Tag Archives: fun

(Too) great expectations

20 Feb

the-view-from-dover-castleLast week was half term but this made little difference to my economic circumstances, so through a cunning (and winning) combination of kind friends, family, childcare and a 12-yr-old fired up to find her own entertainment, I managed to fit five days into four and take Friday off.

We would, I decided, have a proper day out, something which weekend commitments and work often put paid to.

I was really excited about it. I love hanging with my kids and in an ideal world – one where people funded me just to ‘be’ rather than to ‘do’, and one where school-years education was absorbed by osmosis rather than in-school attendance, that kind of ideal world – I would do it all the time. We had never been to Dover Castle and Friday, I decided, represented the moment all that would change.

However, lurking darkly in the back of my mind is the knowledge that the optimism generated from anticipation prior to a day’s adventure is rarely matched by the actual experience. Someone – usually more than one someone – is not in the right frame of mind to enjoy, and I am left trying to work out why actuality doesn’t always reach the heights of expectation. 

I think that word, ‘expectation’, turns out to be to blame. I want it to be great, not just Facebook-photo great, but actually in-real-life great. And because we’re all in the same boat, looking forward to being in the same place at the same time with no other demands, we all have the same aspirations.

No surprises, it’s impossible to match reality to these over-high expectations. It’s why in our household the impromptu (which I am absolutely rubbish at) tends to be the most successful, because no-one has anything to anticipate; but being impromptu when any attempt at it needs to be scheduled to the n-th degree, to fit in with everything else, contradicts the term and as a result doesn’t work.

Looking at it rationally, with sky-high expectations filed firmly under ‘give yourself a break’, it was a great day, when viewed upon a normal plane of greatness. We saw some fascinating exhibits – the Dover Castle War Tunnels and hospital are highly recommended – and spent the day together mostly out in the almost-sunshine without interruption. Yes, L2 became hangry on the way home, and had a ‘moment’; yes, L1 was overtired and started the very early morning off with a little bit of weeping, but why should it be those incidents that I allow to loom large in my memory when the rest of the day was what long-term memories are made of?

A perfect day is one in which we are together, and one where we can be honest and genuine with each other, without any grudges or long-term repercussions; we take the rough with the smooth because there’s no need to paper over the cracks with family.


I don’t want to go swimming

2 May

  L2 has moved into the Big Pool at long last. He is a child whose perception of his swimming ability leapfrogs his actual swimming ability, so this has been a long time coming.

His new lesson necessitates a mad dash to the pool after school, which is hectic but overall makes the evening more civilised. When we first got to the pool at the new time, it was almost completely empty. Sitting safely in the bleachers comfy and non-wet, the sun streaming in and a virtually unsullied water surface beneath me, I felt a romantic surge of desire to be in that water. Turning to L1 I said “We should definitely swim next week.”

Oh, how foolish, how short-sighted of me. This statement constituted a promise, and forces me to uncover one of my darkest parental secrets: I don’t like going swimming.

Actually, this is not strictly true. Swimming in certain circumstances – abroad in the near-Tropics, for instance; in a spa; on a hotel rooftop; in the sea (with or without waves), that sort of thing – these are all more than fine. My dislike of swimming in leisure centres in the UK started with general distaste for the changing rooms – squelchy mush from what on earth between the toes; discarded hairbands and discarded actual hair; plasters with something yellow on them entrapping you at every turn; the faint but omni-present tang of urine – and moved on to the whole general experience – the fact that it is always much colder than you expect; the difference in temperature between the very top surface and anywhere beneath; those drains in the side of the pool and even worse those drains at the bottom; the fact you don’t know what is in the trough beneath the poolside and you have to put a foot in there to get out – honestly the list goes on and on and on.

Yet I don’t feel it would be wise to share this distaste with my offspring. Already prone to squeamishness around items and events that I dismiss as over-pampered, I can hardly share this one with them, especially as I believe swimming is a crucial skill to master and most importantly because they love it. 

The odd involuntary exclamation of horror has escaped my lips in a swimming pool while in their presence – when I saw the cockroach, for instance, and his semi-decapitated friend; and when the smell of wee was identified as actual wee in our cubicle –  and I do urge speed in the changing rooms at all cost (but I disguise that effectively beneath a veneer of concern regarding over-zealous traffic wardens). But mostly I have to grit my teeth, get a grip and use the medium of this blog as therapy. 

Things my 17-year-old self should know

12 Nov

On Saturday night I went with One of the Best People Ever to see the Carter USM, the – I should say The – indie band of my late teens.  The stark differences in my circumstances between when I last saw them, at the Tonbridge Angel Centre, in 199* (my age needs to remain mid-thirties, so no more details will be forthcoming on that final figure) have not passed me by.

An indicator of the above is the fact that when Carter played Brixton last, November 2007, I had tickets, but was unable to go because my nearly-four-month-old son was refusing to take the bottle, so my presence at home rather than moshing in Brixton was, naturally, required.

This time there was no moshing; frankly I don’t think that was the reason such neurosurgical skill was brought to bear on my lower spine, so best left alone. In related news, both my partner in gigs and I disappointed our daughters by choosing trainers rather than heels as gig footwear of choice.

But regardless of all these caveats we had a cracking time; my ears are ringing, retinas seared and feet ache (in a good, non-spinal-nerve-pressure way – hurrah!). How much fun is it sometimes just to have fun: plain, simple, ‘not thinking about anything else’ fun? I’d kind of forgotten, and we’re going to do it a bit more often in the future, I hope.

It did get me thinking though, if I could go back to the first Carter gig, the one I attended ‘just a few years ago’ (ahem), and inspired by the inverse of the wonderful eels song ‘things the grandchildren should know’, what would I tell my 17-year-old self that doesn’t qualify as a ‘spoiler alert’, but might make things a bit easier in those strange, vibrant, difficult, unforgettable late teen years?

1)      You’ll still like Carter when you’re skidding towards 40, so age doesn’t decay your excellent musical taste (woo hoo)
2)      The guy you’re with at the moment, turns out he isn’t the one, so don’t worry about trying to fix everything, just relax and have fun – because he is lovely and you still remember the relationship very fondly, decades on
3)      You realise it’s better to be strong and determined and get to be proficient at it – don’t sweat it, it will come
4)      Contrary to appearances, you do get to travel, although don’t hold your breath for travelling in style – you’ve never been SFU, well not to date, anyway…
5)      You do get what you need in your A-levels, just not quite in the way everyone’s expecting – but that works out for the best so just keep going, slow and steady will do it
6)      There’s a smoking ban in 2007 so no-one accuses you of having a cigarette every time you go out after that – and actually that stops when you leave home anyway

That would probably do.

The one about free gift days

9 Apr

I don’t know why they enforced the hosepipe ban from last Thursday.  It is of course the perennial Easter Monday tradition: we’ve all got the day off and outdoor egg hunts are planned, so it tips it down.  If they’d just waited til today was over we would probably have got an additional week of domestic irrigation out of it.  I am, incidentally, being thinkingly frivolous about this point.  We need the rain around here, urgently, and I applaud its arrival.

It’s just that, coming today, it necessitated a rapid change of plan to an alternative activity that doesn’t incorporate everyone-on-holiday softplay horror or wandering round shopping malls without any money to spend.  Bank Holidays are sacred for me, they’re different to annual leave, they’re free days which are delivered as little gifts in return for late nights and early mornings and missed bedtimes and concerts and being cross when they’re doing homework because you’ve had a knackering day.  In short, they’re compulsory family time.

This means that we want to do something special, but what’s special in the pouring rain.  Actually today we had a wicked day.  We decamped with old friends to Chislehurst Caves, a mini-adventure on our doorstep – why we hadn’t been before, who knows?  – and made the most of the rain (along with about 200 other Bank Holiday wet weather distraction seekers, but no bothers) by spending almost an hour underground.

They’ve calmed the commentary down somewhat since I went as an early teen – no more searching the crowd at the alleged sacrificial altar for fair-haired young boys for Druid sacrifice, an action that put the fear of the ancients into my little brother, but which therefore passed L2 (who fits the bill, believe me) by – but this is probably a good thing, I accept that.  We did stand in the dark – pitch, saying you can’t see your hand in front of your eye is an understatement here – to listen to the 25 second echo from a mallet strike on metal, which L1 said was her second favourite thing of the whole weekend; and we peeked into the past of this area, where we have put down proper roots.   Top free gift day; back to reality, tomorrow.