100 great goals

Robin 

Every night, for months, Robin has chosen, before sleep and after L or I have read to him, to read from a book that describes 100 great goals. A short description of the action is leavened with some information about the scorer or the occasion. There’s also a diagram of the movement of players and ball on its way into the net.

When sleep is about to smother him, Robin tosses the book from his bed. In the morning, it lies on the floor, crumpled. Its hardback cover fell off weeks ago. Its binding can’t hold for long. But even if it does disintegrate it has lodged itself in Robin’s memory. He knows the goals and scorers by number (1 to 100). He can even recite some of the reports if given a scorer’s name or goal number. 

Eliza

‘My palm has five layers of skin left,’ Eliza explained on the way home from gymnastics. Intensive work on the bars in recent weeks has worn a tear in the skin of her hand. She has been practising a manoeuvre that involves a complete rotation on the higher bar. To achieve this safely while in the learning phase, her hands are bound to the bar. It’s from that friction that the skin on her palms is torn away.

Gabe 

The election result has been welcomed by Gabe. At school, Corbyn is a hero. Gabe is dissatisfied by my position that neither major party leader is a fit PM. ‘What have I got against Corbyn?’ I was asked often during the campaign, as well as, who are you going to vote for and why? On election night, he sat with Lou and I as the TV guests and presenters toyed with the unlikely exit poll. Around midnight, with four GCSE exams the next day, he conceded that is was time for bed. 


Sprint champion

Robin

Sports day was held in the week before the half-term holidays. That evening, responding to my question, “How was your day?” Robin urgently informed me, “I beat L in the 60m sprint!” Beating his classmate, Man Utd junior footballer, ranked as a higher accolade than simply being year (probably school) sprint champion. 

Eliza

Eliza’s last 24 hours or so have featured: two 2-hour gymnastics sessions, a trip to a local trampolining centre and a sleepover with her gym friends which involved no sleep until they finally keeled over at 8am. She has gone to bed very weary tonight. 

Gabe

Gabe has left the house in the last two weeks solely to take exams and for two shopping trips. As previously reported, this hermit-like behaviour doesn’t mean he is revising from dawn to dusk. Revision is happening, but not in the quantities that a two week confinement would suggest. 

On his shopping trips Gabe has added to his LP collection. Unfortunately he has experienced the downside of vinyl: scratched records, so must go out again to take back a couple of discs. His other acquisition has been a blue suit, which will become his sixth form attire from September. 

Turntable present

Gabe

Gabe’s birthday fell in the midst of his GCSE language oral exams and in peak revision period. He opted, as last year, for a quiet birthday. His main present, which we bought on an outing to the Trafford Centre, was a turntable. An object of desire for this 16 year old eager to place his beloved Beatles’ sound under the added scrutiny of vinyl. He has not been disappointed. 

Robin

Robin has completed his year 6 SATs. These tests, for which there has been an ominous build-up at school, have made him more anxious than I would have expected, given they hold no significance for him. Walking to school on the morning of a SAT, he has been frisky, a few minutes of energy and daftness traded for the serious stuff coming later that day. He reports that each test went well, some were easy. He’s looking forward now to a relaxed final summer of primary school. 

Eliza

Eliza, having dropped her phone in the toilet, has a new phone. It is Gabe’s old iPhone and there is a dispute brewing about who owes whom what for her to take on its possession. But even with a new phone, with no competition for the TV, on a sunny Sunday morning, Eliza admitted to missing Robin who had not yet returned from a sleepover. 

Revision

Gabe

Gabe is several weeks from the start of GCSE exams. Since the start of the Easter holiday, he has been making sincere, if not always successful, attempts to revise. He’s easily distracted by his phone and possibly misdirected in his efforts. He owns up to some anxiety and admits he wishes he worked harder in year 10. By the Easter weekend, at the close of the fortnight’s holiday, he had reached a state of near complete dependency – needing L or me to be with him for him to revise. We both put in the hours and added momentum to his studies. I found out a lot about electricity, radioactivity, French tenses, An Inspector Calls, the New Deal and enzymes. Working in tandem, L and I had an important victory: managing to convince him that he must plan before he writes. Whatever his technical frailties, we both assume his powers of retention will put him in good stead to excel in the exam room.

Eliza

Eliza is becoming an expert and loving gift-giver. Her birthday present for L was perfect. In the past she has sketched me and her together and made me an Eliza-themed collage for my wall at work. This year, as my birthday approached, she hassled me for clues about what I would like, even calling me during a work meeting. Come the day, the centrepiece of her gift was an eight verse poem about me written out on a large piece of card. It was full of her disdainful wit: “your company will occasionally suffice” is almost as kind as she can manage to be. It will be treasured and maybe responded to.

Robin

Robin’s club football season has not been as successful as it might have been. Playing wide on the left, against very tight defences, he has had little opportunity for marauding dribbling and goals dried up after Christmas. When talk turned to next season and moving to another league so the team could play on Saturday (not Sunday), his interest was equivocal. We spoke about trying other teams or clubs. Eventually, he agreed to sign on again, after his friend A – even less committed given his skateboarding fervour – relented under his parents’ pressure. Another consideration was the promise from the coaches that the current centre-forward, a difficult and troubled lad, with sumptuous football skills, would not be returning and Robin would move back to striker.

Reading age of 16

Robin

L attended Robin’s parent evening, where the news was entirely positive, if tinged with regret about his eleven plus result. A computer print-out showed he exceeded some benchmark across the full range of maths and English measures. Another showed that his reading age had climbed two years in the three months to December and another two years since then, giving him a reading age of 16.

Gabe

Gabe rarely leaves the house except for school and sporting engagements – playing or spectating. He has, though, been to a couple of parties recently and at those has drunk some alcohol. He’s not concealed the fact, nor dwelt on it, or thankfully, appeared to be any the worse for wear for it. I suspect he’s not liked it particularly, given how resistant he is to consuming any new flavours.

He did ask me ahead of the most recent party, if I could give him a bottle of something to take. Cider was his preference and so, for the first time, I bought my son a drink – not one that we shared together though. At the first mention of drinking, a couple of months ago, I had said to him that if he wanted to try beer, he should ask me. Before I had finished this attempt at responsible parenting, I realised how unappealing drinking with one’s Dad would be – the whole point was to take these early steps in the company of friends.

Eliza

Eliza’s solution to a day at home without any major plans is to bake. By choice, she would always bake something sweet: cookies, cakes, millionaire shortbread. Today, with everyone else but me out at a Man City game, she decided to make pizza. We walked to the shops to buy the mozzarella and passata. She served the pizzas sequentially: L, Robin, Gabe, with her own coming last. By the time she reached her own, she had run out of mozzarella and sent me back to the shops to replenish.

Saved until last

Eliza

Eliza’s parents evening, attended by L, Eliza and me, was an evening of almost unremitting praise. The French teacher went into Gallic excess. More English, more restrained were history, English, music (although Eliza’s failure to go to strings group on Tuesday lunchtimes was mentioned) and science. Only maths, in the person of a very dull man, failed to join in the fun. But last was best, because the RE teacher, amongst her praise for Eliza, admitted that she always saved marking Eliza’s homework for last – to give her a boost at the end of a long marking session.

Robin

On a mild March evening, Robin joined L and I on a walk around the neighbourhood to get some air and steps on our health apps. A few minutes down the road and Robin announced that he was going to give us a quiz, on the subject of.. himself. For the next 20 minutes our knowledge of our younger son was tested: favourite music, tv programme, holiday and food preferences and much else. His mother, of course, won.

Gabe

Gabe is nibbling away at the pile of GCSE assessments that fill year 11. Science practicals, music performances, French controlled assessment, cookery assessment and PE performances have all been ticked off, with the exams to come after Easter.  The most stressful for him was the food technology test. He had never completed a practical in the allotted time, but we persuaded him to practice at the weekend and prepare some of the ingredients at home. His savoury Chelsea bun with tomato sauce looked impressive. He prepared most thoroughly for the French assessment, drafting a sophisticated piece about his home town that he reproduced under controlled assessment conditions (dictionary + 40 words of notes). The interim results place him well to achieve an impressive set of GCSEs.

Young Voices

Robin

‘Birdcage of my soul’ was an unlikely song to hear Robin singing, but They Might be Giants‘ craziness was part of the repertoire of over 20 songs that he learnt to take part in a Young Voices concert at the MEN Arena. There was an African chant, folk-tunes and hymns as well. Hundreds, maybe thousands of school kids took part, filling much of the arena. It has put Robin in the unusual position of having performed at Manchester’s two major music venues: MEN Arena and the Bridgewater Hall.

Gabe

Seven weeks after Christmas, Gabe and L got their present from me: a trip to London to see a National Theatre production of This House at the Garrick on Charing Cross Road. I had taken a chance that Gabe would enjoy the subject-matter – 1970s parliamentary politics. It turned out to be good guess as he was fully engaged by the tales of the two main parties’s whips offices, in the days of slim or no majority governments. The play was fast-paced – clearly influenced by TV production – amusing and full of swearing. All three factors probably played towards Gabe’s enjoyment.

Eliza

Eliza has been pondering and testing the notion of becoming a vegetarian. It seems to be part of her growing awareness of societal ills. Like many people in her situation, she has to overcome her partiality for meat – in particular chicken, but also sausages. Unlike many, though, the major barrier is that Eliza doesn’t like a lot of vegetarian staples. He compromise is that she has given up meat, apart from chicken and fish.