Video Killed The Radio Star

It’s official. I’m old. Over the Christmas period I got a new mobile telephone and despite my best efforts, I failed in setting it up. I did pretty well, importing all my contacts and applications, but no matter what I tried I couldn’t get the damn thing connected to the internet. I was partially vindicated in that when I took it to the Carphone Warehouse, from where I bought the SIM card, in order for a teenager to sort it all out for me, that they were also unable to connect me to the internet. In the end I had to resort to ringing Vodafone (other mobile telephony providers are available) to help me.

And then there was the Firestick incident this week. Friends of ours gave it to us as a gift to thank us for all the stuff we had given them for their new-born twins. I’ve commented before on the generosity of our friends who have children (all boys) who are slightly older than Arthur and Henry and I lost my man cave up in the converted loft room months ago with all the incoming hand-me-downs. We have boxes of clothes and shoes taking us through the next three years. Getting rid of several van loads of clothes and toys was a blessing, not something we needed thanking for. But appreciated we were, and the Firestick was a thing of beauty; a gadget for me to play with. Man like gadget!

Once it was all plugged in and ready to go, I realised I had no clue how to find HDMI source on the television by using the remote control. Or any other method. I bought the telly only a few months ago – it’s one of these smart TVs that works off the internet, magic and witchcraft (but not off the aerial if there is a strong wind or a bit of rain, apparently).

None of the buttons on the remote for this new television have anything so obvious as the word “source” next to them, but instead rely on hieroglyphics that no one over the age of about 20 can understand. Even Mrs Aitchworld, a veritable youth at seven years my junior, was none the wiser. I eventually considered doing that most unmanly of things and reading the manual. I resisted to the best of my ability, but ultimately, in the wee small hours, I capitulated and dug out the manual for the TV in search of the solution.

Since I am using computers less and less, I consider my eyesight to have improved back to the levels it was at during my early twenties and in light of this I stopped wearing my glasses a couple of years ago. However, I may have been a bit premature in this assertion because I couldn’t actually read the manual. I don’t usually have trouble reading small print and assumed that the cheap paper the manual was printed on had caused the ink to bleed and therefore appear blurred.

Still, it played on my mind and while I was in Primark on a recent shopping trip to Manchester, waiting for Mrs Aitchworld to try on some clobber, I found myself stood next to a display rack of reading glasses. I was distraught to find, when I tried some on, they made print very much clearer.

Of course the natural thing to do when I got home was to google these symptoms and after many hours of research and self-diagnosis the verdict is that I’m going blind. This is going to be a bit of a problem for me because I’m not altogether keen on dogs; I will still throw away shoes that I have trod in a dog turd whilst wearing, although I coped admirably the other week (and ever since)when Arthur managed to tread in one and Mrs Aitchworld cleaned them up – I have been able to handle them without having to bin them. Given the rate at which the boys are growing at the moment, I didn’t expect them to still fit him for more than a few more days. So if a guide dog is out of the question, I will have to train the cats to take me for walks and I’m pretty sure that won’t end well.

All is not lost because I am confident that pretty soon Arthur and Henry will be able to sort this kind of stuff out for me. They are already starting to get the hang of an iPhone (other smartphones are available) and know which button to press in order to cut me off when they have had enough of my Facetime presence. At first it was attributed to clumsiness and them pressing the red button in error, but as time passes it is becoming apparent that it is their way of saying “I’m getting bored of you now, dickhead”.

We have even downloaded a couple of child oriented applications to keep them distracted while they are in the trolley going round Aldi to keep them out of the stock room and super specials aisles. They are getting the hang of them too and each action towards the phone is becoming more considered, more planned. It’s amazing to think that an iPhone to Arthur and Henry will probably be like a Nokia 3310 was to me when I first got one. It was a thing of wonder then, but very soon became outdated, just like smartphones will, once we all have Bluetooth and Wi-Fi in our heads as standard. I’m wondering if google glasses will help my reading issues…

I was an early adopter of the mobile telephone and had one long before everyone had one. And I always upgraded too, so an actual Nokia 3310 came to me pretty much upon release and I was suddenly able to send text messages; it was a revelation.

However, I hardly knew anyone else with a mobile telephone, let alone people who could actually receive an SMS, so it was a moot point really. There was one person, an ex-girlfriend who had SMS capability, but she had gone out for a bottle of wine several months earlier and never returned (it was okay; I had some beers in), so I doubt she would have been particularly pleased to have received a message saying “Zinfandel please” just because I’d upgraded my phone. Or “Znfndl plz”, as I believe would have been the correct way of abbreviating things in those days.

I have always spelt everything in full and punctuated correctly, so my text messages always arrived with the recipient in batches of several at a time. I still maintain this practice, but fortunately you are allowed more characters in a message now.This is probably one of the reasons I don’t get on particularly well with Twitter for me to get my point across would take many tweets and interest would wane after the first few. Not that anyone really follows me anyway.

Of course, then picture messages came along, and shortly afterwards technology gathered such pace that things like WhatChat and SnapApp came along, as did various other messaging applications to confuse the hell out of anyone who just wants to ask if a mate is coming out for a pint. And it is this similarity that brings me back to how quickly the twins are developing.

I come back to this theme time and again, but as a parent I am finding myself looking forward to the next development and in doing so it is like I am not appreciating the moment. I so desperately want Arthur and Henry to remain babies (or at the very most toddlers) for as long as is possible, but at the same time, I’ve got a Google Chromecast that I unplugged from the television a few months ago and I could do with setting it all up again but unfortunately I’ve lost the manual. Not that it would be any good even if I did have it, because I wouldn’t be able to read it anyway. So as much as I want the boys to remain as young as possible for as long as possible, I could really do with their help on this! At the current rate of change, I reckon I could have it sorted by summer.

 

Come On Eileen

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…

 

*Footnote: I actually see Eileen walking her dogs every day, so I was being a little harsh describing her hound-walking activities as a weekly constitutional. I have no idea why they are on a little on the rotund side; I can only guess she walks them very slowly and stops every few minutes to dispense advice to people on how to ride/walk/run.

Another Brick In The Wall

We had more illness in Aitchworld Towers this week. In fact we had a five-baby-grow-day with Arthur, each change being required due to a different bodily fluid soiling the garment he was wearing – we had sick, snot, poo, wee and water soiling, the last one being when we thought he was over the worst of it and was happily sitting in his high chair eating some food. In a vain effort to get some fluids back into him we let him have free reign with his sippy cup. Obviously we didn’t supervise quite as closely as we should have done because he managed to tip pretty much the entire contents of it out of the cup and onto the baby-grow that we had changed him into mere moments before.

Henry, in the meantime, was thought to have escaped this bout of sickness, which was quite a relief. Then he woke us up in the middle of the night and by the smell wafting our way in a manner not dissimilar to the way the fragrance of Bisto was depicted in the adverts of my childhood, it was soon apparent that he had shat himself, and not in a good way. In fact his poo was so explosive that we had to strip him down in the bath to avoid contamination and hose him down. The resultant soilage was of a nature that was liquid and solid all at the same time. One of us drew the short straw of pushing the lumps down the plughole of the bath…

Thankfully, both the boys are well and neither me nor Mrs Aitchworld managed to pick up the stomach bug in a major way from the boys, although there was enough retching one night from me that I did call in to work to book the day off sick, as it was touch and go for a while. Fortunately it was all retch and no vomit – I’m not good at being ill, which is a surprise given that in my formative drinking days I was such a lightweight that I could potentially vomit after just a couple of pints, usually as I was walking along the street between pubs and not necessarily have to even break stride, casually up-chucking over my shoulder. Arthur seems to have inherited this talent from me.

This sickness bug seemed to be quite prolonged, so much so that we were worried about the boys and their weights. We haven’t had them on the scales for a while, so recently while we were in a Tesco in Shropshire, we put Henry on the scales in the Fruit ‘n’ Veg aisle. We needn’t have worried as he exceeded their maximum payload, forcing them into an error mode from which they wouldn’t recover while we were in the store. Unfortunately this buggered up any chance of weighing Arthur and we didn’t think they would put him on the scales at the tills.

We are used to changes of clothes. This has extended to Mrs Aitchworld and I, because as soon as we started some semblance of a weaning schedule, we have had to change our own clothes after a feed, the boys getting more food over us than they do in their mouths.

I have mentioned soft-play areas in the past. This week, in a state of boredom on Sunday afternoon, we went to the local Wacky Warehouse. I was very nearly barred. The problem is with a Wacky Warehouse is that the general public are allowed to use them. This means that the general public’s children will be there, and despite all the notices about how they should be supervised at all times, the gulf between request and reality is somewhat vast.

At some point, Mrs Aitchworld and I were sat in the ball-pit with a child each. There is something about twins that appeals to children of all ages. As we sat there, minding our own business and entertaining Arthur and Henry by burying them in primary coloured plastic spheres, other, unsupervised children would poke their heads through the plastic strips to look at the boys. One child, obviously thinking he was helping out by tidying up but clearly old enough to know he was just being a tool, kept throwing balls through the strips into the ball-pit area, but in a way that meant they were nearly hitting Arthur and Henry. Seeing as they were so small and couldn’t defend their own honour, protection fell to daddy.

The next time the ball-throwing little shit poked his head through the plastic strips, I launched a ball at full force at his stupid, gap-toothed, gurning, freckled face. This, apparently, isn’t the done thing. Fortunately, his reaction was quick enough to dodge the ball and duck back behind the plastic strips. I say fortunately because when I saw him talking to his dad, it turns out that he was the offspring of a heavily tattooed, muscle-bound meat-head, who had absolutely no qualms about completely ignoring any anti-smoking legislation that may be in place as he sat there toking on an e-cig, the big daft cock. I mean, really? Smoking in a children’s play area? Are you really that dumb? Well, yes I suppose so; you are afterall sucking the fumes given off superheated chemicals into your lungs.

I didn’t take any chances over repercussions and reported him to the staff in order to get him kicked out as quickly as possible. Always thinking, me. This was partly to protect my children from the harm caused by second hand e-cig smoke and partly to avoid getting a good kicking for throwing plastic balls at maximum velocity at somebody’s child’s face. I know if anyone did this to Arthur or Henry, no matter how much of a complete shit they had been, I would be on the warpath. Double standards, anyone?

The other activity we have endured, sorry, enjoyed is organised messy play. It is a great way to while away a couple of hours of a Saturday afternoon. I had heard of this, but hadn’t really appreciated what it involved. Mrs Aitchworld booked the boys onto this and I went along to an old ramshackle village hall in the middle of nowhere. Laid out in the main hall were a selection of hexagonal plastic trays, each about a metre and a half in diameter and maybe five centimetres deep, which would contain the mess that the babies and toddlers would play in.
The first one was filled with neon pink rice and various implements to shovel it around. The second was filled with spaghetti, of varying vibrant fluorescent hues and large plastic bowls to pour it into and out of. Another simply had a box of wafer cones and a large tub of ice cream with a couple of scoops with which the children could attempt to be ice-cream sellers. A fourth tray contained angel delight and a few fairy wands to push through the goo. There was also one that contained the breakfast cereal, Golden Nuggets. I think the theme to that one was pirate treasure. Another contained jelly and whipped cream. One that we avoided had bright purple, erm, well, we don’t know what it was, but we were assured it was safe.

The last one we put the boys in though was essentially a sand pit. It had a load of damp sand in it and some mini buckets, spades and rakes for building sand castles. We should have avoided this one too, partly for the reason that the boys were somewhat sticky from all the stuff they had already played in and the sand became welded to them, making it a nightmare to wash off. At the end of the messy play session there are a couple of washing up bowls to clean your children in. That’s two between all of the children, of which I reckon were in excess of twenty in number. You will notice that all of these aforementioned hexagons were laden with items that were all food based. Some of them were dyed a very vibrant shade of luminous but working in the chemical side of the food industry, I am secure in the knowledge that the companies that make these dyes and colourings manufacture them to be entirely edible. Testimony to this was the fact that Henry and Arthur had pretty much eaten their way around the whole messy play, which included the dried neon rice. The reason we should have avoided the sand pit was that the boys, Henry in particular thought that this final tray was also food.

You would have thought after the initial handful of sand went in to their mouths, there may have been some sort of adverse reaction to it, such as spitting it out. Indeed Arthur, although not spitting out the sand did at least avoid a repeat performance. At this stage of the messy play session Mrs Aitchworld had gone off to secure the washing up bowls so at least the boys went in first, rather than after twenty odd other children had been washed in them, so I was flying solo looking after the boys, which is where twins become quite a challenge. While I was entertaining Arthur and showing him what to do, Henry was shovelling great gob-fulls of sand down him. I was trying to move his hand away from his mouth, but at the last count I would estimate that he ate five handfuls of sand at the bare minimum.

Now I don’t think the messy play and Henry getting ill are in any way linked, despite the illness being in quick succession to the messy play. However, it is somewhat surprising, given the amount of sand that he crammed into his mouth and then swallowed, that he wasn’t shitting bricks.