Tag Archives: parenthood

Sunday Morning, Fathers and a Haibun

In literary convention, Sunday morning is a lazy day involving late breakfasts and a leisurely reading of a weighty Sunday paper. I can remember Sundays like that, walking to the paper shop with my father to collect papers because there was no newspaper delivery on Sunday.

As I became a father myself, and the kids started playing rugby, Sunday mornings became more hectic times, featuring lost boots and arguments. I remember one morning in a car park 30 miles from home when a familiar face pulled up with his son.

I said: “You’re in the wrong place Dave, the Under 12s are playing at home.”

“What are you doing here then?” he asked, with the triumphal air of of a man proving an important philosophical point in an argument.

“I’m with the Under 15s today. Julia’s with the Under 12s.”

“Ah!”

Modern Sundays seem so hectic.

Ten years after our walks to buy papers my father and I had developed a prickly relationship. Adolescents, as I would find in my turn, are awful examples of humanity and are barely human. Ten years after that, we still weren’t much friendlier. Ten years after that we had developed a better understanding, as I now had kids of my own. Ten years after that I no longer read newspapers. And ten years after that, having lost many games of dominoes and done a lot of jigsaws, I am left to regret the wasted time spent arguing, and the lessons I could have learned from my father. He may have lost a lot of things through Alzheimer’s, but he retained his competitive edge and his facility with numbers until the end.

To be fair, I wasn’t the only argumentative one (the apple not falling far from the tree) and some of his advice, whilst brilliant for the 1950s, was not so good when applied to the 1990s.

Here’s a haibun I wrote on the subject some time ago – first published in Haibun Today Volume 13, Number 1, March 2019.

 

Eternal Jigsaws

My father remembers who I am (though he can’t quite remember my name) and he’s keen to show me his jigsaw.

It’s one of the puzzles my sister ordered from a specialist supplier. They have larger pieces than normal and depict idealised, almost timeless, scenes from the 1950’s. Before she found these, he used to have jigsaws for children, bought from the Early Learning Centre.

When he clears it away, he puts the edges in a separate bag, so they will be easier to find next time. That could be as early as tomorrow, when it will be brand new as it comes out of the box.

winter afternoon
playing a child’s game
in the fading light

 

A More Positive Post

I loaded  yesterday’s post has been downloaded. It was touch and go, and I made it with less than ten minutes to spare. WordPress and my computer, appeared to become slower and more glitch-ridden as the deadline approached.

The last sixteen hours of the day were frustrating and unproductive and I’m afraid it showed in my post, and the two attempted posts which I discarded. There is a positive to be taken from that – I managed over twelve hundred words today, even if I did throw half of them away.

Julia has just read the post and commented that I appear grumpy. It’s probably a good thing she didn’t see the deleted drafts.

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Cat Stamp

Whilst browsing the site I wandered into Waking up on the Wrong Side of 50. The subject for the last couple of days has been judging. Do we do it? Should we do it? Why do we do it? I do like a good

I do. And the reason I do it is because there are idiots about who need judging. Some of them actually need removing from the gene pool, but eugenics are out of fashion at the moment.

It would, I suppose be nice to live in a world where people weren’t judgemental. It would, of course, be particularly nice for idiots, who could do what they liked without fear that anyone would correct them.

Eugenics will, I’m sure, come back into fashion once doctors work out how to improve the children of rich people with expensive DNA modifications.

However, they should remember Kipling’s Arithmetic on the Frontier. when the revolution starts – ‘the odds are on the cheaper man’. Kipling might be derided for being old-fashioned and jingoistic but he’s often right in what he says, and he has a good turn of phrase.

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Bear lurking in woodpile

In my visions of dystopian futures I’m not sure whether I see the downtrodden masses rising up or the robots taking over. They are both fairly dispiriting, but it’s probably most likely that we will just carry on as normal with the rich becoming richer and the poor becoming poorer.

The rich will live in air-conditioned bubbles and be attended by robot butlers while the rest of us wilt in the heat and pin our hopes on lottery wins and making it big on reality TV – bread and circuses as they say.

I have managed to make some progress today, despite being at work in a well-filled day. It’s amazing, but it’s living proof of the old saying – if you want something doing ask a busy man.

We had a man in the shop today who brought his children, It seems he used to buy coins from us 20 years ago. Having recently found his coin collection he showed it to his kids and they have become interested in coin collecting, so he came to buy them some coins. It’s good to see the passing of time summed up like this and it was good to see a father spending time with his kids. They will reap benefits in the future, both the time spent together and the time spent learning about the coins they collect. In the case of my kids it was mainly bird watching and rugby, but the principles are the same.

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Sunset over Sherwood

 

The images are random shots of things that make me smile. I hope they have the same effect on you.

 

 

 

Mental Freewheeling

A thought struck me this morning.

Our kids, though “young” in our eyes, are actually older than Julia and I were when we first met.

I’m having trouble putting that in perspective.

It makes me feel old, but it also makes me wonder if I’m treating them like children when they are really adults. On the other hand, maybe I’ll start treating them like adults when they start acting like adults. Until then I will keep providing logistical support and offering advice which is ignored.

That represents most of the thinking I did this morning because, after dropping Julia off at work, I went back to sleep for much of the morning. I was able to set the bedroom fan just how I like it and go back to sleep for four hours.

The new router finally arrived from British Telecom. It only took three months, five phone calls and (from them) multiple examples of poor customer service for us to get this far. At this point I think it’s fair to point out that this is far, far better than my experience with Virgin.

I’m still both impressed and appalled by the way I made tea last night. Julia didn’t know what she wanted, just “something light”, so I threw together avocados, prawns, rocket, coleslaw, tomatoes and thousand island dressing (or ketchup, mayonnaise and plain yoghurt if you require accuracy).

It’s impressive because I merely toured a supermarket pulling things from shelves and produced a reasonable meal. Even after forty years of cooking for self and family I’m still always amazed when I manage to do that.

On the other hand there are ecological issues with avocados and prawns, plastic issues with bagged rocket, tomatoes and coleslaw and some air mile and additive concerns too.

I should have done better at growing my own (we’ve grown virtually nothing this year) and I’m capable of making better coleslaw than the one we had last night.

I just looked up eco-guilt as I think that’s what I’m suffering from. It is a word, though without the hyphen. I like the hyphen but I suppose I’ll have to lose it. Also known as “green guilt”. There’s a whole post waiting to be written on that.

Meanwhile I’m a bad parent and mediocre husband – do I really have enough guilt left to encompass the plight of avocado farmers and plastic-eating sea creatures?

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George Orwell – Southwold Pier

Unfortunately not. I would like to worry about them, but it’s not going to happen until I can find more space in my (metaphorical) self-flagellation schedule. I’ll try to cut down on plastic, and I’ll try to eat less processed food, but it’s hard to remember when you’re busy and shallow.

Currently I’m reading a book about three friends touring the piers of England and Wales. It’s research, as I’m considering doing the same thing. I’ve always wanted to write a book so I may stitch together the blog posts on piers and give it a go.

One fear is always about word count – can I write enough words. I reckon the blog now runs to around 400,000 words which suggests that stamina and vocabulary won’t be a problem, though it’s still only enough words to do 80% of War and Peace.

I once read Gone with the Wind (400,000 words) when I was about 16. It took a weekend. I then moved on to War and Peace (500,000 words), lost my way in the family names, stalled, tried again and lost the will to live. That is a lot of words, though I feel War and Peace was probably easier to write than it is to read.

Obviously writing is not like bricklaying so just being able to stack words on top of each other won’t be enough. I have some regular followers/commenters who seem to stick with me so I suppose I must be doing OK

I’ve just counted the words I’ve written on two piers and two lots of fish and chips – 2,739. If I extend to crabs, winkles and candyfloss that should give me 75,000 words, which should be enough for a book. Add in the words I’ve done on marshes, butterflies and such and we come up to around 100,000 words, probably a few more if we get held up in traffic. This is likely to be too many.

It looks like I’ve just publicly committed myself to visiting over 50 piers and writing a book about it.

Having done that, and I did think about it before I wrote it down, I now have no excuses.

As I wrote that line I felt all my confidence drain…

What have I done?

 

 

 

More Serious Stuff – Deep Thought, Castration and the Importance of Parents

I started doing more thinking after writing yesterday’s post. There was a lot to think about, mostly about murdered teenagers. After bringing two kids up in a city that had a poor reputation at one time, you can get quite thoughtful.

Interestingly, the writers blame the Labour government for the various problems, where most of the people these days blame the Conservatives. That is probably a sign that we should leave politics out of the discussion.

Youth clubs, youth sports and such things are, at best, distractions rather than a cure. If you are keeping kids off the street they can’t get into trouble. When looking at funding possibilities I’ve often seen the terms “distraction” or “displacement activity”.

We had quite a few difficult kids at the various rugby clubs we attended. Some were the typical sort of inner city kid you’d expect to be in trouble (who we used to work with in Rugby League) and others, in Rugby Union, were much more affluent and better educated.

One of the things I noticed was that you could put a lot of effort in and make no discernible difference. I also noticed that if the parents weren’t engaged nothing seemed to work. That held good for all the kids – parents who were at work all the time were just as bad as parents who deserted their family.

So my solution to the problem is to put the family back at the centre of things. I’d also be prepared to think about castrating absent fathers who didn’t live up to their responsibilities, though it’s likely that this would be a last resort.

It’s about the basics – decent places to live, education, jobs, reducing teenage pregnancies…

I’m starting to sound like a beauty queen here, but I’ll stop short of advocating world peace and an end to famine. It is, however, a matter of some regret that I didn’t start thinking forty years ago – it might actually have made a difference at that point.

Does anyone have any good ideas?