Minehead Revisited 

In which our reluctant hero is watching you, watching us, watching you…

When planning holidays before the arrival of our little people, part of the process was to look back on past enjoyable trips and maybe book something similar elsewhere, depending on our mood. Similar, but not the same.

Planet earth is enormous. At the last count, there were almost forty two different places to visit. At one a year, it would take around twenty five years to explore them all. There are still loads of these that we haven’t been to (thirty eight, to be precise) so why go back to the same place, to do the same things, again? Why indeed.

This week we headed to Butlins. Again.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve nothing particularly against Butlins, or any of those sorts of places come to think of it. They are what they are and they do their kid friendly thing pretty well, according to the kids. Which is probably just as well, as that’s where the newspapers say that we are allowed to go on holiday for our tenner*.

(*Per person, plus realistically unavoidable random additional charges. Not available in conjunction with any other offer. T&C’s apply. See paper for details.)

Anyway. Minehead, we are in you!! Or, were in you. Or, more precisely, were just outside you, penned in by the large fence that prevents folk escaping Butlins. Actually, the most likely place that we’ll be when this post goes live at six o’clock is stuck in a rainy Friday M5 traffic jam, failing miserably to get home by bedtime. I hope that I remembered to dish out the travel sickness medicine before we left.

Holidays in Butlinsesque resorts (other resorts are available) with young children (why else would you be there?) involve a lot of watching. Watching the children. Watching the children watch the same entertainment several times. Watching the other parents watching their children watching the entertainment. Watching the exits of the Skyline Pavilion in case your escapee child, that bolted while you were watching the other parents, turns up.

I’ve been inadvertently watching a lot of people things over the past few days. At times, it has been a little like wandering around an interactive episode of Shameless, if CBeebies had commissioned a spin-off series of it.

“Have the people in that chalet really brought their own deep fat fryer?”

“No, it’s a bottle steriliser.”

“Right.”

While it’s mildly amusing watching fellow dads wheel the essentials to survive four nights from the car (suitcases, bucket and spade, pack of nappies, four dozen cans of Stella, etc.) on Monday, what initially looks like a ridiculously misjudged nappy to beer ratio seems far more rational by Wednesday.

Whether it’s the long days, the general tiredness of everyone, the beer, or a lack of interest/ability in looking after the little people, you do see some odd things going on. It’s not all bad, don’t get me wrong, but in the absence of anything else to write about this week, I decided to write some of my observations down.

  • Not content with almost scalding my leg and failing to wipe up spillage, despite me offering napkins, “Coffee Spill Lady” proceeded to leave said coffee with her toddler and scarpered. Two points for guessing what happened next in the middle of a floor of dancing kids, before her second great escape. Slippy.
  • “Sit down and stay there while we go for a fag” says another parent, before abandoning child at the afternoon puppet show. What could possibly go wrong?
  • Child criminals, lifting two pence pieces from the coin trays of “Tipping Point” machines under the legs of the unsuspecting grown ups. No sign of Fagin. Yet.
  • Scooting inside the main auditoriums. We can all guess the problems that this will cause. Kudos to the parents who went that one step further, letting a child on a bike loose in there. Like Mr Bull in a China Shop, or something. At least he had a helmet on.
  • Mr Maker Live. Yes, the bird hat, paper plate puppet and elephant ears made in couple of minutes, while singing, was (relatively) impressive. But can you get the buggy blockers to maybe remake at least one fire escape within 100 metres of us, just in case? Ta.
  • A two year old attempting to put a plugged in USB charger cable in his mouth. Shocking.
  • Parents standing idle while the same two year old child runs off, enters a toy shop and shoplifts a stuffed toy of a dog called “Rainbow.”

OK, so we now keep the charger turned off, and returned the stuffed toy once we caught our light-fingered offspring, but the rest? Tut.

The moral of the story? Despite best efforts, stuff happens irrespective of how careful we try to be. It always will. Just try not to repeat mistakes, and as a minimum try to put things right if you can. Oh, and, sadly, some folk are just asking for trouble. Or irritate the rest of us that are trying to do things right. Or both.

And Butlins is OK. No, really. It is. Ask the kids.

Fin.

Happy Moms Day

In which our reluctant hero tackles a thorny issue. Probably.

Good morning.

I hope that you’ve all by now managed to clear up the kitchen destruction that was “breakfast in bed” and are thankful that the missing hour means that it’s fine to crack open the Prosecco just that little bit earlier.

Whether you’re a mum, a mom, a mam or a ma’am, here’s wishing you a very happy Mother’s Day, or Mothering Sunday, or…

Fin.



I Read The News Today, Oh Boy

In which our reluctant hero finds himself going off on one, before getting a grip and starting again.

I started my scribbles for this week’s post on Wednesday morning with the words “It has been a slow news week.” Later in the day, reports of a supposed terror attack on London started filtering through, news that would dominate the media for rest of the week.

Sadly, this appears to be another indication that we are taking another backwards step as a society. Intolerance and extremism of all kinds, social inequality, homelessness, food banks, Trump, the Brexit debacle, a slow creep of far right rhetoric into mainstream media, the unnerving feeling of a push to divide and conquer.

Tonight is Comic Relief night, and those watching will be further reminded of the global problems that seem a world away from us here in Britain.

It’s 2017. We shouldn’t have to worry about this. These should be times of peace, fairness, inclusiveness, equality and opportunity for all. But they are not. Something has gone wrong and, at some point, I’m going to have to attempt to explain it to my little people. Thankfully not today.

But enough of the gloom. If you’re a first time reader and have got this far, well done. My little blog isn’t normally like this, I promise. So, time to cheer myself back up. And you, with a bit of luck.

What I should have started writing is “It has been a slow parenting news week.”

OK. Time to start again…

In which our reluctant hero accidentally stumbles upon the answer to the ultimate (parenting) question.

Things have been fairly standard at home. Our little people have been doing what our little people usually do, asides from a significant increase in card production ahead of Mother’s Day. They have also been honing their card hiding techniques which, seeing as I’m in work appraisal mode, should be assessed as “Improvement Needed.” So, no pocket money increase (or indeed pocket money) for them then. In many ways this mirrors my own situation as a public sector worker.

There’s been even less happening in parenting news across the Interweb. The same six blogs that every parenting blogger writes about are still doing the rounds and are still terrible. If struggling for writing inspiration, I often turn to the parenting section of Google Newsstand to help spark an idea, but most of the articles there are as bad.

After skimming through a few of these, I decided that it would be more interesting (and fun) to try to guess the content from the clickbait-ish headlines.

Here’s a random selection from the first few finger swipes made on my portable telephone. I bet that I’m right too.

8 Things You’ll Want To Say To Your Mom Friends About Their Parenting But Don’t, Because Friendship
These sort of articles are always a little passive aggressive without being too offensive. I’ll wager that four of the eight will infer stop bottle feeding, stop breastfeeding, stop giving your child a dummy, and stop letting them watching Frozen all of the time. There won’t be anything true to life, like “stop your child attacking my child thank you very much” or use of the word “of” if the headline is any measure. Tick.

Mum Shares Hilarious Parenting Hack That Allows Her To Leave The Room Without Baby Noticing
Phones and tablets aren’t hilarious. This will probably involve a Skype call from the kitchen or sticking a scarecrow in a dress in the living room. Or both. Hilarious. Tick.

Your Child Is Not Your Confidant
Let me think. Some long-winded melodramatic guff about the guilt of unloading onto your offspring, concluding that it doesn’t matter anyway as they won’t understand until they reach the age of two. Yes? Tick.

You Don’t Have To ‘Cherish Every Moment’ To Appreciate Your Children
Too right. And you won’t. End. Of. There’s nothing worth adding after writing the title down, so stop there. Just like I should have done. Tick.

Once kids enter the picture, can parents still entertain?
Yes, assuming that your little people are asleep when your guests arrive and that they aren’t members of a travelling heavy metal band or satanic cult. The latter applies to both the kids and guests. Tick.

Dad Spends 3 Days Building Elaborate Contraption To Announce Baby’s Sex
Three days? What was he playing at? I cunningly planned and delivered our littlest person’s name and gender reveal by simply taking a camera to the hospital, stopping at the shop to buy a bottle of cola with his name on, (like they did in 2014) on the way and taking a snap. Genius. If it has taken this guy three days it’ll need to be good. I’m genuinely stumped, but I’m guessing there’s a new Wallace and Gromit film going to be franchised as a result. Tick.

The Funniest Tweets From Parents This Week
My guess? They’ll all be rubbish. Have you met any other parents? Exactly. Tick.

Employ Me, I’m A Parent!
The author may decide to play with the content a little with witty anecdotes about how managing staff is like dealing with kids all day (ho ho) and suchlike. However, this is more likely to be someone-or-other trying to justify that nappy changing skills are comparable to those needed to negotiate international trade agreements (I’ve set it up, so feel free to mentally insert your own punchline… ) and so on. They’re not. Tick.

Put my phone away at the school gates? But then I’d have to engage with my child
Yes, you would and you should. Whatever you’ve written, it isn’t going to make you look good, is it? Hang your head in shame. Tut. Tick.

Having children means less sleep – and the other parenting truths you don’t a study to tell you
You perhaps don’t “need” a study to tell you this, Daily Telegraph? It’s true though. Most things parenting-wise are pretty obvious, and there’s always YouTube to help you find out anything else if stuck. Tick.

Clueless Millennial Dads Are Flocking to YouTube to Binge-Watch Parenting Videos
Oh. Let me rethink the last one. Of course they are, as they were born after the year 2000 and have probably never seen an actual book. And, let’s face it, there’s worse things that they could be watching on YouTube, most of them involving Kinder eggs. They may be useless, but at least they’re trying. Which is also likely to be true of the article.

And then I came to this, published by someone or something called “Mint.”

“The only thing you need to know about parenting.”

Ah. Clickbait at its very finest. What could it be? Can I justify taking a quick look, if for no other reason than to share this key information with the Millennial dads to help wean them off YouTube.

Yes, I should have known better, but I clicked. It’s sometimes impossible to resist.

Fortunately there was a tagline that made the rest of the article superfluous. The Holy Grail condensed into a single sentence. The one piece of advice that will tell us everything. We can empty our bookshelves and delete YouTube off our phones for good. Oh, if only that was possible on Android.

And here it is…

Stop reading parenting how-to manuals and instead take your child out to the park and spend some quality time with her.

Is that it? A simple trip to the park and all parenting problems disappear? Blimey.

We take our two to the park practically every week and, nice as that can be, it isn’t the cure-all that the article, albeit the preview, suggests.

But hang on. It says “her.” We have a girl and a boy so perhaps that’s the problem. It may only work for girls. So, if I take our son down the park too do I need keep the parenting books?

Rather than all this guesswork, maybe I should have just read the whole article, that the poor author probably sweat blood putting together, instead? Nah, nobody reads blogs these days. I’ll look it up on YouTube.

Fin.

Walk This Way

In which our reluctant hero discovers that these boots are made for walking.

The week in which Auntie Beeb reported that exercise levels decline ‘long before adolescence’ (by age seven, apparently) has coincided with the launch of this year’s “Beat the Street” initiative in Wolverhampton.

According to the ever reliable Internet, Beat the Street is;

A fun, free game for the communities of Wolverhampton to see how far you can walk, cycle and run around your area and into space!

The game involves wandering around Wolverhampton and its surrounding areas (what could be more fun?) and tapping your game card on “Beat Boxes” attached to the occasional lamppost. Each tap logs the distance travelled between your taps and scores points. And what do points make? Prizes! Presumably the top prize being a trip to space, if the blurb is any indicator.

Society appears to be getting less active and, in a way, I’m surprised that the decline doesn’t really kick in until age seven.

Being active was much easier when I was a child in the seventies and eighties. Cars hadn’t been invented then and the Internet was only available in black and white, so it made sense to go out whenever possible. In the 21st Century, the age of hoverboards and Internet parties, somebody (else) will have to be blamed for this “lazy bones” epidemic. But who?

Suspect 1
The Schools – Apparently, there’s too much sitting about in schools. Although undoubtedly true, hasn’t this always been the case? I suppose the difference is that the cool kids now spend their breaks chatting on My Space and MSN rather than climbing trees and scrumping apples, like in my day. And does anybody remember that thing we used to have in the olden days called P.E.?

Suspect 2
The Government – Those fat cats and their stupid SATS. The kids are sat too long sitting flipping SATS. Is this why they is getting FAT?

(#couldhavebeenarapper #probably)

Suspect 3
The Parents – That’s right. Blame us again why don’t you? By the time we’ve finished eating our Pop Tarts, watching GMTVam and driving our little people the hundred yards to school, there just isn’t time for exercise thank you very muchy. So there.

Suspect 4
YouTube Kids – The absolute scourge of modern society. In the absence of any hard evidence to the contrary, I’m going with this. Down with this sort of thing.

We’re responsible-ish grownups. Sort of. So in an attempt to tackle the “war on obesity” (mostly mine to be honest – the kids are alright) my wife tried to obtain cards (beaters?) from our daughter’s nursery school, whereupon we encountered problem one. There weren’t enough.

Perhaps the school weren’t expecting nursery children to sign up, but to fall without getting to the stadium with the hurdles in, let alone attempting to leap over the things was disappointing. It eventually got sorted and we were back on track, so to speak.

On Wednesday morning, I was out at early o’clock to steal a march on my rivals (family) whereupon I hit problem two. The first Beat Box that I came to, at Tettenhall Pool, was broken. Undeterred, I carried on walking. To the bus stop no less, where I jumped on the bus.

After a glance at the online map and rules, I realised that catching the bus between boxes probably counts as cheating. It’s just as well that the box didn’t work then. One nil to me.

I arrived in town and jumped off the bus in Darlington Street, managing three taps in twenty-odd minutes before catching a train to work. I had amassed a paltry twenty points, although I managed a mile of walking in the early morning sunshine that I wouldn’t have done otherwise. And very nice it was too.

Meanwhile in Tettenhall, the rest of the family were up and out, and also failing to get their cards to work at Tettenhall Pool. They opted for a selfie and a ranty tweet to the council instead. All was well with the world once more.

On the mile and a bit walk to nursery, all three boxes failed to work. This seemed like a mean trick to play on a four and two year old, especially on day one. Good work in keeping the younger generation motivated, council.

Having dropped the little people off, my wife started to hunt down working boxes. A meandering route home via Tettenhall Wood ensued before collecting the kids.

The grand total of their combined efforts came in at;

  • Five miles walked
  • Seven boxes tapped
  • Three boxes registered taps
  • Twenty points amassed including none for the kids
  • One selfie
  • Two ranty tweets to the council

My walk home wasn’t much better. I soon realised that, once outside the inner sanctum of the ring road, Beat Boxes are more difficult to find than golden tickets in a chocolate bar, which I could have murdered after all the walking. “Eat the Street” more like.

Coincidentally, due to the lack of a box at the railway and bus stations, there are also only three potential taps on my three mile walk home. With the end one broken, my journey is worth twenty points and half a mile of registered activity. Bah. I decide to go off piste.

After half an hour, I finally find another beat box outside West Park School. I appreciate that it’s sensible to place boxes at schools as, if working, the children can tap away before lessons. This does, however, present an unforeseen issue of increasing the amount of sweaty, overweight, middle-aged men hanging around outside school gates, as I discovered while catching my breath on Wednesday evening. What would The Daily Mail think?

Having finally registered a tap, I headed as directly home as I could manage. With the endpoint not working, I decide to look for, and failed to find, the next nearest box which was supposed to be at the Old Bridge. Plumping for the one at Marks and Sparks (St Michael’s) instead, I gave up and headed for a well earned sit down.

Before bed, I checked my progress which revealed a rather disappointing;

  • Three miles walked
  • Sixty points scored

However, my fitness tracker had logged a whopping 19,108 steps (or 9.26 miles in old money) most of which were presumably spent trying to find a box, working or otherwise. I checked the Facebooks and lots of people were moaning about this too. Which I guess makes a nice change from them moaning about their usual stuff.

While the points and progress were somewhat disappointing, the overall gain was an extra four miles walking to any normal day, which is actually the point. The kids enjoyed it too as finding and tapping the boxes, even if they weren’t working, added a bit of excitement to their usual walk.

On Wednesday, I marked Beat the Street a B+ for the idea and D- (see me) for execution.

But all was not lost. By Friday, local keyboard warriors were reporting that some of the broken boxes were working again. Hurrah! Asides from the one at Tettenhall Pool. Boo! So, on we marched.

Comparing the positives and negatives, the positive is that the whole family is getting more exercise, which has to be a good thing. The negative is that with less time spent on trains and buses, there’s less time to blog. (Maybe that’s a positive?)

So if, in six weeks time, there’s no new post here, feel free to send a search party. Somewhere near a beat box would be a good place to start looking.

Fin.

Epilogue
If all this hasn’t put you off, and your feet are getting itchy, NCT Wolverhampton have entered into the charities category of Beat the Street and are in with a chance of winning £250!

You can pick up your card from any civic office, library or at Wolverhampton Art Gallery. There will also be a limited number available at the Nearly New Sale on Saturday 18th March.

To register your card go to: https://beatthestreet.me/Wolves and select “NCT Wolverhampton.”


Every time you tap your card, you’ll be earning points for NCT. Which has to be a good thing, yes?

All Around the World

In which our reluctant hero delves inside number nine of the “Difficult Jobs for Dads” handbook.

There are lots of tricky parenting jobs. These include, in no particular order;

  • Keeping socks on a newborn (even using “Sock Ons”) for more than twenty seconds.
  • Adjusting a sling to fit dad without cutting off all circulation from the shoulders downwards.
  • Remembering to switch the baby monitor on.
  • Dealing with colic for more than a week without losing your sanity.
  • Collapsing and packing a pushchair in the car boot during the first six months of parenting.
  • Breastfeeding a tongue-tied baby. As a dad.
  • Staying awake long enough in hospital to get a sample from a dehydrated baby who has evacuated his bladder moments before being set said task by the doctor. (It took about seven hours for reference.)
  • Assembling a travel cot/ tent.
  • Remembering to switch the baby monitor off.

    You get the gist.

    There is, however, one task trickier than all of these tricky tasks combined. A task so tricky that it would win trickiest trick in the world trick-shot championships. So tricky that I blocked it from my mind after the last time that I attempted it, almost four years ago.

    Last Friday – 8:15 am in the morning.
    “Oh, and while you’re out you need to get the passport photos done.”

    *shudders*

    Taking a passport photo of a small child is like going to a gig as an average sized adult. After two hours, the only thing you’re actually ended up seeing is the top of someone’s head. And boy, does it get noisy.

    Our littlest little person was a mere dot of a few months old last time I attempted this Herculean task. She was too young to sit up, so the process involved moving enough lamps to light Molineux into the dining room, laying her on an ironed (badly) white sheet, then trying to get her to look straight into a camera lens wobbling precariously above her head. It was a nightmare.

    After what seemed like an eternity, a couple of ok-ish photos were obtained from the hundred or so still lifes titled “ear of recently rolled baby.” Cue half an hour of photoshopping creases out of the sheets, a trip to Boots the Chemist to print, and voila. Never. Again.

    This time was going to be different. There was no tiny baby to shoot, so to speak, but a nearly two and three quarters year old. That can sit up. All by himself. And there’s a Photo-me-Quick booth at the top of the magic stairs in big Sainsburys. What could possibly go wrong?

    If you’re contemplating doing this, don’t. In theory it should be easy. Get the little man to stand on the stool, adjust the height, line up the eyes, pop the money in, pull the curtain, press go and done. What could be easier?

    First things first. The stool. It swivels. The first ten minutes were more painful than a Jive Bunny and the Mastermixers (one for the kids there) megamix of “Let’s Twist Again.” Having finally got the height right, I jam a French stick in to prevent further movement. We are ready.

    Without thinking, I insert five pound coins into the machine. This is clearly not a job for a dad, but one for a two year old. Releasing the French stick once more, I quickly reach into the shopping bag for a snack to diffuse the situation before the security guard, who is showing a bit too much interest in the proceedings, arrives.

    Take one.

    “OK. Stand still, pop your hands on your knees, and keep looking at my finger while the machine takes your photo.”
    “Yes, daddy.”
    “And dont smile.”
    “Yes.”

    5, 4, 3, 2, 1…

    “CHEEEEEEESEEE!!”

    Takes two to forty followed similar lines, but the biggest distraction was the flashing screen directly below the camera. Every time the shutter was about to click, the little fella would bend down to have a look what was on “telly.”

    After about three quarters of an hour, we had achieved roughly;

    • Nine smiley faces
    • Six grumpy faces
    • Twenty shots with no two year old in
    • Four shots of the top of a two year old’s head
    • One grumpy two year old

    Shot 37 was different, however. It had a green tick on it. A tick to say that it “may” be suitable for use in a passport. Woohoo!!

    I quickly pressed print, retrieved photos, child, shopping and baguette, and headed to playgroup, somewhere where we should have been half an hour earlier.

    A couple of hours later, we arrive home and I present the photos for further forensic examination. That is, the ruler comes out.

    “These are no good. His head is too big.”

    Oh, blame me for our child’s large head why don’t you? Technically it is my fault (you should see the size of my noggin) but I can’t alter genetics. I’m not Peter Parker.

    Two days later, I instigate Plan B. Which should, in hindsight, have been Plan A.

    Apparatus
    Child, stool or chair, enormous white wall or ironed (yes, ironed) white sheet, smartphone, wireless-fireless, printer, photo paper.

    Method

    • Place stool against brightly lit white wall or wall with ironed sheet backdrop.
    • Sit child on stool.
    • Set smartphone to “burst mode.”
    • Position phone so that child’s head fills about three quarters of the camera screen.
    • Tap screen to focus.
    • Hold the camera button down for ages and persuade child to look at phone using prefered distraction techniques.
    • Repeat six to ten times.
    • Give child a lolly and review photos.
    • Find the one good one and delete the other five hundred or so.
    • Edit the brightness, contrast, and warmth settings so that the photo looks natural and the wall is white again. (Don’t be put off as this is really easy on your phone – just move the sliders until it looks right.)
    • Download a free app to make passport pictures (I used “Passport Photo ID Studio” on Android.)
    • Follow simple instructions.
    • Print on a sheet of photo paper.

    Results
    Six lovely passport photos. (Well, four as I didn’t put the paper far enough into the printer. D’oh!)

    Conclusion
    If you’re contemplating getting passport photos of your child using a Photo-me-Quick booth, don’t. DIY. It’s the future. Right, dads?

    Fin.

    Sneeze Sneeze Me

    Season 2, Episode 24. In which our reluctant hero is feeling a little bit under the weather*

    This week, I have mostly been sitting on trains. Or should that be sitting “in” trains? No matter.

    Although somewhat of a pain, this is not always the hardship that it may seem. If nothing else, it gives me chance to catch up with a bit of telly. On a good week, it also helps me finish my weekly blog post before Friday’s half five klaxon. Sadly, not this week though. I have had a bit of a cold.

    To add some context, it’s just a head cold. The sort that makes you feel vacant and tired, like someone scraped your insides out and replaced them with porridge. Not even proper porridge either, but that yacky just add water stuff that some genius thought of popping in small packets to increase Quaker Oats’ profit margin by a gazillion percent.

    Granted, this particular strain of cold would probably kill the average human and/or medium sized elephant if they came too close. My immune system is usually pretty solid though, so you’re not going to hear me banging on about it. Much.

    Like many other things that I enjoy doing, like writing and photography, having a cold is an experience best enjoyed on your own. Plod through work, spend a few evenings with feet up on the sofa, watch some French New Wave cinema, snack on junk while sipping hot toddies, and all will be fine by the weekend.

    Being a dad, there’s clearly no chance of that happening so I (wisely) chose to tackle the worst of it sitting through a pile of management meetings during three days away. Meetings. So long as you remain conscious enough to nod your head and occasionally grunt in agreement then everything is fine. It always is.

    Occasionally, however, you don’t get that luxury. You have to be ill at home… *shudders*

    This is never easy, even for the most battle hardened dads, so I’ve cobbled together some quick tips on how to survive it. You’re welcome.

    Planning ahead
    Top tip: Freeze enough leftover veg, mash, pasta, corn cakes, booby juice, etc to survive a small nuclear war. This is good for;

    A) Those times where you’ve barely the strength to press “start” on the microwave mid-cold.
    B) Basic survival in 2017, what with the bonkers shenanigans going on over the pond.

    Failing that, don’t try to be Superman. Or Superwoman. None of you are going to come to much harm with a bottle, or boiled eggs and soldiers for a few days. Depending what’s in the bottle, and for whom, obviously.

    Moving on.

    Coping by developmental stage

    Part one – Birth to toddler
    It’ll all be fine. Trust me. Assuming that the little person is being breastfed, it’s immune system should only be penetrable by kryptonite. Make sure it’s topped up with fuel, pop on a play mat on the floor, reach for the remote and pop “Homes Under the Hammer” on series link. A doddle. If formula fed, buy shares in Calpol and some earplugs too.

    Part two – Toddler to two
    The key here is not letting on quite how ill that you are, then ring for help. By the time International Rescue arrives (or more likely Elf Rescue these days, yes?) it will be too late for the rescuers to turn back. It’s a dead cert that they are going to get ill too, so the least that they can do is let you get your head down for a couple of hours. The alternative isn’t worth contemplating.

    Part three – Two plus
    You may be at the stage of making use of a couple of hours at nursery or playschool per day which will help no end. Get some kip if you can. If you happen to be home alone it gets a whole lot more difficult. Hope is not lost though as there’s a few options that you can consider.

    i – Try to play with them
    Sounds fine, but it’s unlikely to work as you’ll be tired, grumpy and fed up with the mess within seconds. If you insist on this course of action, then playing the patient in a game of “doctors and nurses” may buy you a sneaky forty winks.

    ii – Leave them to it upstairs
    Have you seen that David Attenborough programme about the wildebeest migration across the Serengeti? The sheer pace and power needed to move so many animals across such distances so quickly is mind blowing. Impressive as this is, two kids left alone upstairs can displace the entire contents of a couple of rooms elsewhere (other rooms, downstairs, in the garden, down the shed, etc.) a whole lot faster.

    Work out the balance. Two hours peace followed by an hour of tidying has got to be preferable to three hours fighting a slow, crushing, yet inevitably losing battle, right? Deal with the aftermath later.

    iii – Leave the house.
    This is never a sensible plan in my experience. No good ever comes of it, especially with kids in tow.

    Soft play, playgroup or similar may seem like a good idea, but someone is bound to want to talk to you, and do you really fancy climbing through four cubic metres of coloured balls to retrieve that missing sock? Thought not. On a positive, the presence of a sensory room may buy you a sneaky forty winks.

    So, there you go. A few options to mull over. All doomed to failure. Go to work every time is my recommended action. It’s the only way to guarantee a rest.

    Fin.

    *PS: There’s a shiny chocolate coin from our pirate’s treasure box for the first reader to work out the opening reference. Bet you can’t.