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Thursday, 27 March 2014

The Prisoner

"If ever you are going to be trapped in a tiny room for hours on end the downstairs toilet would be the best room for it to happen in.  Unlike, say, a lift, a sauna, or a cupboard, our downstairs toilet has running water, somewhere to sit down, and most importantly, it has a toilet.  It also has a small window that you could open for fresh air, or possibly even call for help from - or at least it would have had such a thing if we had not locked it in order to stop Jamie from throwing the toilet rolls out of it."
This, she told me later, was what Meg was thinking when, as you have probably guessed, Jamie trapped her in the downstairs toilet.  She had popped in for a few seconds to powder her nose, when the door closed behind her, and she heard a loud crash from outside.  Jamie had pulled the radiator off the wall, and it had fallen in front of the toilet door. 
I imagine that many of you reading this have never seen a radiator that has been pulled from a wall.  I had not, until recently.  I would have thought that the act of pulling it from the wall would also have broken the pipes attached to it, leading to water gushing everywhere and a massive plumber's bill, but no.  Somehow, the pipes at the bottom of the radiator remained intact, and the whole thing swiveled away from the wall and landed in front of the toilet door.  Being a heavy radiator, and still being attached to the wall via the pipes, it would not move at all, and the door could not be opened more than a centimetre or two.  Perhaps it would have been possible to force the door open, but that would certainly have broken the pipes, and probably the door too.
So Meg was trapped.
Jamie, on the other hand, had the freedom of the house. He finally had the freedom to do whatever he wanted. He could eat all the chocolate in the sweet drawer, shred every piece of paper in the office, microwave the guinea pigs .... or he could just hunt around for where Meg had hidden the house keys, unlock the door, and go exploring around the neighbourhood.  
How long would Meg be trapped for?  Well, I work in an office 30 minutes drive away, so if she could have called me at work, I could have been home in half an hour.  However, her mobile phone was on the kitchen windowsill, not in her pocket.  My working day was 9am to 5pm.  Unfortunatley it was only 10:15am, so it was over 7 hours before I would due to return.  Fortunately though, it was actually a Saturday, and I was not at work at all, I was upstairs, wondering what the crash was.  When I heard "Steve!  I'm trapped in the toilet!" shouted a few seconds later, I thought I had better go and investigate.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Crack problem

We had forgotten to give Jamie a travel sickness pill.  Normally, we can drive at least 45 minutes without any risk of car sickness, and sometimes an hour.  This journey, according to the Satnav, was 52 minutes.  Trying to drive all the way without stopping would be a gamble.

We were twenty minutes into the journey when Meg said "Open Jamie's window just a tiny bit, and give him some fresh air."

Doing this would also be a risk.  We both knew that Jamie likes nothing better than livening up a car journey by throwing things out of the window - his shoes, his socks, my sunglasses, the Satnav - whatever he can reach really.  This is why we always have the car windows shut and the child locks on.

"Just a tiny bit then." I said. "Hold his hands while I do it - if I open it too far, you know what will happen."

So Meg held his hands, and I lightly flicked the relevant button.  I need not have worried about opening it too far. I judged it right first time, and the window opened by about a centimetre. Meg released Jamie's hands, and relaxed. There was no way that anything he could reach was going to fit through that tiny crack.

Or so we thought.  Jamie sat and studied the situation for a while.  He made no attempt to grab anything and force it through, but he scanned round the car with his eyes, mentally calculating whether anything was going to fit.  In an attempt to stay one step ahead, Meg moved everything that was less than five centimetres thick to the other side of the vehicle.

So we continued on our journey for about another minute or two.  All of a sudden I heard Meg shouting behind me.

"No Jamie!  Stop that!  Aaaargh! You naughty boy!  That was brand new!"

Startled, I looked in the rear view mirror.  I saw Jamie looking back at me.  There was something different about him.  Wasn't he wearing a baseball cap a few minutes ago?

Yes, even though a baseball cap looks as though it is as big as your head, the truth is that you can feed the peak of the cap through a very small opening, as Jamie knew instinctively you could, and had proved.  I would have thought that main body of the cap would have got stuck, but no, it did not.  Perhaps the wind took it and sucked it through.  It was all over in a second.
"Sorry."  said Jamie.  But I don't think he was.
I got the hat back eventually.  We were on a busy A road, and I had to drive on a few hundred yards before finding somewhere I could stop the car, then run back down the road.  There was no footpath, so I was dodging speeding cars and lorries, to rescue the cap that was sat in the middle of the road, on a white line.  It was good exercise for me, and the way I see it, the fact that I could have been run over and killed, just makes life seem all the sweeter.

That's not really true, I just like to end on a positive note.

Oh, and one other positive note - the unscheduled stop broke up the journey, and Jamie did not get travel sickness after all.  Hmmm ... I wonder if that was his plan all along?

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

The Red Light

One night, a few days after Jamie had been born, I was on my way to the hospital to visit him in intensive care,  I stopped at some traffic lights on the outskirts of the town, and looked up to my left to see a giant advertising billboard.  The advert on the poster was for a particular brand of baby milk that claimed to make your child more intelligent.  It featured a young baby, about six months old, wearing a nappy.  The baby had been playing with alphabet blocks, and had rearranged them to form a word.  The word was "PAEDIATRICIAN".

As I looked at the poster I felt a small stab of anguish; I knew that Jamie was never going to be one of these children.  He was never going to grow up to be a paediatrician.  He was never even going to be able to spell the word.

As the poignancy of the situation dawned on me, a song started playing on the radio - a sad 80s power ballad - and I became aware of how I would appear to an observer at that point.  I imagined myself as a character in a movie - a tear jerking drama in which I was played by some brooding hunk - Robert Pattinson perhaps.  His life had fallen apart, and the universe seemed to be mocking him; all the while the movie soundtrack reverberated around the cinema.  It was even raining.

The traffic light changed to green.  I decided to wait a little longer.  I carried on sitting there, listening to the music, gazing forlornly at the giant super-baby that filled my field of vision, and properly feeling sorry for myself until the traffic light changed back to red again. 

After a few minutes, I decided that I had sat and felt sorry for myself for long enough, and it was time to carry on with my journey.  The song had ended, and an annoying local DJ was spoiling the mood by prattling on about petrol prices.  The  only problem was that the traffic light was still red.  A few more minutes passed, and the light was still red; I was starting to feel a little awkward.  I had always assumed that the traffic lights were in some sort of timed rotation, and they went from red to amber to green, and back, all day and all night.  However, as the light in front of me refused to turn green, it occurred to me that perhaps the change was initiated by some sort of sensor that detected a car approaching.  If this was the case, it was never going to turn green for me, because it had already detected my approach and, quite reasonably, assumed that I would have gone by now.  I was going to have to sit there until another car arrived behind me and got picked up by the sensor.  The only problem was, it was the middle of the night on a quiet road, and it could be half an hour before another car arrived. Even then, would the sensor detect it or would my own car block it?  

Eventually, I put the car into gear, and jumped the red light.  As I continued on my journey, I realized a few things for the first time.  The first was that I had been a ridiculous boob ten minutes earlier.  The second was that life is not like the movies; perhaps this is just as well otherwise there would have been a cop car that saw me jump the red light, and there would have been a car chase possibly culminating in a shoot-out ending in tragedy and Jamie would have had to grow up without a father.  The third realization is that if they ever did make a movie of my life, it would be a comedy.  I would not be played by Robert Pattinson, it would be Seth Grogan.

Year One

The first year of our life with Jamie's life was, I imagine, not dissimilar to the life of many first-time parents.  I know that there are lots of parents of babies who sleep through the might every night, need little attention, and are easily made happy.  Those are not the parents I mean.

What I mean is that the first year of our life with Jamie was not dissimilar to the life of many first-time parents whose baby demands constant attention all day and all night, and would regard himself/herself as having failed if either parent ever slept for more than twenty minutes at a time. 

I know that this is a common theme in parenting.  I know that we were not alone.  I think it is more common for a baby to be screaming for attention every time the exhausted parent nods off than it is for a baby to be sound sleeper.  I remember the reaction at work once when the father of a young baby casually mentioned that his child was a sound sleeper; the air turned blue for a few seconds as all the other parents told the young man exactly what they thought of him for mentioning this.  It dawned on me then that babies seem to be genetically programmed to disturb their parents sleep patterns. I am not sure why this should be the case.  What evolutionary advantage could there possibly be in having bleary-eyed young parents fighting fatigue while trying to keep their lives going?  Surely in prehistoric times, when predators roamed the Earth, having a screaming baby in the middle of the night announcing the family's exact location to all the hungry animals in the vicinity, was not a great idea.  You would have thought that in this context "survival of the fittest" would have meant "survival of the people who did not carry around with them a small thing that made a noise exactly like a dinner gong for lions and tigers and bears."

The thing that made it different for us though, is that those other parents knew that it was just a temporary situation.  They knew that the baby was going to grow out of it one day, and they could look forward to soon having an adorable toddler running around the house, then a sweet child, then a moody teenager who despises them (but they try not to think about that), then a young adult who will finally grow up to be a friend for ever.  We did not know that.  We had no idea what to expect.  I wish that I could go back in time and tell that poor young couple it would all be okay.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Heeeeere's Jamie!

Jamie used to kick holes in his bedroom wall.  We are not sure why. At one point, a few months ago, there were holes in the wall, pieces of plaster everywhere, the bed was broken, the curtain rail and curtains were in a pile in the corner of the room, and there was so much mess on the floor that you could not see the carpet.  It was like a crack den.

So, we got a man in. A real man that is, one who can do handyman stuff, unlike me (my father-in-law as it happens), and had the walls reinforced with wood panelling.

Since we had the walls reinforced, Jamie can no longer kick holes in them, so he kicked a hole in his bedroom door instead.  It took him ages to do it; you have to admire his dedication - it was like a cross between The Shawshank Redemption and The Shining.

I think he regrets it now, because it means we can spy on him in his bedroom, from the corridor.  The other day we were sat outside watching him play with his Toy Story figures.  Jessie was in a lot of trouble, which involved screaming, then Buzz and Woody rescued her, I think, or possibly murdered her - it's impossible to be certain.  Anyway, the point is we are normally forced to leave the room when he is playing, but now he cannot stop us watching.

So, I don't mind the hole too much.  One thing does trouble me though, and that is the discovery that the insides of our internal doors seem to be made of cardboard.