Thursday 31 May 2007

Morning Glory

“DaDDYYYYY!!” comes the cry. “What IS it?” I ask grumpily. It’s not early, but it is morning.

I continue trudging upstairs with the pink-cup-with-cats –on-it full of milk and turn left into the living-room.

“Daddy. Look!” exclaims my daughter, surprisingly brightly, considering there is vomit on the sofa, vomit on the floor and vomit all over her and her nightie. It looks like an ectoplasmic explosion.

“Oh poor you…” I stammer. I fall to my knees and open my arms, but then think better of it.

I go and fetch the kitchen roll. (Douglas Adams was wrong: the most useful item in the universe is a roll of recycled kitchen paper.) I wipe up the semi-digested grapes and pasta, pull her nightie over her head and then put her in the bath as I used to do when she was a milk regurgitator. After she is washed and dressed I finish up the cleaning process, using a fork to dig out all the lumps from the weave of the sofa, and plenty of wet cloth arm-work. It is somehow reassuring to return to the simple days of babycare.

Later my wife emails me: Thanks for cleaning everything up. You are a true stay at home dad!

That’s nice: recognition. That’ll keep me going for a while. I may be two years into the job, but somehow I feel that it’s only now I’m passing my probation

My daughter sits on the dry end of the sofa, watching Big Cook Little Cook with a look of mild disgust. She refuses my optimistic offer of breakfast, but sips the water I have given her.

She complains that she still has a tummy ache. I reach over and rub her stomach solicitously, gladly wiping away the hurt. She shifts a little. “Is the rubbing making it better?” I ask. She looks uncomfortable, and after a pause replies “No daddy”.

It used to be that the tummy rubbing made her feel better; now it seems mainly to be for my benefit.

Tuesday 29 May 2007

Bank Holiday

My daughter is on her knees next to the sofa, fringe hanging over her book as she sings a little song to her soft penguin. Rain spears resolutely past the windows outside. Inside, my wife and I are bickering. Me because its half term, her because she’s back at work tomorrow. It’s the usual holiday problem. I am leaving the childcare to my wife a bit too much and she wants to spend the time together. My wife and daughter tend to gang up on me. It’s not their fault. They love being together. But there’s an exclusivity to it. “I want mummy” my daughter wails when mummy’s at work and she is tired or has barked a knee. “Mummyyy!!” is the call first thing in the morning. When I’m telling her off she wrinkles her face and puts an arm out towards mummy. “But she was sticking her fork into the table!” I say. “Oh well” my wife says. “It’s a bank holiday”.

Since it’s a bank holiday I drive hundreds of miles to Hay on Wye to meet one of my literary heroes, Dave Eggers, author of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. If only he knew the risks I had taken to be there. It is a beautiful journey in the sunshine but in the rain the motorways are deathly skidpans – water lies everywhere and the car wobbles when it hits. I acquaplane crazily from lane to lane. My wipers don’t seem to have a high enough speed to cope.

At Hay everywhere is muddy and everyone walks around with the Guardian and Guardian festival bags. I’m in the Eggers queue, near the front, because I know how to loiter just before the authors arrive. What do I say? “It’s my favourite book!” No, it’s not my favourite after all. It’s one of my favourites, along with the Nabokovs and the DeLillos and the Faulkners and the Prousts. But “It’s one of my favourite books” sounds slightly begrudging. “I’m a writer too, and...” NO! It’s just journalism and a blog.

In the end I smile and say please and thank you and he looks up after signing the book with an absent-minded “Thank you” of his own, as his agent leans down and whispers in his ear, clandestinely. I trudge out of the tent into the wind and mud and buy a punnet of strawberries from a bedgraggled farmer in wellingtons, pleased to find someone who looks more miserable than me. Inside Dave Eggers is grinning at the next customer, warm and desired and with the prospect of a nice meal in the authors’ tent with attentive agents and publishers.

I walk to my car in the charity car park, veering sideways in the wind, Guardian bag flapping, wondering just where it all went so right for him.

Thursday 24 May 2007

Men Only

I’ve traced the dip back further, to the weekend.

My wife and daughter are away on a joint sleepover the other side of town and I’m in a West London pool bar. Smoke swirls in the air. The windows in the roof show that it is still light outside, but in here it is dark. Men stand around pool tables with cigarettes dangling from their teeth; a few women with big belts and small t-shirts bend over tables unsteadily, inexpertly prodding cues.

It’s a place I used to come to a lot ten years ago. I was pretty good at pool in those days. But more importantly I walked around like I was a regular and went to the gym and had a career with prospects and a life stretching away into the future. Now it’s a terrain as unfamiliar to me as Saturday mornings in the playground. I stand with friends, gripping a pool cue in one hand and a pint of Guinness in the other, trying to remember the rules of the game. Have I been here since my daughter was born? I’m not sure. Probably not. I’ve walked past a lot. Around me men pad purposefully and look like they have plans. It’s all so familiar, but so unfamiliar. Like looking through someone else’s glasses. I’m not experiencing what I expected to.

I vaguely suspected that I was somewhere past my peak. But I wasn’t as painfully aware that the rot had set in. I’m worried about bumping into the players at the neighbouring tables and skip away trailing apologies. “Don’t hit me, I’ve got a daughter!” Is it because I’m more aware of mortality nowadays? Of risk? The truth, I’m coming to realize, is that I’m just not used to men anymore. Men in the office, men in bars. Men shouting above the music and jostling and guffawing and pouring drinks down their throats. Childcare doesn’t have much of that to it. In fact it’s mostly the opposite. It’s helping and responding and standing back and watching. I think I’m only just beginning to understand the full implication of taking it on.

As it happens I play quite well, pulling off some shots I can’t remember being able to play in the first place. Then it's back to my place for poker and pizzas. I seem to be getting the hang of it.

Wednesday 23 May 2007

Hitting a Dip

I’ve had a bit of a mid-week lull. It started with my last post. I started thinking about the working dads and suddenly I wanted to have it all. I wanted to be out there wearing a shirt and confidently swapping banter and actually opening my bank statements, for goodness sake. And that sent me spiraling morosely downwards.

Then yesterday, after I had finished my one day’s paid work a week (which finishes next week), I took my daughter to the local playground again in an attempt to de-programme her from CBeebies. She’d been watching for too long with the glazed air that you have when your boss is telling you about his new marketing strategy or you’ve just woken up at 3am in front of a quiz show with the remnants of a cheese toastie in your lap. The trouble is I have to finish off after she’s come home from nursery, so I sit upstairs in the grip of guilt and corporate news, as she sits downstairs crunching party rings and watching Lazytown (again) then SMarteenies then Bobinogs then Numberjacks etc…

Anyway we get to the park and it’s the usual 5.30 selection of mums dads and kids. Not the weekend variety; low key. A couple of blokes reading newspapers, a mum helping her toddler walk. Kids of different ages expertly swinging around the garish equipment and bouncing on the rubberized trampoline that is the ground in play areas nowadays. There are also two boys, bigger than the rest. About 10-ish probably. They’re booting a football around, but that happens, and even though it’s patently too small a space to do that in, people let it go. Then the ball gets booted in our direction and hits me as I am bouncing my daughter on the see-saw. The boy near to me looks worried and I say:

“Look it’s really not a good idea to kick the ball here.”
“There are small children around.”
I start pointing and then he grins in an immensely irritating way.
He’s 10-ish and he’s taking the piss out of me!
“We’re going anyway” he says smugly.
“Good.” I say.
“What?” he says menacingly.
Now he’s threatening me!
“Good” I say, more uncertainly, having never been menaced by a 10 year old before. Not since I was 10, anyway.
I win the staring battle, not unsurprisingly since I’m twice his height and he exits with his friend, muttering about “dissing” and mentioning brothers or dads. I have visions of relations sprinting into the playground armed with knives and guns.

And on top of that, it may or may not be coincidental but since my wife gave up smoking on Saturday (well done her) we have been arguing constantly. By text, by email and then when she gets home in person:

“Well I wish I’d never ...”
“Well I wish you hadn’t either.”
“Is that how you feel?”
“Is that how you feel?”
“Well if that’s how you feel …”
“Doesn’t it look like it?”
“Well I will, then.”
“Well do …”
“Do you want me to?”
“Do you?
“Right …”
“What do you want for supper?”

I hope to recover my poise soon and post some emotive descriptions of countryside flowers.

Monday 21 May 2007

Playground Games

On Saturday my wife was away for the morning so my daughter and I found ourselves on our own. It was a novel experience, since she usually takes my daughter shopping or goes for a coffee with her, like a lot of working dads who take over for a while.

Left to our own devices we watched TV, got dressed late and had bacon and egg muffins for brunch. Then we went to the playground. But I had forgotten about the Saturday morning dads. When men speak loudly to their children is it because they assume some deficiency on their part or is it because they want you to hear them? They commentate LOUDLY on what they are doing:

“Hey RUFUS! You’re going up the SLIDE! That’s IT, now you’re sliding DOWN! WHEEE!!!!!!!!”

“Yes Georgina. On the SEE-SAW! YES!! UP AND DOWN!!!”

Actually women do this as well sometimes. I remember activity groups when my daughter was a toddler. The mums would sit next to their child advising them on paper-sticking and playdough moulding in LOUD, CAPABLE VOICES. It was like they were speaking to my daughter too, and I think she was a little confused about getting advice on crinkly crepe when she had a handful of pink string. To be heard I would have had to talk at the same volume and we would have ended up bellowing across each other ridiculously. It’s a defensive reaction, of course. In the playgroups I was a surprising and somewhat threatening presence and I think they felt the need to emphasize their credentials.

It’s the same with the men in the playground. Men fresh from the office, still with a heightened sense of performance. They want everyone to see them doing good work. There was a whole bunch of them, charging around, chasing their screaming children and bellowing at the tops of their voices. I tiptoed around the edge, cowering and trying to avoid flying limbs. My daughter nipped to and fro in her usual unpredictable way, being hurdled by six foot men in shorts. Did I ever behave like that? Maybe, but it’s difficult to know now. I don’t really compete anymore, since there’s noone to compete with. I am just there.

Friday 18 May 2007

Two of a kind

On holiday at the kitchen table over a hand of poker I am chatting with my brother-in-law. Old albums play on the i-pod, docked into speakers. Half empty wineglasses on the table in front of us contain red from the last available bottle in the house. Empty bottles cluster around the rubbish bin. Everyone else has gone to bed and someone shouts at us to turn the music down. We grin at each other, like much younger men. We used to talk a lot, in West London pubs mainly. Then work took the place of conversation. I went to work abroad; he started out in his career. I’ve mentioned the blog and he says, jokingly, that he’s ‘Never at home dad’. We laugh. But it is a more poignant comment than it seems on the surface. I imagine he’d like a lot more time at home and a lot less in the office. But he is good at doing both. I was never very good at doing both. A lot of men aren’t very good at doing both. They get caught up in work and lose touch with life at home. It’s a kind of addiction. They tell themselves that they need to do it for the money. But of course it becomes about standing and achievement and seniority and bonuses and image.

I see these men at the weekend, stiff and formal, thinking of other things. The evening routine. The morning commute. They push their pushchairs with the same grim expression. Heft their backpacks with narrow-eyed concentration. It’s not easy to separate different parts of your life. My wife comes home and after a few minutes is our daughter’s mummy, as if she hasn’t been in an office all day. When it was me, I found it difficult to turn into daddy. A drink after work with a colleague or friend was easier. Those dads have their weekend smiles, but I have today’s smiles and tomorrow’s as well.

I have a full house too. Grinning, I scoop my chips towards me.

Thursday 17 May 2007

Little Things

Ridiculous, isn’t it, how the little things occupy so much of your time. Some represent more than is apparent. Like the small globe in front of me, a gift from my daughter, containing purple and pink glitter and a picture of us in the misty chill of winter. But then there are the bills to be opened, emails to be sent, appointments to be arranged. Scouring pads to be bought. While around you people are getting sick, going missing, moving away, getting married, having babies.

I’m not quite sure where blogging belongs in all this. It brings with it problems of its own: template selection, etiquette, comments, quality of writing. And one of the biggest difficulties of all: keeping track of all the blogs. I’ve solved the problem by getting myself a ‘feed reader’. It took me a day to download (upload?) all the blogs onto it, but now it appears to work by sorcery. Every so often a little box pops up telling me that Wife in the North or Drunk Mummy have completed another small work of art.

Nevertheless it’s a little thing. Yesterday I was looking after my daughter and her friend, who were sitting on my head as I made my way through 100 of the world’s favourite nursery rhymes. Suddenly three fire engines lurched round the corner followed by an ambulance. Sirens whined, blue lights whirred, people arrived at windows clutching babies and looking on with fearful expressions. I opened the door and craned around the door jamb to see thick black smoke gushing out of the basement two houses along, across a small alleyway. Firemen in purple suits jumped dramatically from their vehicles, unfurling hoses and spinning taps. A couple of them ran down the steps into the basement and emerged a while later, panting, faces smeared with soot. It wasn’t like watching a fire on the news. It was real and urgent and frightening.

Although people with children were stopping to watch I didn’t want my daughter or her friend to look on so I closed the door. It seemed to be under control, but we carried on downstairs, just in case. Eventually I started cooking tea: browning chicken and boiling vegetables, listening to the girls chatting.

”Do you like pink or yellow?”
“I like pink too!”
“Do you like pink fish, by any chance?”
“Actually I do.”
“I do too.”
“I’m going to be Sophie.”
I’m going to be Sophie.”
“No, you can be Amy.”
“But in the next game you can be Sophie.”
“Oh, alright.”

I have all but forgotten about the activity outside. The doorbell rings. Seeing it is the friend’s father I open the door and exclaim brightly “Burnt the toast again!”
Suddenly I see the look of horror on his face. “I came round the corner and I thought…”

Wednesday 16 May 2007

Happy Endings

Waiting for coffee in the cafĂ© at Fremington Quay I had a sharp sense of finality, of leaving behind, that reminded me of other occasions I couldn’t quite place. The windows were laced with steam, and an elderly man with uneven stubble in baggy trousers and a fishing jumper drilled holes in the wooden door, fixing something. Staff passed between the till and the kitchen. There was a calmness that I knew I would miss. As I watched the workman Mr Bojangles played quietly somewhere above:

I knew a man Bojangles and he danced for you
In worn out shoes;
With silver hair, a ragged shirt, and baggy pants…

That’s the problem with holidays. You have to come back. Back to the grey and the rain. But city grey and rain is not the same as country grey and rain. When I listened to the cockerel crowing at the farm I was sure it sounded different in the rain. Or was it just me?

As he spoke right out
He talked of life, he talked of life,
He laugh-slapped his leg a step.

We arrive back in London, push open the grimy front door and pile all the bags in the kitchen. My wife sits on a chair looking unhappy to be back. Our daughter sits on her lap, thumb in mouth, gazing across the room. I sit down too. I feel completely certain that we are all thinking different things, but share a sadness that we will be going our separate ways in the week ahead: work, nursery, home.

Later when my daughter is brushing her teeth she realizes that she no longer needs the plastic step that has been accompanying her around the bathroom for the past few months. She is overjoyed. I am not convinced. I’m not sure I’m ready for all these endings.

Monday 14 May 2007

Time To Go

It’s the last day of our holiday and it’s still raining. We visit Baggy Point, a rocky outcrop reaching into the roaring wind and surf. Fighting our way through the gale we flex our umbrellas against the whipping rain and come to a bench near the promontory. Surrounded by heather and gorse it looks onto the cliff edge, which is lined with grass and dotted with pink thrift. Beyond, the sea and sky are sandwiched together in different shades of grey. I look at the bench and see a small metal plaque with some lines engraved in it. Leaning close I can just make out the words:

Rest here beloved in your new life
As oft you did with me when in the old
The majesty and power of which you are now part
And I will come and ease my aching heart

Underneath this plaque is another, marking the death of the writer some ten years after his wife. I hope there was someone to comfort him in the years between. I hope he had children and that they visit this spot and sit on the bench in kinder weather, thinking about them both. That’s what I’d like to imagine, anyway.

We turn towards town and I brace myself against the gusting wind, gripping my daughter’s hand tightly.

Saturday 12 May 2007

Rain, Rain...

Ever since I mentioned that it was sunny in Saunton it has been raining. Blankets of rain. Vertical, horizontal and perpendicular rain. Rain that splashes up off the ground and meets rain coming the other way. But not wanting to be confined indoors to television, or table tennis or even the swimming pool, we have carried on as before. Locals have become used to our cagouled figures passing by, hoods tightened against the wet, determined to continue with our holiday schedule.

When we arrive at the bicycle hire shop, children in three coats each, adults wiping rain out of their eyes so that they can see the way ahead, it is so wet that the owner hasn’t even opened for business. We have to make an emergency call to him for equipment.

Kitted out, we cycle along the Tarka Trail through wheeling squalls and blustery showers. My daughter is behind me in a covered trailer, so is for the most part dry. Occasionally I shout backwards into the gale to find out whether she has succumbed to hypothermia yet. We lose some as we go along, but the core of the party reaches Instow, turns round and wearily cycles back on soggy saddles, clicking grimly through the gears, against the same blurred background. In the end the weather lifts a little and I open the front of the trailer so my daughter can see her surroundings. “Are you ok?” I shout over my shoulder as usual. “Yes daddy but I’m a bit wet” comes the reply. I’ve been cycling in the rain for an hour and a half, I think, and you complain about a little drizzle? “Never mind, we’ll be back in a minute” I shout.

We arrive back at the cycle shop and the owner comes out. “Oh dear” he says, looking at my daughter. “Oh dear” he repeats.

I look round. Everyone looks round. Not being a frequent bike rider these days I have forgotten about the spray thrown up by the back wheel, most of which has found its way onto her face. She looks like she has been on night manoeuvres. Peering out from under the mud she says accusingly “I told you I was a bit wet.”

Thursday 10 May 2007


More than the sweeping hills and clifftops, the coves and sandy beaches which stretch away endlessly, it is the boats that I have noticed since we have been here. In nearby Fremington Quay the track winds along next to an undulating pill, boats stranded in repose, a trickle of seawater carving its way through the sandbanks. Past a wreck lying on its side, rotten timbers jutting like ribs. Soon the trickle broadens and the sea comes into view, and a dredger, a long, rusty suction pipe resting along its length, ensign fluttering weakly in the breeze. Further along at Instow the smell of brine is stronger. Cranes circle the harbour and the masts of the brightly-coloured sailboats are gathered like cocktail sticks in sausages. Soft clinking blows in across the sand.

I feel a little like these beached boats, slightly ragged and waiting, lopsided, for the tide to come and lift them. Other people’s roles seem to be clearer than mine. Men are professional, or they are retired; not chasing round rooms with shark arms or preparing for the 3pm Family splash session.

It is a new world of etiquettes. What is the correct way to listen and respond to details of other people’s professional lives in this world? I am currently pitched at the level of an uncle who was in business himself many years ago. Au fait enough with the world of commerce to prompt a couple of interested questions. But I am quickly slipping towards the territory of a great aunt who responds with a “Well that’s all very nice deary. Would you like a cup of tea?” The old world is becoming hazier and hazier. And since noone understands what I am doing they don’t ask about me it. Which is a shame, since it is now that I would like a bit of interest. Still, I prefer this world – it is gentler and less populated and suits my rhthyms and cadences.

Tuesday 8 May 2007

Devon Cream

It was £259 for the boiler. The boiler repair man turned up, nosed around a bit (mainly to make me feel better about the £259 I think) and then pressed a magic button on the underside of the unit. Everything immediately sprang into operation. It’s a great sound, the “wummpphhh!!” of gas re-igniting and the promise of effective radiators and hot water. Tempered by the cost of the resuscitation of course. I was left wishing I’d put more effort into solving the problem myself.

What stopped me spending the rest of the day sitting on the kitchen floor with my head in my hands was the knowledge that we were going to Devon for a few days around the bank holiday. It’s an annual jamboree with my wife’s parents and brother and his family.

The trip down was cold and grey until Somerset. Then suddenly there was warmth and teatime sunshine. As the clouds rolled away in clotted cream heaps, a plane dived high above the hills ahead of us like a shooting star. Finally we reached Devon and the winding gravelled road to the farm and neighbouring cottages.

Near our cottage is the computer room, where I sit at one of those all-in-one-seat-and-picnic-table constructions. Next to a playground containing no fewer than 4 trampolines (it’s a new playground trend). Outside the trees are rattling urgently in the wind, sounding like waves breaking onto a sandy coastline, or a band of zealous tambourine players. Sunlight filters through the leaves, creating a kaleidoscope. We knew it would be sunny, as my mother in law had confidently announced that morning. “If there is enough blue to make a sailor’s trousers, it will be a sunny day”. The row of trees means I can’t see the girls bouncing high and elegantly on the trampolines behind them. They are screaming so loudly I am almost tempted to go round there and see if they are alright.

My daughter is so happy with her beloved cousins and it is reciprocated. “I love you” she calls happily towards the younger one as she moves nearly out of earshot. ”I love yoouuu…” the answer comes floating back on a warm gust.

Friday 4 May 2007

Room at the Top

Every day seems bluer and sunnier. I opened the window in my daughter’s bedroom this morning and my gaze was drawn to the sky, backlit blue and criss-crossed by a geometry of vapour threads. Below, the white stucco reflected sunlight like a Greek hilltop village.

This has been my daughter's room since she was born. Before that it was the least important room in the house: a spare bedroom for our occasional guests, containing a wrought-iron bed, a wooden chair and little else. In the months leading up to her birth I banged together flat-packed MDF into a cot, shelf and changing table and by the time our daughter came back with us it had become the most important room. I don’t spend much time in it anymore. In the early months I spent a lot of time there – time I can’t even recall now - sitting in the dark, rocking her gently and hoping desperately for sleep. Now the cot and changing table have given way to book shelves and a bed and her favourite pink toys. And my time is limited to a couple of stories at bedtime.

Since my sister gave birth a couple of weeks ago I have become an uncle as well as a father. Seeing her baby has made me think of those times. My daughter pulled some photos out the other day showing me with dark hair and beard, looking a lot more than three and a half years younger. Few hints yet of the grey to come. Our daughter grins when we point to her baby self and tell her that it’s her. I think she thinks we are joking. Or maybe just deluded. I can see what she means though, since it all seems so long ago. I’m absurdly nostalgic. I could sit for weeks looking at one photograph if left alone long enough. I feel nostalgic about people, places, even objects … and myself. I have great affection for my younger self. So innocent and unknowing. I’d like to have been able to put an avuncular arm around myself and say there wasn’t anything to worry about. I’d get through. The early years are very short. You’ll be alright. Just stick with it. It might even be useful advice for my daughter one day.

Thursday 3 May 2007

Boiling Over

Our hot water isn’t hot any more. It happened a couple of days ago but until the tank ran out we didn’t realise what was going on. Time then to reach for the well-thumbed directory of exorbitant London tradesmen. How much will it cost us this time? Somewhere between £200 and £300 if past experience is anything to go by. Just what type of person are these charges pitched at? The sort who don’t blink at spending half a million on a place to rest their heads between trips to the office I suppose. So I went to the gym to have a shower. While I was there I had a sauna too. So much more relaxing without the workout that should go before it. Gym membership is another ridiculous cost. Several hundred pounds a year to take my daughter swimming and have a shower when the boiler breaks. Mind you, compared to the cost of mending the boiler that’s quite good value.

Perhaps I should go on a DIY course. I should definitely be better at DIY with our cashflow situation as it is. I do what I can. I really do. But it's not just the DIY. There are other aspects of being a parent I just don’t seem to be able to get to grips with, no matter how much I might want to. Among these are:


It’s not so much that I forget to take my daughter's bag with us on trips and playdates, but that I don’t think of packing it in the first place.


I was recently at a friend’s house admiring the intricate tiaras made of silver foil and little stick people she had fashioned from sparkly pipecleaners with her daughter. It’s just not me.


I cook. But I don’t bake. Cupcakes are a mystery to me.


Spending half an hour choosing a fairy toothrush with my daughter like my wife does is beyond me. I just don’t have the patience. “How about this one? It’s pink.” is about my limit.

Mutual hairbrushing.

It seems to come so easily to mums. If my daughter wields the hairbrush in my direction I begin to feel a bit funny. “Great. Thanks. That’s enough!


I kiss it better, of course. But extended sympathy for minor ailments doesn’t come easily. If she’s really sick I do leap into action though.

Imaginary play.

A bit of it is good. “Look, this is a pretend ice cream. Yes. Strawberry, Mmm.” That’s fine for a while, but eventually I just have to go on to something more…real. Like a newspaper.


I’m a shampoo man. Conditioner I don’t understand. Also, I never seem to dry my daughter’s hair enough for my wife’s tastes.


I’m forever forgetting to buy milk when only a thin meniscus remains in the two pint bottle. (And quite often I find I haven’t bought any food either. Luckily I’m quite good at creating dishes from the contents of the food cupboard.)


I tend to leave my daughter’s discarded clothes (bath, bedtime etc) where they are taken off, meaning to pick them up later. Strangely, whenever I return someone else has already removed them…

Saying “I love you”.

Isn’t it about showing not telling? No? Well, I’m working on it.

Wednesday 2 May 2007

Scooter Girl

It is such a nice evening that my daughter and I decide to go for a spontaneous scoot around the block before bathtime. She’s had the scooter – pink, three-wheeler, one on every street corner - for a few months now but has only just perfected her driving. Previously, every time she attempted to scoot she would crash into a wall and march away from the scene of the accident, windmilling her arms. Then, folding them, she would stamp her foot and exclaim “I’m NOT going to SCOOT any MORE.” Now, after plenty of practice during the school holidays she has successfully made it through the temper barrier and sails the streets in a flurry of pink.

The back streets near our house are empty so she is able to scoot freely along pavements and across roads, with me shadowing her like a bodyguard. We skirt the pub, with its leering Banksy rats in stucco, and arrive at Ledbury road. We turn left and sail past all the clothes shops and handbag shops, on towards another pub. The pavement is filled with drinkers, and men look on smiling, women giggle knowingly as we speed past. These are the rewards of childcare, I remark to myself. We motor on. More smiles, laughter. How the world loves us: a father and his daughter cruising the stucco streets of West London. Maybe they are laughing fondly at my daughter's pink satin glove which dangles from the handle of her scooter, I think.

Finally we complete our circuit and arrive home. After parking the scooter in the hall we tell my wife about our trip and how everyone was so happy to see us whizzing around the locale. My wife grins and points downwards. Suddenly I understand the smiles and the laughter. My flies are gaping wide open.