Eat Your Words

In which our reluctant hero spells it out. Or something.

Reading is back in the news. No, not the birth town of cheeky, chubby japesters, Mr Tumble and Ricky Gervais, and (more impressively) the Little Chef. The other one. You know. The one where you join up letters and words and stuff and try to make sense of it. Like you’re trying to do now. Good luck with that.

If social media is any barometer, mums have gotten all hot under the collar about reading for starters, with the news that actor, heartthrob, dad and all round nice guy, Tom Hardy (whoever he is) will be reading the CBeebies Bedtime Story on New Year’s Eve. Blimey.

“Sit down, it’s starting.”
“But Mum! This is a baby programme! I’m nine!”
“Will you be quiet for five minutes? I’m trying to watch!”

With this much excitement brewing over five minutes of action at bedtime, Lord knows what the reaction will be when news finally gets out that Ross Poldark is replacing Gem as guest presenter on the Swashbuckle Christmas Special. ARRR!

Bringing in a Hollywood ringer hardly seems fair to the average dad like me. Our two only get to listen to my weary mumblings at bedtime (on the few occasions where they don’t like Mum best) rather than the elegant diction of a trained thespian. Poor dad.

It’s the same with the gardening. It doesn’t matter how many miles you tot up, plodding up and down with the mower, you feeling that everyone else thinks that it would all have been done that much better by Mr Bloom.

Parking the mower for a moment and wheelbarrowing back up the garden in a desperate attempt to get this post back on track, earlier in the week, I was drawn to this quite bizarre headline. On the BBC website of all places.

POTATO LETTERS RUIN DINNER FOR MUM AND HER COMPLAINT GOES VIRAL.

Brilliant.

My first thought was why on earth would a grown woman think that the introduction of potato letters to a plate of food wouldn’t ruin it?

I’ve watched a couple of Masterchef’s this week, and at no point have I seen Marcus Wareing conclude that the potato foam was OK, but adding a couple of Tesco Crispy Potato Letters would really have brought the consommé to life. Maybe the professional chefs are missing a trick?

Having stopped guessing and read the article (do, it’ll make you feel so much better about your own parenting skills) it turns out that a mum purchased a bag of oven ready potato letters which didn’t contain all of the letters required for her to teach her son, Logan (4), to read his name. So she complained.

“It is misleading, why would you sell them as alpha-bites, really they should just be called ‘certain letter bites’.

“In the end I improvised by using an ‘I’ as an ‘L’ and a ‘C’ as an ‘O’ so spelled ‘icgan’ which obviously isn’t his name.

“He noticed this straight away and I had to explain why. Very disappointed.”

I swear that I’m not making this up. But here’s the best bit.

“If you buy them you expect all the letters to be there, that’s why I emptied them all out. Apparently it does say on the packet that not all of the letters are in there, but again I don’t see the point in that.”

And she still complained. Genius.

So, where do I start with this?

First of all, having tipped the frozen letters out and realised that a few were missing, why not pick another word? There’s half a kilo of letters to pick from and loads of words in the dictionary. It’s hardly the Countdown conundrum.

Had all letters been available and subsequently scoffed, what would mum have done next mealtime? Demand that Tesco stock them individually? (See above for alternative options.)

If her son can’t read anyway, why not wing it and make something up like the rest of us? (“Yes, ‘kpqde’ spells ‘Logan.’ Clever boy!”) Or use the 15-17 minutes that they were cooking to sit down and teach him with letter blocks or good old fashioned pencils and paper?

And what about children with names with recurring letters? What about their feelings? You didn’t think about the children at all, did you Tesco? Thought not.

And did I complain to Heinz when my two year old could only express Pi to 286 decimal places because the tin of Numberetti Spaghetti ran out of number threes? No, I didn’t. Actually, that gives me an idea…

I could go on.

At a push, some credit could maybe go to the mum for trying to use mealtime as learning time and coming up with something to hopefully make the process slightly less torturous. We’ve all been there.

So, click bait or genuine cause for complaint? I think we can probably guess the answer.

Andy Warhol once said “In the future, everyone will be world- famous for 15 minutes” and it looks like this mum just got hers. Which is, coincidentally, about the same time needed to cook some more frozen potato letters.

Fin.

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