Goodbye to a Family

So a couple of days ago, we sold great-grandma Jane’s old Astra.

In a donotreply email received from D.V.L.A. today, I read this:

I remember you walking round kicking my tyres, as if you knew what you were doing!

I remember how the two of you would always wait until the kids were asleep in the back, before you tucked into the crisps and sweets.

I remember you always tuned the radio to Magic FM, you old cheese-bag!

I remember how your daughters always reached their limit around Bristol and you’d have to sing Old MacDonald for another forty miles!

I remember an Aire south of Paris; giant wind-turbines silhouetted against a flaming sunset, and a fairytale playground, corralled by long-distance lorries, where the girls ran free while you searched for the bag with the pyjamas and sleepsuits in it. And I remember thinking: I’m a proper family car!

I loved every minute, even after I knew you were going to sell me.

Good luck and drive safely, wherever you’re going.

Goodbye Astra

We now have a big brood, MsUrbanDaddy and I. And big broods don’t fit into small cars.

It’s time to move from old hatchback to slightly newer MPV. We have been to Estate-on-Thames and S-Max-minster but some good friends have pointed us towards Touran Town and, well, we like it there.

Anyway, I thought I’d better empty out the last few bits of our stuff from the old car and get it ready for sale.

Those ‘last few bits’ turned out to be:
1 UK road map
1 notepad
4 pens
3 sticker books
2 old CBeebies magazines
7 plastic balls
1 large bag of raisins
1 bag of jelly sweets
3 nappies (unused)
2 rolls of toilet paper
1 bottle junior Paracetamol
2 packets Ibuprofen
and the spare buggy

(Note-to-self: Keep the new car tidy).
(Note to note-to-self: Fat chance!)

So last week, a VW Touran arrived (thanks Justine!) and, this week, it’s goodbye Astra. Had some good times in that car. Hope its new owner enjoys the many thousands of miles it has left in it or, failing that, fills it with a better kind of clutter.

Goodbye Astra...

Goodbye Astra!

Why Do You Get Hair In Your Nose?

“Have you washed your hands?”
“Yes”.
“With soap?”

Without warning, two damp palms are thrust towards my nose. I smell them suspiciously.

“That one doesn’t smell of soap”.
“Daddy your nose isn’t very good at smelling. I think it’s because you get hay-fever. And because you have lots of hair in your nose”.

I am somewhat winded by my eldest daughter’s observation. She, naturally, is oblivious to this.

“Daddy why do you get hair in your nose?” It’s a question I’ve raised myself, in more plaintive moments.

“Just… Daddies sometimes have hair in their noses, petal”.

“Why?”

I fix my best rictus grin and hand her her junior toothbrush.

To have children is to subscribe to mild humiliation on a continuous basis. This much I know.

How I look to my daughter

How I look to my daughter

Don’t Worry; It Gets Harder

June 2012. A pub garden. Warm summer sunshine. Two Deckchairs. Next to them, two pints, untouched.
It’s our first social adventure outside since the three of us became the four of us, and the pandemonium really started.
Our two year old and the newborn have managed to simultaneously crap themselves and we’ve run out of wipes.  “Don’t worry’, says a woman with a toddler, as she hands MsUrbanDaddy a fist-full of Wet Ones, “it gets easier”.

This memory came back to me as MsUrbanDaddy and I walked out of the girls bedroom on Sunday evening, puffing our cheeks and shaking our heads. We’d had what most parents would recognise as ‘a difficult day’.
The eldest really does style herself as ‘The Intransigent’ sometimes. She was antithesis with chubby cheeks, all day long (and on days like Sunday, that’s a long time). The toddler, as her Auntie Rachael notes wryly, spends her days channeling Father Jack from the Father Ted show. To be fair, they were both tired from a late-ish night watching fireworks. But that’s no reason not to shut up and do as you’re bloody told once in a while, now is it?

But what do I know? My brother reports far greater challenges with his twin boys, who are nine. As well as the old favourite troubles, such as getting them to brush their teeth and put their shoes on.
For all the advice on surviving with babies and young children, we know the real challenges start once they’re in their tweens. And later, when they start screaming at you and slamming doors in your face. When you’ve never liked them less, and they’ve never needed you more.

Sometimes, I miss the simplicity of the pandemonium days. Or rather, I laugh ruefully at memories of a time when our parenting ability could be stretched by having to change two nappies at once. There’s no point waiting for things to get easier because this is the easy bit! Next time we’re late for the school run, I’ll try to remember as much.

The Kick-Bollock Scramble Years Pt.2

They're even running on the sign

They’re even rushing on the sign…

The Kick-Bollock Scramble

Professor Brian Cox has yet to get back to me about the time warp. I’m not too bothered. He’d only start banging on about Entropy, and how everything in the Universe moves inexorably towards a state of disorder (if you saw my kitchen after breakfast, you’d have to agree).

But we don’t have time for Thermodynamics. It’s 8:52am and we’re in a Mad Rush. I know it’s 8:52 because the elder has got her shoes on the wrong feet and the younger has gone into her sister’s bedroom for a poo. Same time, same room, every day. It’s a ritual. I have to leave her soiled, even though the smell qualifies her as a bio-hazard. Coats! School bag! Scooter or buggy board? Scooter it is. For 2 minutes.
Then: “My leg hurts!” I load Madam onto the buggy board. Same spot, same street, every day. It’s a ritual.

We’re on the wrong side of the school bell as we reach the gate. I can live with that. As long as we get through before the stern-looking woman with the clipboard comes out. Once she guards the entrance, there’s no getting away with it.
So obviously, with mere seconds dividing sneaky success from clipboard humiliation, we run into the biggest obstacle. The Kick Bollock Scramble. There is only one gate into and out of my daughter’s school. and at 9:04 am, the  stragglers going in collide with the punctuals coming out. Imagine the Severn Bore going both ways. And made out of people. It’s like that.

Of course, it’s not complete bedlam. It’s mostly a case of forcing your way through whilst trying to look like you are waiting for a gap. But the pressure of the clipboard gets to everyone, eventually. Sometimes you’ve just got to put your head down and make a lunge for it.

Late again, UrbanDaddy?

Late again, UrbanDaddy?

The Kick-Bollock-Scramble Years

And so it begins...

And so it begins…

Part 1: The School-Run Time-Warp

Every morning, Monday to Friday, between 8:20am and ten-to nine, time speeds up. It’s quite inconvenient, really.

It goes like this: At 8:12  breakfast is proceeding as normal, ie. being thrown all over the kitchen. Then a kind of haze descends. I can’t state with accuracy what happens during The Haze. I do know that I hear my own ever-more-exasperated voice, repeating demands to brush teeth or put school shoes on. There’s the high-pitched wailing of pre-schooler rebellion. And everything seems to move at about a million miles per hour, presumably in little tiny circles, because we never get anywhere. After what seems like ten minutes of this, the haze lifts. Somehow, it’s always ten minutes to. What bizarre fractal of space and time have we uncovered?  It’s one for Prof. Brian Cox to answer, preferably by text, as I can’t stop and chat. We’re late again, you see.

"There's no time-warp, urbanDaddy. You're just disorganised".

“There’s no time-warp, UrbanDaddy. You’re just disorganised”.

Festival with the Bumbo

The Big Chill, August 2006.

We stuffed a couple of rucksacks with clothes and left, mid-afternoon. No tent! We’d hired a teepee, along with some friends, so the four-hour drive up the A40 was the hardest work of the weekend. Arrived on camp as the sun was going down, saddled with bags. Most of the cargo is booze.

The festival lives up to its name. Three days of lazing like sunbathing sealions; our tempo quickened only by frequent laughter and occasional trips to the bar. I wasn’t entirely unoccupied; I had a new stills camera, an expense I justified by recording even the most mundane moments for hard-drive posterity. Generally though, energy was saved for deciding what to eat and which acts to see.

What did we see? I have only fragments now… St. Etienne taking it back to 1992; Nighmares on Wax getting upset with a crowd that had left its dancing shoes back at camp;  a surprisingly saucy performance at the theatre venue; the reflected sparkle from a thousand lights suspended above a lake; a little boy with his parents’ phone number marker-penned all the way up his bare arm; a father dancing with his daughter on his shoulders, while Norman Jay DJ’ed everything better. Imagine bringing a child to a festival, I thought. Waaaay too stressful.

End of the Road Festival, August 2013

We stuff four rucksacks, a travel cot and a double buggy into the car and leave, mid-afternoon, stopping at a Sainsbury’s to buy more stuff to stuff into the car. Normally, MsUrbanDaddy handles crowd control while I drive, so I get to concentrate, more or less, on one thing all afternoon. Bliss! Somewhere in WIltshire, a huge yurt is waiting for us, along with the same group of friends we shared with in 2006.

And their kids. Eight of them. Plus our two. That’s big, certainly – but chilled? Hmmm…

We arrive at camp just before sunset, me laden with bags like a human pack horse, MsUrbanDaddy with the girls. We have one box of red wine.  The buggy has been pressed into service as an emergency wheelbarrow. Once unloaded, I take it straight back to the car for the rest of our things.

The next three days involve absolutely no lazing at all. Just the constant carrying, cleaning, monitoring, feeding and entertaining of ten under-5s. They’re a pretty demanding crowd…

But it is brilliant. The sunbathing sealions of 2006 seem to have become human meerkats, by turns foragers, jesters and sentinels. The kids just stick to giggling, spilling drinks and getting lost. Somehow, it all works. Conversations are still easy,  if rarely finished. With ten small children around, we can’t seem to finish anything.

Maybe that’s why my memories are nearly as fragmented as they were 7 years ago. Sigur Ros seem to quite like their non-dancing crowd; some of the best lights are attached to buggies, to prevent drunk people tripping over them in the dusk. And, this time, the dad dancing with his daughter on his shoulders is me. In some ways, this festival lived up to its name, too. But this is not 2006. And we’re on a new road. And I don’t mind.

On my second trip from the car-park, I fall into step with another man. He carries wine under one arm and a Bumbo baby seat under the other. I have a buggy, filled with stuff. We both laugh, saying nothing. Sometimes, circumstance is all the commentary you need.