Archive for September, 2012

On the pitch and in your pocket


Robin’s football grows from strength to strength. He tackles keenly, strongly and effectively. He dribbles fast, he shoots hard. Most impressive to me is his presence: without neglecting his position, he manages to burst into play wherever it happens on the pitch. Other parents are noticing too. On three occasions I’ve been asked if he’s been scouted by one of the premier league’s teams in the north-west.


I have the pleasure of knowing both sides of Robin – the forceful, physical footballer and the gentle, playful younger brother. Eliza and Robin disappear for long stretches to play with their collection of thumb sized ‘in your pocket’ creatures. They create stories for these animals, all the while binding themselves closer as siblings and playmates.


Gabe’s start to the football season had been impressive, too. Note was taken at his new school, where he made the starting XI for the first match of the season. And he must have made a positive impression on his classmates too, as he has been elected class representative.


Eliza and Robin

Eliza and Robin are accomplished roller-bladers. Robin a little faster, Eliza the more elegant. They got their thrills in different ways on a recent skate around the neighbourhood.

Eliza picked leaves or petals as she bladed, shredded them and then threw them into the air as a magical trick that produced sparks. I was asked which colour sparks I would like to see and she hunted for material the right colour to complete her trick.

Robin’s thrill came to the call of ‘Antlers’. Dipping his head, protected by a helmet, he skated into a bush. The noise and feel of the twigs colliding with his helmet gave him the sense of having antlers.


Gabe has been left at home a handful of times for up to an hour when L or I have had to go out to collect the other two. More often than not, he asks to be left alone, then when granted the opportunity, reluctantly comes on whatever errand we are running. When I was going to see the last half-hour of Eliza’s gymnastics class, he asked to be left at home. I agreed and left him. It was getting dark – the first time he would have been by himself at home in the evening. Before I had reached the gym, I had two texts and a missed call on my phone. I called him from the gym car park. He asked me to come and pick him up. ‘No’, I replied. I struck a deal that he could stay but not have a shower until I was back.

Back to three schools


Gabe has begun life as a secondary school pupil. From day one he has walked, dressed in blazer and clip-on tie, to school, without adult company – something he never did at primary school. He meets three friends part way and so avoids the awkwardness of arriving in the playground alone.

On his second day, I was on duty and watched him leave. He turned at the end of the drive and ran along the road. He’s never walked anywhere by himself, I reflected. By week two, he had the self-possession to walk up the road.

Eliza and Robin

Gabe leaves first and so Eliza and Robin have time to themselves to play in the morning before school. Walking to school, they each hold a hand the whole way there and we chatter. There’s a hint of reticence about school. Eliza is no longer in a mixed class with pupils from the year above and two of her best friends (big A and little A) have left. Robin has said he wishes he could move schools, up the the junior school, this year.

Diving competition

Venue: East Sands Leisure Centre, St Andrews

Competition: Side of pool dive

Participants: Gabe, Eliza, Robin and me.

Gabe, a largely self-taught diver, has been teaching his younger siblings to dive. Robin had guidance in Spain and Eliza began her lessons on this trip to St Andrews. Quickly she advanced to competition status.

Gabe dives well. In Spain, his scores were limited by his legs not being kept together and bending at the knees. He corrected both of these technical issues in time for this event. He scored consistently highly, hindered only slightly by a bend at the waist.

Robin has always thrown himself into water. With Gabe’s tuition he has moved on from knee and belly-flopping. Robin tends to enter the water close to perpendicular and completes a forward roll as he goes under.

Eliza was making her first dives. To begin with, they were belly-flops as she pushed herself out across the water. But by the time of our second visit to the pool in a weekend, she was arcing into the water, with an elegant plop and barely a splash.

Gabe and Eliza were joint family champions. A week later, back at our local pool, Robin took the honours.