Archive for the ‘funny stuff’ Category

The Smiths shambles

Gabe and Eliza

While their music tastes have converged, Gabe and Eliza’s differences are seen clearly in their interest in the Smiths. Gabe got there sooner. He owns their LPs. He has a fan and critic’s knowledge of the songs and the band. He listens in his room or roaming the house on his headphones.

Eliza’s passion is lively. The Smiths provide old bangers – great tunes that she adds to playlists. She sings along, but recognises she cannot remember the lyrics, or even the titles, let alone where they appear on each album.

Eliza wears a Smiths’ T-shirt. This enrages Gabe: “a shambles”, so ignorant is she of what matters to him about the band. He spits out questions that her inability to answer proves his point.

This weekend Eliza is going to a gig. There are nods and silent acknowledgement of the event between her and L. She isn’t going to mention it in Gabe’s ear-shot. She knows how superciliously he will respond. It is The Smythes, a tribute band.


At Robin’s parents evening, he racked up compliment upon compliment for his achievement, his attitude and his conduct. His feeling for school remains at best ambivalent, and often negative, but this hasn’t affected how he goes about his school-day based on the feedback we heard.

Robin was with us at each meeting, not just the subject of the discussion, but active in it. This impressed me: where Gabe and Eliza would have been non-committal or embarrassed, Robin was articulate and controlled.


15th birthday party


Eliza’s 15th birthday party was changed at short-notice from Saturday to Friday to accommodate some of her friends, meaning that L was away and I was sole adult in charge. I had made stern warnings against alcohol, invited guests only and guests coming and going. 20 guests arrived, including one lad who was far taller than me.

Eliza’s friends were very noisy and really polite. They danced and chanted along to songs in the kitchen and the garden. I kept a low profile but at one point went into the kitchen where they were all holding up phones and dancing to a rap song with rude lyrics. Soon after 10pm I reminded Eliza that she should bring things to a close. An hour and three-quarters later, the last of her friends left. Eliza glowed with the fun of hosting a party.


Robin loathes being overheated in bed. He sleeps bare-chested to keep a tolerable temperature. Before bed-time, he lies on the floor, lest his body heat up the bed before it’s time for him to sleep. One evening, Gabe lay on Robin’s bed playing FIFA on Robin’s X-box. Robin was infuriated that Gabe had warmed up his bed.


Gabe’s school week is evenly balanced between lessons and free periods. He uses his frees to study, read and do crosswords. When Gabe reported that he had completed three quick crosswords in a single free period, I challenged him to try a cryptic crossword. I showed him how they work and then we tried to solve one together. The twisted logic of the cryptic clue appealed. He has teamed up with L to solve more puzzles and is nearly ready to fly solo.

The wrong essay


Gabe worked hard throughout the half-term break, particularly on a history course essay that he intended to submit as part of his Oxford entrance bid. I read it and thought it thorough, well-written and mature. Unfortunately, the teacher was less impressed, and gave it a B grade. There followed several days of Gabe agonising over whether to send this essay, which he felt was his best, or one from February, given an A*, but which he felt (and I agreed) was less well-written. L & I encouraged him to speak to other history teachers, but the line was that they wouldn’t challenge the mark given by his teacher and to send the A* piece of work. Time was running out. One of his English teachers broke ranks: yes, the B grade is better written.

Gabe called me as he walked towards the post office, still undecided which to post.  But he seemed to settle on sending the one that he felt would give the best account of his ability. Half-an-hour later, I got a text, ‘Made wrong choice..’. He was back at home, upset and asking if the post office would let him replace it. Back he went to the post office, and to their credit, they let him take the A* essay out of the envelope and replace it with the B grade piece.


L had Robin call Eliza downstairs for tea, while she hid behind the fridge. As Eliza stepped into the kitchen, L swung a paper plate piled with whipped cream into her face.

L explained that ever since seeing a video of a custard pie party, some years ago, Eliza had asked if L would custard pie her. And so, the time had come.

Eliza was shocked and amused. Her wish had come true.


Evidence that Robin has rediscovered his ‘joie de foot’. He played three games in two days last weekend. In the first, there was a foul on the edge of the area. He picked up the ball and walked to where the kick was to be taken. A short run-up and the ball went over the wall and into the top corner.

Game two, after a quiet start, Rob received the ball on the half-way line. He played a one-two, then accelerated away from an opponent, around another and reached the left-hand side of the penalty area. He changed direction, nut-megged a defender and whipped a shot off the inside of the near post into the goal.

Bedroom cricket


Gabe and Robin invented the format during the summer holiday – a concession to activity when they were at their most idle. The three of us play (Eliza and L, on occasions, too) but more commonly now it’s Gabe and me. The playing area is the length of Robin’s bedroom. We use a windball and a size 2 bat. Most ingeniously, the stumps are a pair of jeans hung from mattress tipped on its side.

Robin’s carpet makes the game. It takes turn – Warne-like turn for the well-spun delivery. And, given that there is no straight-arm restriction on ‘bowling’ the game is all about turning the ball, or as a batsman, countering that turn. 


Returning home from work, it might be thirty minutes before Robin registers my presence and appears. Usually, he’s in the living room or his bedroom, interacting with his phone. Recently, I reminded him that when he was younger he would run to the hall when he heard me come in the door from work and hug my knees. “Really?” He said. “I’ll do that again.” True to his word, last week, one evening as I came in the front-door, Robin burst from the living room and hugged me. Possibly, a little ironically, but appreciated nonetheless. 


Eliza hosted a sleepover of gymnastics friends. It followed a gymnastics evening, which may have raised hopes that the girls would be tired. We set up two single and a double mattress for the five friends to sleep on in the living room. The rest of the family went upstairs to bed. The girls’ chatter and laughter carried on. Around midnight, the first text from upstairs was sent to Eliza, instructing her to quieten her guests. More agitated texts followed as the hours passed. Eventually, after 3am there was silence in the house.

Spider in the corner house


Robin has developed a particular taste in buildings and houses. New or recently built homes find his favour. He has a specific dislike for exposed brickwork. Of two identical houses next to each other, he’ll praise the one with rendered exterior, but not the one with its bricks left open to the world. He has no fondness for old houses. Our own home almost comes into that category, although he likes the dining room and living room. Asked what he has against old houses and he will explain that they are ‘spider in the corner’ homes.


Eliza came second in the French spelling bee competition, representing her form in front of the whole of year seven. She practised assiduously for weeks, moving to races against the clock to see how many words (numbers, days, countries, animals, adjectives about personality) she could pronounce and spell correctly in 6o seconds: “lundi, el oo en day ee” etc. She managed 17 at the contest, losing to a twin with a multinational background, and presumably an advantage in all foreign language activity.


Gabe still spends a significant chunk of his time at home playing on his Xbox. He has lobbied furiously to be allowed to play Call of Duty like all his friends – and responded furiously when time and again, L and I have refused. He alleges that our intransigence is making him unpopular.

He is allowed to play Halo, another shooting game, but which has a 16 rating, not 18. It has displaced FIFA as his preferred game. We can usually hear him playing as he’s communicating – laughing and chatting – with his friends on multi-player mode, not sounding unpopular at all.



An idiosyncracy of Eliza’s, perhaps picked up from her new group of school friends, is to add in jovial conversation -ington to any words she wants to emphasise. “Time for breakfast-ington.” “Can we go in the car-ington?” “That’s annoy-ington”. Which we have all come to agree with.


Robin whistles as he flits around the house, buzzes around outside, or sits not very quietly doing his homework or eleven plus preparation. There’s not usually an identifiable tune, just a shrill breath.


Gabe will be whistling soon as well. He has started a referee course, which has the dual attraction of fulfilling part of his PE GCSE and earning him money. He returned home from the first day of the course unenthused. There had been a lot of standing around – witnessed by Robin and I when we were playing football on the same field. For up to an hour, Gabe and his peers were stood apparently practicing meeting the captains and tossing the coin.



Gabe joined 90% of his school year on a five day camping trip that rounded off his term. We heard nothing from him for the whole week and didn’t know what to expect when he came back from his first ever experience of camping. 

He was tired, but generally positive about the camp when he got back. The worst point had been sleeping one night, not under canvas, but shelters that they had made themselves. Gabe said he didn’t sleep at all. He was also unimpressed at his friends’ lack of cleanliness. Unlike them, he had changed his socks and pants daily. The food was also disappointing. Still, though, he had enjoyed the week. Would he like to go camping again, I wondered. “No”, was the clear answer. 


Eliza’s final weeks of junior school were occupied by play rehearsals, shows, a school disco, talent show, spelling bee and various other activities that are part of the rounding up of a pupil’s education before they head to secondary school. 

Come the day of the talent show, Eliza turned to L at the school gate and said, “I’ve forgotten my costume.” 

“What costume?”

But before, L needed to rush home to find this costume, Eliza’s best friend appeared: “Don’t worry. I brought a spare costume, in case Eliza forgot hers.” 

Eliza sat and passed her grade 3 violin exam and at the leavers’ assembly, she was awarded the school music prize for her contribution to the school orchestra and recorder Group. 


Robin was awarded the coaches’ player of the season award at his football team’s presentation evening. He tried to look nonchalant, jaw jutting and unsmiling, but L was aware that he was nervous beforehand, betraying a hope or expectation that he might be a trophy winner. The coaches gave each player marks out of ten for various skills and likened each player to a professional footballer. Robin, they said, is like Edin Hazard for his ability to “tear opposing defenders to bits.”