We’ve had a Daddy-induced injury this week at Aitchworld Towers. Henry and I were bonding and during this playtime we discovered that he loved sitting on Daddy’s shoulders. He thought it was the funniest thing of, like, ever. It started off with me sat on the floor and Henry on my shoulders, but then Mrs Aitchworld declared it was mealtime and we should vacate the playroom and make our way to the kitchen. I stood up with Henry still perched on my shoulders and, when reaching the first doorway, carefully ducked to get through it. Walking through the living room I did a cheeky body swerve to skilfully avoid the hanging light pendant, a particularly angular affair in the shape of a three dimensional star. The point of one of those impaled in an infant’s head would surely hurt. We stopped at the far end to look in the large mirror on the wall so that Henry could admire his lofty position in the reflection. A swift right turn and onwards through the door into the dining room towards the kitchen.
Now some of you will have seen this coming. Henry did, but he can’t speak, at least not in any coherent manner. I didn’t; the temporary pause and distraction of the mirror meant I forgot to duck for this one. At the very last minute I realised my error, but it was too late and Henry’s head made contact with the architrave. Three distinct lines in the moulded shape of the architrave appeared on his forehead. He cried, but only very briefly – despite the marks on his head I don’t think he was hurt necessarily, but he was shocked to say the least. I, on the other hand, was mortified. I had hurt my first (by two minutes) born.
Halloween came and went without incident, but with his marked forehead we could have probably dressed Henry up as something I reckon. Fortunately I didn’t have to don fancy dress. I have a deep-rooted hatred of fancy dress that harks back to my primary school days. Every Christmas there would be a fancy dress pageant where we would all parade around the school hall in our costumes and the teachers would pick a winner and a runner-up and award prizes accordingly. There was none of this “everyone’s a winner” attitude back in the 1970s.
I hated it though. What annoyed me about it was the Ainsleyworth siblings, one of whom won it nearly every year. We were supposed to design and make the costumes ourselves with minimal parental interference, but it was clear that the Ainsleyworth siblings had more help from their parents than most. The eldest, Johnathan, didn’t have an artistic bone in his body – the most imaginative thing I ever saw him do was fashion a mud pie out of his own shit in the middle of the playground when we were both in infants (apparently this is known as messy play these days), yet he was always immaculately turned out in some home-made, home-finished, hand-crafted outfit come the Christmas fancy dress party.
There was always needle between the two of us, ever since I accidentally broke his calculator watch. These were cutting edge in the ‘70s. Different times! Because of Jonathan’s reaction to this incident, it actually influenced my costume creation for that year’s fancy dress competition and it turned out to be the final straw when I slaved for hours to make myself into a calculator. My parental help came in the form of despatching my dad to find a cardboard box large enough to fit over my head and he did a sterling job in finding a large, flat box that was actually calculator shaped. I drew and cut out all the buttons and display panel, carefully adhered them to the front of the box and even drew a battery cover on the back of it. My original plan of cutting out a head hole and putting the whole box over me with my head poking out of the to went awry because the box was too narrow for this, so instead it perched atop my head and awkwardly hung like an A-Frame from me. My dad suggested I cut a couple of eyeholes in the display panel in the top half of the eights that I had drawn into the display panel, but I refused, citing that it would ruin the look of it. This, in hindsight, and this is the first time I have admitted this, was something of a mistake, as I spent the entire pageant bumping into the person in front of me, which was probably Jonathan, then slowing down to avoid a repetition and having the people behind me in line for judging complaining that I was holding up the entire process.
Of course my calculator, despite the movement and visibility issues, to my mind at least, was the best fancy dress costume in the history of the school. It was a sure-fire winner. I don’t remember what costume Johnathan’s mum created for him that year, but whatever it was, the teachers preferred his mum’s work to mine and he won the prize. It probably wasn’t one worth having, but that wasn’t the point; I’d worked bloody hard on my costume and the winner hadn’t. Or the runner up, who just happened to be Johnathan’s younger sister, Maxine.
It’s a way off yet, but we had briefly talked about the possibility of sending the boys to this same primary school as I attended, as it is about the closest one in proximity to our house. If they do still have the fancy dress party I will be helping out the boys all I can. Of course, as soon as they are old enough to hold a crayon I will be teaching them to colour within the lines so they shouldn’t need my help, but belt and braces and all that.
So, the boys then… I am aware that this is supposed to be about them, but I do have a habit of wandering off down memory lane.
Having been to a number of baby classes, it shouldn’t have been of concern that Arthur wasn’t developing quite as quickly as Henry. Every baby is different; we know this. But for some reason, we did worry slightly. Henry had been turning over onto his front for weeks, trying to sit up, trying to stand, but Arthur hadn’t shown the slightest bit of arsed in this respect. However, I had my sneaking suspicions that Arthur could actually do a lot more than he was letting on because when I had turned him over to do a bit of tummy time a week or so ago he turned straight back over onto his back again. If you sat him up though, he would flop straight back down and other than a bit of jumping in the Jumparoo, he showed no inclination to use his legs. Whereas Henry is incredibly sturdy, Arthur has been a little bit on the wobbly side, at times resembling a Thunderbirds puppet.
I am delighted though, that our apprehension was wholly misplaced, because all of a sudden this week he has been doing everything that Henry can. I say everything; Henry has learnt how to roll back onto his back after rolling onto his front, further to a period of several weeks where he was unable to do this. Arthur, who a week ago could quite easily do this seems to have forgotten this trick completely and there have been a few instances this week where he has woken us up crying because he is on his front in his cot and doesn’t want to be.
Both of the boys are now sitting up unaided and the interaction between them is fascinating to watch. They are both very aware of each other and will sit and play together for ages. Maybe playing is an exaggeration – they sit and pick random items out of a toy basket, try to eat them then snatch them off each other before discarding them in favour of something new from the basket to shovel into their mouths. Henry is the worst for the snatching but Arthur is no angel in this respect – he just does it when he thinks we aren’t looking. Both will want whatever item the other is playing with at any given moment. And when it comes to bathtime they sit and splash each other with their bath toys and throw each other glances that make them both chortle and guffaw, like they are sharing a private joke that us parents are blissfully unaware of.
My job as a travelling sales rep involves, perhaps unsurprisingly, travel. Most of the time I am mainland UK based, which is a change from a few years ago when I was flying all over Europe. However, this week I have been over to Northern Ireland. I love Ireland, both North and South. The North feels a bit like mainland UK, but at the same time very different, almost like the UK of my childhood. The south, with road signs in kilometres and YEILD instead of GIVE WAY and STOP signs, feels altogether European. And of course, I am partial to the odd pint of Guinness.
The difference between working away in the UK and Ireland is that if anything happens at home when I am in, say, Peterborough, is I can jump in the car and just drive home. If I am in Ireland, things are a bit different. And of course, Sod’s Law dictated that when I was in Ireland this time, illness would strike down, and with quite some vengeance it would seem, on all those left in the Aitchworld household. Well, all except Henry, who appears to have the constitution of an Ox. Modesty and the potential for angering Mrs Aitchworld prevent me from disclosing the full details but if I use the phrase “both ends” I’m sure you will get some of the picture.
I left for Ireland on the Wednesday morning, due to return on Friday afternoon, travelling all around Northern Ireland and visiting a number of customers. By Wednesday evening I was struggling to reach Mrs Aitchworld. This was partly because I was in a town with virtually no mobile signal and the WiFi didn’t reach the room I was in so that I could Facetime. Not that Facetime is really an option – the boys see Daddy on a ‘phone or an Ipad and they just spend the rest of the conversation trying to grab the device. The other reason was that Mrs Aitchworld was locked in the bathroom being ill.
Grandmas Aitchworld on both sides were drafted in to help, but by Thursday evening Mrs Aitchworld was pleading with me to change my flight home to an earlier one. There were two available flights earlier than the one I was on. The first was on the Thursday evening, but by the time I had get the car back to the hire place and then travelled on to the airport, I would have missed it. The next one was such that if I wanted to get it, in order to get the hire car back and then travel on to the airport, I would have to leave the hotel I was staying at, at 4am, leaving me tired when I arrived home and less able to take over and look after the boys, and also more vulnerable to infection. I have protested this point and that I was powerless to help, but somehow this protestation translates into me just wanting to stay in Ireland so I could get a full night’s sleep and a couple of extra pints of Guinness in and not wanting to come home to the boys. The fact that Easy Jet didn’t have better timed flights and that the hotel I was staying in didn’t even sell Guinness (other than in cans, and that just isn’t Guinness!) is irrelevant, apparently.
By Friday morning my mum had the illness and by Saturday morning Mrs Aitchworld’s mother was stuck down with it too. By that time I was home though, and in full daddy model, which is how I came to be entertaining Henry by putting him on my shoulders. So you can see, it really wasn’t my fault. Was it?