Archive for the ‘odd behaviour’ Category

100 great goals


Every night, for months, Robin has chosen, before sleep and after L or I have read to him, to read from a book that describes 100 great goals. A short description of the action is leavened with some information about the scorer or the occasion. There’s also a diagram of the movement of players and ball on its way into the net.

When sleep is about to smother him, Robin tosses the book from his bed. In the morning, it lies on the floor, crumpled. Its hardback cover fell off weeks ago. Its binding can’t hold for long. But even if it does disintegrate it has lodged itself in Robin’s memory. He knows the goals and scorers by number (1 to 100). He can even recite some of the reports if given a scorer’s name or goal number. 


‘My palm has five layers of skin left,’ Eliza explained on the way home from gymnastics. Intensive work on the bars in recent weeks has worn a tear in the skin of her hand. She has been practising a manoeuvre that involves a complete rotation on the higher bar. To achieve this safely while in the learning phase, her hands are bound to the bar. It’s from that friction that the skin on her palms is torn away.


The election result has been welcomed by Gabe. At school, Corbyn is a hero. Gabe is dissatisfied by my position that neither major party leader is a fit PM. ‘What have I got against Corbyn?’ I was asked often during the campaign, as well as, who are you going to vote for and why? On election night, he sat with Lou and I as the TV guests and presenters toyed with the unlikely exit poll. Around midnight, with four GCSE exams the next day, he conceded that is was time for bed. 



Frequently, Eliza will make her way from the kitchen to the dining table, sit down and then ask, “Can you get me some water?” Less often, she’ll climb the stairs to her bedroom, get into bed and ask, “Can you get my book from the living room?” This doesn’t feel like absentmindedness but a preference for having other people (L and I) do things for her. She likes to be waited upon; she gives the impression it is her entitlement. I try to give the impression that she’d be lucky; although that doesn’t deter her trying.


Gabe is a little more self-sufficient than Eliza, except when it comes to getting around. Such is his antipathy towards walking anywhere that he asked to be woken early on Saturday morning so that I could give him a lift to the barbers on the way to Robin’s football match. I pulled the car up around the corner from his destination. “Can’t you park closer?” he asked. Then this morning, he was forced to walk to his own football match as L and I were elsewhere. “That’s not fair,” he declared, reduced to making the kind of complaint that was commonly heard from him 8 years ago by the injustice of having to make a short journey under his own steam.


Robin sent L and me to Coventry after school this week. We had erred, he believed, and he was furious, nearly in tears, but settling for a deep sulk and no communication. L sent me a text asking if I had paid the deposit for his school residential trip. ‘Can’t remember’, I answered honestly. It seemed that the rest of the class had received paperwork about the trip, but not Robin. I was sent to the school office the next morning to find out if the situation was recoverable, confident in the knowledge that the school had cashed a cheque that I had written.

In seconds the predicament was resolved: the paperwork was a receipt card for the payment and there was an innocent explanation for Robin not receiving his. “You must have been worrying all night,” the school secretary said to Robin, who nodded gravely.

Disorganised threesome


Many school mornings become fraught around 8am when Gabe and Eliza are due to be leaving, but one or other, but usually Gabe is trying frantically to find something.. football socks… homework.. door-key. However, his most enervating practice is to state at 8pm on Monday that he needs ingredients for a food tech practical lesson the next day. His German tutor is due and so L and I are left to decide whether to send him to school without the materials for his GCSE class, or blink and go shopping for him. 


Eliza conveys an impression of precision, yet there’s wooliness in there, too. Her violin went missing earlier this term. It had to be at home, she insisted, demanding search parties from the couch. Or it had to be in one of the cars. ‘Are you sure you’ve checked properly at school?’ L asked repeatedly. After two weeks, the instrument reappeared. It had been in a cupboard in th  music department. 


Robin’s disorganisation finds expression in a constant turnover of school PE kit and loss of letters home from school. He rarely ends a term with the same sports clothes he started with – losing, borrowing and acquiring as the terms goes on. The twenty minute walk home is enough time for important letters from school, with announcements of events and opportunities lost from (usually in the depths of) his school bag. Homework assignments also rarely make it back, meaning text appeals to other parents and a direct request to his teacher to publish the homework on the school website. 



“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).

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.





Spoken in American accent, with strong intonation

I’m chubby, my mummy’s chubby, my daddy’s chubby, even my goldfish is chubby. One day my daddy was driving to the shops and I said, “faster, daddy, faster” And he went faster and it ends there.

This is a performance piece, spoken at school by one of Robin’s classmates and repeated at home time and again, sometimes word-for-word, sometimes with adaptations and very often to gales of appreciative laughter.


Gabe finished junior school with a series of events: assemblies and a retirement party for the head teacher. The final day’s assembly lasted hours as each leaver was introduced and bade farewell. Gabe passed on the role of Head Boy, receiving a pile of Michael Morpurgo books for his year’s work. Many cried at the assembly, but not, he tells me, Gabe. He has brought with him the song ‘Goodbye my friends’, which is sung in any spare moment at home.


One of the delights of Eliza’s burgeoning personality is her teasing of me. Often it’s about my big nose or big ears. It can be about things – e.g. Ice cream – that she claims to love more than me. On holiday in Northumberland, she whipped Robin and cousin F into a 20 minute long chant of “Daddy’s naughty, Daddy’s naughty, Daddy’s naughty…”. It was caused by a beach football injury to Robin and lasted the length of our walk back across the beach.

Back in the saddle

Robin had been the keenest cyclist, but his road tumble meant that all three have stayed off their bikes for months.

But there’s been an upsurge of biking interest. First we went to the local woods by bike. There the kids held races along the path, ploughing through mud, sending it squirting it up their backs. Robin was flagged for dangerous riding several times as his weaving stopped him being overtaken.

Then they rode down the wooded slopes where they have tobogganed in the snow. Over jumps and after a few falls, challenged to go down one slope and back up the other side.

The following weekend we tried geocaching by bike. We found our first treasure, but the next two foiled us, despite concerted hunting. Between caches and when the thrill of the hunt faded, they raced each other and shrieked.

Gabe’s bike day at school had prompted the revival. The school letter included the line that children are advised to wheel their bikes to school. L or I mentioned this to Gabe, as it had amused us. We should have known better. For most of the 1km journey to school, Gabe pushed his bike, anxious not to contravene the advice.