Names on Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve has been very damp and exceptionally grey. No colour at all. So it called for some colour from a couple of weeks ago. Today this is as colourful as it gets. I can’t think of a name for this at the moment.

As I’ve got older I’ve become more used to dealing with the inevitable life curveballs. But not completely. The dreaded demon curveball still gets through.

Dad if I had been a girl what would you and mum have called me.

I couldn’t remember and that’s a great start to 24th December. My defence is that we found out very early on in the pregnancy that it was boy names only. But I still should remember that. Those fun brainstorming seasons for two unprepared newbie parents in waiting. But nothing. It felt like I had let down our son and lost another important link with my partner. It hurt. It hurt like mad. Yes you can hurt at this time of year. Sadly so many do. Sending everyone of you a hug.

To try and clear my head I went outside to do my odd outside thing. Push a wheelbarrow around the garden a few times. It’s hard work but that’s the point. In the middle of the garden was a stray Santa’s Hat – presumably courtesy of Captain Chaos. So as the effort started to do its job I donned the slightly soggy hat. Wheelbarrowing in the rain. Like to see Gene Kelly’s face if that was the song he was given all those years ago to dance to. Wheelbarrowing in the rain did its job. Mind reset. I have one job and that is to make our son happy. Make him happy this Christmas. Need to get back to my A Game.

“Son when was the last time you had whip cream direct from the canister into the mouth”

Never Dad.

“Well you are now”

So that’s what we did. Soon this was escalated to shaving foam covering my entire face. It kinda suited me. Still no George Clooney but a vast improvement. A look all the more better for the sound of laughter filling the house.

Dad do you fancy a first to hit the crossbar challenge.

Followed a few minutes later with

Dad you do know it’s first to kick the ball onto the goal crossbar not first to repeatedly kick the ball into next doors garden challenge

As I spent a quite a bit of time retrieving the football from next doors garden I got to spend a bit of time noticing how a garden should look like. Very neat and tidy with immaculate lawns. Well almost immaculate. A couple of ugly holes courtesy of an escaping Captain Chaos. That’s compared to our garden which is more akin to a ploughed farmers field courtesy of moles, son and CAPTAIN CHAOS. Maybe 2020 is the year of the NEAT GARDEN. More likely it’s the year of the NEED A NEW GARDEN. So as the ball sailed over the hedge again son shouted.

Dad what would you call me now if I was a girl.

This time the curve ball missed.

Laa Laa Po Dora the Explorer Elsa Tinkerbell”

Really Dad. All those names.

“No son Dads fibbing.

Good I was getting worried. It’s a joke then

“Yes

Maybe you could call me either Daphne Blake or Velma Dinkley

“Jinkies that’s a good idea”

So a day that threatened to be scuppered on a girls name ended with laughs about a girls name. Like many folks I operate on such fine margins. With so little separating happiness and sadness. I really hope this Christmas you find happiness.

Christmas Diaries 4 – Shopping

A perfectly tranquil setting which feels like a million miles from civilisation a dit’s madness.

What possesses anyone to venture into a English Supermarket on the 23rd December. As Son sat in the car I donned my finest Indiana Jones costume and ventured into the tunnels of hell to try and secure the prize. This time the prize was not a rare artefact. The goal was milk, bread, cheese, fruit juice, ice cream and carrots.

This wasn’t a shop. This was an ordeal. A form of modern torture. A sometimes moving sea of humanity – usually moving in the wrong direction. Too terrifying for even an a hero like Indiana. Milk, bread and cheese ticked off. The fruit juice and carrot sections stripped bare. Are we prepping for an upcoming apocalyptic winter. No I forgot it’s the few days of Christmas.

Trying to fight my way through the hoards to the freezer section. So many empty sections almost as if they had been previously visited by a plague of locusts. A brave shop assistant trying to bring a box of frozen parsnips to the freezer. As he walks shoppers are rapidly emptying his box. A few seconds later he’s walking back to the store room. Poor chap never stood a chance. He didn’t get within 50 yards of the freezer before he was stripped bare. At the freezer ice cream is at a premium. Must be summer. From the empty sections and desperate shopper faces the luxury little tubs costing a million pounds each are this years must have. Luckily the value vanilla tubs are clearly being shunned in the shopping frenzy today. So I’m now finished. Almost….

Then you get to the mayhem which is the cash tills. At least 10 deep. I opted for the self service as every cashier appeared to be sneezing and coughing. After 20 minutes I’m next in line. Unfortunately a family better placed in The Simpson’s stood in my way. Clearly a bar code reader was beyond them. Just putting the item straight into your bag is not going to work. Covering the bar code up with your hand is not going to work. Scanning an item then rescanning the item isn’t going to work. Then with half of your items still on the conveyor belt just basically giving up is not going to work. They just paid for the few items they had managed to scan and left. Leaving a poor over worked shop assistant to remove the unscanned items so giving the rest of the poor sods stood in line a chance to get on with their life’s.

Finally returning to the car to find it’s now well sandwiched between two cars clearly deciding 6 inches is enough space to open the car door and slide easily into the drivers seat. Have they seen the size of my bum….. Luckily son was in the car and he opened the window. The window proving the only way into my car. I guess Starsky and Hutch entered there red police car with a bit more star quality than me. Finally at the wheel a careful 27 point turn managed to free the car from the parking spot.

Dad did you remember the bananas.

No son. I forgot but thankfully as they are for me then they can wait until normality has returned. I’m guessing sometime in 2025.

Don’t you just love Christmas.

Kings, Queens and Telly Tubbies

4am When the world hopefully sleeps.

The bedroom door bursts open.

Sorry Dad can’t wait to ask. If you had to be related to a king or queen which one would you most want it to be and which would you be most embarrassed to be associated with.

Erm top of my head probably Queen Victoria and probably not mad King George III. How about you son.

Henry V would be so cool but he only had one child and he was pious so it’s not likely. Many would say King John as one your embarrassed with as he is seen as the most useless one but he was actually not as bad as that. Henry VII probably as his claim to the throne was illegitimate. Night Dad.

I then I had a bizarre dream about being late for a meeting with the Queen. A meeting which was to happen on a train in a random rainy town. And I got lost. At least Son had not asked about my favourite Telly Tubby. Getting lost on the way to meet my favourite Telly Tubby would have been a dream too far.

So at breakfast I decided to continue the historic theme. I convinced son to have a trip to see the beautiful ruins of a local Abbey. He wasn’t convinced but finally we set off. I really should stick to my level. The Telly Tubbies. We arrived to find the site closed until March and that knowing look from son. At least we got a few lovely views from the outside.

I gave our son the option of extending our trip but he just wanted to go home. Too many people about. That’s becoming an increasingly common comment from him. As the months go by he finds it harder to deal with social contacts. He can still cope with rock concerts. It’s because he thinks they are still very inclusive. Doesn’t matter what you sound like, dress like or look like – your just accepted. No condescending looks. It helps that it’s dark and noisy so it’s unlikely anyone will talk to him. He was also ok on our recent train night but that was onboard the train. Luckily no one was sat opposite us. On the platform he struggled. We basically stood inside a coal shed until we could board. He had been ok with the cinema but now if the screen has more than handful of people in then he can’t watch the movie. We were going to see Jumanji but the screen was half full and that was the end of that. At school he’s just not happy. The crowded school bus is becoming impossible for him. You can see the change in him when he’s back home. He’s confident and happy. Outside he’s nervous and wants to hide. As soon as we leave the front door his hood goes up.

I remember a conversation with a really good Child Psychologist who worked for a time with him. She thought that his social difficulties may well become more pronounced as he became a little older. She had worked with a number of kids a bit like our son and they had all found mostly happy life’s. But isolated life’s. One or two friends and some family contacts allowed into the inner sanctum. Pets and animals definitely. But the rest of the world – preferably not.

It’s early and things may change. He will follow his own path. I will be there as long as I’m needed. But it’s his own path and he needs to find the type of world he’s most contented with. A closed abbey with a handful of walkers being too busy is potentially an indication of the direction of travel. If that path takes us inevitably into a more isolated world then so be it. And for those interested my favourite Telly Tubby was Laa Laa.

Ratings

It’s December. Its still sunny and its that time of year when you watch those movies you wouldn’t dream of watching during the rest of the year. It was like that before the world changed. It’s like that after the world changed.

But one teeny weeny request.

Please filmmakers and TV schedulers can we try not to do Christmas movies that at some stage involves death. Death of a parent, death of a lover, death of a pet, death of a main character. Last year we watched festive movies which without warning introduced the mum dying (3x), the dad dying (x1), grandparent dying (x1) and the family pet dying (x2). Really it’s CHRISTMAS. I know it’s hard to believe but many of us out here in viewing land will be going through grief. But it doesn’t stop there. I remember our son saying this during one particularly happy start to a film.

Why is it that so many films have a single dad whose either bad tempered, drinking and gambling. And the child who is behaving badly, has no friends and is being bullied. It’s never just a nice dad and child who are doing ok just a bit sad.

So what’s the answer apart from watch Guardians of the Galaxy on loop. Oh hang on that’s got a mum death. Ok apart from watching Big Hero 6 on loop. Oh hang on the robot dies. Ok part from watching Muppets Christmas Carol on loop.

Well the answer is a new movie classification system. One which actually tells you what the movie is really about. So for example if a PG movie contains a parent death you could label it PG-PD. Or if a pet dies it could be labelled PG-PED. Or if a loveable main character dies PG-LMCD. So as a parent I would be pre informed of the upcoming sadness. That way I can make an informed decision on if we should find another film.

So Big Hero 6 would be classified in the UK as PG-LMCD. Guardians of the Galaxy would be 12-PD.

But the new movie classification system could go further. Suddenly the movie watcher could be truly enlightened.

-JWTT all the best bits are in the movie trailer (Just Watch The Trailer)

-F movie contains super delicious looking Food (helpful for those trying to stick to a diet)

-A movie contains alcohol drinking (for those trying to give up)

-K movie contains Kissing (this ones for our Son, he doesn’t like kissing)

-ET movie contains Expensive Toys which kids may start wanting

-S movie contains Snakes and Spiders (useful for Ophidiophobia and Arachnophobia)

-L movie is Long so you had better go on the toilet before hand

-I movie is so boring that it’s a cure for Insomnia

-TD movie contains a Transport accident or Disaster (for those travelling tomorrow)

-AC movie contains Alvin and The Chipmunks

-NPCS this ones really important to stop wasting 10 minutes waiting for the Credits to finish at the end of the movie. It’s always a bit awkward being the only ones left in the cinema. No Post Credit Scene.

-W movie contains a Wrestler trying to act (think Hulk Hogan)

-WR movie contains The Rock acting (we like him)

-ANS movie has Action but No Story so you can safely fast forward between the action scenes

-HD movie claims to be true but is Historically Dodgie (think Braveheart)

-Q movie is very Quiet so probably not a good idea to get a mega sized popcorn tub

-U2 movie contains a grotesque playing of a Bono song.

Halloween 5

And Halloween is complete as the Pumpkin has been carved. We had an ambitious plan to this year produce our very own Orange Darth Vader. Unfortunately the plan failed to take account of my complete incompetence and our selection of that Pumpkin which was discarded in the corner of the shop.

Dad I feel sorry for that one. Let’s give that one a home.

So after many cut fingers our Pumpkin has been born.

It’s no Darth Vader. So it needs a name. Is it.

Donald

Mr Clever

Darwin Watterson

OR Oompa

Halloween 3

This Halloween has to make our son happy. Failure is not an option. Best way to achieve that simple goal was to let him choose what spooky activities we will fill our time with. At the start of the week he came up with his list.

  1. Make a Pumpkin Head. But this year Dad let’s try not to make the poor soul look like Donald Trump. That’s just not fair on any fruit. *** I thought it was a vegetable. Every day is a school day.
  2. Halloween Costume. Dad I think we should try and go for a Freddie look. We don’t buy a costume we see what we can rustle up. I guess the mad dog will want his party hat on again.
  3. Watching as many Scooby Doo DVDs as we can find. Finish off with his three favourites. Boo Brothers, Kiss and Witches Ghost.
  4. Watch a Hammer Horror movie. These are atmospheric but relatively tame these days.
  5. Have a Lego building competition. This year it’s who can make the best haunted castle.
  6. Make a spooky music playlist.
  7. Make up a Halloween story. Dad this year I think it’s a couple of kids stuck in a scary computer game.
  8. Play our two Top Trump Monster packs.
  9. Any TV has to be spooky related like Ghostbusters.
  10. Monster knockout competition to decide the greatest ever horror character.
  11. Apple Bobbing
  12. Late night reading in the garden of Hound of the Baskervilles.
  13. All dog walks have to be after dark.
  14. Build a garden monster out of what we can find lying around. Then leave it for nature (or the dog) to dispose.
  15. Halloween treasure hunt in the garden to find hidden objects like chocolate bars.
  16. See what spooky food and drinks we can invent.
  17. Eat the cookie/biscuit game. Put a cookie on your forehead and then without using your hands try to somehow get the cookie into your mouth and it’s the first person to eat the cookie wins.
  18. Jelly Bean roulette. We have stocked up on some new flavours. Cat food, Snail, Earthworm, Earwax, Squid.
  19. Make Pumpkin Chilli Soup. Even I can manage that.

Have we missed anything. Any more cool ideas?

Halloween 2

Ok son what cartoons would you like to see for Halloween?

Dad sounds like a top 5 of cartoons or kids movies for Halloween would be.

  • ScoobyDoo – not sure you need much more than this but
  • Gravity Falls – but needs to be the Weirdmaggedon ones
  • ParaNorman
  • Ghostbusters
  • The Nightmare Before Christmas

Ok Dad what’s yours but I bet I can think of one you will put in. You would put it in for Christmas, Easter and even Valentines…

Am I that predictable son

  • Captain Scarlett and the Mysterons – I knew it Dad…..
  • Penguins of Madagascar but has to be the one with Skipper as a Zombie
  • Wallace and Gromit and the Curse of the Were-Rabbit
  • Charlie Brown – Its the Great Pumpkin
  • Coraline

******

So that’s our choices. Any other ideas greatly appreciated.

The Forgotten – Part 1

We were sat watching some YouTube videos of TV shows Rory (A Guy Called Bloke) had listed under Sitcoms suddenly morphed into another excuse to watch my favourite programmes.

Dad you do know most of the stuff you like on TV will mean nothing to most people. They will just look blankly at you. The worry is that I have part of your DNA. Thanks….

So it’s time to enlighten the world. Well a really small part of it…

The Indestructible Captain Scarlet trying to defeat his nemesis Captain Black and the Evil Mysterons. My favourite show ever. With strings or the much later expensive version. WE NEED A CAPTAIN SCARLET MOVIE.

Hectors House. The grumpy dog with a hunting gun.

With the earth under attack from aliens we need to respond with the coolest defenders ever. It’s got to be UFO.

Think Star Wars without the special effects or the humour. Think Star Wars without a budget. I give you Blake 7.

Bearded puppets with attitude means Michael Bentine’s Potty Time.

Magicians shouting ‘Size of an Elephant’, a scary letter box and a show dripping of awesomeness. It’s The Banana Splits.

Monty Python meets the stories of our dreams (or nightmares). One of the funniest TV shows ever. It’s Ripping Yarns.

Zord

Zero sleep last night. Not even looking at old photos from a trip to the Peak District helped at 5am. And as all you biologists will know – zero sleep equates to zombieism. So I’ve been a full on zombie today. All zombies need a cool name, just ask Rob Zombie or Shaun of the Dead. A particularly awesome zombie was Skipper in a brilliant episode of The Penguins of Madagascar. If you want a laugh look up that one.

My first name might be fine in front of a famous Western Actors surname or in front of a great English Strikers surname or as the name of a pet in a certain underwater burger eating cartoon. But as a Zombie it is pretty lame. So we need a rebranding. Hopefully for just one day only I am Zord. Yes I watched PowerRangers.

Unfortunately Zord is a bit cranky. Zord has decided he doesn’t like August. Too many memories. Bad memories. Sad memories. The slightest thing can bring a tear. Yes zombies have an emotional dimension to them. Yet again movies like World War Z are so quick to stereotype.

Zord is a bit accident prone. Smashed a cup and broken the scissors. He’s burnt toast, crumpets and baked beans today. He even managed to set fire to a dish cloth. Zombies clearly don’t get to use an oven much. Must admit the microwave is beyond Zord as well. He initially just took the lid of the tin of beans then put the tin straight into the microwave. I think Zord fancied being the Lord of Lightening just once.

Zord has a tendency to fall asleep. That sleep where the eyes shut, the head then falls backwards and you are immediately woken by that awful head snapping sensation. So far Zord has tried that while watching TV, while trying to type up a report, while trying to sign a cheque and while on the toilet. Silly Zord.

Zord can also be a bit snappy. Unforgivably Zord has snapped a couple of times at our son. Bad Zord. But he does realise that being snappy is not a good trait so he is trying to control the snappiness. Zord finds coffee and chocolate helps. I’ve not had the heart to tell Zord that he is one of the few vegan zombies.

Let’s see what lasts longer with Zord – zombieism or veganism. Trying to be a vegan is bloody expensive. Sorry bloody and vegan shouldn’t be in the same sentence. Forgive me I am a tired parent zombie.

Wise

Meet the Wise Old Elf. The undoubted star of Ben and Holly.

It was a show from our sons preschool days. It was never off the TV. That was probably more down to me than him. I could quite easily have spent my life watching this and In the Night Garden.

Now I’m not allowed to watch it that often. Although son finds a game of spotting which voice actors feature in both B&H and Peppa Pig. For example it’s the same voice for Peppa and Daisy.

Anyway as we took our mad dog for a walk we had to cross a field of cows. Our son was petrified of cows – not sure why. He would freeze if he entered a cow field. Dog walks had to avoid crossing them. But now we have managed to conquer that fear. When we see a cow it’s a race to be the first person to shout

Go on Wise Old Elf sit under the cow.

Years ago we watched an episode where it started to rain. The Wise Old Elf decided to seek shelter under a cow. And yes the cow sat on him. Someone almost wet himself watching that. It might not have been our son. Poor Elf. Same voice actor as Grandpa Pig from Peppa.

So thanks to a pompous accident prone cartoon Elf our son cured one of his fears. Sometimes solutions come in the most unexpected ways. That’s why it’s worth just persevering.

Son continues to struggle with his dyslexia. The difference is now the education system has dropped any pretence of trying to find ways to help improve his reading. They have just moved to the next stage – he can’t read, never will so lets lower expectations and any grades will be a bonus. Strange how the one person they have never asked about this is our son. He still wants to try so the fight continues. At home we continue to experiment with

  • Reading pens
  • Reading Apps
  • Shared reading
  • Coordination exercises

But that brings us to unexpected help. YouTube and Computer Games. They really do seem to help. Maybe it’s the visual nature. The themes. The combination of sensory experiences. Whatever the reason we have a kid who still struggles to read books yet he can navigate through games and the iPad without help. He can send texts without any help. Yes with some spelling issues but we all have them. That’s progress. Which makes the education stance so frustrating. We have to be realistic. Although he is improving the reading gap continues to grow with his peers. But that’s no reason to give up. The Wise Old Elf shows that.