Archive for January, 2013

6-a-side party

Robin had his wish for a football party. Ten friends, Gabe and birthday boy ran themselves into a red-cheeked state before tucking into hot dog, pizza, nuggets and chips as a prelude to the football pitch sponge cake baked by L. Robin had reacted badly to defeat at his football training four days earlier, but my worries were misplaced, as although his team took a beating he stayed happy and fulfilled.

Gabe’s presence was at Robin’s request. Gabe and I had several conversations about what would be acceptable in a match with boys four years younger, although not all very much smaller. He played his part well and earnt compliments from parents who saw him smiling and laughing throughout the game.

For me there was the pleasure of seeing the two boys, teammates, combining – each setting up goals for the other.

Meanwhile, Eliza and her friend E, older sister of one of Robin’s pals, sat in the cafe, chatting happily, drawing fantasy animals such as the Rasta Owl.

Onesie and polar bear


This cold January has given Eliza plenty of opportunity to sport two of her Christmas presents. From bath time until after breakfast the next day, she’s enveloped in her pink, downy onesie. From its shaped feet with non-slip soles to its hood with dainty ears she looks like a benign Max from ‘Where the Wild Things Are’.

Outside, Eliza wears her hat-scarf-gloves combo shaped as the head, front legs and paws of a polar bear. And it’s the wild predator’s paw that I get to hold on the walk to school while this wintry weather persists.


We watched a plane fly overhead as we walked to school, discussing where it was going. Portugal, Robin thought. Then he mumbled something that at second hearing I understood to be that he didn’t like going to the toilet on a plane. A few steps later he stopped me, beckoned me to stoop to hear him whisper: where does the poo and wee from a plane’s toilet go? I said I thought it was emptied when the plane landed. Robin was relieved: he didn’t want wee landing in his hair.

Later that day, he told L that he had done a ballet dance in the playground toilet for his friend A, who had wanted to see ballet. A had given him 10 for the performance.


Reclined on a bean-bag, control in hand, chunky, old-fashioned portable TV in front, Gabe is in some idyllic state in his room. Each day he uses his PS3 allowance, almost exclusively on FIFA13. He’s absorbed by the manager mode, buying and selling players, trying to lift his side up the table. But still wanting an audience when he’s scored a particularly skilful goal in the match mode.

Star of the term


Gabe’s strong start to his secondary school career was marked by his selection as his form’s ‘Star of the Term’. It’s not clear if this is earned by academic achievement, but Gabe has impressed with that as well as his sports. He has also been selected for a spelling bee in competition – in French. He’s keener for help practising his numbers, colours and greetings than he has been with anything he has ever had to learn.


Eliza has a new favourite author: Jacqueline Wilson. She reads her stories of abandoned children, drunken mothers and runaway fathers with the same relish and unsentimentality as she did Michael Morpurgo’s tales of world events separating loved ones from each other.


Robin has made his debut on the rugby field, attending a practice session at our local club. There was snow on the ground, but the coaches ran such an intense session of bulldog and tag rugby that the boys were taking off the layers their parents had insisted they wore. They finished the practice jogging single file, chanting to the club-house where they were supplied with orange squash and sausages in rolls. Robin wants more – of the rugby and sausages.

Bedtime superstition and ritual


Bedtime is an occasion of superstition and habit. Gabe will resist climbing into his cabin bed unless L or I am in the room with him. He’s very reluctant to go upstairs to get ready for bed unless there’s a parent with him.

Once in bed, we have developed a ritual. Following a countdown and synchronised nodding of heads, we try to switch off the ceiling light at the same instant as his bedside lamp is switched on – he controls the latter, I the former. If synchronicity is lacking, we repeat as many times as necessary, but not ever more than ten times, until the movement of light from ceiling to bed is seamless.


“You lied to me,” said Robin. He supported this accusation by explaining how there isn’t a Father Christmas, but that mummies and daddies go out to buy the presents and put them into stockings while the children are looked after by babysitters. “But you didn’t have a babysitter before Christmas,” I pointed out in an effective distraction tactic. “It’s a magical time of year,” I reminded him.


Eliza was struck with insomnia one night this week. Reading, being read to, making lists in her head, me/L sitting on the end of her bed all failed to send her to sleep. An espresso cup of warm milk was the last thing tried and so may itself become a ritual.