The Great Beyond

The accusation could be levelled at me that sometimes have an active imagination. At other times it escapes me entirely, reverts to type and does absolutely nothing. Take, for example, the way the soft toys that adorn the boys’ cots have been named. When I was a child, all of my soft toys had names, although all but a bear called Buttons escape me now. The boys’ soft toys however are called Rabbit, Dog, Squeaky Dog, Bear, Big Bear, Other Big Bear, Rabbit No 2, Dog, Sheep, Dog, Sheep-dog, Lamb, Monkey, Rabbit, Owl, Monster, Monster, Monster, Elephant and Badger. Badger is actually a Panda but I keep getting confused because both animals are black and white. I need to have a word with myself about this because Arthur is going to grow up wondering why there are so many dead pandas lying at the side of the road and why the badgers in zoos aren’t shagging and producing offspring.

After several weeks of it being out of action, I mended the ground floor toilet the other weekend. We have two other toilets, but if we are on the ground floor we either have to go down a flight of stairs or up a flight of stairs to use either of them, which was becoming tiresome – we need all the energy we can gather to look after the boys. It was looking after the boys that had prevented me from mending it in the first place. Mrs Aitchworld spends all day every day during the week with them, so for her the novelty of having twins can wear thin at times, so I try as best as possible to relieve her from some parental duties at weekends, which means the list of odd jobs that needs to be done keeps getting added to at the end and nothing from the top has been getting crossed off, the non-functioning ground floor toilet being one of them.

I’ve always been quite hands on when it comes to DIY. When I bought my first place, I swore I wouldn’t be like my dad doing DIY all the time. I was adamant that I would get a man in to fix anything that needed fixing. Then I found out how much men that you get in to fix things charge for doing it, so I soon changed my tune. We all turn into our parents eventually.

Getting the tools out and fixing the toilet after such a long time was quite satisfying. So, flushed with success and while I am on a roll, we have decided to capitalise on it and start a project we have talked about for a while now, which is to remove our current kitchen and install a new one. At some point we had also mooted the idea of having a kitchen diner, as they are all the rage and we have heard other parents talking about how they can do things in the kitchen while watching their children play in the dining/lounge area. This idea kept gnawing away at me. The obvious thing to do might be to buy a house that has a kitchen-diner. The problem with this is that we can’t move house because far too much needs doing to our current house in order to bring it up to a standard that we could consider selling it. And there is the fact we quite like it.

So we have decided to modify the existing house, which brings with it its own problems. In order to create this new living experience we have to remove the wall between the kitchen and the dining room. The issue in doing it this way is that the wall we would have to knock through is a foot thick, used to be an external wall, is load bearing and has been standing unchanged for 165 years. This is going to require getting a man in, so we got a builder round for a quote and to discuss the job. As a result of this meeting, the man is booked to come round next week with a large hammer and a thick bit of steel. At first I wasn’t at all worried about it. He is a builder, he comes recommended; this is what he does for a living. But on reflection, this is probably the most mental idea we have had since we decided to go on holiday with 5 month old twins. It’s right up there alongside deciding to have two embryos implanted following IVF treatment…

I am looking forward to getting a dishwasher though, as long as I don’t turn into my dad. I know it is inevitable that we all turn into our parents as I mentioned a few paragraphs ago, and I see more and more signs that I am turning into my dad with every passing year. We can’t have a conversation with each other about any sort of travel without naming roads of any particular trip by letter and number. All of them. Given that my job is to travel around the country to visit customers, they can be some of the most tedious conversations anyone could witness. But my dad is one of those people who washes all the dishes before putting them into the dishwasher. His argument is that he doesn’t want the filters to get a load of food clogged up in them. Seeing as he regularly cleans them anyway, and that it is their job to do such a thing, it seems rather fruitless. I shall be putting plates in our dishwasher with leftovers still on them. If we have chicken on the bone, the bones are going in. If I’m clever about it and catch the waste water, assuming I use no detergent, it could be a quick way of making a stock.

While I am on the subject of food and washing, every so often Arthur will eat something that disagrees with him and it all comes back up. I mentioned this earlier in the month; that he managed to vomit with such skill that I needed to change all of my clothes. It happened again this week, but this time it also got the duvet to the extent that it soaked through the cover and into the quilt itself. Mrs Aitchworld took it to a local laundry place, who wanted £24 to clean it. She took it to one of the national chains, who have a branch in our town, who wanted £26 to clean it. It is only £30 for an identical new one. In fact Aldi are doing an all seasons one in their super-special-deals next week for £18, so it doesn’t make any sense to have the old one clean. In the past I have worked 11 years in the recycling industry so I really do my best not to be wasteful, but I am failing to see a reason why I should spend more to have something cleaned than I would have to replacing it. One good thing to come out of this is that it has forced us to put the winter duvet back on the bed, and the warmth and thickness is making me sleep incredibly well. Mrs Aitchworld isn’t so impressed, not with the duvet, but with my sleeping patterns, because the monitor to the boys’ room is on her side of the bed, so in the event of any traumas during the night, she wakes up to deal with them and I sleep right through. Usually snoring. We all turn into our parents…

We went to a swimming lesson the other day. I have to say, I’m not entirely convinced by the lessons though. Neither Arthur or Henry could swim by the end of the lesson. We went to a taster, which was free, but then to carry on we would have to pay £15 per lesson, per child. We would also have to pre-book, and pay for, ten lessons in advance. Per child. I would hope they could each swim the channel by the end of all that. I have considered, for there are a number of organisations locally, booking free taster lessons with all of them until we have built up enough hints and tips to teach the boys ourselves.

Mrs Aitchworld is a strong swimmer. I don’t particularly like or enjoy it, but I can do it and I’m not afraid of getting in the water if it comes to it. I’ve got a friend who isn’t a strong swimmer and hates the water, which I must confess I did forget all about when, as his best man, I booked his stag weekend activity of canoeing down the River Wye. Give him his due, despite his hesitance, he did it and almost seemed to enjoy it. We want the boys to be keen to do such activities though, rather than have such reservations as my mate, so we decided to get them started at an early age. The recent family wedding we attended had a pool at the hotel that was hosting it, so we took the boys down and got them in the water. They didn’t swim as such, and they didn’t go under the water in an attempt to recreate that Nirvana album cover, but they splashed a bit while we held them on the surface of the water. Arthur didn’t much care for it, and there were one or two tears and not too many smiles. He didn’t hate it though, which was a start. I got Henry on a polystyrene float and whizzed him round the pool while singing Beach Boys songs to him. He seemed to enjoy it. But then the girl that runs Baby Boogie told me that babies enjoy listening to their parents sing, no matter how good, or bad, they are, so I don’t know if it was the surfing or the terrible singing that he was giggling at.

Oh yes, we still go to Baby Boogie. It is now part of my Friday working at home routine – at lunchtime I nip across town to Baby Boogie, have about three quarters of an hour of singing nursery rhymes, banging drums, shaking maracas, clicking castanets, throwing babies around in parachutes, learning sign language and playing with puppets, before returning back to the drudgery of visit reports, spreadsheets and customer quotations. Similar to my panda/badger confusion, we were handed little black sheep finger puppets this week instead of the usual spider finger puppets, which I didn’t notice at first and so I inadvertently created the new nursery rhyme of Incy Wincy Black Sheep. I’m usually the only male there amongst all the mums, but I don’t care, the boys love it and I like spending the time with the boys. Arthur in particular enjoys it, so if we could combine Baby Boogie with swimming lessons, we might just be onto a winner.

Taking on board the advice that babies like to hear us parents sing, I thought I would sing to Arthur following his vomit explosion, in order to cheer him up. Rather than just sing on my own, I thought I would play some music to sing along to. I fired up the iPod* and as it was set to random, just hit play. The song it started playing, and the song I just started to sing along to, without thinking or realisation, was Eels’ “It’s a Motherfucker”. Arthur liked it though.

(*other MP3/music players are available)

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