Archive for the ‘creativity’ Category

New Year’s Eve Quiz

The pinnacle of our New Year’s celebrations wasn’t the fireworks, Auld Lang Syne or Big Ben’s bongs. It was a quiz in five rounds.

The day’s build-up to the quiz included a game of squash for Gabe and me; a City match on TV; a trip to see Wonder at the cinema; and a dinner of pizza and curry.

We began quizzing mid-evening. Each of us had researched (or made up) questions on a different topic. The competition was keen, with only Robin’s interest wavering towards the end.

Round 1, posed by L, was on geography. Two rivers that run through Aberdeen? Standing in Paris, are you nearer Edinburgh or Rome? Which former state of the Soviet Union is last in the alphabet, etc.

Round 2, with Robin as quiz-master, concerned sport. Where was Bob Beamon’s long-jump record broken? How many countries were represented in gymnastics at the Rio Olympics.

Round 3, facilitated by Eliza, probed knowledge of popular culture. Marilyn Monroe’s real name? Which TV programme from the 1980s featuring a small rodent has been brought back in 2017?

Round 4, saw Gabe test our musical knowledge, with five second excerpts of songs for us to identify. The music ranged from Bill Haley to Ed Sheeran and Robert Wagner.

Round 5 was my cryptic family quiz and included: Who kept seeing violet [Violett]? Who came back to meet [meat] old acquaintances? Who went without insects in the ear for a month? Who gave up the chair for someone who wasn’t elderly, infirm or pregnant? (Answers: Robin, Eliza, Gabe, L)

We also talked about ambitions or resolutions for the New Year. Robin wants ‘to persistently get 4’s in English’ – his preferred school subject and equivalent to a grade C at GCSE while still in his first year of secondary school. Gabe wants to improve how he plays Chopin’s ‘Raindrop Prelude’ and progress to piano grade six. Eliza had already acknowledged wanting ‘to do more and spend less time on her phone in her room,’ as well as eat more fruit for breakfast.

We finished in time for midnight. Robin asked me to come upstairs with him as he didn’t like New Year’s celebrations, explaining that the countdown to New Year worried him that something bad would happen. With Gabe, we played some indoor cricket in Robin’s room, while Eliza and L watched Ed Sheeran on TV.



Gabe is several weeks from the start of GCSE exams. Since the start of the Easter holiday, he has been making sincere, if not always successful, attempts to revise. He’s easily distracted by his phone and possibly misdirected in his efforts. He owns up to some anxiety and admits he wishes he worked harder in year 10. By the Easter weekend, at the close of the fortnight’s holiday, he had reached a state of near complete dependency – needing L or me to be with him for him to revise. We both put in the hours and added momentum to his studies. I found out a lot about electricity, radioactivity, French tenses, An Inspector Calls, the New Deal and enzymes. Working in tandem, L and I had an important victory: managing to convince him that he must plan before he writes. Whatever his technical frailties, we both assume his powers of retention will put him in good stead to excel in the exam room.


Eliza is becoming an expert and loving gift-giver. Her birthday present for L was perfect. In the past she has sketched me and her together and made me an Eliza-themed collage for my wall at work. This year, as my birthday approached, she hassled me for clues about what I would like, even calling me during a work meeting. Come the day, the centrepiece of her gift was an eight verse poem about me written out on a large piece of card. It was full of her disdainful wit: “your company will occasionally suffice” is almost as kind as she can manage to be. It will be treasured and maybe responded to.


Robin’s club football season has not been as successful as it might have been. Playing wide on the left, against very tight defences, he has had little opportunity for marauding dribbling and goals dried up after Christmas. When talk turned to next season and moving to another league so the team could play on Saturday (not Sunday), his interest was equivocal. We spoke about trying other teams or clubs. Eventually, he agreed to sign on again, after his friend A – even less committed given his skateboarding fervour – relented under his parents’ pressure. Another consideration was the promise from the coaches that the current centre-forward, a difficult and troubled lad, with sumptuous football skills, would not be returning and Robin would move back to striker.

Flight time birthday


As a birthday treat, we took Robin to the Trafford Park free-fall centre. Twice, for 60 seconds, he stepped into a wind tower, assisted by an instructor and was suspended in the air as if he had jumped from an aeroplane thousands of feet above the ground. He was fearless and enthralled.

Two days later, for his party, he was again airborne. This time at JumpNation, the trampoline centre, with a group of five friends, plus Eliza and her best friend.

The birthday week is over now, and his feet are back on the ground.


Back in the summer, on Father’s Day, Eliza presented me with a special cheque book, filled with vouchers. She reminded me recently that I hadn’t used them. I remembered today and tore out the ‘clean my shoes’ voucher. She looked irritated at my choice of timing, but when I came back from cricket practice this afternoon, my work boots were waiting at the front door, clean and shiny, with a note on them: “Happy?”


Gabe’s musical interests are diverging. On the one hand, there’s classical. On the other, he’s interested in indie music, preferring Radio X to Capital; on a third hand he’s consuming and performing the Beatles. Imagine is his favourite piano piece and gets played most days at a variety of tempos and sometimes with members of the family singing Lennon’s words at his shoulder.

Loom bands and Lord’s


It began with bracelets, which became increasingly ornate and has moved onto animal key rings. Eliza has embraced the loom band craze, without progressing to whole outfits made of the tiny, coloured rubber bands. She has a plastic frame on which the bands are stretched and arrayed in complex patterns. YouTube provides the source of guidance on how to combine and twist the bands. It’s a healthy pastime, except for the tips of
Eliza’s fingers that get pinched sore by the taut bands.


Gabe came with me to Saturday of the Lord’s Test, where we met Grandad and spent the day together. The day was hot and sticky and Gabe worried over visible sweat marks on his shirt. He had overdosed on pizza and coke at a party the night before and felt delicate. This was his diet during the day: croissant, coke, crisps, chips (with too much salt and ketchup), hot chocolate, grapes, slice of pizza (rejected after a bite) and then toast when we got home. But he sat patiently through the day, including a very slow afternoon session.


Robin’s desire for back garden football has altered. He still wants to play. But rather than shooting with me in goal, he wants to play one-bounce where we work together to exchange the ball with it hitting the ground no more than once between our touches. It’s fun working co-operatively and he gets to practice his skills and control.

“Oh my!”


I can only guess what the language of the playground and form room is like at Gabe’s school. Occasionally, when angered, he gives us a clue, uttering a four-letter word. But his preferred exclamation of shock or disappointment, is the entirely neutral and probably unfinished, “Oh my!”


Robin has taken on Gabe’s exclamation. It’s one of the positive imitations of his older brother – ranked with reading and cricket. It’s timely, too, as some scribbled note of his was uncovered by L that featured the word ‘fuk’. He didn’t know what it meant, but knows we don’t want him using it.


Eliza brought home the elizaphant. A grey papier-mache and toilet role construction, it is the finest model to make it’s way back from school and the first that won’t be recycled the moment it would stop being indecently hasty to do so.



“When you talk you think people know what you’re thinking, but we don’t,” Eliza said to Robin. It was her reaction to the imprecision of a lot of Robin’s chat; the kind that seems to start two-thirds of the way through an explanation or question.

My reaction is a little different. “Thingy” is Robin’s crutch word, that he leans on when he hasn’t found the word he wants. I’m trying to ease that crutch away. My tactic is to assume and convey to him that I think he means “willy” whenever he says “thingy”. Don’t know if it will work, but it does make him laugh.


Eliza had a camera for a Christmas present two or three years ago. She hasn’t really made as much use of it as we expected, although the images aren’t of a very good quality. This week, though, she’s been using it to make short animated stories, taking shots of inanimate objects moved slightly and then tabbing quickly through the shots. Her masterpiece involved L and I holding two soft toys (Flopsy the rabbit and Snowy the owl) in a series of poses as she directed us through Snowy being shot, then found and saved by Flopsy.


A busy week for Gabe’s fears. A trip to London brought on agonies about being sick on the train. He wasn’t. Something said in class led to terror of the world being sucked into a black hole. Several rational, calm discussions with L and me seemed to make no difference. But the wikipedia article on black holes reduced the tension. And he wasn’t (sucked into a black hole).

Just the three at home


With Eliza and Robin away at a sleepover from the mid-afternoon, Gabe had what he recognised to be the longest time alone with L and I since Eliza’s emergence ten years ago. He and I used the initial hours to go to the cricket nets on the last day before they are brought down for the winter. He gee’d me up to bowl, which I did as fast as I could, without troubling him. He then bowled quick and straight at me until it got too dark to carry on.

Back at home, Gabe and L watched ‘The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’ – unsuitable for younger siblings – and we ate together. But Gabe was unhappy at bedtime as he didn’t like being alone upstairs.

Eliza and Robin

Eliza and Robin stayed with their best friends, also brother and sister. Eliza and E made videos together. One, in which Eliza starred, was sent to L for us to view. Robin and A played football in the afternoon, evening and morning – getting up and playing in their pyjamas in the garden.


Singing in the rain

Eliza and Robin

Once Infant pals, otter pups, these two spend less time together as one is drawn to football and the other to nail varnish and hair styles. But occasionally the sibling chemistry sizzles.

After school today, they were bubbly and hyper. In the wet garden, Robin demonstrated how he had sung and danced in the rain at school. Eliza joined in and soon they had choreographed moves to Singing in the Rain. I joined them under the dripping silver birch where we danced and sang until Eliza wanted to go somewhere dry where she could do the splits. They continued with a dance competition in the living room to Another One Bites the Dust. For the first time in ages they had a bath together, singing to their chosen YouTube videos.


Gabe recently had a burst of interest in my blog and found Touchline Dad. He complimented me on it. At the weekend he asked me to help him set up his own blog. First titled ‘Goals ‘n’ balls’ it will comprise reports of his matches and debates about sports issues. We set it up together, he published the first post and the blog is renamed ‘NO BALL GAMES’.

Test match


Gabe’s interest in cricket has grown this year: playing for club and school; going to the nets with friends; an obsession with kit; learning to score (and being paid to do so for the senior teams); helping me with some statistics; and now he’s been to his first match.

We saw the fourth day of the third test at Old Trafford. He was very nervous about getting there. He changed seats a couple of times to get a clear view. He made a few enquiries about what I might buy for him, but otherwise was content to watch and exchange comments on the game. The Barmy Army set about their chanting in the afternoon, which bothered us both. But once that died down, other him having a nagging concern about getting on the tram home, we both could have sat there until the evening. The weather closed in, though, and we left in the rain shortly after tea. Gabe put down a marker, he would like to go back and go to Lord’s.

Eliza and Robin

L took Eliza and Robin to the Manchester Climbing Centre, which is sited in an old church. Both scaled 20m high walls, before pushing off and floating back to the ground.

At home, Eliza scripted a play based around a female Harry Potter type character – Harriet. Robin played Dudley, with a football up his shirt and a midget Hagrid. When I saw the performance, Robin carried his script with him, Eliza memorised her words, directed the show and was chief stagehand.


Strike action affected the kids’ schooling today.


Eliza didn’t go to school. Her teachers took industrial action and so she stayed at home with L, who worked. Eliza, with a little help, baked.

Eliza's cake









Robin has been nurturing a grievance in the weeks since plans for the teachers’ strike were announced. The whole of his school closed – bar one class; his class. It’s been a sensitive subject, but he survived today, not looking too resentful.


Gabe and his classmates had the run of the school as his was the only year unaffected by the strike. He said he wished every school day was like today.

But the teachers were back at work this evening for the school’s awards event. Gabe was one of the two pupils in his class receiving and award for earning the most hall points. The trophies, certificates and prizes were handed out by Kate Goodman of BBC TV minor fame and an alumna of the school.

Gabe award