Friday, December 29, 2006

A toy kitchen for Chanukah

My parents gave my children a toy kitchen for Chanukah. It came in a big cardboard box. A very big cardboard box.

I hate big cardboard boxes because they never, ever leave the house.


They cause rows which usually end with me feeling as if I am behaving like Idi Amin (as long as Idi Amin is an oppressive dictator - if not, replace with another oppressive dictator, of course another implies that Idi Amin is an oppressive dictator so I should have said replace with an oppressive dictator instead of replace with another opressive dictator - sorry ) just because I want to get rid of a HUGE PIECE OF JUNK WHICH IS SITTING IN MY HOUSE, TAKING UP MY ENTIRE SITTING ROOM.

Once the toy kitchen was assembled and all the plastic bags and polystyrene bits were gathered up ready to go into the dustbin I looked the box up and down and firmly announced "That box is DEFINITELY going in the bin, tonight,"

I emphasized the word "definitely" by saying it with capital letters.

"Definitely," said Polly.

"Good," I said, and walked out to the bins to chuck all the plastic bags and polystyrene bits away. It took 30 seconds.

I came back in to find Elly making faces like this... and giggling and saying "Oh Mummy, It will be so beautiful,"

Mick was shouting "Weeeeyyyyy" and lifting his fists above his head and then dropping them as if they were very heavy.

He was alternating this with making an exaggerated "oooh" face and pointing at the box and shouting "Mooor Mooor Mooor..." which means "This is a good thing. This is a very good thing. A very good thing is happening. I am excited by this very good thing and I wish to communicate it to all of you and am doing so. It is good. Very good. Probably the best thing I have ever seen."

Polly was bent over the box with a pair of scissors and a Stanley knife.

"But Polly..." I said.

"Just for a little while," Polly said.

That was on the 15th December. Today it is 29th December.

How long is a little while?

To make matters worse, Polly has encouraged the children to decorate the box. I can see it now. It has pink tissue paper all over it, stickers stuck in patterns and felt tip scribbles in a variety of colours. Now, of course, the children "own" the house and they love it.

It didn't help that everyone who came over to our house for Christmas said "WOW! LOOK AT THAT AMAZING HOUSE!”

Every time someone said "WOW, LOOK AT THAT AMAZING HOUSE!" Elly would do her princess face and Polly would glance at me and say "Yes, it's brilliant isn't it?" and inside my brain I would feel a little bit more anxious that the house would never ever leave my living room.

I walked into the living room the other day and found Mick sitting there in the house. He had organised himself a little pebble lamp and was babbling away to himself, smiling in delight out of his window at me. He looked about as at home and content as anyone could ever be.

What a nightmare.

On Christmas Eve I went to buy some eggs for making special creamy custard to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Jesus loves us to eat custard on his birthday. Especially those of us who are Jewish. This is all beside the point though.

Outside the supermarket stood three boys with hooded tops on. They were all laughing and seemed to be having a lot of fun. They had acne and spoke with voices that sounded as if they mainly watched ITV, which made me feel a little bit scared of them, but they were very young so I summoned up all my courage and continued walking towards them.

They all started laughing particularly hard as I approached. I felt angry that these boys were taking the piss. Who did they think they were? Ok, I'm fat at the moment, and I've got a beard and I was wearing a pair of sandals, but really, this is just - well, taking the piss.

I really hate having the piss taken out of me by kids, especially kids who hang out in Cherry Hinton.

Once, as I was running through Cherry Hiton, a girl on a bike punched me.

Another time as I was running through Cherry Hinton a boy on a bike (always on a bike) rode past me and shouted "Yeah, that's right, you fat fucker, you should be running, you fat fucker" and then he blew his cheeks out at me and held his hand out in front of his tummy and shouted "You fat fucker" all the time cycling downhill but looking back at me, determined to put across the message that he considered me to be a fat fucker.

The joke was on him though, because I already knew I was a fat fucker, hence the running.

It's so unfair that this should happen to me. I was bullied badly enough at school for being a fatty and for having rubbish glasses and for having an afro and for having big ear lobes and for having a brace on my teeth and for having a small penis. Now that I am an adult with better glasses, short hair, less noticeable ear lobes, perfect teeth and an absolutely enormous penis it seems unjust that people are still allowed to pick on me like this.

Adrenaline coursed through my body, making me alert to every aspect of my situation, a coiled spring ready to unleash my fury at these three idiots.

This all happened instantly, like a Hitchcockian reverse zoom. All the information filled me up and flipped me inside out, leaving me floating above the scene, disorientated, an observer - maybe the long floating shot at the end of Taxi Driver is a more appropriate simile, as Travis Bickle bleeds out of consciousness and the camera dispassionately floats upwards to survey the full consequence of his twisted retribution.

I saw myself step closer.

I saw the hooded tops braying.

I saw my brow furrow, my fists clench, my eyes lock with hooded top number 3.

I saw hooded tops 1 and 2 glance towards one another, then back to number 3, then watched again as they tipped back their heads and laughed once more.

I saw that hooded boy number 3 wasn't laughing.

I saw that hooded boy number 3 was on fire. Not as in "eager, ardent, zealous" - hoods number 1 and 2 had set fire to hood 3 with a clipper lighter.

This was brilliant. They weren't laughing at me after all.

My consciousness returned to normal and I walked jauntily past the boys and into the supermarket to buy the eggs.

Later on, in the supermarket, I overheard the following conversation between the boys in the hoods...

"Do you know Albie?"


"He bottled a man outside Tesco in Arbury last week."

"Yeah. I know."

The custard was superb. I boiled the cream with the zest of an orange first, then let it cool. It was delicious.

Elly went round to play at her friend's house on Friday when we went to the hospital to get Mick checked out. Her friend's Dad asked us if we could bring Elly's bike with us. Elly doesn't fit onto her bike any more, so we had to take over the scooter that Jesus' dad, Father Christmas, gave to her.

Inevitably this led us thinking that Elly could probably do with having a bike that fit so I negotiated that I would take Elly straight from her friend's house to Halfords to buy a bike.

"Don't get a pink bike," said Polly.

"O.k." I said.

"And don't get a bike with streamers," said Polly.

"O.k." I said.

"And don't get a Barbie bike, for fuck's sake," said Polly.

"Polly, don't you think..." I said

"Fine, do what you want," said Polly.

"O.K. I'll try my best not to get a pink bike." I said.

I picked Elly up from her friend's house. She was tired out but very, very excited about going to buy a bike.

"What sort of bike will we get Daddy?" said Elly.

"A pink bike, with streamers. A Barbie bike if we can find one," I said.

Now, whilst this is a fairly typical piece of passive aggressive point scoring, I also believe that if I get her a really boyish bike without any of the criteria that she wishes to have fulfilled, then she'll not want to ride her bike.

If I get her something as pink as can be, she'll want to ride it every day, and that, to me, is more important than anything.

Apart from scoring a point.

Halfords off Newmarket Road is a massive warehouse with an enormous bike shop at the top. It is about the same size as an aircraft hangar.

On the way in I see that a clothes shop has opened up next to Halfords and mention to Elly that I would like to visit it to get some clothes.

"OK Daddy, but after the bike please, I am too excited." said Elly.

After walking for hours and hours to get from the doors up the stairs we finally reach the bikes.

Straight away Elly spots her bike. It is pink. It has streamers. It has a baby seat for a dolly. It has a unicorn on it. It has a glittery seat.

"I want that one," says Elly.

It is obviously far too small for her.

"How about this one?" I say, steering her towards a pink camouflage Raleigh.

"No, I need a bike with a unicorn," says Elly.

"Excuse me, can I have some help?" I say.

"Sure," says the assistant, blinking his eyes, dipping his head and lifting his shoulders in one fluid movement which says "But only because my boss is in today."

"Is it right that this unicorn bike is much too small for Elly?" I say.

"Yes," says the assistant.

"Good." I say. "Which bikes will fit her?"

"This one," he says, pointing to the camo bike that I had my eye on, "or this one" he says, bringing over a purple bike.

"But Daddy, it has to have a unicorn, sparkles and baby seat for my Barbie" says Elly, her bottom lip jutting out, her teeth clamped together, her nose screwed up and the sadness of a shattered dream leaking out of her eyes.

"Well, that one doesn't fit you Elly, you can have this nice pink one, or this lovely purple one," I say.

"But Daddy, it has to have a unicorn, sparkles and baby seat for my Barbie," says Elly, except now she's crying.

"Sorry Elly, they don't have a unicorn bike in a size that will fit you. It's either one of the other bikes or we go home, now what do you want to do? This one has a furry saddle!" I say. I am trying not to appear desperate, but I feel quite hot and I can sense that my pulse is raised.

"But Daddy, it has to have a unicorn, sparkles and baby seat for my Barbie."

Now she's screaming.

"OK Elly, that's it, we'll have to go," I say, bluffing, and I pick her up without a word of explanation to the bemused teenager floating in front of me.

Elly's voice expands to fill every single atom of Halfords as we descend the stairs. I feel like I'm at an award ceremony, and Halfords clientele are our appreciative audience. (Halfords is RAMMED because it's about the only shop open in the post Christmas purgatory)

Elly screams the following things to the delight of her audience...

"You're not my friend, you’re horrible...

Mummy's not going to be impressed with you...

It's not funny, stop laughing at me...

I want the unicorn bike...


This last, desperate cry is drawn out with a spectacular stiffen up, lean back and curve the body like a banana caterwaul that draws an awed murmur from the crowd.

We eventually reach a car seat which is used to demonstrate how to strap in a baby seat. I sit Elly on my knee and talk her down, using a combination of all my deadliest child calming skills including saying "I'd love to buy you the unicorn bike but..." and "I know, I know, I know" and ending with a threat to go straight home in a slightly raised voice which shuts her up long enough to convince her that we'll go back upstairs and re-consider the pink and the purple bikes.

We take another long walk up the stairs, with me grinning in a sort of "what can you do?" way at every other customer I walk past. They all look at me for long enough to let me know that they sympathize but that there's no way they're going to get involved - like the way all the other comedians on the bill look at you when you die in a club.

"So Elly, here are the bikes, which one do you fancy, the pink one or the purple one?"


We repeat the performance down the stairs. Eventually the humiliation gets so bad that something inside me snaps and I now want it to be the worst it can possibly be so I start whispering to her "Sorry, I can't hear you Elly, can you possibly shout a little louder?" and she amps it up each time I whisper this until she's screaming like Black Francis used to before he became Frank Black.

As soon as we get outside of the shop Elly realizes that she's really not going to get a bike today and I'm really going to take her home so she lashes out at me, pulls my ears, scratches me on the cheeks and eyes and finally punches me in the face before sobbing all the way home and playing out the following sketch:

Scene: A Honda Civic. It is night time.

Elly: Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, I need to speak to you Daddy, Daddy please.

Daddy: What is it Elly?

Elly: But I'm very worried that I'll never find a bike with a unicorn Daddy.
(a pause.)

Elly: Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, I need to speak to you Daddy, Daddy please.

(Dialogue repeats until the car pulls into a house on the outskirts of Cambridge.)

I opened the front door of my house to hear Polly shouting at me.


"What's the matter?" I said.

"Mick. He's shat. Everywhere."

I look into the living room. She is right. There is shit everywhere. On the carpet. On the chair, On the...

"Oh no, Polly, look, he's shat all over his cardboard house,"

"Yes," said Polly.

"Oh no, we'll have to throw the house away," I said.

"Yes," said Polly, glancing at me, wiping her brow with the back of a latex gloved hand. "Did you get a bike?"

Elly throws herself on the floor and howls.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Reading Diaries

Here is a letter I sent home to the parents today.

Dear Parents/Carers

Reading Diaries

We will be collecting in the Reading Diaries this Friday, 15th December, to mark over the holidays.

Despite what they may tell you, this doesn’t mean that the children “don’t need to read” throughout the holidays.

As everybody knows, children need to read all the time. If they don’t, their brains will go rusty and eventually their heads will drop off.

The children will be encouraged to take books home from school to read as usual.

Finally, we would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for your support and encouragement over the last few weeks in the run up to the play. We couldn’t have done it without you.

Have a great Christmas, see you in the New Year.

Mr Trent and Mrs Williams

Monday, December 11, 2006

Harsh? I think not.

We did our first performance of the Christmas play this afternoon.

Lots of people said "Oh, it was very good David, you are being very harsh for saying it wasn't very good," but I was furious, and when you read my list of what went wrong, I'm sure you'll agree with me that the children could have done better.

1) Eveyone came onstage late during "Mrs O' Deary"

2) During the final verse of "Mrs O' Deary" 50% of the children sang the second verse and 50% of the children sang the first verse, when they all know they should repeat the first verse.

3) Passer by 2 didn't speak very loudly.

4) The teachers didn't come on stage for AGES and AGES.

5) Carol Singer 6 looked behind him as he sang onstage.

6) Child no. 5 forgot the cauliflower.

7) Child no. 5 forgot to shout "Let's go mad!" for AGES and AGES.

8) Market Salesman forgot to show the "Neever Spee Carbung" boxes to the audience.

9) Grandad Tom came onstage and stood next to Market Salesman instead of blending into the background.

10) Father Christmas started laughing halfway through a line.

11) An Elf fell over.

12) A rythmic gymnast got caught up in her ribbon.

13) Father Christmas was on the opposite side of the stage to the music box.

14) No-one sang "Wake Up" for the first three lines.

15) Carol singer 8 kept doing "the actions" to songs where there were no official actions.

16) The Elves gave out the presents very quickly, too quickly in fact.

17) The people watching the carol singers put too much money in the collection bucket instead of watching the carol singers.

18) Myrtle sat in the leading off position, even though we had discussed that Peter would sit in the leading off position.

19) Myrtle did not lead the children off the stage.

20) The children all stood around in the corridor outside and shouted "We were excellent" instead of going back to their classrooms.

21) Market Salesman opened his suitcase and pulled out the christmas underpants and tucked them into his trousers at the end of the performance instead of having pre-prepared them.

I was very upset.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Do you believe?

Last night the next door neighbours got robbed. A nasty burglar broke into their house and stole some of their computer laptops. Our neighbour knocked on our door. I don't know his name and will refer to him as "my neighbour" from now on.

"Hello, we got burgled this evening, did you see or hear anything?" he said.

"No, sorry, we didn't hear anything," I said.

"It would have happened at about quarter to seven," he said.

This is the children's bed time. At bed time the children usually scream and I usually try to get away with not putting them to bed and lying on the sofa, so it can be a fraught time.

"Oh no, I wouldn't have heard anything, that's usually when I beat you isn't it?" I said to Polly.

"You are an idiot," said Polly.

She re-iterated that sentiment when I bemoaned the fact that my neighbour who had just had his laptops stolen with loads of really important data on them didn't laugh at my brilliant jokes.

Then I excitedly recalled that I had seen someone throught their window at about quarter to seven. I had been fixing the children's milk bottles. There was nothing wrong with them, fixing the milk bottles is just an American expression which means "filling up the children's milk bottles and warming them up in the microwave,"

By American I mean an expression which originates in the United States of America.

When I said "bottles" I should point out that Elly doesn't technically have a bottle any more so don't be horrified, she drinks out of a cup like any other normal child. Mick doesn't have a bottle either, he has a beaker, so get off my back about giving my children bottles this late in their development, I don't.

Anyway, you pendants, while I was fixing the bottles I glanced through out through my kitchen window and in through their hall stairs window and saw a chap running down the stairs. I remembered this and thought to myself "AHA - THIS INFORMATION IS USEFUL IT GIVES ME ANOTHER OPPORTUNITY TO TRY AND MAKE MY NEIGHBOUR LAUGH OR AT LEAST MAKE HIM THINK I AM A DRUNK MENTAL," I ran next door, barefoot, very excited and stinking of whiskey, knocked on the door and shouted this...

"I just remembered, I did see someone coming down your stairs. I was looking through your window, but don't worry, I'm not stalking you, I just happened to look through your window, actually I am stalking you, I always stare through your window to see if you are there..."

And my neighbour said "Should we try to be more interesting?" and pulled some dance moves.

"More nudity please," I said, and thought "Jolly good improv session with the neighbours. Well done me. I will definitely be a brilliant stand up comedian one day, now I wonder if I can remember what I came over here to tell them about?"

Then I remembered and told my neighbours that I had seen a person in their house, but he didn't look like a burglar because he didn't have a stripy jumper or a mask on. My neighbour went with it and said "What about a bag which said swag? No?" and once again I was giving myself mental high fives for my comedic ability.

Anyway, I left my little routine on a peak. Today there is a card from the police saying they would like me to phone them to tell them all about it. I should phone the number on the card and see how many jokes I can get away with when talking to the police.

Later on that night I was lying in bed thinking about Father Christmas. I was really really thinking about him, as I am directing the school play and am having difficulty becoming excited by the scene in the play where Father Christmas comes into the bedroom and gives out presents to the children. It is a little dreary, and having a man creep amusingly around the bedroom whilst the children are asleep seems a little dangerous and sinister.

This leaves me with a problem, as the end of the school play consists of Father Christmas and his assorted gang of hangers on sneaking around sleeping children and leaving presents by the end of their beds.

So I lay in bed at going to sleep time thinking about Father Christmas. I began to imagine a fireplace and Father Christmas emerging from the fireplace, drinking his glass of sherry and eating his mince pies, which the children inform me is what they leave out for Father Christmas.

I was searching for an answer that would enliven my play and started saying to myself over and over again "Do you believe in Father Christmas? Do you believe in Father Christmas? Do you believe in Father Christmas? Do you believe in Father Christmas?"

At this juncture I should point out that I was thinking this in my head - shouting it out loud would have woken Polly up. I've also made it sound as if I was being very deliberate about this process, but it was rather involuntary - my mind was in pre-sleep autopilot.

Then all of a sudden I had a massive epiphany - I really, really don't believe in Father Christmas, and I have proof that he doesn't exist - I am a parent now, and if I didn't buy Elly and Mick presents, there would be no presents for them. It isn't Father Christmas who gives the chidren their presents, it is us, the parents.

This, for me, in the gossamer haze that seperates awake and asleep was a monumentous realisation. I was ecstatic. I didn't believe in Father Christmas and I had real, intangible proof, and I just had to tell someone, right now.

In the cold light of day I see that I was confused and sleepy, that I had gotten Father Christmas and Jesus slightly mixed up and that, instead of stumbling upon a Dawkins like evolutionary theory which would destroy Christianity in one swift blow, I was merely re-iterating a fact that I had known to be true for maybe 30 years.

Luckily I have a wife.

I hit Polly about 6 times on the leg, whispering "Polly" each time in an urgent manner.

She sat bolt upright and shouted "What, shit, what?" I think she was experiencing panic and confusion.

"Polly, I don't believe in Father Christmas," I said.


"But Polly, I don't believe in Father Christmas, I actually don't believe in Father Christmas,"

"Go to sleep. You idiot...Jesus Christ,"

This evening I was downstairs fixing milk for the children whilst Polly put them to bed and I looked back up through the neigbours window as I did last night.

I was horrified to see a figure standing there, so I looked more intently and recognised my neighbour, looking back at me.

We both looked at each other for far too long not to acknowlege each other. Really should have just carried on our business, but he waved at me. I didn't know what to do, so I paused a while and waved back.

I then carried on fixing the bottles glancing seriously at my watch to give off the message that I am not a stalker (even though I said I was to them), that I don't always look through their window (even though I said I did to them, and they caught me doing so) I am simply a concerned, mature, responsible, caring neighbour, checking their window at about the same time that they were burgled last night.

I was all alone in the kitchen when I looked into their window, and my neighbour was standing with his wife. After he waved at me, I thought my neighbour looked at his wife and laughed.

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