Archive for August, 2011

Unmasked (partially)

At tea-time, Gabe asked L & me: “Is it you? Is Father Christmas real? Be honest. Tell the truth.”

We didn’t tell the truth, not right then. The conversation continued. Eliza wanting to know where he lived, why he wasn’t seen and when Father Christmas had stopped bringing us presents – was it when we stopped putting something out for him and his reindeer. Robin offered the most penetrating insight: “How is he magic, if there’s no other magic in the world?” But the mask didn’t slip as the debate moved to which stocking each of them would have in December.

Later that evening, with Eliza and Robin in bed, I said to Gabe that he had asked to be told the truth and so I would. He wasn’t very surprised and said he had thought we were behind it all. We gave him a stern warning that he must keep this to himself, as he had had nine Christmases of believing – more than the other two. As I put him to bed he asked the question that I suspect had enabled him to suspend his scepticism for so long: “Now I know, does that mean I won’t get presents from him?” I reassured him that the presents would still come.


Grandma took us to a pick-your-own farm near Cupar. Wet weather had been followed by a day or two of hot sun. The fruit was at its peak.  All three children were eager participants. Gabe wanted reassurance that each raspberry he picked met the standard. He wouldn’t eat a raspberry or strawberry – a mixture of a need for hygiene and a concern it wasn’t allowed as they hadn’t been paid for. Robin picked and ate. Eliza was persuaded to try a raspberry and found it favourable. Better than sweets she agreed.

Back at home our plum tree’s crop was ready. Eliza and Robin, both drawn by the ladder, came with me to the end of the garden to pick. Each was to climb the ladder, pick three, then descend to allow the other a turn. So heavy was the crop that three had to be raised to ten if we were to complete the picking. Anyway, turn-taking on the ladder was made unnecessary by Robin’s scaling of the tree, which Eliza quickly emulated. As with Gabe and the raspberries, both children needed to be reassured that each of the plums they picked was ‘a good one’. Interest in picking didn’t evolve into interest in eating as both decided they didn’t like the taste of the plums they had picked.

Loch Tummel

A holiday by a loch had water as its theme.

We hired a kayak on Loch Tay and for an hour paddled about in choppy waters, staying close to the boat club, but getting a feel for a new activity. We all went commando for the rest of the day as our splashing had soaked the clothing we left on under our wetsuits.

Rain poured down for most of one day, a whole night and some of another. It beat on the roof of the caravan, exaggerating its strength, but the puddles, sodden grass, height of the loch and speed of the rivers were true measures of how wet it was. In the grass beside the caravan, Eliza found tiny black and brown frogs, the size of a fingernail.

We completed three walks and while the ground was muddy, and the flora dripping, we never got soaked. An hour-long woodland walk was extended over two hours as we played by a rushing stream, floating bark and, more successfully, pine cones, cheering when one evaded a log or branch and swept further downstream.

Eliza, Robin and I visited the campsite’s pool during its party time session. Eliza and Robin played like a pair of otter pups: twisting, diving, splashing, climbing and squealing with fun.

With so much water about, its absence was the feature that fascinated Gabe, Eliza and Robin when we found a ‘green toilet’ in a forest. It was a compost loo, with wood shavings provided to cover any deposits.

The schoolboy wizard

Harry Potter has shot to fame in our family. For years he was barely acknowledged. Gabe was given one of the novels for a present two or so years ago, but wouldn’t read it as a memory of scary scenes in a film seen with cousins when he was about six deterred him. Then lacking anything to read, and refusing to borrow from the library, he tested it and was hooked. Then came the films, drawing in Eliza and Robin to the cult. To begin with, Robin had trouble following the films and complained there was too much talking and not enough fighting. But he watched the films to and from Scotland in the car, as well as catching a couple of the series while staying with grandparents in St Andrews.

Gabe, meanwhile, is eating up the books, revelling in their lengthening as the series progresses. He reads the books while watching television, in the car and wanted me to read to him while he showered. Eliza, too, has tried reading one of the books, but not yet had the staying power for a whole novel.

A third cultural manifestation of Harry Potter emerged during our holiday in Scotland. In our caravan, but most intensively, under a tree in a field beside Grandma and Grandpa’s house, Eliza and Robin have developed a magic game, based upon HP. Robin plays a number of characters, including Harry. Eliza is also one of the characters and seems to drive the narrative, played out under the tree, and on a fallen branch through long grass.