Reasons to become a parent, #237

Millie's card to her parents

Upon seeing this card that Millie made for us the cynical adult in me wanted to ask, “What are you after, Millie?”  But she made this on her own, unprompted and with no ulterior motive, causing our hard adult hearts to melt into big gooey piles of sugar-y sweetness.

That said, the copywriter in me still wants to have a word about apostrophes and the difference between you’re and your. 😛

Still not believing

Dear Trev,

it’s been another of those weeks where your absence suddenly becomes intolerable again.  Well, perhaps “intolerable” is an overstatement; now it’s more like an unpleasant itch that you want to scratch but can’t reach.  But a couple of times in the last few days I’ve come across pictures of you looking so alive – laughing, smiling and enjoying yourself – that the primitive part of my brain once again insists that you can’t be dead.

Look, there you are, in the photo: young and vibrant and busy – so much done and so much still to do.  How can you possibly not be here anymore?  That’s just insane.

Thinking of you being gone forever, it takes a conscious effort to get over the sense of unreality.  But then thinking that phrase, you’re gone forever; we’ll never speak again – it requires another effort of will just to take it in.

I watched Mark Lawson in Conversation with Mark Gatiss on TV a couple of weeks ago (that’s Mark Gatiss from The League of Gentlemen – a lovely, smart, funny man). He talked movingly about losing both his mother and his sister. In particular, he compared losing a relative or close friend to becoming a member of a terrible secret club, saying how the worst thing is that everyone eventually becomes a member.

I sat there watching, smiling, enjoying his conversation; but I was on the verge of tears as he related his own experiences.  Because he was right.  Until, god forbid, it happens to someone you love, the secret club is closed to you.  And this is one secret club no one wants to join.

Missing you still,

Your big brother, Stu


Considering the quiet weekend we had, there seems to be an awful lot to catch up on (I’ve had to make a list!)

We didn’t go out and do anything special – in fact, we only really went out on Sunday to get some shopping in Bexleyheath.  The Lovely Melanie stayed at home cooking lunch while I took the girls.  They were in mischievous for; not naughty, just high-spirited and loud – running down the up escalator and then back up the down escalator in the car park, that sort of thing.

Millie & Amber playing in an inflatable in BexleyheathBecause I was feeling indulgent they also had a go on an inflatable bouncy dome in B’heath – one that you climb inside and is like a giant inflatable room.  That was £3.00 incredibly well-spent judging by the screams of delight coming from inside.  Amber popped her head out a number of times to tell me “This is the best thing ever!” and to ask “Can we take it home?”

As I mentioned, the Lovely Melanie stayed at home to cook dinner – a regular Sunday ritual she’s installed to ensure that at least once a week we all sit down and eat simultaneously as a family.

It was Amber’s turn to choose the menu this week and she went for meat pie with potatoes and sweetcorn followed by rice pudding.

Green Giant tinned sweetcornThe pie was delicious – helped by our having a new oven that actually cooks things now, rather than simply imparting heat to them over an extended period; the potatoes were good (but would have been better mashed).  Only the sweetcorn was controversial.  It’s not a typical side-order with pie and mash, but it was what Amber asked for so…

I don’t particularly like sweetcorn, nor does Millie and the Lovely Melanie didn’t really want it with pie…

Nor, it turned out, did Amber!  I think all the sweetcorn ended up in the bin.  The menu-setter went very quiet indeed when asked why on earth she’d chosen sweetcorn.

The rice pudding – home-made with a spoonful of jam added – was heavenly, even better than the stuff from a tin (not something I claim lightly).

We were all stuffed after that and were going to have a nap, but I’d promised Millie we’d find a computer game that she could play on the PC.  Skyrim is too complicated (and occasionally scary) to play alone and Horrid Henry is a bit…basic.

LEGO Harry PotterMillie quickly chose LEGO Harry Potter – no surprises there – which we then spent the rest of the afternoon playing.  I honestly thought she’d get tired of it very quickly, but she was very upset when, over two hours later, we had to stop playing for her to go to swimming lessons.

One of the interesting things about helping her play was how ingrained the conventions of gaming had become in me, so much so that I didn’t realise they weren’t immediately bloody obvious and became a bit exasperated at times (“Of course it’s W to go forward! What else would it be!  Duh!” – as I didn’t quite say).  Millie still hasn’t got the idea of keeping one hand on the movement keys and using the other for everything else.

She has grasped most of the visual the conventions, however; such as how to interact with things, what you can interact with and the idea of sequential puzzles (where one puzzle unlocks the solution to the next).  And although I stepped in to help out occasionally, most of the time Millie played by herself.

I sat with her and made suggestions, but it was definitely her playing the game – again, completely unlike Skyrim, where they watch me play, suggest where to go and which weapons to use, as well as naming our horses when we get as new one (usually because the previous fell off a cliff – my equestrian skills are not the best).

Saturday, the girls spent making and colouring a fairy story of their own, using a present from Nanny & Grampy that adds them to the illustrations.  And when I say “Saturday” I mean all-day Saturday.  They were completely dedicated to this task and very proud of the finished products.

This is amazing, because “all-day” is a long time for an adult to concentrate on one thing, for the girls to do so almost boggles the mind!

Last weekend in St Albans

I finally got round to pulling last weekend‘s photos off my camera, and what do you know, they’re really nice!  Should have done it ages ago!  Sort it out, Stu!Millie & Pam FisherMillie & Amber by the lake

The whole set of them is on Flickr if you want to see them (maybe we’re related, maybe you were at the dinner or maybe you’re just casually stalking me).  Belated congratulations to Jenny & Richard (below) and thank you very much for the delicious dinner.  It was lovely to see you all again, and here’s to another 40 years of wedded bliss!

Jenny & Richard Manton
Still smiling after 40 years!

Anders Breivik

Is it appropriate to laugh at Anders Breivik, do you think?  Because that’s what I mostly felt like doing during the first days of his trial in Norway this week for murdering 77 people.

Not to laugh at his crime, obviously, which still sends a chill down my spine each time I hear brave survivors recall what happened back on 13th January.  But I do want to laugh at this horrible man who so desperately wants to be taken seriously – to be patted on the head and told, “Blimey, that was impressive – mental, but impressive.”

“I’m not mad,” he says, “I need to be taken to trial and judged for what I’ve done.  I spent ages planning it – look at how clever I am; how patient and how scary.  I’m not mad.”

Ooh, yes, look how scary you are, Anders Breivik.  You attacked an island full of unarmed children who had gathered there to laugh, make friends and discuss making the world a better place.  And you needed guns to help you do that.  Guns, to kill children.

Not forgetting that you made a thing that went bang, killing more people.  Well done you.

Your attitude and reasoning is so teenage – that’s the only description I can come up with when I hear you speak.  Not scary, not clever; just whining, petulant and naive.  It might be vaguely endearing if you were a teenager; but as a 33-year old man you just sound stupid.

That’s why I think the best thing to do with Anders Breivik is laugh at him, no matter how inappropriate it may sound.  Make Breivik painfully aware that he is not the heroic saviour that he imagines himself to be.  He is simply ridiculous.

So, laugh at Anders Breivik and his evil schemes, laugh till the tears roll down your face.

Because it’s the exact opposite of what he wants.

Amber news!

Good news for Amber, who we found out yesterday will start at Hurst Primary in September – the same school as her sister.

“That’s good,” I said to her this morning at breakfast, “it means Millie will be able to help you.”

“Yes,” she replied, “because I only know about pre-school – I don’t know about going to big school.”

Unfortunately a nit-picking Millie chose that moment to walk by and point out that “I won’t see her, except at after-school club.”

Way to go with sisterly solidarity, ‘Lays.  Sigh.