I was brought up in the traditional manner, by chain smoking adults who dipped my dummy in Guinness to help me sleep. I’m not sure how much this informed my choice of Father’s Day activity this year – getting really drunk then going to a zoo – but in any case it didn’t happen. Instead, I attended an event at Nid’s nursery on the understanding that I would not be expected to sing, dance (and I include rhythmic clapping in this category) or join in anything whatsoever. My concerns were, however, unfounded. It was a pleasant afternoon with other fathers who I suspect were attending under similar terms, saying ‘Is there a bar in here?’ and ‘Mine’s a Kronenburg if you find it’, and enjoying dad-style chuckles while Nid chewed books and looked on thoughtfully. Incidentally, I have picked Nid up from nursery while drunk on two occasions, and found being in a room full of bright colours and tiny blundering humans hilarious, although I prudently disguised this as simply being very happy to see him. Also, as I dropped him off recently, one of the staff pointed out a quantity of blood in my hair from a head wound sustained by jumping into a bookshelf when England beat Columbia on penalties. With this kind of form, it seems likely that at least one of us will get taken into care quite soon. Anyway. As Sid gnawed his way through This Rabbit, That Rabbit and the Wheels On The Bus I contemplated the correct etiquette for children chewing communal books. It seems unhygienic, but then so does having a child in the first place, so I decided to let it go.
My usual group parenting takes place at ‘Who Let The Dads Out?’ mornings at the local church hall, or afternoons with the Coffee Mums, which I was relieved to discover is not a clumsy East Anglian term for women of mixed racial heritage. ‘Who Let The Dads Out?’ consists of bluffing my way through conversations about sugar beet with agricultural workers, whereas as a Coffee Mum I am considered quite exotic for having been to Selfridges. This is not to pander to the usual lazy idea of Norfolk being mono-cultural; it isn’t middle class enough for that. For example, there is a German at ‘Who Let The Dads Out?’, an engineer working on the not inconsiderable problem of heating the many remote farm buildings in this area. He seems a decent sort, even when Germany got sent home from the World Cup for being beastly, but I am keeping an eye on him, just to be on the safe side. Similarly, at nursery, the play leader of Rock Pool group, where Nid is a penguin of some kind, is Mancunian. As a result, he has starting to say ‘Hiya’, her standard greeting. While this is a useful addition to his lexicon, otherwise consisting of ‘Daddy’ (which he calls his mother), ‘dog dog’ (which he calls me), and ‘Ahhhh’ (which he calls the dog), he is saying it in an undeniably Mancunian accent. I discussed this with ‘Anton’, a man from Deptford whose daughter, having lived in Manchester and Leeds for eight years, now sounds like Gracie Fields. We’ve met her before actually, years ago in the last blog when we were market traders, and you may recall that her graduation ceremony took place in the same building against which she was conceived. I’ve had a quiet word with the chief nursery lady, who attended Cheltenham Ladies College for what appears to have been about four hundred years, and we have agreed that she will be sacked in the morning*.
I would leave Nid with Joe and Becka when at Runton, but considering they already have nineteen children, I’d feel like I was taking the piss. That said, he is an increasingly familiar sight there, stumping around, feeding goats through the petting zoo fences and laughing at Graham’s dogs tearing about the place with our own ever-game hound. Open space and fresh air are bad for children though, so when my current girlfriend is not in evidence, he is usually to be found playing in the wallpaper ‘Anton’ and I have scraped from the inside of the Old Servants’ Quarters while we all listen to the World Cup on the radio. We were pleased with England’s overall performance and that we have players who seem likeable, earnest and committed both to each other and the greater cause. It was difficult to say that about the squad when it had people like Rooney, Terry, Lampard, Jenas and Sturridge in it. That said, although my fondness for the England side is renewed, I am aggrieved that I had to wait twenty eight years to see them in a World Cup semi final, whereas Nid managed to do it in eighteen months. It seems most unfair.
*This is not true. She is a marvellous nurse in a marvellous nursery and, in common with all the other children, staff and parents, Nid is very fond of her.
Photards – this weeks’ studies in film are:
Main – some sheep. I started to count them, but fell asleep.
Top inset – Joe teaching the petting zoo goats how to wash up.
Middle inset – apprehensive Nid stumping around the East Anglian countryside like an Ewok, with my current girlfriend, his mother.
Lower inset – a glade or hamlet or something. Water meadow? I dunno.