Contrasting Days

My twins were eight years old yesterday. Eight. I can hardly believe it. Those eight years have passed so quickly and so slowly. It seems such a short time ago that I held them in my arms for the first time. So short a time since Lanie and I cooed over Patrick as he breathed the open air for the first time. Pat had a slight issue with his breathing for the first few minutes and it sounded like he was saying “ello, ello”. Or as we waited an eternity for Kitty to show signs of life – silent, still, no signs of life for a few seconds. Seconds that seemed an eternity, then she burst into life with a lamb-like cry that had the whole room moved. The struggles of the previous year forgotten as we held our twin babies, our pride and joy. I have never felt as happy as that moment. To see the smile on Lanie’s face, the relief there and the love for our new little family. I shut my eyes right now and picture it. One of life’s most perfect moments.

That was the day we celebrated yesterday. A day very much to celebrate. The day I became a grown up. The day I became a father. A father of twins, no less. I fussed around during the day yesterday. I made them pizzas, I bought a little cake and some other treats. I helped with Lego constructions. I took photos while they opened presents and took in their joy for my own. These children are becoming funny clever people that are wonderful to be around. So today was worthy of celebrating them. I am so very proud of them. (more…)

A Response to Mumsnet, On Grief

I read a lot of rubbish on the internet. That’s part of my job. I’ve also developed something of a thick skin, I can even read YouTube comments without eating my own knees off.

But sometimes you come across something so idiotic, so fueled by stupidity and hate you have to comment. And in this case it was a Mumsnet thread about someone moving on and finding love again after being bereaved. I don’t know if my response in the thread will remain, so I post it below.

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Lazy Town Fit Fruits & Super Squash Review

Don’t worry, I’ve not become a mummy blagger – I’ve not sold my soul for some Duplo or a free holiday. But I have been given a ton of free drinks to experiment on my children with and tell you if they survived, went mental for a bit, or were merely hydrated in a fruity manner.

The Gerber juice company has launched a range of fruit drinks and squashes with Lazy Town branding. Lazy Town, but that’s not on CBeebies these days? Well perhaps it’s on one of those channels that the lower orders use to babysit their children while having a fag, I suppose it breaks up the monotony of Ben10 episodes and adverts for cheap plastic tat.

Some of you may be wondering what Lazy Town is? It’s an Icelandic blend of puppets, preaching, homo eroticism, jail bait and thinly veiled propaganda for the fruit production industry.

But are the drinks any good?

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Children & Violent Videogames

Do you ever just read something and hold your head in your hands in despair? I did when I just read some online debates among tens of parents on whether they let their children play games rated for adults. Seemingly intelligent and well educated people can be seen trying to justify allowing their children to view the most violent of content. These people know how violent the content is, they can’t even plead ignorance of that. Yet out of some misplaced pride in their child’s ability to function as an adult or perhaps a typically modern and lazy aproach to let their little darling have whatever he wants they would attempt to justify their reckless stupidity.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Many years ago – before I began a career writing about videogames – worked in a videogames store. We would often have parents walking up to the counter with a violent game intended for their child next to them. In such cases we would point out the nature of the content. In many cases – thankfully – the parent would be shocked and it would be clear the child had lied about what was in that game case. In all too many cases though – especially among the educationally bereft – the parent would reply that they didn’t give a toss (or something stronger). And in those cases we wouldn’t sell them the game either.

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Trouble in Greendale

For many years now Royal Mail Postman Pat Clifton was the man you could always rely on in Greendale. He was the glue that held the community together, the face of officialdom that could be relied on to being the post whatever the weather. Not only did he bring the mail he was often there to save the day in many a community crisis.

But watch Pat at work today and something has gone terribly wrong. Rather than being the glue that holds the Greendale community together he seems to be the cause of most of the local problems. If you’ve a special event and need a package for it delivered on time, these times you can guarantee there will be some dreadful and potentially dangerous cock-up.

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The Birds & Bees Conversation

I’ve just driven back from town with my three year old daughter where we went to get a birthday card for a friend of hers and some groceries. Out of nowhere Kitty started the following conversation, which I though was well worth relating to you verbatim…

Kitty: Daddy, how did you and mummy Lanie make me and [her twin brother] Pat?
Me: We had a special kind of cuddle darling.
Kitty: Did you put a bone in her?
Me: [Cough, splutter] What?
Kitty: Did you put our bones into mummy Lanie’s tummy?
Me: Er no honey…we just had a special cuddle.
Kitty: But how did we get our bones in there?
Me: We just made two eggs grow in mummy Lanie’s tummy and you grew your own bones.
Kitty: You put some chicken eggs in mummy Lanie?
Me: No we just made some eggs grow in her tummy by having a special cuddle.
Kitty: What kind of special cuddle?
Me: A special one, for grown ups only.
Kitty: Can we watch you and mummy have a special cuddle?
Me: No, I’d really rather you didn’t.

Kids eh?

Grandpa In My Pocket

Cbeebies is full of very strange programmes. Take Numberjacks for example. This appears to be a remake of spooky 70s show Sapphire & Steele albeit with the eponymous heroes replaced with CGI talking numbers that live inside a sofa. Then of course there’s Waybaloo a show about dwarfish Buddhists with speech and learning difficulties, which tries very hard to be representative and fill each episode with a group of children of every hue that means the production company is very likely to exhaust Canada’s supply of Chinese children pretty soon.

One of the oddest shows is Grandpa In My Pocket. Here James Bolam, slumming it from grown-ups’ telly, plays the titular Grandpa. Now don’t get worried – grandpa’s excursions into “my” pocket are not of the Daily Mail-baiting “I’ll give you a Werthers original sonny if I can have a rummage” kind1. Oh no, instead it refers to Grandpa’s ability to shrink to a pocket size when wearing his “magical shrinking cap”.

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The Magic Heliclopter

One of the great joys of being a parent of a three year old is the mad stream off chatter emerging from them. Granted if you’re not in the right mood it can be tiring – our daughter readily admits “I can’t stop talking daddy” – but on the whole it’s hugely entertaining hearing the thoughts of bonkers pre-schoolers.

Having twins makes that even more entertaining because you can overhear conversations they have with each other. Take the following for example – I was driving them back from school along the back road, where one often sees military helicopters flying to and from RNAS Yeovilton. I’ve retained their pronunciation of helicopter and other words.

[Pat] Oooh I’ve just seen a heliclopter.
[Kitty] Did you Pat?
[Pat] Yes Ditty, it was very fast.
[Kitty] It was an airlaplane.
[Pat] No Ditty, not an airlaplane, it was a heliclopter.
[Kitty] Well I can’t see a heliclopter.
[Pat] That’s cause it disappeared.
[Kitty] Ooh, was it a magic heliclopter Pat?
[Pat] No Ditty, it just flew away.

[Kitty] Daddy why are you laughing?

I just about kept control of the car.

Bob the Builder is Nonsense

I see quite a bit of the output of Cbeebies and on the whole most of it is very good. But Bob the Builder is just nonsense.

The talking construction vehicles I can live with. But why the bleeding heck is there an annoyingly-voiced talking scarecrow in the show?

Bob the Farmer would be bound to have a talking scarecrow. But in a show about a construction worker the annoying carrot-faced git is so incongruous and more than a little annoying.

And while I’m at it what the hell’s wrong with the sense of scale among Cbeebies producers. None of the construction vehicles in Bob the Builder are large enough to admit Bob or Wendy, instead they have to hang dangerously on the side like New York Firecrew1. Is this a good example of vehicle safety to teach our children?

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Our days of chopping cucumber are over

The Channel Four programme Bringing Up Baby (open in a new window/tab) has been a real hit in our household, bringing much merriment for four weeks here to our family.

The show featured several families all trying to look after their newborn babies following one of three childcare philosophies. These were the 1960s “mummy knows best” approach of Doctor Benjamin Spock, a 1950s strict routine method and a strange 1970s hippy approach based on some tribe in the arse-end of nowhere.

I should first explain our own philosophy on childcare before I share with you our views on the TV show. Looking after twins is hard work and Patrick and Kitty do keep us rushed off our feet, the only way we really manage to cope is by sticking as much as possible to a routine. This means meals at eight am, midday, four pm and seven pm – and now the babes sleep through every single night.

This process took time though – time for us to learn what was best and time for the twins to show us what was comfortable for them. Neither Jo or I are fans of Gina Ford’s Das Kinder Reich view of childcare – we like to choose when we’ll have a cup of tea and a biscuit thanks very much, but that’s not stopped us admiring the 1950s approach in the TV show – which differs from Ford’s in that it doesn’t seem to control the parents.

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