Archive for December, 2012

Rampant materialism, happy kids

This Christmas, L and I have shocked ourselves at our consumption on our kids’ behalf. To Eliza, a Kindle Fire. To Gabe, after much agonising, a PS3 and a 2nd hand portable TV, so it doesn’t dominate the living room set. To Robin, new football boots, ball and goal. It was like a mini, intra-familial arms race, where we were providing the combatants with weapons of mass-distraction.

Each of them has said that it was the best Christmas ever. Two days later and they are experiencing the rest of the month as an anti-climax, but they don’t take much persuading to return to the loot that provided the high on the 25th.

The night of Christmas Eve and Christmas morning was tense and expectant. Robin woke as Santa was about to deliver, but was guided back to bed, via loo. Eliza was awake at 2.30am, sitting up in bed with light on and laden stocking lying beside her, squeezed and sized up but not violated. She thinks she stayed awake until 4am. There were general stirrings at 6am and by half-past all three were up and waiting for the magical hour of seven.

We will introduce the word ‘austerity’ in 2013.

Narrator 1


Robin volunteered for and was given the role of narrator for his school nativity play. It weighed heavily on him. He was unhappy and grumpy about it. Why had he volunteered, I asked. Because he thought he would get to use a microphone. He didn’t think he could remember the words, then he was concerned he wouldn’t know when to stand up to make his narration parts. But each rehearsal and then the performances, he conceded, were fine. Except the last one, when he had stood up at the wrong time.


The modern languages department arranged a trip to Europe for year 7, which would involve no language other than English being spoken. I took Gabe to meet the coach at 4.30am on a Sunday and he came back the following Tuesday night. The group visited markets in Lille and Bruges, went bowling and ice-skating. Gabe endured a fear of the Channel Tunnel and terrible food. He loved the experience, the bonding with friends and, I imagine, the step up it represents.


Eliza’s run-up to Christmas was dominated by orchestra and present preparations. With early morning practices and diligent rehearsal at home she took the Christmas concert in her stride. Present buying was equally well coped with. Gifts for family acquired since November and presents for three friends with whom she is forming a group selected confidently.

Building shelter


The junior school’s infamous Thursday afternoon ‘Options’ dealt Eliza two unappealing outdoor activities: leaf recognition and shelter building. The former did not exceed her expectations, but she loved the latter. The following weekend Eliza took us to the wood where her class had gathered branches and logs to create their shelters. In a gap between two large trunks Robin and I helped her build another, with which she was equally delighted.


In a football heavy schedule, secondary school has helped Gabe sample other sports. He’s been learning the rudiments of rugby in PE lessons. In his first game, he scored a try, but understandably he was prouder still of having made a tackle in his second outing. He plays table-tennis with pals at break and is working hard on a top-spin smash. He has also completed a cross-country run at school, coming 10th of his year of 90 boys. Not bad for an asthmatic titch.


With Eliza at early morning orchestra practice, only Robin needed walking to school. Three minutes from home and I realised we had both left his lunchbox by the door. ‘Let’s run back’, I said. Lunchbox recovered, we set off again running – to recover our lost time, I thought. But Robin decided he wanted to see if he could run all the way to school. Trotting at an even pace, allowing me to walk quickly in my work shoes and suit, he made it all the way to the playground, which was empty so much time we had caught up.