Archive for February, 2014

Like father, like daughter


As the children grow and fill out their personalities, I find Eliza is closest to me in her motivations and preoccupations. Here are two silly examples – but telling for me.

When having a bath, Eliza lets her legs sink gradually to create two shrinking dry spots on her knee caps which, inevitably, tantalisingly, become tiny before being immersed.

In the kitchen, Eliza was trying to reach into a cupboard, but I was leaning across her destination, peering into the microwave.

“Sorry,” I explained, “I’m trying to see if my porridge can last the whole two minutes without bubbling over.”

“Oh, that’s OK” she said, stepping back and waiting, recognising that my little obsession deserved time and space.


Gabe scored 85% in the second of his three science tests this year. He was disappointed – with the result and with his position relative to friends he feels he should be out-performing. “I think I’ll have to revise more”, he conceded in a rare acknowledgement that working harder has a part to play.


Robin has struggled with arithmetic. This became plain to us with difficulties he was having learning the times tables. L and I decided we should help with extra practice at home. His teacher gave me a website address and we registered for Robin to place mental maths races against children from across the world. The game scenario backfired. Robin was keener on beating the opponent than getting a good score for himself. Despite trying to frame to activity in terms of personal best scores, Robin sought victories, or became disheartened.

We moved on to more traditional verbal tests. Robin progressed, through successful completion of tests at school, to the eight times table. For two weeks in succession at school, Robin could answer just five of the 20 questions set, with our preparation at home not counting for much at school. He seems not to have an affinity for the patterns in numbers, or a framework for retaining a sum that he’s just learnt.


BMX party

One week after his birthday, so commandeering a two week celebration, Robin’s party took place at the National Cycling Centre. Arriving early, we went to view the indoor BMX track. The kids were struck by its size and nerves jangled.

Ten friends, Eliza and friend and Gabe got kitted up with elbow and leg pads, helmet, gloves and bike. They began with a short practice on the flat before being led onto the track. There were crashes and collisions, sweat and fatigue, but above all, they scared and thrilled themselves.

Foot-long hot-dogs and plate-wide burgers in the centre’s cafe completed a very satisfying party. Robin’s cake, made by L while suffering a migraine, was a football pitch, with rather wobbly touchline and off-centre goals.

Rantin’, Rovin’ Robin


Robin’s birthday weekend coincided with an FA Cup tie between Manchester City and Watford. The underdogs were ahead 0-2 at half-time and Robin looked crushed. A rousing comeback from City and tea at McDonald’s provided the birthday boost.

On his birthday, Robin took calls from both sets of grandparents. Twice, in response to wishes of ‘Many happy returns!’ Robin responded, “Many happy returns!” to derision from siblings.

This post’s title is shared with that of a Burns poem, which came with the card from Grandma and Grandpa.


Eliza came to her first football match. She brought her copy of Little Women, although that wasn’t in anticipation of boredom, but because L was taking photos of her for a school project, ‘Dangerous Reading’ – i.e. reading in unlikely places.

Eliza said she enjoyed the match and was on the edge of her seat – which accounted for why she didn’t see any of the six goals as everyone else was standing up while she sat down.


Gabe’s TV preferences remain headed by football and other sport. The cartoon, Arthur, seems to be giving way (although he’ll watch it with the other two). Game shows are popular and rising favourites seem to be Escape to the Country and a soap opera about schools.