Archive for May, 2013

The first dozen


Gabe’s 12th birthday party was spent playing laser tag in the basement of an Oldham mill with 7 friends. He harvested money as gifts – at a rate of ¬£10 per present.

The afternoon before his birthday he spent in school detention after his drama teacher apparently forgot a commitment to replace a script and punished Gabe for turning up at lessons twice without it.


Robin has taken hesitant steps towards music – learning the recorder, but not enjoying it; being ready to take over Gabe’s piano lessons should he quit. But he’s joined a new choir at school with a lot of enthusiasm.


Eliza has amused us with funny voices. She has a popular gravel-throated voice at odds with her diminutive self. She’s added a baby voice which says very little but “Noh, don’t cwy.”

Three finals


Gabe played in three end of season cup finals. The first, with Sale Utd threatened to be a mismatch – top club v second bottom. Two minutes in and form was telling as Sale Utd were two goals down. But a battling performance for 58 more minutes saw the game end 2-1.

The two school finals brought a win and a loss. The former on penalties after a 1-1 draw.


Robin played his first cricket match on a damp and cold evening in Bowden. It was played in pairs cricket format. His highlight came with a wicket – bowled – with his second ball in competitive cricket.


Eliza’s cool progression through her gymnastic disciplines came to a halt with the forward flip, which she hasn’t been able to do. Her mood was restored the following week when she managed her first back flick.

Chocolate Factory

The reality of family outings feels like five individuals’ interests can rarely be satisfied. The problem is actually subtler. It is possible to engage five individuals’ interests, but it is harder to have five people be positive about a plan for an outing. This is partly about preconceptions (Robin: “not another castle”) and partly about¬† a desire for control (Gabe: my way or the whine way).

A trip to my parents and Gabe’s imminent birthday gave an opportunity for an alternative approach: a surprise trip; or, a stubborn refusal on L’s or my part to share any information about where we would be spending Bank Holiday Monday until the road signs told their own story. As a tactic to quiet pre-trip moans it did the job. The begging to be told where we were going was far less irritating than the complaints about the choice. Given that the choice – Cadbury World – was relatively uncontroversial, we may have created more fuss than needed, but the experiment was worth it.

Cadbury World itself was forgettable, but engaged us for more than an hour. More popular was the motel we had stayed in the night before. Robin, buoyed by a lengthy kip in the car, wouldn’t sleep until 1am. He tried waking Gabe at midnight to announce his endurance. Down the corridor, L and Eliza were more peaceful. (Families of five or more are too rare to merit dedicated rooms or suites of rooms in budget hotel chains).

Robin found Gabe and me underwhelming company and rushed to be back with Eliza in the morning. After breakfast, Eliza and Robin accepted a challenge to move slowly back from the restaurant to the bedrooms (100m distant) by shuffling there on their bums. Gabe was enervated by this juvenile behaviour and, when L also joined in, he teetered on launching a violent reaction before rushing off ahead and away from his exasperating family.

We accumulated 18 chocolate bars on our factory tour but saw no umpa-lumpas.



School by car

Gabe walks to school, but often begs a lift. I usually dismiss the request. But the day after he came home with three PE bags I acceded. The extra luggage came from kit borrowed from friends when he found out he had a football match that day.

So Eliza, Robin and I accelerated our morning preparations and left 20 minutes earlier than normal. Gabe chatted in the front seat until I turned onto the road of his school, when he entered his bubble of focus and family denial. I parked the car and he let himself out, loaded up with bags, offering maybe a murmur of farewell, but eyes fixed ahead, intent on a clean separation from us.

On we drove, early for Eliza and Robin’s school. The car was dirty from the flock of waxwings that ate berries in the tree over the drive. So we became the car-wash’s first customers of the day. First the manual pressure hose that elicited shrieks when it rose to the windows. Then we entered the wash tunnel with its whirling brushes. Eliza and Robin squealed and chuckled in the backseat. “Again”, they implored as we came out into the light.

Still early for school, we parked and Eliza began reading a Harry Potter novel. Robin clambered into the front seat and lay on the dashboard. We had time for a few rounds of a word definition game, with Eliza pointing out words in the book for one of us to define for the other to guess, then out of the car and into school. Routine restored.