having not a care in the world and generally being a lazy little swine with no social conscience.  And now..? But of course. I can completely relate to the downtrodden parents who practically have to re-mortgage the home in order to find anyone crazy enough to babysit Calvin.

So, back to the Joy of Reading and a chance to share with you – in a celebration of all things bookish; what happens to be one of my all time favourite C&H strips.

And yes, gentle reader. I have utilised Calvin’s dad’s tactics on several occasions in order to bring one of the ‘less quality’ stories to a close….c hamster 3 final

 

 

 

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Zip It!

10 Jan

‘Zip It!’ A popular expression in our house. Normally employed for smaller human beings who are gobbing off beyond a reasonable level. But the recent horror of Charlie Hebdo has left me and many other parents that I know, wondering if we now need to be uttering this phrase a bit more at the kids.

Interestingly, it seems to be the more switched on, politically aware, well-read and generous folk who are fretting the most about their children saying or doing something that might offend someone else – in this stoked-up atmosphere of religion, politics and race.

Regular readers of this blog will know that me and mine represent everything that your anti-multiculturalist sorts love to hate. So you might think that I have all of the perfect answers when it comes to discussing such sensitive issues with my kids. In fact, no. No. And I certainly didn’t have all of this off to pat before Charlie Hebdo.  Here are some recent examples of the level of dialogue that has always been ongoing within My Fam:

Scene 1 Namibia (southern Africa). Me, Him and 2 kids.  Driving through a police check-point on the road outside of the Capital. Unlike the rest of us – my 6 yr old lad is a chap of very few words….

10 yr old: It’s not fair! They never stop us. They never search us!

Him: You don’t want to be searched. Look at the people in the cars over there. They’re really naffed off.

10yr old: But it’s not fair! I really wanna get searched! We’ve been through these road-blocks about twenty times now and they never stop us. Why?

6yr old: It’s because we’re white.

Me: Whaaaat?

"I'll swap you a Stop n' Search exemption for the Right to Wee"

“I’ll swap you a Stop n’ Search exemption for the Right to have a Wee”

Scene 2- Namibia (southern Africa) a few days later. Visiting a national monument which is only usually visited by people from the different black ethnic groups. We are desperate for the loo.

10 yr old: This is awful! They keep telling us the wrong way to the toilets and we’ve been back three times now and ask and they still just flap their hand at us and tell us to go the wrong way.

Me: The seem to think that we’re just being a nuisance. We should have gone to the loo before we got here, though. Oooh – I’m bursting!

10 yr old: Well, they’re hardly busy… we’re the only ones here in the car park! Why are they being so rude and unhelpful? I feel like they don’t like us! People! Why aren’t you helping us? Before our Mum wets her pants!

6 yr old: It’s because we’re white.

Me: Pardon?!

Of course, in both of these instances the normally oh-so quiet 6 yr old was making a mere observation. One which very much shocked us. Because of his lack of verbosity, we simply haven’t  sat with him and explained to him issues of race, apartheid, politics etc in the way that his older sibling might have had our attention…

Scene 3Leaving our semi-rural immediate neighbourhood we are now driving through an inner-city suburb, somewhere Up North.

6 yr old: Hey, Mum! I think you’ve got us lost, Mum. Hey!

Confused of Africa? Or of UK?

Confused of Africa? Or of UK?

Me: Why?

6 yr old: Because I think…we’re in Africa

10 yr old: What are you on about? You little weirdo.

6 yr old: Look – outside – everyone’s looking like…we’re in Africa! It’s well cool!

10 yr old: Yeah, right – Stupid! Do I see any giraffes? Or those termite mound things? It’s raining! Are you totally thick, or what?

6 yr old: Well – that one over there in the doorway-thingy is a street child. I think.

10 yr old: It’s a drunken man asleep in a pile of sick! You idiot!

Me: Stop being horrible to your brother. I think he only means that there a lot of black people in this area.

6 yr old: Yes – that’s what I meant. I just never knew there were so many black people in England.

Him: (to Me) Keep him away from the English Defence League and their lot, eh?

6 yr old: (sulking) And anyway. I want to go back to Africa now. It’s better than living with you lot.

Me: (to Him) I don’t think his sentiments lie with the EDF, dear. It’s just his use of language and terminology that we perhaps need to work on…

Scene 4 After a troublesome time in the playground

6 yr old: I don’t like them brown boys. I won’t ever play with them.

Me: (shocked) What do you mean? What’s wrong with them?

6 yr old: I just don’t like them.

Me: But … well. You can’t say that you don’t like ‘brown boys.’ You shouldn’t…

6 yr old: Well I just don’t like any of them.

Me: But you can’t say that! You can’t go round saying things like that. Your cousins are… well – ‘brown.’ Aren’t they?

6 yr old: Yeah. But they’re different. I know them.

(NB – It turned out that what he meant was the Pakistani-British boys all knew each other and he found it hard to break into their games. One week later it was “Mum – I always play with the brown boys now and they’re all my best friends!” “Great,” I replied. “But shouldn’t we maybe not use the word ‘brown?'” Only to be corrected by daughter who goes “Well, my auntie always says she would rather be called ‘brown’ because that’s the shade she is as she isn’t the colour of black or of Pakistani. And calling someone a ‘Paki’ is just nasty and upsets people and like… has gone out with Martin Luther King’s time. Or whatever. Although…I heard someone say ‘that Paki shop’ the other day. But there were old and a bit stupid so you can forgive ’em”)

Scene 5 – Our kitchen. Children sharing out coloured sweets.

10 yr old: I’ve made little piles of the different ones, see? But I’m not having any of the blacks as I hate them…..(thinks)  Oh no!! Did I say something racist, Mum?

6 yr old: It’s okay. I hate the whites. So it all works out fair dunnit?

Got sick of discussing matters of race. So promptly lobbed the bitter lemons back at the grown ups.

Got sick of discussing matters of race. So promptly lobbed the bitter lemons back at the grown ups.

These kind of conversations go on all of the time in most households across the land. And each of these little scenarios were remembered by me – not because the kids said something cute and funny – but because my own reaction felt confused. Blustered. I wanted them to know ‘how we try and say things’ in the adult world. But without doing the whole politically-correct overkill thing on them and without squashing their right to expression and to just be… an innocent little kid.

But sure – there was a bit of me that was thinking ‘Gawd, PLEASE don’t say that in school – will you?’ Even though the school knows us, our background and work etc and probably realise that I don’t stomp around in jackboots of a weekend.

So if I feel like this – with my own family, experiences and interests… how the hell must most other caring and concerned parents feel about what their kids hear, see and say – at this particular moment in time?

I can only remind others (and myself) that all of us – whatever our ethnic or religious background – we are only human if we trot out some ‘corkers’ from time to time. At my Nan’s funeral for example, the Minister said “Edith was the kindest soul ever. Who still clung to what some perceive to be old-fashioned language. But this ‘Blackie Preacher’ knew the love in her heart and the kind of woman that she was, so he never minded the out-moded words.”  And a Pakistani friend told me that on preparing to marry a white woman he was told by his elderly relative “first thing you must do is to teach her to wash her hands properly. If they’re not a muslim, these goras are very dirty.”

So maybe we shouldn’t be panicking and maybe we should be more gentle with the kids and with ourselves. Less of the gut reaction of telling the kids to Zip It (unless they’re calling me a ‘clumsy old tart’ again.) If we are the kind of people who are worried about causing offence then our hearts are already in the right place.

And maybe those of us who genuinley care about this kind of thing are exactly the sort of people who can stop the status quo from worsening. I believe that the attach on Charlie Hebdo was a deliberate act to kick off yet another secular versus religious and racial war.  It didn’t even have as sophisticated an intention as trying to flag up discussions about the freedom of speech. It was an act of contempt and hatred –  spread by psychotic nutters who claim to be religious but who haven’t got a breath of compassion or love left in their bodies. People who are rubbing their hands with glee at the confusion and division that they have created between folk this week and because of whom – hundreds of thousands of more innocent civiliants in the Middle East may well end up losing their lives.*

So let the kids speak. They often make far more sense than the adults do.

*Note the cunning refusal to write ‘muslims’ and ‘non muslims’ there. Because we are all just human beings at the end of the day…

Neanderthal Nativity

1 Dec

Back in the 70’s me and my big bro’ never participated in all of that nativity biblical re-enactment stuff.

This could explain a lot of things for me and mine.  Like the fact that as a small child I hated those new-fangled advent calendars that came with crappy choccies behind their little doors. The ones that didn’t possess the ‘Jesus in the stable’ theme. Nativity was a rare story for us – not something to be trotted out, year on year.

And this might explain the fact that last year I felt the need to buy my mother a book on the Gnostic Gospels for Xmas (she looked at me as if to say ‘the usual packet of American Tan tights would have suited me just fine, love…’) And manger-deprivation may even tell us why my brother converted to Islam over twenty years ago (hey- sorry Our Kid, but I put it to thee that this lack of nativity-ing year in and out at school could have played a key influence on you too. Just don’t tell the BNP about this, alright? Or they’ll be calling for the government to enforce nativity plays across the UK as a cunning new anti-terrorist measure designed to rid our country of pesky muslims like you and your own wee family…)

We lacked Nativity. It led us to wicked and depraved lifestyles in later life.

We lacked Nativity. It led us to wicked and depraved lifestyles in later life.

So no. East Manchester 1970s. We didn’t get to prance about with teatowels on our heads. Or shout ‘THERE’S NO ROOM HERE’ at the audience (although come to think of it – I do remember hearing about a rather snotty-nosed little lad, many years older than me who was born into shed loads of dosh and who attended public school…went by the name of Nigel Farage.  Apparently always insisted on playing that Innkeeper role…)

Nah. The Three Wise Persons and all of that, were not a year in year out feature of our fledgling children-led productions. But this wasn’t because of a deliberate policy on our part. We didn’t opt-out of the nativity-ritual because of any particular religious preferences. And it wasn’t because we were home schooled or anything like that (I can hear my Ma laughing like a drain at the thought of that one…) Neither was our lack of over-familiarity with shepherds and angel throngs because we lived anywhere particularly exotic, where other more foreign cultures predominated (I mean – hello? I’m born n’ bred East Manchester. Eating sausage rolls on a Friday tea time instead of fish n’ chips was tantamount to pledging allegiance to Kaiser Bill himself.)

Nope. The lack of a stable and a star was simply because we grew up in your 70’s poor, urban area where Labour authorities prevailed. This was a place where schools were encouraged to try and be a tad bit more creative and a bit more experimental.  So we had … a Festive Tarka The Otter production. The French Xmas with Naughty Rudolph Who Swindles the Elves Show. David and Goliath (straight up. No funny or homo-erotica business, mind.)  The Jungle Book.  Pinocchio.  Peter Pan. Oliver Twist.  Proper Dickens’ style, mind. Today’s Disney-overkill or Pixar-mainstream gubbins simply did not exist back then. And finally… I remember clearly some weird Icelandic saga where I had to play the part of a boy (again.)

I’m glad about this. The bit about the lack of nativitying I mean. (Although playing the part of a boy was something that I also appreciate. It has helped me understand my own testosterone surges a little bit better.) And I’m grateful that I spent the first couple of years with a firstborn in Namibia. Where come December time anyone who can rub a couple of Rand together, buggers off to the seaside in order to avoid the blistering heat. Where talking about a chubby guy with enormous white beard who dons a sweaty red suit in the midst of this ice-cold ‘snow’ thing which no one has ever seen … just seemed downright stupid. And where talk of the traditional nativity performance just never – in four years that we lived there – seemed to hold anything like the sway that it recently has cottoned onto in the  UK.

A few people. Call them cynics if you like – have identified this uniform need to ‘do a nativity’ in schools with the growing adoption of USA customs and traditions (such as Halloween Trick or Treating…themed kiddy parties….and hell – even Black Friday Sales!) Such people are rather terrified that we might soon be quaffing dead turkeys TWICE in the space of a few weeks and  thanking the Lord that we got shot of the Royal Family and all things lovely and UK-ish. (Not me! I’d never say that kind of thing!)

So I won’t be commenting on that in this post. All that I want to say is that … Quite frankly – I find the whole nativity thing to be Ultra Dull.

In 1973 my brother's school were very creative. NASA astronauts met Tarka the Otter.

In 1973 my brother’s school were very creative about Xmas. NASA astronauts met Tarka the Otter.

Not because of the kids. The kids always carry the shows don’t they? Regardless of content. But I’m bored with the story. With the traditional way that it’s told. I want a fast-forward version… where the plastic dolly-Jesus suddenly morphs into JC aged 33 and he starts chucking over tables and chairs and foaming at the mouth about the excesses of our evil western Christmas pressie-culture.

I want a bit of controversy.

Which is why I was glad when I heard that – at last – my own very funnylad has a part in HIS school nativity! Excellent. Here’s a real chance for some thrills n’ spills and irreverancies (hope to Gawd that his teacher isn’t reading this.)  And this latest development has also provided me yet again, with an interesting insight into the differences between the boy and the girl.  I recalled a conversation with my daughter when she was 6 years old (the same age as the lad is now).  It went like this:

DAUGHTER:  It’s so not fair! I never get to be Mary!

Miserable looking Angel Gabriel? Or perhaps feeling spiritually superior to the rest of us.

Miserable looking Angel Gabriel? Or perhaps feeling spiritually superior to the rest of us.

ME: Who cares? You’re the Angel Gabriel! This entire nativity that you’re doing with school … the way that the teachers have written it… it’s all about the Angel Gabriel.

D: But I’m never Mary. It’s always the same girl who is Mary. Because she looks like a Mary. Why don’t I look like a Mary? It’s not fair!

ME: But you have the big song – all on your own! They’re even putting you high up in the church pulpit so that you pop up and surprise everyone with your performance! With a massive golden star! And a host of other little angels behind you! You’re… the leader!

D: But if you’re Mary you get to wear a blue dress and everything. And to be the mother of God. And I’m just like… some servant. Oh. You don’t understand.

(SEE YOUTUBE LINK below – evidence of her lack of Mary-ness)

Now. Compare this with the conversation of the other day with my 6 yr old lad:

SON: Ha! This is soooo coo-wul! I can’t believe they’re letting me be the donkey! It’s soooo coo-wul!

ME: I know! Well done.

SON: It’s ’cause I’m so brill at my HEEE-HAAAW! Everyone laughs! I’ve been doing it all day! HEEE-HAAAW

ME: Yes – it is a good one. Good braying there.

SON: All the teachers keep laughing and then they have to say – ‘okay now, let’s stop it with the HEE-HAAAAWs for a bit!’

ME:  Yeah. I bet they do.

SON: Because the more I HEEE-HAAAW the more Mary might fall off me. An’ it’s even better’n what I thought actually! Being the donkey. ‘Cause one of the other boys – one of my best friends – plays a snowman!

ME: A snowman? In a nativity?

SON: Yeah! And it’s well funny, ’cause I have to bite his nose off.

ME: What?

SON: ‘Cause it’s a carrot an’ that.  An’ I was thinking that it might be even funnier if I put my leg up…to the side. Like a doggy  – you know like when they’re weeing? An’ pretend to wee all over the snowman!

ME: No. I wouldn’t do that if I were you.

SON: (thinking) Yeah. Maybe not. Mary would fall off me again.

Studying for the part of Donkey. Even 3 years ago!

Boy studying hard for the part of Donkey. Even 2 years ago!

And there we have it. So much as I prefer a bit of a shake-up in terms of Christmas performance material for kids, the good old-fashioned nativity has reminded me of the differences between boy and girl. Or perhaps just this particular boy and girl.  Nothing other than the dizzy heights of headline billing (and birthing God Himself) will ever be good enough for my daughter.

Whereas my lad’s aspirations are to be the humblest of creatures. And to widdle over inanimate objects for a cheap laugh.

———————————-

You tube link below demonstrates my lad’s ambition. Over 3 years ago he was already employing Method Acting in order to prepare for his great moment. Note nappy and donkey costume. And tantrum, squealing and shoe being thrown at his sister. These artistic sorts always have a temper….

No Tantrums in the Townships

4 Jun

(Part 3)

I’ll admit that something I was rather stressed about when returning to Namibia was the way that my kids would behave in public. It doesn’t take a genius to notice that in general, African kids who live in the sub-Saharan countries are less … hyper … shall we say – than kids from the West tend to be.

And there are plenty of reasons for that, which I won’t go into right now.

So, watching our kids’ reactions to life in some of the poorer parts of the former township areas was very interesting. At first, as we entered the squatter camps, our son came out with “Hey – little houses made of old rubbish! Like metal and tyres and fings.  Can I have one like that? So coo-wul!” Then, as it dawned on him that this way of life wasn’t ‘play at tents in the garden’ and that he was face to face with kids who had no shoes, who had only one (dirty) set of clothes, who had no parents, who slept rough, who begged in the streets and who played in the rubbish dumps … he grew a lot quieter.

His sister was unnaturally quiet too. As we stood with friends from the less poor parts of town who were helping us to create a list of the neediest children, my daugher nudged me and asked “What on earth is that lady doing – stamping on that broken old chair?” I glanced over. “Ah – she’s made herself a sort of washing machine. She has to carry the water in and she’s stomping on the soggy blanket to get it clean and using the frame of the chair to help her to do it. Pretty clever eh?”

Nearby her baby was yarking for some more breast milk. The woman noticed us and came over to us, baby now hanging from boobie. She asked us to buy something warm for the child as their winter was approaching “He has just one thing to wear and it’s already cold in the night,” she said to us through a translator.

“What do we do?” I asked my daughter. “We were only supposed to be buying for the school aged children.” “Mum!” she murmured “I’ll buy him something myself. Look – he’s only got one sock!”

Both kids were still adjusting to what they were seeing.  In fact, I’d never seen either of them behave so meekly (without being told to.) Sure the day was a scorcher and the adults were talking about dull logistical and political stuff – but my two stood in a corner as they clasped each others hands and stared at the children in front of them.  Normally – in England for example – they would be sighing ‘Boooring!’ and ‘Where’s the Monster Munch? I’m ‘ungry!’ or  thumping each other. So this was all very unfamiliar behaviour from where I was standing…

It was all about staring.  (Not for too long … see my previous posts on ‘eye contact’!) And the brown and black children with holes in their pants and sores on their faces stared back at the funny white children who had such brightly coloured clothes and such pink and sweaty faces.

I think that it took about fifteen minutes for the reality to sink in for my wee english kids – the harsh way of life that these other children were leading.  I did experience a moment myself of ‘is this all a bit too traumatic for my two to cope with’? But I soon got over myself. And the kids got over themselves too.  But please note that this was not a deliberate ‘I’ll show my kids how flippin’ well grateful they should be’ experiment (ha, no – they’re still ungrateful little monkeys, if you ask me!) Rather, it was a lesson in 2 stages. Stage 1 being ‘Look. Observe. Show, Don’t Tell.’ And Stage 2 being ‘Right. What do we do now? Get your sleeves rolled up.’

For Stage 2, we were going to be People On A Mission! And despite their blood sugar slump and exposure to the midday sun and the shock of what they were seeing – my two didn’t even need to be asked. They sprang into action and began to engage with the children as their parents talked more logistics.  The 6 year old was well-impressed “Look – the kids make well coo-wul kites out of old bin liners! And they made a football out of old plastic bags!” Whereas the 9 year old was rather more indignant; “But this is awful! The tiny ones are playing around a rubbish dump? Why has no-one cleaned it up? Mum – you can’t ever moan about our bin-men at home again after this!'”DCIM100SPORT

Thanks to our fantastic friend who lives in Epako, we spent a good hour sorting out which were the neediest of the children that we could help. Many of them were orphans (but more on that tomorrow.) Returning to our friend’s home in a less poor part of the former township (but still very much ‘going without’ by our own standards) my son was bonding very well with the local lads and fully integrating himself into location society – wandering from home to home in the search for playmates. greg loves epako

One of the most ‘telling’ moments for me was when the children playing in the area wanted to ask him about his T shirt. I think that it was also a very revealing moment for my lad too. Sadly, he is a little chap who often feels very hard done to, because his evil Mum and Dad don’t buy him all of the stuff that he thinks that he should possess in terms of superheros, LEGO etc etc. This video clip says it all really. Check out the surprise on his face as he realises that his old T shirt – one of his many Marvel Superhero tops, and his Skylander hat – has utterly fascinated the boys. And that they don’t know who these superheroes are… And oh. How they would LOVE to wear something like that …

The dialogue on the clip here involves my boy trying to explain to them who the heroes are and what they do. His sister correcting him (of course!) And then the both of them attempting to tell jokes to the other kids (who clearly hadn’t a clue what they were on about – but they all laughed lots anyway.)

And that was the brilliant bit for us – bringing the kids had NOT been a mistake. Bringing the kids reminded us just what this was all about … Children just love each other’s company regardless. And they want to share their stuff and to have fun together …

(MORE TOMORROW)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pack ‘Em Off?…

6 Jan

This child appreciated her mother's efforts with the packed lunch...

First day back at school.  We were all rather gleeful. Three weeks trapped in British homes in British weather over the festive season is a tad too much familial familiarity for anyone.

Well, after carrying out the usual school-bag search at tea time. I found a letter.  Addressed to me. From the dinner lady (or Lunchtime Fuhrer – or Technician. Or whatever they call them these days). It was with reference to my daughter.  And a dinner-time incident: *

“Just to let you know.  She didn’t drink much of the cooking oil.  We gave her two cups of water straightaway and then she said she didn’t feel very sick anymore after that.

Yes, on the first morning back – I had made a big blooper.  Neither of my kids will drink fruit juice of any kind (no – not because I am on some mission for purified water or something – the odd little blighters will only drink milk, or water from a tap).  Anyway. They don’t like to feel different – so I give them both delicious and FREE tap water (or ‘Corporation Pop’ as dear old Auntie Millie used to call it).   This finest Yorkshire beverage is lovingly siphoned into an old ‘Fruit Shoot’ bottle every morning.

Only this morning I screwed up.  I grabbed what I (foolishly thought) was a full bottle of water already filled by the father of the gang.  ‘Blimey’ I was thinking ‘He’s ahead of the game this morning’….  So I seized the butty box from the fridge and stuffed it into my lassie’s schoolbag.

Turned out that it wasn’t water. It was cooking oil. On our wee self-catering trip away over the New Year, I had been (unusually organised) and had made up a small bottle of cooking oil. In an old Fruit Shoot bottle.  I had even put a big label on it that said ‘COOKING OIL’.

So who was the daftest brush? Me for grabbing the bottle anyway – regardless of the genius labelling? Or my daughter for drinking the damned thing? (because she CAN read those words now.  But her excuse was ‘I was talking to my friends mummy! We do DO that at dinner-time!!’)

Either way, I confess that I felt rather embarrassed and guilty at making such a bizarre mistake.  But it could have been worse I suppose (like the time when I myself was 7  – at a family ‘do’ – and Auntie Janet ‘forgot’ that she had mixed a whole load of vodka in with a family sized bottle of Coca Cola and all of the adults present kept saying to me ‘Oh stop bloody moaning and being so fussy. Of course things taste different sometimes at other peoples’ houses! Don’t be so ungrateful!’)

After he had managed to stop choking on his Sherbet Dib-Dab (don’t ask) my husband suggested that we write back to the dinner lady, pretending to be offended and telling her that ‘As our daughter was born in Africa, we have always tried to bring her up using the customs and practices that we embraced whilst living there. Consequently our children drink cooking oil on weekdays and at weekends they are allowed beer as a special treat.  So please do not impose your western cultural so-called ‘superior’ values on my  family’s chosen dietary habits. Thank you.’ **

However, on reflection, I felt that it might be best not to employ our usual sarcastic sense of humour on this occasion.  After all, the school are still struggling to get their heads around the fact that our daughter’s use of the term ‘Coloured’ – to describe some of her pals in southern Africa – was not actually a result of our family looking up to Alf Garnet as some kind of role model.  In fact, the school clearly found it difficult to believe that there actually IS a defined ethnic group who are known as ‘Coloured’ in that region. ***

(NB  –  this part of the conversation between the two of us was generated by the recollection that – hey, yeah – we DID give her cooking oil as a toddler when we lived in Africa.  This was on the advice of our African friends – to cure chronic constipation. And yes – it did help actually.)

But I digress. I hold my hands up! I was rushing about like a madwoman.  The fallout was highly embarrassing.  But I bet the dinner ladies had a good old laugh at my expense.   And why not? It’s a crappy time of year after all.  And we need more laughter in the world. Especially if you are a dinner lady and you’re paid sod all in comparison to the teachers. Plus you don’t get paid out of term-time…

So.  Parents.  If you are responsible for sending your kids to school with packed lunches – set yourself a challenge once a week and see if you can get away with packing something a little ‘bit different’.  Or something that may just cause chronic childhood obesity in the space of 20 minutes.  And if the dinner ladies don’t notice your neglectful/abusive packed lunch – threaten to sue the school.  You never know.  They might offer YOU a week of free school meals or something as compensation!  The horrific experience may well politicise you as it did that lovely Jamie Oliver bloke…

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* Note to all Southerners – Up North many of us still refer to the meal between the hours of 12 noon and 2pm as ‘dinner’.  Always have – always will. Get over it.

** African chums – of course, I am joking about you lot drinking cooking oil and giving beer to the kiddies.  But I am following the rather wonderful African tradition of making up a load of  hillarious fibs that I witnessed many an indigenous peoples’ group relating to unsuspecting (and annoying) western anthropologists who would truck up for a few days and ask them some stupid questions…. YOURS is the kind of sense of humour I appreciate the most (i.e. ‘Oh yes!  Every 3rd Tuesday we always swap huts – and husbands. That way we all appreciate our own things a bit more’). How many PhDs have been awarded, based on complete and utter made-up tosh eh? Eh? Plenty. Believe me.

*** And DON’T get me onto what happened when my daughter was trying to tell her class about the ethnic group in Namibia called ‘The Basters’. The teachers are still in denial about that one..