That Was The Year That Was

In which our reluctant hero pops on a party hat, blows up some balloons and prepares for the birthday bumps.

Good evening. Is that you? It’s lovely to see you again, but surely you’ve got something better to do on a Friday evening? Soaking a ham perhaps, or tackling the washing before an early night to prepare for Saturday’s twelve hour parenting shift? Do you remember when there used to be two eleven o’clocks in the day? No, me neither.

Anyway. If my dates are correct (and we all know how inaccurate a science relying on dates is eh, Mums?) then my lovely blog is a year old. Whoop! 55 posts containing around 50,000 words and not a Friday deadline missed, albeit increasingly touch and go in recent weeks.

Starting a blog is like becoming a Dad. It seems like an exciting idea in the run up, but from day one you have no idea what you’re doing and spend half your life worrying that somebody will realise that you’re making everything up as you go along.

Over the year, I’ve written about such diverse topics as the early days of parenting, naming children, Peppa Pig World, holidays, choosing a school, children’s nutrition, classic parenting fails, surviving bedtime, the two year check, and still found time to invent the best parenting inventions yet to be invented. If that wasn’t enough, I made a fake news correction that was also fake news, wrote about online trolling with the sole purpose of trolling somebody, and unveiled the answer to the ultimate parenting question. Blimey.

Without doubt the most difficult post to tackle, both from a writing and emotional perspective, was about baby loss. Despite the story being a real and familiar one, I still start filling up when reading it back.

After an uncertain start, I essentially settled on tackling the less airbrushed elements of parenting. Why? Because (spoiler alert) stuff frequently goes wrong. Why else?

Fortunately for me, humour can usually be found in situations involving moderate disaster and, through a series of happy-in-hindsight accidents, this has become a good source of material. Besides, there’s nothing more dull than reading a load of insincere emotional guff about cherishing every moment with our offspring, despite what The Daily Mail thinks. They don’t have to live with them.

“What went wrong this week?”
“Well, the boy nearly drowned chasing a random dog into the sea on Tuesday.”
“Ah. I forgot about that. I’ll get my pen.”

I’m as pleased as I am surprised that the blog is still going strong. It seems a long time ago that the lovely folk at NCT Wolverhampton volunteered me for the job. At times it’s been like trying to control an unruly toddler, but the hard work has provided some pleasing results.

However, as the weeks pass, it becomes more difficult to write about the early days, not least as my littlest little person has past the first 1,000 days that NCT primarily support. Like an aging amnesic goldfish, I have almost no recollection of what happened last week let alone a couple of years back. This causes me a problem.

Little people don’t stay little for long and if I’m to continue blogging I need to focus more on the present. So from next week, I’m ditching the armbands and stabilisers and going it alone. What could possibly go wrong?

To be honest, I’ll be surprised if you notice much difference initially, but I have a few new ideas to play with once I’ve thought them through. I’ll update the banner at the top of the page too, as in real life I look nothing like the comedian Stewart Lee, despite my then three year old daughter seemingly thinking otherwise when she provided the artwork.

Thanks to anybody and everybody who has taken the time to read, share or like any of my posts so far. Hopefully I’ve provided a few chuckles, mostly at my expense, and maybe even the occasional pearl of wisdom out of my semi-successful experiences as a learner Dad. In the words of Samuel Beckett “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

Thanks most of all to my little family, who I love dearly and without which none of this would be possible. So blame them!

For more tales of parenting and disaster, tune in next week. Same Bat-time, same Bat-channel. Probably.

Fin.

Changing Rooms

In which our reluctant hero is thrown in at the deep end once more.

This week I’ve mostly been on holiday again. No, not to that place. The other one. The one where giant pets dance around and mime to cd’s of children on helium apparently “singing.” The one where the lead Funstar presenter has a strange form of tourettes that makes her say “boys and girls” every four seconds in a semi-scally drone. Hashtag “grating.”

I’ve already written about holibobs, so am not going to with this post which is instead about something that we do on holiday but rarely do when back home. Swimming. Like a family of elephants going on holiday, we also always take our trunks.

Swimming is an essential life skill that we should make more effort to teach our children. They have nailed the basics, love the water and manage to avoid sinking if we remember their armbands. Our eldest can manage a width or so of the little pool at a crawl. Our youngest prefers to splash. Lots. So much that we could hire him out as a minimum wage wave machine, like the one at Rhyl Sun Centre when we were kids which was also powered by a small child. No wonder it closed down.

Yes, teaching little people to swim is important. It’s just that, asides from the occasional milestone and a few minutes of fun before the chlorine destroys your retinas, it is all a bit of a pain.

Remembering the tonne of equipment, changing, showering, getting in, getting straight out as the toilet was needed after all, getting in again, wrestling an over excited splashtopus, apologising to everyone who got splashed, slide refusals, not being big enough to go on the slide yet tantrums, getting out tantrums, second shower with added shampoo complications… You get the drift.

But there’s a part of the process that makes the above look like child’s play. Getting dressed after the swim.

Yesterday, I again managed to draw the short straw (I’ve never seen any straws, but am assured that they do exist and that mine was definitely the shortest) and was put in charge of our soggy two year old.

The first challenge is to get your stuff from the locker to a cubicle without losing your child or any of the stuff. A tricky opener, made considerably easier if one of the nearby cubicles is free and family sized, which they never are – think towels on sun loungers. So it’s off to find a “normal” sized cabin, inside which you would struggle to swing a cat, had you been daft enough to have taken your cat swimming too. Never work with children and animals.

Once inside, you’ll find almost as much water on the floor as in the toddler pool. If there’s a hook, it’ll be too small to hang your bag on, forcing you to spread the dry clothes across the bench. A bench so small that it will struggle to seat a toddler’s bottom. At this point you’ll also regret not having hidden the post swim snacks better.

It’s hard to track the movements of your little person in such a confined space and at some point you will be convinced that they have escaped. They may well have done as it is obligatory for them to play with the door latch at all times. Cross your fingers that you’ve still got your trunks or swimming costume on if this happens.

Clothes and armbands removed, there will be no free floor space left. Fortunately, your two year old will provide an instant solution to the problem by kicking the wet kit through the gap into the adjoining cubicle.

Towels next. I find it better to quickly wrap both you and your child up, otherwise you risk yet another over animated conversation about your privates starting. And nobody wants to hear about that.

The next dilemma is who to get dressed first. I favour the grown-up as, tempting as it is, I’m slightly less likely to run off as soon as my shoes are on. A towel with a hood for your little person is a good distraction as you can buy enough time to dress while they pretend to be a ghost.

There should now be space on the bench and drying should be straightforward. Should. Sadly, the narrow bench will make it almost impossible to put a nappy on. Under ones will always roll onto the tiled floor – oops. Thankfully the less painful problem with a two year old is that they fill the bench and it’s the nappy that rolls off instead.

Nappies are amazing aren’t they? They barely retain the smallest amount of fluid produced overnight, but drop one on a changing room floor and it will suck a minor flood up in seconds. A dry floor is useful, but the nappy is useless. My top tip is to take three. One for the floor, the one that the tabs always rip off, and a spare for the child.

Thankfully, it’s downhill from here. Finish dressing, open the door, knock on the next cubicle to ask for your swimming costumes and armbands back, pack everything up and head to the cafe for a Panda Shandy and a Highland Toffee Bar. More sink than swim, but you did it. Well done.

If it took less than half an hour, award yourself a “star of the day” badge. Or a 10 metres swimming certificate, if you managed to swim as far as that. Go on. You’ve earned it you champion. Probably.

Fin.

She Bangs the Drums

In which our reluctant hero is surprised to be hear The Little Drummer Boy in May and acts to prevent the spread of fake news in his blog.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about definitely not needing a dog, more Build-a-Bear stuff, or a new series of Prison Break. A lovely post it was too – I’m sure that you recall it fondly.

However, like a toddler in a giant soft play, time moves quickly and recent events require me to propose an urgent amendment to my original post.

Don’t panic. The good news is that we have no dog, and we still don’t need one. There have been no new places set at the teddy bears’ picnic either, although how long that will last now that our eldest knows that you can buy Build-a-Bear Trolls is questionable. Two down, one to go.

Surprisingly, Prison Break turned out to be a necessity after all. Addictive, in the same predictable, thinly scripted, can’t-act-their-way-out-of-a-paper-bag-let-alone-a-prison way, just as three of the first four series were. It’s trash but has hooked us. True escapism. Literally.

To prevent the further spread of fake news, I need to replace Prison Break in my list of stuff that we definitely don’t need with something else that we definitely don’t need. The new something that we definitely don’t need appeared from a dark corner of our loft on a drizzly bank holiday Monday morning.

Fakebook. Monday. At about tea time.
Oh wow. Yeah who hates you and bought the kids the drum kit?! 😂😂😂 xx

My wife did.

That’s awkward 🙄 xx

Quite.

After magically making the drum kit appear, my wife hastily disappeared back upstairs, finding sanctuary in the calm of the attic bedroom to catch up with work. This left me alone with two children, four drumsticks and a new play thing that I instinctively knew was going to be very, very noisy. What could possibly go wrong?

Giving small children a drum kit is like considering going back to a lit firework. The initial calm is unsettling, but you know that if you move an inch there will be a very loud BANG! For about five hours… Never go back to a lit firework, kids.

To be fair, it wasn’t all noise, just mostly noise. After a couple of drum “lessons” (sadly, I can’t play them either despite being generally quite musical) we made progress. Proper rhythms played without perforating my eardrums. Hoorah! Our littlest little person even started counting himself in with the sticks, like a pint sized Ringo. Turn your back, however, and he turned into Animal from The Muppets. Every. Time.

Once the kids were asleep, the post bedtime dilemma was whether to return the drums to the loft, leaving 50p in their place while claiming that the Drum Fairy had visited, or leave them out to be played. If they are staying out then there needs to be a good reason as to why. Some research was needed. Over to Professor Google.

According to Time Magazine;

Science has shown that when children learn to play music, their brains begin to hear and process sounds that they couldn’t otherwise hear. This helps them develop “neurophysiological distinction” between certain sounds that can aid in literacy, which can translate into improved academic results for kids.

Now, that may be true for proper musical instruments, but I’m talking about a drum kit. Drummers are the people who join bands to hang out with musicians. How can children distinguish between sounds when the only sound is that of a cymbal being repeatedly walloped with a plastic Thomas The Tank Engine?

Another Internet article described different potential benefits.

The more a child practices an instrument, the better they are at paying attention, managing anxiety, and controlling their emotions.

Really? Give the children the drumsticks and, yes, they pay attention and are massively focused on the task in hand, but sadly not on me and my rantings about playing quietly. I understand the anxiety and emotions bit as the drums can represent an emotional punchbag of sorts. The kids may have de-stressed, but what about dad, eh?

After yet more searching, I found a list of the benefits gained by children learning a musical instrument, which I considered as follows;

It improves academic skills
Having ruled out Time’s “neurophysiological distinction” nonsense, when they’re playing properly, the children are counting and concentrating so I can perhaps see how it might. We even did one rhythm in 7/4.Tick.

It develops physical skills
Yes. The kids each had an extended upper body and right foot workout this very afternoon. They’ll be looking like Geoff Capes by the end of the week. Their coordination and timing noticeably improved over time too. Tick.

It cultivates social skills
Hard to tell with this one as we’ve not ventured out of the dining room yet. We daren’t. I certainly think that they’ll need to develop skills in acting cute and politely next time the neighbours see them. So, maybe. Tick.

It refines discipline and patience
Agreed. They both waited patiently for their turns and certainly put a shift in. Tick.

It boosts self-esteem
How do you measure increased self-esteem in a couple of under fives? Bashing away at the cymbal, skins, sofa, walls and doors certainly made them very excited, loud and happy. Or, put another way, drumming made them feel good. The drums are staying, aren’t they? Tick.

It introduces children to other cultures
Long term, yes. Learning brass instruments as a child certainly shaped my fondness for the odd bit of classical music as an adult. Likewise, learning the guitar and joining “proper” bands unveiled a new mysterious world. It’s drums though, so who knows? Classical culture at best, locked in a bedroom being an Emo kid at worst. Tick. Probably.

With the list reviewed and few negatives to consider, asides from the infernal din, it seems that the drums are staying for now. Oh joy.

Cue my cunning Plan B in which a magical box containing earplugs and a set of drum brushes, to replace the drumsticks, arrives from those lovely folk at Amazon tomorrow. Silence is going to be golden. Probably.

Fin.

The Good, The Bad And The Buggy

In which our reluctant hero weighs up the positives and negatives of pros and cons lists.

One of the clever boffins from science, Newton Faulkner I think, once stated that “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

Put simply (and possibly not quite accurately,) opposing forces balance to maintain equilibrium. For example, when sitting down with a nice cuppa and a copy of Take a Break, your body acts on the sofa with one force, and the sofa reacts on your body with another force. They balance and you don’t end up on the floor covered in scalding tea with a soggy magazine. Which is handy.

Opposites. For every yin there’s a yang. For every Sarah there’s a Duck. For every pro a con. Ignoring that the last two examples are not strictly opposites, this week I have decided to explore some of the pros and cons of being a parent. See, we got there in the end.

In no particular order;

Supermarkets
Pros: You get to park in the best spaces in the house. Or car park. Or something. Assuming that there’s not an expensive German saloon, errant white van or old person randomly parked in them all. It is staggering how many builders take their children to Sainsbury’s on a weekday afternoon and forget their car seat. Tut.

Cons: You have to do the shopping with the kids. This isn’t always terrible, just mostly terrible. If they’re not having a meltdown in the trolley, they’ll be needing the toilet, chucking random stuff in or out of said trolley, escaping to the toy aisle or refusing to let you push your wobbly-wheeled nemesis. Shopping with one child is doable. Two? Double trouble.

Crossing Roads
Pros: Be it boy racer or road hog, even the worst British drivers miraculously transform into Mr or Mrs Courteous whenever they see a parent waiting to cross the road with a buggy. They stop and wave you over every time. Seriously, the police should deploy a buggy army instead of stingers.

Cons: It undoes the hours waiting patiently for the green man to start beeping before stepping into the traffic. Cars? They just stop, don’t they? What could possibly go wrong?

Development
Pros: Remember the stack of things that you were rubbish at when you were little? Of course you do. Now here’s your chance to put it right. My two are going to be ace at football, grade eight at the piano, will finish everything that they start like their demos and exciting writing projects (detailing every work commute during January 2012 for example – yes, really) and get actual proper well paid jobs rather than working for the Civil Service. You’ll see.

Cons: They won’t. Your children are the mirror that reflects back at you. Observe them for a short while and you’ll see little bits of yourself. Mostly the bad bits. It’s time to buck your ideas up and raise your game, dads. You can’t have them being better than you at everything, can you? Well, not until they are at least ten.

Food
Pros: Eating with little people isn’t about essential organic quinoa and broccoli rice, especially when in the middle of what The Guardian is describing as a “hummus crisis.” So you can easily justify that plate of Turkey Twizzlers, Smiley Faces and baked beans in the interests of everyone eating the same thing and save the chickpea. Get in.

Cons: I have developed an unexpected addiction to evil processed meat (particularly Southern fried chicken) since my early forties which is as bad news for the arteries as it is for the waistline. I wonder if spiralising an already twizzled Twizzler will help cut the calories?

Cinema
Pros: You get to see, and sneak your friends in to see, films that you probably shouldn’t be popping to see as a grown up. There’s also the option of hiring your child out if you don’t fancy going to the cinema yourself but your friends do. Getting paid for somebody else to babysit your kids for the afternoon? It’s the future.

Cons: It’s just so blooming expensive. Tickets, popcorn, Rola Cola and whatever merchandising tat the kids want as presents for six months after the screening means you’ll end up forking out the takings of a Hollywood blockbuster after each trip. Plus, the kids may call it “the world’s biggest television” but it isn’t. If it was, there would be a pause button for the loo break, finding lost popcorn and adjusting the booster to prevent your little person falling down the back of the seat again. Little bottoms and cinema seats don’t mix. Not a problem that I have any more thanks to The Colonel.

Arts and Crafts
Pros: Don’t let anyone tell you that parenting is all hard work. You can have hours of fun with an old washing up bottle, some sticky-backed plastic and a loo roll. All work and no play makes Dad a dull boy. Put the ironing down and get your pinny on, now!

Cons: Small children, scissors and glue. Hmmm. Assuming no trip to A&E and that nobody is glued to the table, all should be fine. However, once Operation Tidy Up has fulfilled its primary objective, you’re left with another piece of “art” to display. Did you know that we once had a dining room? Meh. You can’t get rid of any of the glittery junk either as the kids know in seconds. My preferred disposal route is to leave it near to the kitchen door until “that gust of wind must have blown them into the recycling bin.” Again.

Time
Pros: You really, really, appreciate any time that you get on your own. Going to the toilet or having a bath should be solitary activities not something involving audience participation.

Cons: Any time that you get on your own will be spent catching up with the washing or ironing. Fact.

Reading
Pros: I’m quite looking forward to reading the stories that I loved as a child again. They may well all be terrible, and some of the Enid Blyton will require creative censoring, but I’m curious nonetheless.

Cons: It may be a while coming. Our eldest, on a good day, may sit still long enough to take a bedtime chapter in. Our youngest still wants the same handful of stories over and over again. “Goat Goes to Playgroup” has recently amassed over a hundred reads in 2017 alone. We’ve all got a goat on the shelf? What’s yours?

Planning
Pros: The penny finally drops that planning is pointless. All plans are going to be scuppered and you’ll end up making everything up as you go along anyway, so why bother? Exactly.

Cons: No planning? Have you gone mad? Even after preparing a two hundred point checklist before a day out, when somebody falls in mud a minute after arrival you realise that there’s no spare clothes. You won’t think of everything, but at least with a plan you’ll have a chance. Planning also helps avoid unnecessary stress. Like stress caused while frantically writing the blog that you swore that you would do by Monday on Friday’s commute home. Aargh.

Right. That’ll do. Copy, paste, schedule. Time to start my weekend shift babysitting the kids.

Fin.

The World Won’t Listen

In which our reluctant hero reveals a most genius parenting trick, courtesy of HRH Sir Prince William.

Taking a break from nailing my head to the coffee table after the latest opportunity for the British public to prove exactly how stupid they are was announced, I embarked on some research for this week’s post. Don’t sound so surprised. Cheeky.

After a few minutes of rummaging through the headlines of Google’s recent parenting stories, I stumbled upon this gem from Marie Claire, whoever she is.

“Prince William Just Taught Us An Amazing Parenting Trick.”

Blimey. Did he? Really? I wonder what it could be. A spell that tidies up bedrooms, cleans teeth without an argument and reads bedtime stories perhaps? Or, better still, a most genius trick to instantly master potty training using just a two year old and a potty? Useful as I’m not sure that our rug will survive another soaking.

Marie was also teasing me with the shock news that the Prince’s considerably better half, Princess Kate, has a secret Mumsnet account. Nooooo!! Sadly for Marie, this particular piece of no doubt otherwise fine investigative journalism offered less appeal, having long suspected that the Duchess may actually be a commoner.

Back to the task in hand. What’s the trick, Wills? Let’s find out. Brace yourselves… CLICK!

It turns out that The Man Who Would (probably-depending-on-a-range-of-factors) Be King bends or crouches down when speaking to his children. Amazing indeed. Where does he get his crazy ideas?

Now, spending all day getting down and back up again is all very well for His Royal Sirness, he is a relatively young man after all, but possibly not so practical for us old dads who, once down, may need the rest of the day to get back up again. So why do it? Apparently, it helps us make effective eye contact with our little people. Which, in turn, helps convince them that you are listening to them. Simple.

This well established active listening technique works with adults too and is something that I use at work to make my staff feel more on my level while they finish their morning bows and curtseys. It works best in environments where you can listen without distraction, which further reassures the little (or big) person that you are really listening.

Rewinding slightly… Without distraction? In a house with a two and four year old in residence? Forget it. The only time in the last six months that our littlest little one has been quiet for more than ten consecutive seconds is when the big one suggested playing a game called “pretend your mouth is stuck together with glue” earlier this week. Which reminds me. I’d best hide the glue, just in case.

Communication, or lack of it, between parents and their children is one of the greatest causes of frustration in the first few years. In my experience, communication through their early developmental phases works something like this.

Very Little Children
All we parents have to go on is our child randomly crying, gurgling, trumping and maybe offering an occasional laugh a few months in. While slightly frustrating as you are left guessing what they need, what they need is usually feeding, winding, changing or sleep. That’s a one in four chance of getting it right which seems like reasonable odds. Talking or no talking, it’ll be fine.

Toddler Age
As language skills develop, your little one finally starts to vocalise their wants and needs. Well, tries to. Unfortunately, their attempts are normally misinterpreted by parents who respond with something like “Yes, it is the cat! Clever boy!” when what they should have done is listened more carefully and put Postman Pat on. Coincidentally, this seems to be the point that the tantrums and foot stamping starts, presumably out of sheer frustration at mum and dad randomly saying “cat” all of the time.

Big Boy or Girl Age (or approximately two and three quarter years old, give or take)
Language skills are often finely honed as children approach three. They are long past crawling and it’s your turn to get down on your hands and knees to guarantee listening properly. If it’s good enough for a Prince, then it should be good enough for the rest of us. Except that the “listening” has turned full circle and become a mutually exclusive parental activity, as demonstrated in this “hypothetical” case study.

Tuesday Evening

*Child bouncing on sofa*

“Come and sit by me instead of jumping on the sofa. You’ll hurt yourself if you’re not careful.”

*Child faceplants into floor*

“Did you hurt your head? It’s alright. Come here. Now we’re not going to do any more jumping on the sofa are we? No. Good boy.”

Wednesday Evening

*Child bouncing on sofa*

“Come and sit by me instead of jumping on the sofa. You’ll hurt yourself if you’re not careful.”

*Child faceplants into floor…*
Repeat indefinitely…

So, good in theory but it seems that the top tip may not be quite as tip top as it first appeared. In the absence of any other suggestions of how to address the problem of reciprocal listening (and potty training) I’m off to log into my secret Mumsnet account. I may be some time.

Fin.

Pet Sounds

In which our reluctant hero ponders the merits of housing various super furry animals. And a couple of slimy ones.

My week started with three days away from home attending a conference, which was convenient timing with the start of Easter holibobs kicking in. Faced with the prospect of being home alone, babysitting the kids, mum decided to head for the hills. To Wales. To Nana’s house.

One of my more irksome tasks when away is having to work through my backlog of admin. Not work related admin, but the time spent randomly pressing buttons to feign interest in stuff that friends, family and and an ever increasing bunch of vaguely-associateds, that seem to have collected me have on social media, have posted.

A few scrolls into Monday’s trawl, I spotted an alarming post on my wife’s Facebook feed.

“Kids have a new best friend at Nana’s #bowser”

After tutting that the correct hashtag should probably be #wowsers, being down with the kids innit, I looked closer at the attached photo. Uh-ho.

Surprisingly, it turned out that “Bowser” was, in this instance, correct. Bowser was in the photo, playing to an audience of two little people, rolling around chewing a rubber ring while proudly showing the world his bits and bobs. Yes, Bowser was a dog. No, we’re not having one. Where’s the “dislike” button, Zuckerberg? Where’s the button?

Getting a pet is like getting a cheap first car. Initially you will love and cherish it, take it out lots and give it a weekly wash and polish. However, you know that eventually it’ll start annoying you, breaking down at the most inopportune moments at great cost, and you’ll fondly reminisce that the bus wasn’t so bad after all.

If I drew up a list of things that we didn’t need, a dog would be right up there with a new (or any old) series of Mrs Brown’s Boys, or more Build-a-Bear stuff. There’s precious little time to finish pulling the year old masking tape from the utility room walls, without factoring in the zillion hours a week needed to look after a dog. A dog is for life, not just for Easter.

It turns out that meeting Bowser was a good thing for the kids, especially our four year old who lost her irrational fear of man’s allegedly best friend. Less so for our two year old boy who simply loves animals, and has no fear generally, let alone with pets. So much so that he asked the lady in the animal place that we recently visited if he could stroke the crocodile. She declined. Health and Safety gone mad.

Getting pets is supposed to be good for children as, apparently, they’ll learn to love, nurture and look after things. Knowing how well that they usually look after things, unless the pet in question is a reinforced rhino, then there’s going to be a pretty hefty vets bill.

In an attempt to deflect any further mention of dogs, I attempted to assess other potential options.

Cats
We have two already. Adding two children to the two cats simply resulted in a continual, four fold attack on me for attention and feeding. We don’t need another.

Hamster/ Mouse/ Rat/ Anything Small and Furry
The cats would eat them. Next.

Fish
I’ve never had much luck with fish. Those ones we used to get in Snappies bags at the school fete invariably ended up down the toilet. Worse still, we once dug a pond to accommodate a rescue goldfish, only for GLC (Goldie Lookin Chain) to disappear in mysterious circumstances shortly after. As did whichever of his replacements out of Freddie or Freda has also gone awol. In unrelated news, the cats like hanging around the pond. Hmmm.

Frog
There’s frogspawn a plenty in the pond, so we’re guaranteed frogs hopping out of it at some point. Then into the house to play with the cats, because the cats like playing with them. Sorted, until they croak it. But despite the cute jumping amphibians not being an issue last year, I’m slightly apprehensive after observing our eldest’s reaction to Baron Greenback’s grand entrance in the Danger Mouse show on holiday. Not fazed by the giant mouse with an eyepatch, mind.

Worms
Now this should be an easy option as they manage to survive in the lawn all by themselves. And as children, we all learned the bonafide fact that if you accidentally (ahem…) chopped one in half then you simply have two worms. Then four. Then six. Also cat proof, so a possibility.

Caterpillars
Easier than the worms, you would think, yes? After all, they eat common stuff from the average kitchen. Like chocolate cake, ice-cream cones, pickles, Swiss cheese, salami, lollipops, cherry pie, sausages, cupcakes, and watermelon. Salami, yes, but not spring greens. Well, not unless they’re organic spring greens as a friend found out while trying to raise one. Cause of death? Pesticides. The murderer.

As far as I’m aware, that’s everything covered and there are no more pets to consider. Ever. Again.

The moral of the story? Need a pet that needs minimal looking after, is as indestructible as Arnie in “The Terminator” and won’t cost an arm and a leg? Buy a wormery.

And no. We still don’t need a dog.

Fin.