Thursday, July 22, 2010


During his bath-time, The Boy and I talk. He makes a surprising remark about one of his class-mates, and this leads to me wondering about how developed these children's expectations of one another are, even by the age of nine (a serious interest, though not phrased in these exact terms at that moment).

Shane: Let's play a game where I ask you questions in three parts and you answer them - dead easy.

The Boy: (looks at me, chooses not to bob back under the water, though not yet committing to this nonsense)

Shane: Okay. Think of all the people in your class. I'm going to name three of them - not including you, and you've got to tell me what you think these three might end up doing when they're older - what you think they might end up working as.

The Boy: (wet-haired, possibly interested) Mm.

Shane: Let's start with... Imran.

The Boy: (reaching for shampoo, though interested - thinking hard) Mm. (still thinking - taking this very seriously) The thing is, I don't know Imran very well, so it's hard to say.

Shane: Okay, no problem. Let's try a girl. How about... Danielle.

The Boy: (shampooing) Mm. I don't know about Danielle, but I can find out tomorrow.

Shane: No no, let's not do that. That would sound weird - it might scare her if she thought that your step-dad was wondering what she might end up working as. No, let's think of someone who you do know - last try at this.

The Boy: (mildly amused) Yeah, that would have sounded weird.

Shane: Yeah.

The Boy: (back to being serious, reaching for the rinsing jug) I think I know what Ryan wants to be.

Shane: Alright, tell me what you think Ryan might end up being.

The Boy: (jug of water cascades noisily and splashingly over head) (louder, straight tone) He wants to be a wrestler.

Shane: A wrestler.

The Boy: (hair dripping, eyes still tightly shut) Mm.

Shane: Mm.

I can't be sure that my original ponderance has been effectively handled.

I pass a towel.

Monday, July 19, 2010


Recently, The Boy and I were walking one of his pal's home, following their after-school knock-about time (various larks and boyish shriekery, all of which sounded like a good time was being had). The unusual detail to the evening, was that this pal was not one of the usual suspects, so when I was asked whether he'd be allowed to come back with us, I was keen to say 'yes' - The Boy's sociability is one of the things that most pleases and impresses me.

As we walk, I ask The Pal whether he walks to school or is dropped off by car. He explains that for mother's walk-related schedule, it tends to be car, apart from her one day off per week. He then pipes up with, 'But I couldn't walk from my Dad's - that's too far'. He adds that Dad lives in Nearton, only a couple of miles away. And I remember there being mention, only a month or so ago, of this young lad's parents separating (I still don't know what that means... half-way house, permanent split, or otherwise). The Lad - who I'd distantly read as a bright-eyed chap, suddenly looks a bit serious, though not quite mournful. It is a sensitive moment, as I happen to catch the eye of Alex, who seems also to recognise this with the most acute of eyebrow twitches. And Alex speaks.

'There's no way I could walk to school from my Dad's house! (mock laugh) He lives in London!'

'You could' I suggest, 'but you'd have to set off about a week earlier'.

'Yeah', he agrees. Continuing, he turns to his pal, 'Imagine that - having to set off a week before we're meant to be at school - that's just nuts.'

His pal joins in with the mock laughter, and seems to relax - the frown dissipating.

It is gentle, it is normalising, it is a moment in which my love for Alex is immediate and felt.

'Race you', he calls, as he tears off from his pal and I. The Pal runs off, too, albeit bearing a school-bag weight disadvantage.

We reach The Pal's house - another first, for me. Mother answers the door, relaxed in enormous pink slippers and pleased to see her little man. I proffer the ever-pleasing complimentary remarks about her son, and The Boy and I bid these folk, plus younger brother, a good evening. The novelty of the drop-off - we grown-ups remaining largely unfamiliar, means that there is a certain stiffness, but all is fine. There is simplicity and gorgeousness in all of this.


Turning back to wave at The Pal and his mum, The Boy calls out - all high spirits and with comic intention, 'See you later, suckers!'.

I roll my eyes, sigh, and am relieved to note that this has generated a genuine smile from the mother.

The Boy and I walk home.

Friday, July 16, 2010


I had some really interesting conversations, this week. To and from Lake Windermere (a day-long meeting plus sleep-over), my journey's sidekick (who I didn't know very well) proved the ideal companion, and reliable navigator (short-cutting it through back-waterest North Staffordshire should never be taken-for-granted). During our journey north, we established that we both identified with the fundamental qualities of The Brunettery. On our south-bound return, we compared mental notes from the previous 24 hours. They seemed to correspond.

Whilst in Windermere, or nearabouts, I had the pleasure of a longish walk-and-talk with another Don't-Really-Know-This-Person. This was good for some of the finer detail - how and through whom the conversation came about, the speed with which we seemed to establish trust, the fact that we recognised this and spoke it out loud, and the subject matter that - through our handling of it - further conveyed this trust (what poor phrasing... I'm slapping myself, for you). Skimming over talk of overseas property and what it is about time away or time in the sun that enables a person to relax, we got to discuss how we met our respective partners and with that, somewhat more taboo matters. Throughout, questions and answers were reasonably frank. And all the while, we enjoyed the back-drop of low-flying swans, gambolling pied wagtails, driftwood under foot, and the lapping of water. Quite, quite right - so much more preferable than the staid surrounds of the conference room.

Regular doses of that leg-stretching, mind-uplifting outdoor thing are absolutely vital to the task of breaking up the week, so it was good to share in this in a rarefied fashion.

Back in blighty, The Boy and I made use of the heavy downpours we've been having. Fully braced for a drenching, Wednesday evening saw us head out on the bikes to our favourite local woodland. Exiting the wood furthest from our house, we spotted a lapwing as we darted through a field into the Barlaston Park area, then down past the Wedgwood facilities - including cricket club and fishing ponds. Stopping to look at one of the ponds, we both gasped as our immediate sighting was of a kingfisher rising out of the water with its small catch. And then on to the Trent and Mersey canal path, and back home. A bracing circuit, with good rapport and observations all the way.

This weekend, Emma and Alex are in London, and I'm left to face workish loose ends that have been loose too long.

Yet the call of Anglesey, of White Beach (west of Penmon Point), and of the Menai Straits (west of the Britannia Bridge), is reaching me. The beachcaster rod stands in the hallway, suggesting that it's there and ready for me to reel in tea (not that I have any experience of actually catching anything - such a novice as I am). But I can't possibly listen to the rod... a week from now I'll be on the Yorkshire coast, with plenty of chances for staring at the sea.

And so harrumph and harrumph. All cooped up, with no excuses for not doing what I'm meant to.

Living for the weekend? I think not.

Monday, July 05, 2010


I attend The Boy's sports day. He is to race the three-legged race (they won, with his larger sidekick practically carrying him over the line - messy, but victorious) and the bean-bag race (a creditable finish somewhere in the middle).

At some distance from us, Emma spies the egg-and-spoon racers lining up.

And they are off.

They totter and teeter and wibble and wobble towards us.

Absent-mindedly, I gaze around, as many about me squeal and applaud in support.

Emma: Those eggs don't look even.

Shane: There'll be fallers.

Emma: No. I mean the actual eggs. They're not egg-shaped.

Intrigued, I look, and focus in, and all becomes clear.

Shane: That's because they're not eggs.

The racers get ever nearer.

Emma: They're potatos.

Shane: Potatos, they are. And the girl in yellow seems to be suffering from a particularly knobbly potato.

Emma: Stewards enquiry?

Shane: (momentary ponder) Not at all. This is education. It's all about how they deal with the uneven playing field.

Emma: (sighs) Profound.

Shane: Thanks.

And I am gone - remembering walking up Snowdon with my favourite spoon.

A potato bobbles towards my feet, a child in green feverishly following it, snatching it back and pressing on for the line.

My revery is mashed.