Frozen

In which our reluctant hero became the first person to actually want to build a snowman. EVER. Probably.

We had quite a lot of snow in Wolverhampton last weekend.

In the olden days, when “weather” existed instead of the constant churn of nothing, nothing, then absolute disaster, snow was a regular thing. Proper seventies snow too rather than the modern, dumbed down, Millennial stuff. Us, the children of the seventies, knew the drill.

  • Fifteen layers on at all times, even in the house, to negate problems of ice on the radiators.
  • Schools shutting each lunchtime (due to ice on the radiators) then a four mile uphill trek through a blizzard to get home, only to do the same again the next day.
  • Sledging on trays, coal sacks or bin bags off the greens at the local golf course.
  • Hastily denying sledging off the greens at the local golf course.
  • Quickly remembering that Parkas are to snow what Bounty (the strongest soaker upper… Boun-tee!) is to mysterious puddles on a kitchen floor.

At five and three, our children have barely seen snow and certainly didn’t remember doing so when it arrived. So, with Ice Krispies and Frosties finished, we ventured outside.

The first thing to do in the snow is, unsurprisingly, to build a snowman. In reality, it was the second thing to do, the first being throwing snowballs at dad’s ever increasing backside.

We started the build with shovels and dustpans before going old school by rolling a massive ball. The freshly rolled head, a virtual planetoid with its own weather system, caused a minor collapse that required much filling and patting down, but it started taking shape. I wasn’t sure what sort of shape, but definitely a shape.

Stick arms, a pinecone mouth and buttons, a carrot nose (snapped naturally, courtesy of the boy) and a fetching pink hat and scarf combo were attached, then… ta-da! A proper snowman. Or maybe a snowma’am. Or something.

It looked a little like the lovechild of The Elephant Man and E.T. but was not bad for the kids’ first one. It was possibly my wife’s first snowman too as she couldn’t remember making one before either.

Angels in the snow-filled Tettenhall Pool followed, although the children were too small to form theirs properly. Either that or their halos had slipped.

Olaf fever had clearly caught on, and the little people were back building little snow people in no time.

Kids being kids, there is always an “on/off” switch with every activity. This time it was the switch that flipped between having fun and being two minutes away from hypothermia. A hasty bath and warm soup quickly transformed the chill-dren back into children and kept Social Services off our backs.

Later in the week, a whole new level of fun was presented when my wife dug my old sledge out of the shed.

I bought the sledge in 1989, a half price bargain from Mr Bevan’s in Mold, a few years before I left home. Well, I think I did. The factual accuracy of pretty much anything that I have done at any point in my life before breakfast is questionable. I’m not even sure what I had for breakfast most days, if I’m honest.

Anyway, somehow the sledge was bought from somewhere. I’m more certain about the “when” as it was the exact time that the planet’s core temperature rose sufficiently for the sledge to spend the next 28 years or so stuck in a garage, then a shed. Until Tuesday.

The boy loved it, zooming up and down Lower Green like a low budget, middle-class Cool Runnings remake. The girl enjoyed it less, not appreciating that high speed crashes are all part of the “fun.” Whereupon she just moaned. Then had a meltdown. Honestly, take a chill pill.

My wife came up with a cunning plan to rid herself of the earache, jumping into the unguarded sledge and whooshing off down the hill. She would have earned £250 from Jeremy Beadle had she been any closer to the tree half way down the slope too.

“Who’s the best at driving, kids?”
“Daddy.”

Probably.

When I left the Rebel Alliance base in Wolver-Hoth-ton on Tuesday evening, ahead of a meeting with officials from the Galactic Empire, all was calm, all was bright. When I returned the following evening, there was barely a trace of snow.

A week after it drifted in, White Christmas is seemly over. If it’s another 28 years until the sledge comes out again it may well be for the grandchildren. Perhaps “Sled in a Shed” may also become a thing once everyone has binned their elves?

With the snowman collapsing, the final task was to take its accessories back inside, although the scarf seemed to be hanging around while the hat went on ahead. Snow joke.

Fin.

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The Great Ideas

In which our reluctant hero fondly recalls a long forgotten most genius* idea.

It’s April and it’s springtime. The clocks have been mucked about with again and parents across the land are even more weary and confused than our default parenting setting of pretty weary and confused. Stupid “The Hour.”

April also marks the annual debacle that is April Fools’ Day, where ordinary folk, most of whom aren’t usually known for their hilarity, try their hand at practical jokes or spreading nonsense.

The “jokes” themselves are nearly always rubbish (with the possible exception of any jape that involves setting stuff in jelly, like on The Office that time) and pretty easy to spot, especially if there’s jelly involved.

As for the hoaxes, in an age where button clickers are enthusiastically (and in some cases, naively) spreading their fake news, these are a different kettle of fish. A kettle of fish also being, ironically, a hilarious practical joke. Probably.

For this reason, I am a little more wary about the validity of stories published at around this time of year than usual. For example;

  • “BREXIT BOMBSHELL: EU to demand EVERY British number plate is RECALLED by 2019” – Fake, although surprisingly amusing stuff from Blighty’s second favourite right-wing rag, The Daily Express.
  • Any picture of a positive pregnancy test posted on social media before noon on April 1st – Fake every time. Also, not in the slightest bit funny, especially to those experiencing fertility problems.
  • “Mums are gluing pretty bows to babies’ heads so people know they’re girls” – True. No, really. Try Googling “Girlie Glue” if you don’t believe me.

Ignoring the million or so more sensible ways that mums could make their girlies more girly, like buying a flowery hat for example, it made me wonder if this curious phenomenon is unique to girls.

If my 28 seconds of extensive research is a reliable indicator, then it seems to be. But perhaps the Girlie Glue could be utilised to make baby boys more boyly too? A liberal application of sticky stuff could securely attach a false moustache, pipe, monocle and top hat in seconds. Literally a proper little man, and no more mixups.

Or maybe the glue could be used for more practical uses that parents would appreciate. Like gluing socks or gloves on to prevent their immediate loss, or sticking toddlers to their chairs at mealtimes.

Perhaps these ideas are slightly daft (dafter than the glue?) but I’ll guess that they may possibly have made a few of you go “hmmm…”

Which got me thinking. Are there any daft but practical inventions that I can think of that, if invented, could be useful additions to our parenting Arsenal? Oh, yes…

Reversible Clothing
Going out for ten minutes? Forgot to pack the three necessary sets of spare clothes? No worries. When you arrive at the park, soft play or gala dinner, simply turn everything inside out. Jobs a good ‘un.

Yes, the kids will have mud, jam, or whatever else they managed to collect caked all over the insides, but it’s bound to come off in the bath later. Coats have already been done, so why not make every garment for under fours reversible? A simple solution to an annoying problem sorted. Next.

Temporary Sock Tattoos
Sick of losing socks? Run out of glue? Why not pop to your local tattoo parlour and get a set inked on? A temporary pair, that will fade after a couple of years, will probably suffice. Just don’t go for anything too fancy like pringle patterns.

Froast
In a rush? Too tired to cook? Why not try microwavable frozen toast (“Froast”) for breakfast? Simply place a couple of slices into the special Froast cooking bag, microwave for 45 seconds per slice, allow five minutes cooling time, then turn out onto a plate and serve with butter, jam or whatever takes your fancy. Genius I’m sure you’ll agree.

And the beauty is that you can cook it in just a couple of minutes with gadgets (a freezer, microwave and plate) that you already own. No need to mess with expensive toasters and all that rubbish.

Cutlery Bungees
Fed up with your little person’s knife and fork ending up on the floor while trying to hack through Froast of a morning? Then Cutlery Bungees are the thing for you. Simply attach one end to a knife or fork and the other to your child’s wrist. Voila. The next time that pesky cutlery ends up over the side of the high chair it will soon be hurtling back from whence it came. What could possibly go wrong?

Babygro Mop
I initially considered that the concept of parents dressing their little ones in a mop, dipping them in Flash and letting them loose on the kitchen floor even more bizarre and inhumane than baby glue. Practical, granted, but probably not a kind thing to do. But, amazingly, these already exist. They’re called “Babymops” if you’re interested. Sometimes the simplest ideas have already been discovered.

So, there you go. A handful of much needed stuff and nonsense that I’m frankly amazed that we’ve got this far without inventing. And Babymops. I would also add Nappy Airbags, Balaclava Bibs and Chameleon Wall Crayons to the list if there was time, but the clock has beaten me once more.

Enjoy your weekend, whatever you’re up to. I’ll be heading off to the local patent office and enjoying a nice slice or two of Froast.

Fin.

(*) According to comedian Dave Gorman, when I first came up with the idea in 2010. Thanks Timehop!

Stuck in the Middle with You.

In which our reluctant hero is stuck for ideas. Again.

Little people are funny, aren’t they?

Our littlest little person has a silly little game that he likes to play at the moment. It’s a simple idea that usually starts with him crawling behind your legs, under a chair or table, or behind the curtains. The shouting then begins…

“HELP! I’M STUCK!!!”

Enter Player 2, a rookie from the rescue services, who then gets to pretend that they are unable to rescue him for a bit (cue excited giggles) before heroically saving the little man from his perilous fate. Which is a significantly worse predicament to be in than being at a perilous fete, although a badly run tombola can present its own ghastly issues.

“Daddy saved you! Just in the nick of time! Phew!”
“Again, AGAIN!”

Repeat for another half an hour or so and done. Game over. It’s hilarious – for a while – and with the added bonus that you don’t always have to move off the sofa either. Result.

To be fair, I quite like the game. It’s far less stressful than some of his previous ones – pretending that a room has caught light and running around shouting “FIRE! FIRE!!” for starters. Speaking as a Welshman, the Welsh generally don’t have that much to answer for. But, in this case, Fireman Sam is one of them. (See also Jonathan Davies for that horrific clearance that cost us the rugby against England last weekend. Gah.)

Now, I don’t know where the idea for this mildly entertaining pastime came from, but I love the thought and creativity that has gone into it. Proper made up play. It has to be. People just don’t get stuck in things in real life, do they?

Well, apparently they do. According to this snippet that appeared on the BBC News website yesterday…

“Firefighters rescued a woman who became trapped in a tyre at a playground in Flintshire on Wednesday.

A crew from Deeside was sent to the play park in Sealand just before 13:00 GMT.

The woman had stepped through the hole in a car tyre and became wedged inside.

Firefighters spent 10 minutes sawing the rubber and the woman was not injured.”

The Welsh have a lot to answer for.

An adult getting stuck in a tyre at a playground is like an adult reading a Harry Potter book. Neither thing should ever happen as the chosen apparatus is only supposed to be used by young children.

There’s limited details about the individual caught up in this embarrassing debacle, which is probably just as well for her sake. The thing we know for certain is that the lady was clearly far too big to be trying to get through a tyre.

Yes, the adult female body is a complex and wondrous thing, capable of allowing human forms to squeeze through incomprehensibly small spaces. And so are tyres. Sort of. But neither in nor out are interchangeable for grown-ups. Adults, be warned and stay well clear.

I can understand the temptation though. There’s still a part of us that thinks that we’re still about two and that everything will always be fine. They’re usually not.

For example, most of us parents will have tried a children’s swing at some point. They work at first, but is that creaking noise supposed to happen? And what is the noise? The chain about to snap, or just your knees?

Adults entering soft play areas is also a recipe for disaster. If I had a pound for every time that my wife got stuck in a ball pit or climbing too far up the equipment, looking for missing socks or missing children, then I would have almost enough money to afford to take the kids to soft play.

Fitness or, more likely, lack of it, is a problem for many of us parents too. I was a child of the seventies and eighties so remember the humble Spacehopper with great affection. How long could you manage to bounce on it in your prime? Twenty, maybe even thirty seconds before your legs gave in? Divide that by ten, take two off and that’s about how long that I stayed on before being strewn across the lawn in a crumpled mess in the summer of 2016.

Bouncy Castles anyone? You can fill in the gory details of your own recent, probably slightly tipsy, adult experience of these yourself. I feel a stitch coming on just thinking about it.

Will we ever learn? Of course not. So, next time that you get tempted, make sure that you have a responsible adult with you before going in.

Fin.

Question Time

In which our reluctant hero gets his excuses in early.

Last minute Christmas shopping. Last minute food shopping. Pub. Wrapping. Re-wrapping. Writing labels. Building a flat pack ice cream shop. Dismantling and re-mantling a flat pack ice cream shop after realising that the sides were on the wrong way. Lugging presents downstairs for Father Christmas. Peeling veg on Christmas Eve. Up before the “Sun’s up up in my room, Daddy!” every morning. Overexcited little people. Opening presents. Trying to work out who sent the previously opened presents. Tidying up the mess. Boiling sprouts to within an inch of their existence. Basting the turkey. Serving Christmas dinner. Serving Christmas dinner to the cats. Pulling crackers at every meal or snack time. Rediscovering the terrible joke in our homemade cracker. Setting fire to the pudding. Putting out hat that was a bit too close to the pudding. Washing up. Eating a wheelbarrow’s worth of Celebrations by coffee time. Bedtime meltdowns. Bedtime meltdowns by the kids too. Tidying up the mess. Again. Trip to the tip. Almost chucking the youngest’s buggy in the skips (oops.) Etc.

Christmas. Marvellous isn’t it?

I’ll forgive you for mistaking the above for a thirty second Groundhog Day-esque summary of Christmas Eve to Boxing Day. Close. It is in fact a rather hastily list of excuses as to why I haven’t written, or even thought about writing, a proper post this week. Which is odd as the Christmas period is often seen as a time for quiet thought and contemplation. Its Christmas. With kids. Fat chance.

Although not contemplated quietly, some deep, interesting, and theological (probably) questions did occasionally pop into my head over the period. A fleeting in and out, like Santa on a speed date. Questions such as (in no particular order);

  • Why are over fifty screws, nuts and bolts needed to build a child’s ice cream shop?
  • Where have I put the allen key this time?
  • When is “Escape to Victory” on?
  • How do you store Lego and Duplo in between builds?
  • How did two grown-ups end up spending all afternoon building the Lego?
  • Why do sprouts taste as bitter as a pint of bitter lemon on a chilly night on Christmas Day, but amazing when fried up as breakfast bubble ‘n’ squeak on Boxing Day?
  • Can our recycling pile be seen from space by a naked eye?
  • Working on the basis that everybody who wants to/has to watch Frozen has seen it more than five hundred times already, couldn’t the BBC have given us parents JUST ONE DAY OFF?!
  • Where did all of the salted peanuts go?
  • How do you make the Rapunzel Doll stop singing? In Spanish?
  • What on earth is a Shopkin?
  • Is the Morecambe and Wise Christmas Special a new one?
  • What on earth have the boffins at Cadbury done to the Roses wrappers?
  • Why is “Mrs Brown’s Boys” still allowed on the electric television? (Presumably Brendan O’Carroll knows where the bodies are buried.)
  • How do you make the Frozen Doll stop singing? In Spanish?
  • Next year, will it be easier to arrange for my December wages to be paid directly into Amazon’s bank account?
  • Why are the children upstairs playing hospitals when there’s about half of Amazon’s UK stock sat in the living room?
  • Why wasn’t “Escape to Victory” on?
  • Is “re-mantling” even a word?

So there you go. Will I ever get answers to these questions? Probably not. Will I be asking exactly the same things next year. Probably. Ho, ho, ho.

Fin.

Schoolboy Errors

In which our reluctant hero wishes that he hadn’t bothered. Probably.

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

– Samuel Beckett.

The mantra of every 21st Century (other periods are also available) Dad.

We all make mistakes. The important thing is, of course, learning from them. Or at least not shouting too loudly when your ill thought out sadly-not-as-genius-as-you-had-first-hoped plan comes tumbling down. Like anything at a height of about a foot or more left within a three room radius of a toddler. TIMBER!

They say that eighty percent of success is showing up. They also say that about eighty percent (81.4% if you want to be picky) of statistics are made up on the spot. But let’s not let that put us off. Instead, why don’t we simply celebrate that fact that we, the nation’s Dads, at least showed up despite it probably being better for all concerned if we hadn’t bothered.

So, without further ado, here’s a hastily compiled list of ideas, actions and assumptions that should have stayed firmly lodged in my noggin. Or should have been thought out better. Or something. A list about Dad style parenting. And disaster.

  • Giving a six month old a bowl of Spaghetti Bolognese as part of the weaning process. On a positive note, it saved a few quid on decorations the following Christmas.
  • Assuming that the tabs on that nappy from late 2014 would be sufficient to keep the contents inside during its maiden flight downstairs during a failed attempt to quell the foul stench upstairs. It didn’t.
  • Tempting fate 1 – Bragging that, seven months in, that “I haven’t dropped her… yet” then somehow managing to catapult the seven month old out of a car seat across the living room floor into a full faceplant within 24 hours of the careless comment.
  • Leaving pens and crayons out unattended. The eldest never drew or scribbled on walls, tables or paintwork. So what harm could leaving them there for the youngest possibly do?
  • Assuming that a sleeping baby will remain asleep any longer than the time it takes to sit down and pick a fork or spoon up. It won’t. Ever.
  • Tempting fate 2 – “I’m amazed that we’ve never had a little accident in the bath.” You can guess the rest. Someone pass the Domestos. And a peg.
  • Assuming that two platefuls of a new meal (our savoury fish pancakes, offered after a double refusal of their own tea, if you’re interested) getting scoffed in record time is any indication that the same meal will even be touched again. Especially if it takes about an hour to assemble and you neglect to bang a couple of fish fingers in at the same time as a contingency.
  • Leaving tissues, wipes or toilet roll unattended in any room occupied by an under one for a period of more than fifteen seconds. Isn’t the snow pretty?
  • Letting a toddler out of shopping trolley jail. There’s no going back from this chaos. Trust me.
  • Leaving a toddler in shopping trolley jail too close to the supermarket shelves. It’s only when you get home that you discover the plethora of random items that were chucked in when your back was turned. Does anyone need a whisky laced jam and marmalade set? Free to good home.
  • Tempting fate 3 – “They’ve not had a cold for ages.”
  • Letting little people apply any sort of cream by themselves. They have got elephantine memories, no stop switch and you’ll soon discover just how tricky Sudocrem is to shift out of carpet.
  • Picnics in the front room for a treat. Proceed only if you have a tarpaulin large enough to cover every surface of downstairs. See also mums serving lunch in the back of the car on pre-school days #SchoolgirlError
  • Letting a toddler help feed the cats. In a couple of weeks the cats will love you (more likely the toddler, if we’re honest) but the resulting cat food bill may cause bankruptcy.
  • Installing YouTube Kids. Don’t ever do this. Modern two year olds can break an Enigma machine in about thirty seconds, so your four-digit screen lock is going to be child’s play. Literally. The trade-off between the initial five minutes peace against hours of listening to whiny American kids act out “Frozen” is simply not worth it. Trust me.
  • Assuming that a baby that doesn’t roll won’t roll off a changing table straight onto the pub toilet floor if not strapped in. (Note – Dad wouldn’t have been this irresponsible. All mum’s work this one.)

So, there you go. I’m sure that there are hundreds more that I can’t remember that will come back to me with cold sweats at 3am. Perhaps this post should remain a work in progress to be added to? Give me a few more months, and I suspect that this post will be longer than the 256,000 plus words in James Joyce’s “Ulysses.” Check back in a bit.

To be continued…