Archive for May, 2012

Boys who read


Connect-4 has for weeks pushed reading aside, with a football book tolerated if L or I insist. Then Robin picked up and began reading one of the Astrosaurs series. We have read them to him before and they come with Gabe’s recommendation. But this reading is focused and outcome orientated. He updates me regularly on his page number. He read to himself in a whisper on the landing on Saturday when he woke before he was allowed downstairs. Now he’s finished his first book and started another. Yet, I’m not sure how much he understands.


Gabe’s bedtime reading has returned again to his hardback 2010 World Cup books. The challenge he sets me is to give him four teams he hasn’t read about in recent nights. An alternative is his book on the history of the Olympics. My role is to pick an olympiad for him to read about – one he hasn’t read in recent nights.


Baejae’s even-money bet was lost. Eliza was upset but seems to have a tough shell to protect her. L set aside an afternoon for some Baejae memory fixing, writing and drawing about him. Of the kids, Eliza continues to be the most consistently interested in the gerbils; for example, taking the lead in cleaning their cage before they went to stay with friends during our holiday.

Another gerbil drama has played out yesterday and today. L found Silver with a bloody tail. The cause is uncertain – fighting, the vet thought; our suspicion has fallen on a new neighbhour’s children who were alone with the gerbils for a few minutes. The vet presented two options, of which I selected surgery, to remove the tail-end where the skin had been torn off. This was performed successfully today. A groggy Silver was brought home with a one-third length tail.

Go karts and Citeh


We took Gabe and eight friends to an indoor go-kart circuit in the basement of a soon-to-be demolished factory for his birthday party. The karts, available to anyone over the age of eight, were the same as the ones adults with driving licenses and road sense use. L and I found ourselves the responsible adults without the ability to control the boys’ behaviour behind the wheel.

Only one lad had a head-on crash with a barrier – the most reckless of the group – and only one opted throughout for caution. They were really quite adept, so perhaps the transfer of wii and x-box skills was taking place. Gabe started cautiously, but built up speed, ending up with the third fastest average lap time, with which he was very satisfied.

The following day, City played QPR seeking a win for the Premiership title, with United poised to take advantage of any slip-up. Gabe watched the match on my iPad while he, Eliza and I played monopoly. In the opening 20 minutes of the second-half things began to go awry for City as they surrendered the lead and then fell behind. Gabe switched off the iPad unable to watch. We continued to play our game, but he was subdued. I was monitoring the game on my phone and let him know that City had equalised, but he didn’t want to watch. When my phone refreshed City had won and Gabe switched the iPad back on and wallowed in the celebrations. During his team’s historic half-hour, he had passed Go a few times, spent some time in jail, paid some fines and erected a few houses.


Walking to school, Robin complained of a sore head. I suggested a cup of water when we got to school. Leaving the junior school with him, I noticed a lump on his forehead and realised he’d banged himself. “How?” I asked. “Don’t want to say. It’s embarrassing.” Entering his playground, the lump more visible, I got him to explain. Out of my eyesight, he had walked, head down, into a wheelie bin on the pavement. Reluctantly, he followed me to the school office to get some first aid. Ice applied, the teacher asked how it had happened. “Robin will have to tell you”, I said, as I signed the accident form.

That evening, the bump was hurting when touched so I found the calpol bottle. Robin fiddled with the lid, but couldn’t open it. “It’s got a child-lock,” I told him. His response: “But how does it know I’m a child?”


It’s test week at junior school. Gabe and his peers are doing Key Stage 2 SATs. In Eliza’s class, they are doing their annual assessment tests. A morning of tests and afternoon of play suits her well. Unusually, not a single complaint about having to go to school this week.

One afternoon was spent at chess club. Back at home, we played our first match. She caught me out with an audacious queen move, but I recovered and eventually wore her down with risk-averse attack.


Faced with Gabe having his ‘worst birthday ever’, L took Baejae to our local vet, a second such visit in three days. Similar outcome, barring some good advice on adminstering medicine and a numerical prognosis – 50:50. The certain uncertainty assuaged Gabe and he returned to birthday mood.

Gabe was very pleased with his camera, European Championships replica football (a ball-a-birthday, but this time he hasn’t asserted that it’s a “real replica”), cricket bag and chocolate cake.

Bank Holiday Monday was spent as Gabe’s day of family celebration. He directed us on a walk to the Mersey where he goes cross-country running with school. We ran along the river and then around the Water Park. Later we went ten-pin bowling. Oddly, the birthday boy was off-form. Eliza’s zig-zagging bowls kept producing spares. Robin was very serious, putting competition ahead of enjoyment . L sprung from the pack to win the tournament.

Gabe’s party awaits at the end of the week, by which time we’ll know whether Baejae is in the surviving or declining cohort of gerbils with infected sebaceous glands.

A day of mini-dramas

Soon after breakfast, Eliza noticed that Baejae was scratching and nibbling himself, sometimes spinning in an effort to get at the irritant on his underside.

Gabe and I left for his first cricket match of the season and first competitive hard-ball game. His team batted first, he opened and faced first ball. That ball deflected from bat to pad, unluckily onto his stumps. In under ten overs, his team was dismissed for ten runs, eight of them without scoring. Gabe took a wicket – bowled – but there was little for the team to cheer and indeed they looked broken as their opponents batted through their 20 overs.

Eliza and Robin were taken to a friend’s house, as much to take Eliza’s mind off Baejae’s continuing discomfort as for the company.

L picked Gabe up from the match and rushed him to his football team’s Cup Semi-Final. His team trailed twice, but equalised – the second time in the final minute of the match, taking the game to extra time. Gabe stayed on the pitch throughout, looking more and more tired. Extra time was scoreless and so the tie was to be decided on penalties. The score was 2-2 when Gabe took his penalty and lifted it expertly into the top corner. But in sudden death, a teammate fired at their keeper and the game was lost. Two sporting disappointments borne in a matter of hours.

L had researched vets open on a Sunday. Eliza, Baejae and I set off to a 24 hour vet service. Two of the families ahead of us in the waiting room left without the dogs they had come with, in tears. Another family brought in a wheelchair using alsation, leaking from its amputated rear legs and reaking, I imagined, of rotting flesh. It was queue-jumped out of the waiting room.

Young vet Tom diagnosed Baejae as suffering inflamed sebaceous glands, reckoning a parasite the most likely cause. Baejae sunk his teeth into Tom’s hand, so he quickly handed him back to Eliza. At home, we cleaned the cages, isolated Baejae from his brothers, and hamfistedly administered an anti-parasite drug and rodent antibiotic.

Meanwhile, Robin had helped L bake fairy cakes and then eaten his first proper cake since the official passing of his egg allergy.