How Transport Ideals Downscale with Time…

How transport ideals downscale with time…

At age 5:

No limits

‘…the bunk-bed can be my spaceport.’

At age 15:

Supercar

‘I’ll have one in red as well’.

At age 25:

'What speed-camera? Oh'.

‘I’m gonna book that Silverstone track day’.

At age 35:

'It's the 2.0L turbo diesel so it shifts".

“It’s the 2.0L turbo diesel”.

At age 45:

'I'm riding 60miles this weekend'.

“I’m riding 60miles every weekend”.

At age 55:

Walking boots

“Might do the coastal path next summer”.

At age 65:

slippers

“St. Lucia looks nice”.

The (Sub)Urbandaddy

The living room is a Bikini atoll of furniture, toys and dust-sheets, erupting from a beige carpet. There are unpacked boxes everywhere. The new loft contains everything we took out of the old loft, except for the stuff that is now in the garage, a place where the previous occupant actually used to park her car. I mean, where did she put her stuff?

One wet afternoon back in February, sober and possessed of all our faculties, MsUrbanDaddy and I decided that we should move house and have a third child at the same time. Well, how hard could it be? Ha! Idiots! Unsurprisingly, It’s been four and a half months since I wrote a blog post…

Still, it’s done. Our first floor casino chip in SW17 has been cashed in for a place out in North Kent commuter belt. Three kids, a semi- detached house in the ‘burbs, a VW Touran – I’m gonna need a new name for the blog…

No running with the dogs here.

The (Sub)UrbanDaddy…

Birthday Girls

The whole family is gathered outside a cafe for tea and cake. MsUrbanDaddy is fishing a teabag from her foampack cup. Grandma V busies herself marshalling errant bits of gift-wrap into a plastic bag. The high sun is in full conspiracy with our bistro table to near blind me with reflected light. Maybe that’s why it takes me so long to light the candles on our shop-bought Victoria sponge.

Our eldest reminds us that the cake has not even been cut, still less served; a state of affairs she clearly regards as criminal. I agree, but cake cutting duties have been given to our 2 year-old birthday girl and she just is not following our script, preferring instead to sit and quietly chew her plastic spoon.

Suddenly, MsUrbanDaddy stands up and starts hopping from foot to foot. Her hands flash between open palm and clenched fist, her breathing is deep and measured. Her eyes could start a blaze in the middle-distance over my shoulder. I say nothing.

Her tension subsides and she sits down. The children are completely oblivious to mummy’s strange behaviour. MsUrbanDaddy decides the time has come to get the party started.

“Shall I help you cut the cake, lovely?”

Birthday girl is suddenly ahead of us, cutting a tiny, mushed-up strip of sponge and giving it to her sister. Ha! You go, girl, I think to myself. This will likely be the last birthday cake she’ll have for herself. MsUrbanDaddy confirms my suspicions as I take Grandma V and the girls home. “Don’t be long. This is happening”.

Barely two hours later, daughter number 3 arrives, express. The midwife doesn’t even have time to put her gloves on, catching her instead with a towel. At four weeks pre-term, she’s caught more than our midwife on the hop. We need to pick up a few things – a bigger car, for starters. But the logistics can wait. I’m looking at my second birthday girl of the day and she’s beautiful.

Get Busy

The eldest comes skipping out of pre-school, waving some pieces of paper at me. It’s a school portrait in which she’s braced, ram-rod straight, smiling a vaguely terrified smile, the way you might smile if your photographer were a 6-foot bunny rabbit with the voice of Timmy Mallett. The youngest takes advantage of my distraction and pulls the pic out my hand, into the buggy. She wants to look at it, which means chew it, obviously.

In the 25 minutes it takes us to make the 5 minute walk from school, we have a discussion about funerals , a low blood-sugar tantrum and countless gentle prompts on road safety that pass in, through and out the other side. One day the youngest, who routinely ignores everything I say, will learn how to ride a scooter properly. Then things will be interesting.

Actually, things are going to be interesting a lot sooner than that. Thins are re-emerging from the loft: a carrier seat; a Phil and Ted’s cocoon. And lots of very small clothes. We are about to get very busy in our house. I’ll enjoy these relaxed school runs while I can.

 

Just Passing Through

There’s a lot of plastic toys in our house at the moment. Occasionally the girls even play with some of them.

But the real fun starts when mum and dad are the toys. When the Witching Hour brings no witches and there’s time for games between supper and milk.  Hide and Seek is the favourite right now. The baby still thinks that covering her head makes her invisible.  And no concealment can hide a fit of the giggles. I love their giggle fits in the evening. It means bedtime will be ok.

Into one of these moments, the phone rings. It’s my Dad.

“Nev, your uncle Donald died about an hour ago. Mum is in London now helping your Auntie Gwen”.

I think about Uncle D for a minute. The old photographs of him in his bespoke-suited youth; the quite awesome collection of Kung Fu movies he once had (until God persuaded him to get rid of them); his fondness for Bulla cake. I think of how my mum adored him, and how dementia hollowed out his last years.

Later on, I look in on my little girls as they sleep. They’re just passing through, really; this time next week, they’ll be taking their exams. Hide and Seek might be a bit passé by then. And in the meantime, countless plastic Christmas toys will be unwrapped, cherished, outgrown, discarded and forgotten. But my memories are for keeps.

I make a silent promise to play with the girls more, while they’re here.

Dear Father Jack: A Poem for my Youngest Daughter

apple babyYou like to sing in your cot.
When you sleep, you sigh
You fall over a lot
you smile with your eyes
You like to wear your wellies even when we’re inside
And you are the apple of my eye

You leaped into my world with a Fosbury flop
caramel skin, loose-curls on top
a moment so magical I laughed as I cried
you are the apple of my eye

You shout mono-syllables; a mini Father Jack
It’s fair to say that patience is the virtue that you lack
yet when we meet new people and you seem a bit shy
I know you’re the apple of my eye

I love to watch you, when you let your heart shine through
like when your sister sneezes and you’re off to get tissues or
when you stand by the stair-gate and wave me bye-bye
You are the apple of my eye

Big sis’ gets attention of a slightly different kind
perhaps because she comes out with all the funny lines
But know I love you equally, a love with no divide
you two, are the apple of my eye

Your sister had to learn how to share us with you
but sharing us is all you’ve known, it’s really nothing new, so
next year, when we hope to be a family of five
You’ll know you’re all the apples of my eye

So sing your heart out in your cot
keep snoozing with a sigh
(maybe don’t trip up so much, I hate to see you cry)
but keep your smile
and know my love is bigger than the sky
And you are the apple of my eye

Things To Do Before You’re 41

Turning 40I found myself reading the highly entertaining blog Always Time for Biscuits the other day and noticed that the author has a list of things to do before he is 40.

I’ve missed the boat on that one, I’m afraid.

TheUrbanDaddy turned 40 just over a month ago. The big four-oh. Half-way around. Nine holes down. Score? A couple over par.

At least, that’s how it feels, sometimes. There’s the standard-issue half-time concerns – I should definitely be fitter, for example. My old friend the Buddha-Belly, who used to visit me only at Christmas, now appears to have moved in (I wouldn’t mind, but he eats all the biscuits).

Beyond that though, beyond Buddha’s Digestives fetish, or the advance of salt through hair that was once pepper, there’s a persistent, nagging feeling… that I’m under-achieving. There, I’ve said it. I know when this feeling started – about the time I started looking after the girls. And I know the feeling is absurd because in many ways, that’s about the time I started over-achieving: stay-at-home dad some days, freelance producer on others; Daddy day-care, followed by an evening shift in the creative suite. It’s considerably harder than my previous life, wrapped up in the duvet of a five-day working week. I constantly stretch between my two roles; sometimes not quite reaching either. Maybe that’s what is gnawing at me.

So what to do, when there’s a bit too much juggling and not enough fanfare? It’s time for me to set myself a few goals. Some things to do before I’m… well, 41. I’ve got four so far:

  • Get published in print.
  • Learn 10 songs and go busking.
  • Swim 100 metres (that’s a long way for me, in water).
  • Speak French fluently.

I know- it’s fairly tame stuff, but I don’t really fancy abseiling from space, or the like. When my eldest goes to nursery in September, I might commit to some more. Until then, I’m open to inspiration…