Our elderly neighbour, Eileen, has been somewhat conspicuous from these pages by her absence of late. There is no particular reason for this, other than we just haven’t seen much of her over the last few months. She’s been around; it’s not like the milk bottles are piling up on her doorstep and the post on her doormat or anything, but we just haven’t seen her to speak to too much. Now summer is here, or at least spring, her patio doors are opened wide and we hear Eastenders emanating from her house, as we leave the supermarket across town.
The other morning, I was preparing for my weekly cycle ride, giving my bike a wash down after just getting the plumbing for the hose all sorted (long story) after a prolonged absence of outside water. Eileen came past, taking her dogs for their weekly constitutional (as Jack Russells go, they are a little on the fat side, it has to be said*) as I was doing this. “Yoohoo, I say, are you going for a bike ride?” Well, erm, yes Eileen; that was the general idea. “Well don’t ride like the devil” she advised, cheerily. And with that she carried on with her walk. Quite how the devil rides, she didn’t say, so I have no idea whether I succeeded in this mission or not. I don’t know if Strava have a “Devil” setting alongside “Mileage” and “Elevation” on their app. It will forever be a mystery.
I ordered myself a GPS bike computer this week after my cheap Tesco speedometer stopped working at the weekend. Funnily enough, for something that is attached to a mode of transport that is exposed to the elements, it didn’t stand up to a brief dowsing from a hosepipe following a liberal spraying of mud. It kind of defeats the purpose of having something that attaches to a piece of equipment geared for the outdoors that isn’t waterproof. I’m hoping I will discover “Devil Mode” when the new one arrives. I checked the spec for its resistance to water but couldn’t find any reference to Satan.
While we’ve got Eileen in the spotlight, she amused us no end the other weekend when a street party was thrown to honour the Queen’s 90th birthday. At the end of our road there is a St John’s Ambulance hall and they decided they would close our street, the one we live on every day but they use once a week to park badly while they have their first aid practices, and have a party. All the residents were invited to come along for a burger. Given that there are no more than about 10 houses in the locality, and that none of us know anyone from St John’s, and that we were all put out because we couldn’t get in and out of the street in our cars, we weren’t all that keen. It is especially galling that the 10 houses surround a small car park that the street party could have easily been held on without having to disrupt the neighbourhood. But then I guess it would be a car park party rather than a street party.
Eileen’s house backs onto our little neighbourhood, so wasn’t invited to the party. She heard it though. As soon as we emerged to go and get our burger, Eileen was hovering over the fence. “Yoohoo, I say; what is all that noise?” That noise was a sound system St Johns had set up to play some music through to give a party atmosphere. Ironically, they were playing “Come On Eileen” at the time. “I can’t hear my telly” came the complaint. The surprise was that St Johns could hear their sound system over the Emmerdale Street Omnibus blaring away from Eileen’s house.
There is no seamless segue way into what I need to write about next, so I will just have to abruptly and clumsily change the subject. I don’t really know where to start… It has been decreed, by Mrs Aitchworld, that I have sole responsibility for “the talk” with the boys when the time comes. As they are not even talking properly yet I think that this assertion that I will have to do it is somewhat premature.
I hope I’m better at “the talk” than my Dad was – at the first sign of a girlfriend, and not before, his words of wisdom were, “Well just don’t get her pregnant”. It wasn’t a conversation I particularly wanted to have at a family meal. I don’t think my Grandma thought the timing was particularly apt either, given the way she nearly choked on her potatoes.
All of this came talk about “the talk” came about because one of the boys, and I don’t recall whether it was Arthur or Henry, started grabbing at his knob when one of us was changing a nappy. It could have been either because they both do it. It was me saying to whoever it was, “leave your knob alone” that prompted the conversation. “You can’t call it that!” Mrs Aitchworld exclaimed. This is the woman that had to leave a National Trust tour because she laughed when one of the guides said the word “knob”.
What am I supposed to call it? When I was a boy, a little bit older than the boys are now, obviously, I possessed a dictionary in which all of the rude or even slightly risqué words were circled or highlighted. I think it I still have it somewhere, so I was tempted to retrieve it and look for suggestions. Eventually, and without the aid of a dictionary, but not before amusing myself with every permutation and name for the male genitalia (no matter which way you address it, knob gags are funny), I decided on dinkle.
We had parents evening at nursery tonight. No, seriously, despite them being 15 months old and attending nursery for less than six months, we were given an appointment with each of the boy’s keyworkers this evening so they could report on their progress. We took them with us so they could see the disappointment in our eyes when we were told that Arthur sits at the back of class tipping back on his chair while chewing gum and Henry talks too much in class and has been caught round the back of the pram shed selling sweets at prices that undercut the nursery tuck-shop and is eroding their profits. I think the underlying theme of all of my school reports was “could do better”. I was hoping the apples have fallen a little further from the tree.
When I think back, if my parents were disappointed, they didn’t show it. Even when I was expelled from school at the age of 17 (although the head of sixth form would swear that he merely advised me to leave and it wasn’t an expulsion), my dad bunged me a tenner to go out and celebrate. As it happens, I didn’t turn out too bad. I think my parents obviously saw that I was bright enough, but just a bit lazy. I had a good work ethic, when I remembered to be arsed. When money is involved it becomes a motivating factor and it gives me enough arsed to cultivate a good work ethic and I’ve managed to carve out something that resembles a career from it all. Of course there is no money in blogging, so how I have managed to keep writing to the point where I have created this, my 36th blog post, is something of a mystery.
The boys’ reports from parents evening were fine – they are developing as they should, exceeding a couple of expectations in one or two areas, and where they need to be pretty much everywhere else. It’s difficult not to compare your offspring to other children of similar age. Some are walking and almost talking; certainly forming words more coherently than Arthur and Henry are doing. Our two are crawling, pulling themselves up on things, but definitely not walking. Essentially they are still babies. And you know what? That’s how I like it. Life is flying by at an incredible rate of knots, so the longer they retain that little bit of innocence, the better as far as I’m concerned. It also means I don’t have to give “the talk” quite so soon and have a bit of time to prepare…