Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Tinsel, Tinsel, Little Star

And so we gathered, in the close confines of the school hall, to witness the greatest story ever told. The scene was set, the assembled parents and grandparents browsed through their programmes for a sign. A sign that an infant within their own midst had started a journey. A journey into the world of school performances. Confirmation was right there in the cast listing.

Things 1 and 2 were angels, as graceful as four-year-olds can be in the company of miscued Magi, sniffing shepherds and a messenger that possessed a helium-conditioned voice, loud enough to perforate a donkey’s eardrums.

A constellation of stars danced in and out of the rehearsed choreography. This was due, in part, to some obvious discomfort felt by a couple of the heavenly bodies. It’s hard to maintain a predictable place in the firmament when your underwear requires more adjustment than Rafa Nadal’s in the moments before match point.

The Innkeepers revelled – perhaps a little too much - in turning Mary and Joseph away, but eventually they were accommodated in the middle of the set, where they received the son of God in a crib that was deftly manoeuvred into place by teacher. Cue those bearing gifts. Which immediately reminded me of a story told by Ken Robinson. When his son landed the role of a wise man in the school nativity, he duly approached Jesus and said, “ I bring gold.” The second wise man knelt and said, “I bring myrrh.” The last in the trio placed his parcel down and cried, “Frank sent this.”

What can I say? We were as proud as punch to watch our two little angels, for once wearing haloes that showed no signs of slipping. But then, that’s tinsel for you!

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Birthday Girl!

SW is seven years old, today. Actually, celebrations began on Sunday, with a party of 12 friends at a local craft centre. They were booked in for a session of découpage, before tea at SW’s house. The calm of creative concentration before the storm of multi-coloured dogs, cats and dinosaurs that would follow. Then, as the still-sticky animals dried amongst the cupcakes, cookies and sandwiches, a kind of calm descended. Of course, it was short-lived. Someone needed the loo, and before you could say pass the parcel, there was a queue halfway down the stairs, that would rival Next on the first day of the post-Christmas sales. Luckily, SW’s dad took charge of crowd control, and there were no ‘incidents’.

But that was Sunday. Today it’s for real, and it got me thinking. About the world SW is getting to grips with. It’s as big and full of promise, possibilities and imperfections, as it ever was, yet I have every trust in her ability to embrace it, and I’ll tell you why. She has a quiet confidence, an uncommon generosity, and an empathetic attitude to others. She has a smile that, as her teacher put it, “lights up the room.” Pretty good for starters, eh?

I’m not just a proud grandfather, I’m a born optimist, too. And if my tribute sounds a little too sugary sweet, rest assured this optimist is also a realist. I know that for SW to have continued happiness in her life, she’ll need family, friends, and a helping of good fortune. Good fortune arrives when we least expect it, but she has a close, stable family. Friends, though, are a little like the découpage animals. They're not always easy to identify, unless you've had a hand in making them, yourself.

SW and her peers are on the same journey, discovering their own strengths and weaknesses and, in turn, their parents and grandparents will be thinking, if not saying, ‘what a little star!’ And, like me, they’ll all be right. I mean, is there a better age to be a star, than seven?

Friday, 25 October 2013

Sepia Saturday: Mr & Mrs Light Come To Town

Well, I've been scratching my head, trying to decide on a post that befits the 200th Sepia Saturday celebration and, finally I have one. First published on 20th November, 2010, it's a story about my Great Great Grandparents, as reported in the Daily Herald on Wednesday, 25th August, 1937.

Two excited old people, Mr. Wellington ("Duke") Light, 78 year-old Hampshire farmer, and his 74 year-old wife, yesterday visited London for the first time.

They came as guests of the "Daily Herald" - and their visit fulfilled a life ambition.

For, they had never before been more than 25 miles from their home in Colden Common, near Winchester.

Married 52 years, they have never been separated, had never ridden in a bus or been to a theatre or cinema.

Here is how they spent their day with a "Daily Herald" Special Correspondent, who showed them the sights.

1 P.M. Driving over Westminster Bridge, they catch their first glimpse of the river.
"How beautiful," says Mrs Light, "Look Duke, it's just like the sea. And is that Big Ben right up there? We've read all about him in the papers."

1.10 Passing Buckingham Palace. "Is that where the King lives," asks Duke, unbelieving. "why does he have such a great place as that?"
Mrs Light interpolated the story of "how we nearly couldn't come to London after all because one of Duke's pigs, which he bought at market yesterday at 22s. each, and very nice little pigs too, escaped and ran away. But it was all right after all. We found him this morning, sleeping in the next sty."

1.15 Mr and Mrs Light shake hands all round at the Royal Palace Hotel. Going up to their room they take their first trip in a lift.
"What?" says "Duke," again incredulous, "Up three flights of stairs in about a second. I never would have believed. If that isn't a licker."

2 P.M. Lunch in the Cumberland Grill. Says "Duke," pointing to the concealed lights, "Is that the sun coming in there? No? It must be some wonderful lights."

Later, he tells the waiter how he nearly couldn't come to London because of the lost pig, lights a cigar and clears up the Stilton.

3.30 "What high buildings you have up here" (around Marble Arch) "I never dreamt there were such places."

4.15 At the Bank of England, they see "where the money comes from," and watch the pigeons outside the Royal Exchange.
"I used to keep pigeons," says Mrs Light, "but the cat killed them all. Does anybody ever feed these, (anxiously) I thought they looked well fed."

5 P.M. "I do believe my man will want to come and live here," she adds, as the car slips along the Embankment. "Well, I've heard a lot about London, but I never would have believed," says "Duke." "What a mighty place it is to be sure."

5.30 "marvellous, marvellous" they both say in Hyde Park. "You Londoners ought never to want for fresh air."

6 P.M. Mrs Light tells the manager of the hotel all about the day (and about the lost pig).

Mr Light explains to the Hall Porter that "it's the best day I ever did spend. Fifty two years we've been married, last Monday as ever was, but I never dreamed of anything like this and that's the truth."

8 P.M. At the News Theatre, they see their first pictures. "It's hard to think it isn't real," whispers "Duke," in my ear. "I've read about the pictures, but I never would have believed…"

Later he confesses that the Silly Symphony, "Father Noah's Ark," troubled him a little. "I don't like mockery…"

9 P.M. On the way back to the hotel. "I've told that manager man," says Mrs Light, not to be surprised if I'm up at 5 o'clock tomorrow raking the fires about. He did laugh!" They decided that tomorrow they would like to see the Zoo.

My Grandmother told me that Duke and Jinny had their trip to the Zoo, but although they knew the animals were well cared for, it upset them both to see them in captivity. At that point, Jinny became homesick. She thought about her cows, wandering free in the meadows, and suddenly she felt like a prisoner. She was never one to mince words, and duly informed her hosts that she had seen enough and wanted to go home.

On their return, Duke was asked if he had been nervous about anything. "Only of the bath," he exclaimed, "we're only used to an inch or two in the tin bath in front of the range. In the hotel, the maid had filled the bath three parts full!" This, he thought, was wasteful.

Friday, 18 October 2013

Children, Books, and a Burnt Bottom

There are no bad authors for children, that children like and want to read and seek out, because every child is different. They can find the stories they need to, and they bring themselves to stories. A hackneyed, worn-out idea isn't hackneyed and worn out to them. This is the first time the child has encountered it. Do not discourage children from reading because you feel they are reading the wrong thing. Fiction you do not like is a route to other books you may prefer. And not everyone has the same taste as you.” – Neil Gaiman

When I read this edited version of Neil Gaiman’s recent lecture for the Reading Agency, I wanted to stand and clap my hands. Once in a while we hear or read the words of someone who is eminently qualified to remind us of what is important in our lives, and in the lives of our children. This is one such occasion.

Not only does Gaiman highlight the importance of information, but he gets a good plug in for Librarians, who can you help find not only what you’re looking for, but useful things you never knew existed. That resonates with me, as a former information professional.

But I found his views on how children engage with reading materials the most interesting, and I'm sure you will, too. Do click the link above, and take a few minutes to read the piece.

At the sharp end, and to prove there are no rules when reading a story as far as kids are concerned, SW recently produced, ‘The Troo Story of 3 Littel Pig’.

It’s a short work, but that’s because SW has dispensed with the need to retell the familiar story. She wanted to get straight to the moral of the tale, and how a ravenous wolf can experience an epiphany after immersing his backside in a pot of boiling stew.

The picture is a harrowing one. You only have to see the wolf’s twisted expression to figure that out. And the dialogue is revealing.

No, no, come back. Argh, I’ll never catch them.” Wolfy is obviously desperate to make his peace with the three little pigs, but is inhibited by a somewhat blistered bum.

Sorry, my tail is burnt, and now I have to be a vegetarian.”

If this isn’t a child’s imagination firing on all cylinders, I don’t know what is. Three cheers for Neil Gaiman!

Friday, 11 October 2013


SW’s school held a harvest-themed assembly in the local church this morning.  SW, herself, had a line to read, which she managed loudly and clearly. A proud moment.

Towards the end of proceedings we got to sing Happy Birthday to a young lad who will be marking his tenth year, over the weekend. Watching him make his way up the aisle got me thinking about the thrill of reaching double figures, the tantalising prospect of being taken more seriously. After all, with a decade of life experience under your belt, you must have learnt something. Something the rest of the world would give you credit for.

Then I reflected on my younger self, spending hours unconsciously flicking through the unwritten pages that stood between 10 and grown up. All the things I believed I could be lay far beyond childhood. The teasing promises, the sweet scent of opportunity, the place where my mumbled prayers arrived incoherently on a light breeze of hope, unfurling and landing neatly at the feet of a god who had lost his voice. 

I celebrated my tenth birthday in difficult and confusing circumstances, but the presents I received that year helped to lift the late November gloom. And to mark the point from where my life would change beyond all measure, some football socks (red and white), my first leather football, and a book, ‘A Pageant of History’, which I still have. The title on the spine, embossed in gold, and a neatly inscribed dedication inside the cover, Happy Birthday, lots of love from Mummy xxxx.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Drawn and Delivered

The NHS may be creaking at the seams, and maternity units may be under threat of closure due to lack of funds. But from one new mum, the service recently received the highest praise.

Ariel waddled into the labour ward, wearing a confident expression (top left) and was immediately given a gown to cover her modesty. Her husband, seen in the picture, reaching for Ariel’s hand, is every sketched woman’s dream. For a start, he has no mouth.

The nurse, in attendance, is perhaps a little too close to hubby, but at least she has taken the trouble to come to the party, wearing some clothes. She and Ariel display the same confident expression, although we can be certain that they are not related beyond sharing the same pencil.

So, after trying a couple of birthing positions on the delivery table, our expectant mum eventually opts for a place on the floor. Not before time, as the baby’s head and one of it’s arms are clearly visible.

Finally, it’s twins! A boy and a girl, who are up and walking as quick as you like, following Ariel around as she breaks in some new slippers.

She’s now on the waiting list for the removal of her over-developed shoulder pads.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Memories are made of...

There are some things one remembers even though they may never have happened.”― Harold Pinter

Things 1 & 2 started school on Monday. The next day, Thing 1 was disappointed to discover that school also happened on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, etc. Thing 2 is displaying her usual sangfroid. She’s already stepped forward with a request to ring the school bell – which probably weighs only a tad less than she does. And, having mentally mapped her new surroundings, all offers to accompany her to the toilet are politely, but firmly, declined.

This milestone led to thoughts about my first day at school. Hmm, quickly drawing a line under that traumatic episode, I took another sip of tea and moved on to consider how it might have been in my grandparents’ day. When my grandfather started his education, WW1 had already been raging for a year. He had a favourite tale he used to tell, of an elderly woman who stopped abruptly as she approached a field full of tents. An army officer approached and asked if he could help. The woman was perplexed by the sight of so many rows of tents. “These are for the soldiers, madam. Don’t you know there’s a war on?” the officer said. The elderly lady stroked her chin and adjusted her hat. “Well,” she replied, with a sweet smile, “they’ve got a fine day for it, haven’t they?”

My grandmother began her educational journey in 1918. As she discovered what it was to commit learning to memory, her father was returning from the battlefields of France, praying that he could forget. A hopeless goal for him, that wasn’t realised until his death in 1924.

I have some very clear memories from my early childhood. One in particular, involves my first encounter with a refrigerator, although at the time I regarded it as little more that a cupboard where ice-lollies came from. I would have been about two years old. It’s worth pointing out that the fridge belonged to a neighbour. We wouldn’t have one for another decade or more.

My grandfather upstaged me with his own early memory. He recalled being pushed in a pram, by his mother. The extraordinary thing was, the event took place at night. And as if that wasn’t enough, he described the sky as being alive with tiny points of light. Some moving and falling, drawing tails across the darkness before disappearing in an instant.

It’s quite moving to think of him, alone with his mother in the black stillness of the countryside, looking heavenwards. The two of them, their eyes filled with stars. Twinkling clues to the existence of other worlds they would never know.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Filling the space in-between

Planning no longer comes easily to me - these days I never wear a watch. When I finished with work, discarding the timepiece seemed like the most natural thing in the world, to do. This doesn’t mean that I never check the time. I just don’t have it manacled to my wrist anymore. I’m as punctual as I ever was, but those bits of the jigsaw that go to make up an average week, have a looser fit. Consequently, the final picture of events has a certain movement to it. Movement that can cause your feet to fall into a gentle pattern of dance or, a shifting and repositioning that calls for holding on tight. 

During the past few days, the shapes and spaces we call time-slots, have joined in a way that shimmers, when viewed from the angle of a Saturday afternoon.

A visit to an old friend on Monday and the loan of two fabulous Steve Gibbons CDs. Later, Thing 2 flew solo, and spent her first night ever, separated from Thing 1 – a very special time.

We went to Sandham Memorial Chapel on Wednesday, where the breathtaking work of Stanley Spencer adorns the walls. And the serenity of that visit stood us in good stead for Thing 2, following closely in her sister’s footsteps. Another successful sleep-over.

Thursday morning we had all three girls on a shopping trip, followed by a long lunch at their house.

Friday, Mags and I had lunch dates with friends and former colleagues.

You’ll get the picture, even though I haven’t had the inclination to frame it with the guidance of straight-edged pieces.

Friday, 9 August 2013

A wing-driven Thing

Anyone who has had a telephone conversation with Thing 2 will know how long her stories can be. And, the plots are often obscure. So be warned!

Once upon a time...

Whatever happened here (theories welcomed), it ended badly for one character who appears to be sporting a black eye...well, an orange one at least.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Where's an elephant when you need one?

I have a good reputation for being punctual. Never late for school, never late for work. One of my bosses from the 70s declared, “I know if you’re not here to clock on at 05.00, you’re not turning up at all.” A sort of backhanded compliment, I suppose. Also a reflection of my career ambitions in those days. An indifferent attitude to a dead end job, the likes of which you could leave in the morning to find another in the afternoon.

Anyway, I’m disappointed with myself, to discover that I missed posting on Square Sunshine’s fourth anniversary, which was three days ago.

An elephant never forgets. I wonder how rhinos fare?

It’s not that I had anything special to announce, and besides, my head was full of Manet and Land Art. What I would have said was a big THANKS to all of you who continue to visit this blog. I sometimes wish the posts ran to more of a theme, but those thoughts and observations in the header, keep coming. I never quite know what I’ll post about next, and you never quite know what to expect. I’m happy to keep it that way, and I look forward to sharing a little slice of my life with you for a long time to come.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

The Hopkins Trend

When Katie Hopkins appeared on the This Morning programme and announced, “I do judge children by their names ... For me, a name is a shortcut of finding out what class that child comes from,” there was a nationwide gasp of disbelief that could be heard way beyond the confines of daytime television.

Hopkins went on to say, “I tend to think that children who have intelligent names tend to have fairly intelligent parents and they make much better playdates for my children.” But hang on, let’s not forget these are statements made by the Queen of Conflict. You know, the woman who declared she wouldn't employ fat people “because they look lazy.”

Was I shocked to hear the shallow tactic she employs for selecting appropriate friends for her children? No, not really. Disappointed maybe, but not shocked. Why? Because there are plenty of parents who  spend an inordinate amount of time engineering what they perceive to be the ideal social mix for their offspring. Recently, I heard of a mother whose son has been strongly encouraged to divorce himself from his slightly younger pals because it’s time for him to ‘man up’ and make older friends. Ideally, those boys who have attained a level of maturity that belies their years – we’re talking primary school here.

The insidious process began with separating him in the playground ‘line up’ ahead of his school day. It reached a new and defining mark when the boy’s younger friends were excluded from his birthday bash. Several of the discarded number were reduced to tears. Hardly surprising, given that a bond formed at pre-school had now been torn up on a parental whim.

I’d prefer to think that the mum in question is naïve, ill-advised, or perhaps a little of both. However, all the signs are to the contrary, and the unpleasant shadow of the pushy parent seems to be in danger of morphing into something far more sinister than devising ways and means of keeping a child ahead of the game.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Dancing from a distance

There are three great stories in every family, if you just stay up talking long enough, it will all come out." - Stephen Poliakoff.

I had at least a half dozen potentially great stories, at the last count. Aside from those events I have witnessed at first hand, there are the tales and anecdotes that I pestered my maternal grandparents to repeat over and over. On the paternal side, the stories have colour and a hint of romance, yet they are born out of cold facts, recorded in official documentation. The stories are no less powerful, but they lack the levels of emotional investment that’s vital to understanding the connections between people and events. When someone is relating a family tale or offering an explanation as to why a certain event occurred, we are not just hearing the words, we are watching the expressions. We are getting something special, something that can rarely, if ever, be gleaned from passionless paperwork.

Today, I spent a little time organising some of Mags’ family photographs, most of which reside in a shoebox left by Mag’s late mother. Most of the faces are familiar or at least identifiable. But in almost all collections of family photos, there’s a minimum of one that got away.

As soon as I set eyes on this unknown character, I was thinking ‘Poliakoff’. I’m reminded of the mysterious images in his television drama, “Perfect Strangers.” Suddenly I’m asking myself who the girl is posing for, and why. I’m wondering who she grew up to be, and what stories might have emerged if, at some point we had been afforded the opportunity to stay up and talk at length.

Hand in hand, with a clean pair of heels

Our identical twin granddaughters, affectionately known on this blog as Thing 1 and Thing 2, have kept us all on our toes from the word GO!

Yesterday, it was their turn. Their final time ever, at pre-school, was marked with a mini sports day. Those first tentative steps into the world of formal education have developed into strides of increasing confidence, as they head toward their reception year in September. Well done, girls!

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

The Darsing Hipow

Another story from the pen (and felt-tips) of SW.

The Dancing Hippo.
Boris the hippo was the boogiest hippo in Africa.
No other animal was as boogiest as Boris. "Come dance with me," said Boris (to the monkey). "No, no," came the reply.
Suddenly a scream came from the water hole. It had dried up.
Boris danced and danced, 8 times. The river was coming. "Hooray for Boris," said the animals. From that day on, all the animals danced to celebrate.
The End...

Sunday, 7 July 2013

He can write!

Interrogating databases, retrieving information in which you have no vested interest beyond the parameters of your job description can be dull, dull, dull. I should know.

But when those skills are combined with an innate and unquenchable curiosity, digging for detail can become a labour of love. Some of you will already know about my interest in family history. It’s an activity that can eat up time like few others. A new clue floats to the surface and you’ve turned up your collar, and left on the superhighway before anyone can whisper ‘Maltese Falcon’.

This week, I received an email from someone whose family, long ago, walked certain lineal lanes with mine. He had uncovered some maritime records that included the name of my three times great grandfather, Benjamin Hodges who died from yellow fever in the Dutch West Indies, in 1857.

The records date from the mid 1840s to the mid-1850s, and they detail the names of the ships he sailed on during that period. The SS Calcutta and the SS Atrato. What is so exciting is the fact that I now have a description of Benjamin. I already have a photograph of his son John (1848 – 1940), but until now I could only imagine what Benjamin might have looked like. The lad born in Henstridge, Somerset on 8th July, 1818, was 27 years old, 5ft 5 1/4 ins tall, had brown hair, grey eyes and a fair complexion. He had no distinguishing marks. But the thing I was most impressed with was the tick in the box that read, “Can Write.”

Wouldn’t it be something if he had written letters? Wouldn’t it be mind-blowing if some of them survived and rose to the surface unexpectedly, one day? Hmm, hardly likely, but good detectives never know when they’re beaten.

Friday, 28 June 2013

Country Boy

"They called him "a country boy" at school despite his white face and slight, nervous appearance. The Fulham kids named him so because his speech gave him away. Swede and turnip speech. But, the newcomer found it impossible to explain, he came from a hilly, green and lovely certainly, yet coal-mining part of England, on the border of Wales. The Forest, the land on its own. Not just the country." - Dennis Potter.

There’s no clean way to uproot a young boy from the countryside, and transplant him in an urban environment. Oh he’ll survive, but only because nature has a way of forcing adaptation. And the chemical changes, the cooler climate, unexpected levels of acidity, all play their part in temporarily stunting his growth. It may be several seasons before he shows any significant signs of blooming.

Contending with his new growing ground is one thing, but having the colour of his expression repeatedly trampled on is quite another.

In the nurturing confines of his classroom, this country boy was tended by a tired individual. Her once green fingers now glowed pink from all the poking and prodding of sub-standard specimens. She was enduring her own private drought. Stale, and wrapped in tweed, she sought to stimulate the country boy with liberal doses of ridicule. Her potted prize-winners spread out from where his feet were forced to the seat of a chair. The uniformity and cultivation of those about him, sealed his fate.

Like Potter, I found it impossible to explain, I came from a green, wooded, wonderful part of England. A place that was the land on its own. Not just the country.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013


Yesterday's fashion critic turns her attention to micro-scooters.

Dress Sense

Our daughter bought a new dress a couple of days ago. In the shop, she seemed delighted with her choice. But after trying it on at home, she wasn't so sure. Yesterday, she announced that she would be returning the dress later in the week.

We were enjoying lunch in the sunshine when she revealed her decision. The twins ('Thing 1' and 'Thing 2') were listening intently.

Mummy: I'm taking that dress back to the shop on Thursday.

Nanny: Oh really, why?

Mummy: I don't know, after I tried it on at home, it just didn't look right. I mean, it's a pretty design and it's the ideal length, but it makes me look...hmm, sort of, well...

Thing 2:  Big?

Mummy: Yes, thank you for that, young lady!

Monday, 3 June 2013


When SW returned from a recent family mini-break by the seaside, she couldn't wait to show us what she'd collected from the beach. She carefully sorted and arranged her 'treasure', on her bedroom floor, and pointed out the perfection in each piece.

The prize exhibit wasn't a shell, but a small and unusual stone. Unusual because, as SW pointed out, it has a smiley face on it. She handed it to me so that I could inspect it more closely. I turned it this way and that, and to my surprise, on the obverse side was a face that told a different tale. "This side doesn't look so happy," I said. The reply was instantaneous, "No it doesn't, does it? But I can really only see the smiley face." With that, she turned the stone again. After all, why would anyone want a miserable pebble in their collection?

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Head-scratching and a Possible Snowman

Although some of us won’t readily admit it, unravelling a mystery or solving a puzzle can give us quite a lift. Who doesn’t know that niggling feeling that comes from knowing the solution to be simple, but for dear life we can’t quite grasp it. The glaringly obvious solution to a crossword , but having already made it clear that crosswords aren’t your ‘thing’, revealing the answer isn’t an option, leaving your inner detective well and truly thwarted.

We live in a puzzling world, whether you find yourself preoccupied with the secrets of Dan Brown’s Archimedean spiral, or just trying to fathom out what Russell Brand means in his reference to parliament: “The whole joint is a deeply encoded temple of hegemonic power.”

Yesterday, SW’s little sister, who she occasionally refers to as ‘Thing Two’, presented me with a rather charming, if somewhat cryptic piece of handiwork. Is it a flow chart, designed for use at a snowmen’s conference? Perhaps a series of coded ideas contained in the shape of a light bulb? Whatever the rationale might be, it’s likely to remain an enigma. My guess would be that it’s actually many things and nothing at all. The perfect example of a fertile imagination, one that might well prove useful for solving riddles in later life.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Am I a Grandsharent?

There’s an old chestnut that pops up regularly in conversations between parents of young families. It’s the one where doubts and fears are raised over how much information about children should be shared on social media platforms.

You won’t be surprised to learn that there’s a name for those parents who regularly post pics and updates relating to their offspring. They are “sharents”  - a fairly unimaginative term from the same stable as “kidult” – and they’re probably here to stay.

When our daughter was born, we decided that her spiritual security was a personal matter for her to think about, so we never had her Christened. It’s never entered our heads to persuade her one way or the other with regard to politics, either. Some things can’t be decided for you. You reach a point in your life when the big issues, like personal privacy, faith, and political ideology, gain weight...or not.

I feel much the same about the information I share here, about my grandchildren. Proud though I am, and love them as I do, the rule was established from the beginning that I wouldn't share photographs that clearly identify them, or reveal their actual names. This isn’t to say that others are wrong to do so, or that I believe they might be in peril if readers knew their identities. It’s a matter for the individual to consider, a question of choice. A kind of privacy by proxy, if you like. And, I hear the argument that unless we take the Michael Jackson route, and insist on our children wearing masks in public, the world at large will come to know our children and grandchildren, anyway. But it will be in the real world, as opposed to the ever expanding virtual kind.

There are still parents and grandparents who feel much more confident about protecting children off-line, and I can understand that. What do you think?

Sunday, 28 April 2013

The Hoomugoos Spiedar

SW slept over last night. Needless to say, we enjoyed a lot of fun and games. But then, like all good authors, she knuckled down to concentrate on her latest work.

(Created by Speckly Woo, with not nearly as interesting subtitles by her Ga)

The Humungous Spider.
Once upon a time, three children were playing, called Alice, Molly and Tom.
"What do we do," said Molly. "I don't know," said Tom and Alice.
"Shall we go in that old abandoned house?" said Tom. "Yes, yes," said Alice. "OK," said Molly.
"Let me and Molly get ready." "OK."
'Come on," called Tom. "Arrrr!"
Then, a spider emerged out of nowhere. "A...n, n, n," said the spider.
"What is wrong," said Molly. "I have no friends," he said. "We can be your friends."
"Oh great," he wept. And that is how the big spider...
...was upset.

© Speckly Woo

Friday, 26 April 2013

A Step Too Far

It has to be said, I’m not a born dancer. I mean, I’ve got rhythm and I’ve got music, but I’ve also got a level of inhibition which prevents me from throwing shapes in public places.

Martin's dancing was so energetic, his beard fell off.

For me, terpsichorean self-expression is fine in the boogie belt, somewhere left field of La Cucaracha. But when it comes to cutting the rug in the confines of my home, I get a big ‘thumbs down’ from the grandchildren. SW has long held the view that I should do less boogie and more board games.

The twins haven’t developed their diplomacy to a workable level of sophistication yet. They simply shout at me to stop dancing. When that fails, they resort to an alternating combination of hard stares and screwed up faces. When I finally stop, one of them will mutter with disgust, “I don’t like your dancing,” or “you’re too big to dance.”

I think what they’re actually saying is, “you’re to old to dance.” They, on the other hand, will twirl and leap, skip and jump and inevitably crash land on their bottoms. I suspect I can manage the latter without too much coaching. Whether I could leap to my feet and convince them it was all part of the routine, is debatable.

Friday, 19 April 2013

A Night to Remember

The twins are having their very first sleep-over with us tonight. SW predicted, en route to school, that they will drive Nanny and Ga up the wall - she sees similarities with Thing 1 and Thing 2, from The Cat in the Hat. I'm sure she was exaggerating, but just in case she wasn't, wish us luck!

Monday, 8 April 2013

Come On Grandad, Make Your Mind Up!

Back in November of last year I resolved to tighten up my focus on grandparenthood at Square Sunshine. The idea being, that I would begin another blog where I could write about the things that happen in my life beyond my role as a Grandfather. Well I tried it, and after three months I’ve abandoned it.

There were a number of factors that caused me to pull down the shutters on the project, but there was one above all others. I found it impossible to pigeon-hole my thoughts and observations.

So, the blog description stands. What you read here – for as long as you continue reading here – will be the thoughts and observations of a Grandfather. They just might not always be related to grandchildren.

The catalyst in all this was an observation by a Grandmother, Belinda Brock. She noticed how thin on the ground blogging Grandfathers are, and posted a piece on her own blog to flag it up. After giving more thought, Belinda and I concluded, that blogging might work better for Grandfathers if they incorporate their grandparenting accounts into a larger picture. Which is what I’ve been doing for the best part of four years…apparently.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Pardon My French!

How does that old Bee Gees number go? "I started a joke, which started the whole world crying (with laughter, of course), but I didn't see that the joke was on me, oh no.."

On 28th March I cobbled together some excerpts from spam messages I had received, and jokingly - honest guys - implied some 'spooks' involvement. Today, I read this!

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

And then there were three!

Our identical twin grand-daughters were born
exactly four years ago. Suddenly, mum and dad
were raising three, under three. They've done a
wonderful job, and we're very proud of them all.
Party time this afternoon, where I suspect SW
will be on patrol with her camera.
Happy Birthday, girls!

This post has been linked to the GRAND Social linky

Monday, 25 March 2013

Regrets? Too Few to Mention

I’m a bit of a sucker for ‘top fives/tens’, particularly when they apply to the way we go about our daily lives. So I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to scan through the top five parenting regrets, according to psychologist, Dr Angharad Rudkin.

1.    Spending too little time with your children.
2.    Not prioritising their needs
3.    Sweating the small stuff
4.    Taking short cuts
5.    Feeling guilt

Although it’s a while since our daughter was a child, I thought I’d run the risk of a bit of hand-wringing and see how I fared in the regret stakes.

1.    Well, in the early years, I was unemployed for a considerable spell and, working on the double-edged sword principle, times were tough but our little girl had my undivided attention for a longer period than most. Having said that, it was our belief from the start, that our child would always have a legitimate claim on our time, no matter how busy our lives might be. – No regrets.

2.    As far as was practically possible our daughter was, first of all, included and later consulted, during most decision-making processes. Despite financial constraints, we let her explore any number of different interests, and when she settled on playing in the village and school silver bands, much of our recreational time was spent ferrying her to and from gigs. – No regrets.

3.    Good manners and consideration for others was a ‘must’, as was the cleaning of teeth, honesty and taking responsibility. Arguments over the wearing of coats, wellies, etc, never happened on my watch. My attitude was, look, it’s freezing out there, if you don’t put your coat on you’ll be cold. If you complain about being cold, don’t be surprised to hear me say, “I told you so.” – No regrets.

4.    In a rush of blood to my young and inexperienced head, and under exceptionally difficult circumstances, I once tapped the back of our daughter’s legs. The shame of that incident affected me deeply. Even 30 years on, it makes me want to weep when I see parents screaming in the faces of their kids, let alone raising a hand. Throughout her growing up, there hasn’t been a single area we’ve regarded as taboo. We’ve encouraged openness and honesty in all things, even though that isn’t always the most comfortable route. – Regrets? I still wish that tap on the legs hadn’t happened, but parenting isn’t a one-way street, and there are lessons to be learnt by the adults, too.

5.    The guilt trip is so often unjustified, in my experience. Usually it’s parents being unreasonably hard on themselves, and these days guilt is probably more prevalent than ever, as parents find themselves increasingly in the grip of the ‘fear of failure' culture. I think, as parents and as individuals, we’ve been fortunate in that neither of us have ever set our sights unrealistically high. – Regrets? None that would keep me awake at night.

In all of this, there is one important thing that doesn’t get mentioned explicitly, and that is unconditional love. It’s among the greatest gifts we can offer our children. To hold them in our hearts in the hope that they will do the same for us, but not thinking any less of them if they come up short.
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Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Mind Your Language, David.

English: David Cameron, Prime Minister of the ...
English: David Cameron, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and leader of the Conservative Party (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I try to avoid politics on this blog generally, but a couple of things have amused me this week. First, the press regulation fiasco with the main parties, each claiming victory after displaying more fudge than a West Country sweet shop. Lots of semantics antics, as you might expect.

Today, a headline in the Telegraph, "David Cameron's 'slur' on stay-at-home mothers" drew my attention. I thought that all politicians undertook 'media training' these days, but whether that's true or not, many of our elected representatives consistently have a serious problem with language and communication. Apparently, the response from David Cameron's official spokesman, when asked if the Prime Minister considered stay-at-home parents to be in lesser need of state help than working parents, reinforced the Coalition's clear priority towards “aspiration”.

Putting the debates over financial assistance to one side, I'm left wondering, as many stay-at-home parents undoubtedly will be, when their particular parental pathway ceased to include dreams and ambition.
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Friday, 8 March 2013

A Spell of Reading

SW marked World Book Day in style with
two imaginary characters,

and a bookmark depicting  some of the
usual suspects from Ruth Symes' books. 
Note that somewhere in the
spell casting, letters 't' and 'g' have vanished. 
Witchling, though, is a current bedtime favourite.