Wednesday, 8 July 2015

And that's why I are three

There was a gentle knock on the study door as I was wading through my daily delivery of press cuttings this morning.

“What is it?”

The senior boy, who plays the role of shop steward on such occasions, replied: “Daddy, Jamie would like some paper to draw on.”

“Come on in, then. Jamie, how many sheets would you like?”

Of course, I already knew the answer. Three. It is always three. Because, as you may well have heard, “I are three.”

A couple of days ago he asked Mrs H, “Mummy, do you know why I are three?” She shook her head and received a pitying look.

“Because I’ve been one, and I’ve been two. And that’s why I are three.”

I think you will find that his logic is impossible to fault.

Monday, 6 July 2015

All's well that ends well

Our drive back from the perfect wedding on Sunday was enlivened by an exciting combination of mechanical brinkmanship and domestic drama.

My new Land Rover Discovery Sport, acquired at the end of March, had lulled me into a false sense of security by not going conspicuously wrong within a few hours of exiting the showroom, as Land Rovers usually do.

So I was surprised when a red warning light and the words “Restricted Performance” flashed up on the dashboard as I was driving in the fast lane of the M25. Though, being the M25, “fast” equated to approximately 15mph. Which isn’t even fast for a pushbike.

Like this, it was. Only red.

After a while, though, the pressure of traffic eased enough for me to able to accelerate. Only I couldn’t, at any rate with my customary ease, because the car would not change gear properly. I quickly established that this could be overcome by jabbing the accelerator pedal in a way that apparently encouraged it to do so.

Meanwhile a missed call on Mrs H’s phone proved to be from the lady charged with looking after our darling boys for the weekend, asking where I keep my tools. This is never a good sign.

Specifically, she was looking for a large screwdriver to remove the door handle from our bedroom, because “it wasn’t working any more” and our younger son was stuck inside.

I suggested that this might more likely have something to do with the bolt underneath the handle, which it duly proved he had used to lock himself in.

Could be unbolt it, though?

Silly question.

After a wide-ranging discussion on whether the bedroom windows were open (possibly) and whether we had a ladder long enough to reach them (definitely not) Mrs H had the brainwave of ringing our friendly local builder, who kindly drove around to the house and released the child from the room using a traditional combination of science and targeted violence.

We were advised that the boy emerged from the room with a broad grin on his face. His older brother, meanwhile, admitted that the reason Jamie had run into the room and locked the door behind him was that he had taken it upon himself to brush the child’s hair before they set off to visit their grandparents.

“I just wanted him to look smart,” he said, knowing full well that the only thing Jamie hates more than having his hair brushed is having it washed.

Still, all’s well that ends well.

And so too with the car, which I nursed as far as Beaconsfield Services before turning off the engine and turning it back on again. At which, as I expected, the warning light disappeared.

Still having the best part of 200 miles to cover to get home I rang the experts at Land Rover who said, among other gems, “No warning light, no problem … Yes, that often happens … Good luck, Mr Hann.”

So the solution to my motoring problems has become the same as the one to all my IT issues. “Have you tried turning it off and on again?”

Untroubled by mountains, floods, blizzards ...
the M25 at 15mph, on the other hand ...

Over lunch on Monday I told the story to a colleague who owns an equally new Range Rover Sport. “Happens all the time,” he said. As though it were perfectly normal to pay around £80,000 for a luxury motor car and have to turn it off and on from time to time to keep it moving.

We wound down from our trauma by taking the boys for a short walk down the lane by our house: the younger on his “new” trike (£10 from the local swapshop on Facebook) and the elder on the shiny new scooter he had been given for his birthday. It had remained in its box until now.

While he was much excited by its shininess, and the light-up footboard, he proved to be handicapped by having no idea how to use it. This was, apparently, the scooter’s fault. So much so that he rapidly dumped it by the roadside and pronounced it “Bloody rubbish.”

“Where did he get that word from?” I asked.

“John Cleese says it in Charlotte’s Web,” Mrs H replied.

Amazingly putting me in the clear once again.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Just perfect

We went to the perfect wedding yesterday. Which is a pretty remarkable thing for me to write, given that I normally don’t like weddings at all.

My age and outlook have combined to give me a decided preference for funerals, where there is usually the chance of joining in a rousing hymn or two, and an even better excuse for getting drunk after the service.

Added to which, I was effectively banned from attending weddings for some years after I was deemed to have behaved so appallingly anti-socially at one in particular that I couldn’t be trusted to go to any others.

This one, though, was very special. Held on the lawn of a lovely hotel in Sussex, it benefited from perfect weather, a gorgeous bride, handsome groom, world class music and some very entertaining fellow guests.

I particularly enjoyed talking to the elderly great aunt who believed that everyone in the world who aspired to receive a British tourist in their country should learn to speak English. While over the wedding breakfast I derived great pleasure and comfort from the company of the distinguished (knighthood, FRS) scientist whose travel ambitions were strictly limited to the occasional outing from his palatial home in Cambridge to his moated manor house in Suffolk. An approach to “abroad” curiously similar to my own.

There were some excellent and heartfelt speeches, too, particularly from my godson the groom. He told the company that he was ignoring a strict instruction from his bride to talk for no more than five minutes, and was taking as his model the 25 minute speech I had delivered at my own wedding.

I was later moved to check my wedding script, and found that it should have taken no more than 17 minutes to deliver, even allowing for drunken stumbles and pauses to allow the gales of appreciative laughter to wash over. Clearly it just seemed like 25 minutes to those in my audience.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Are I two, Mummy?

Today we are officially halfway through 2015, meaning that I am officially a useless blogger for having failed to post anything at all since last December.

In my defence I am an old man, with the inevitable ravages of age on my energy levels undoubtedly exacerbated by obesity.

I never said it was going to be a good defence.

Still, there is undoubtedly some progress to report. Yesterday, when Mrs H picked our now six-year-old boy up from school, his form teacher mentioned that there was a letter for us in his book bag.

“Yes,” said Charlie proudly. “I’m going to be in Form 3 next year!”

“That is supposed to be a private letter to your parents, Charlie.”

Still, at least it demonstrates that he can read, and that the taxpayers’ investment in his education has not been entirely wasted.

I guess it also demonstrates a modicum of curiosity and initiative, neither of which is altogether unwelcome.

Meanwhile his younger brother is three, and very focused on being so. Quarter him a sandwich for his tea and he will only eat three pieces. Offer him a sweet and he will demand three as follows:

“Are I two, Mummy? Are I two? No, I are three. So I have to have three sweets.”

Last week we decided that the time had come to begin giving the six-year-old some pocket money, and fixed on £2 a week as an appropriate starting rate.

“What about me?” asked the three-year-old.

“Do you think we should give Jamie some pocket money as well?’ asked Mrs H.

“Yes,” said Charlie.

“All right, Jamie. You can have two pounds a week as well.”

“No, I have to have three pounds, because I’m three.”

“Well that’s not fair because I’m only getting two pounds, and I’m six.” And so on.

We had my 90-year-old aunt to stay last weekend, and on Monday I picked her and Jamie up from home before collecting Charlie from school. Shortly afterwards, in the fairly narrow lane between the school and our house, we met a bus coming the other way at some speed.

“Oh, shit!” yelled Jamie from his car seat in the back.

“Is that a nice word to use in front of your Great Aunt?”

“No,” said Charlie. “But once Mummy said ‘Oh, shit!’ so now Jamie always says ‘Oh shit!’ when we nearly hit something.”

Whether it’s confidential letters or the occasional expletive, nothing gets past these children. Given that they live with me, the only puzzle is that their conversation does not consist entirely of barrack room swear words and politically incorrect allusions. Mrs H suggests that this is because “even they know it is wrong” and are therefore clearly more mature than I am.

Friday, 19 December 2014

You silly old man

My elder son had a meltdown yesterday evening because I told him he was five-and-a-half.

“No, I’m not. I’m five-and-a-quarter.”

“Well, you were five-and-a-quarter. But today is exactly six months since your birthday, so that makes you five-and-a-half.”

“I’m not, I’m not, I’m NOT. Five-and-a-quarter is more than five-and-a-half, and I’m FIVE-AND-A-QUARTER!”

His mother chipped in to try and explain which number was bigger than the other, and I attempted to introduce the concept of five-and-three-quarters, but it was all to no avail. So we gave up, as we usually do. The boy is five-and-a-quarter and may well remain so until he turns six, or possibly 16. It’s much easier that way.

Meanwhile my younger son had a meltdown this morning because he doesn’t listen to a word I say. He’s endearingly small, so I have a tendency to call him things like “little chap” or sometimes “Babos”, a name devised for him by his elder brother.

He does not like these descriptions at all because: “I’m a big boy!”

This morning I remembered for once and addressed him as “big boy”, but I still got in response “You silly old man! I’m a big boy!”

To be fair, he’s much closer to the truth in the first part of his analysis than he is in the second.

I’m still waiting for an improvement on his memorable announcement of a couple of weeks ago: “You silly old man, you don’t know anything. I’m two. I know things!”

I certainly thought I knew everything when I was a child, but I don’t remember developing a sense of intellectual superiority quite so early. In fact, at two-and-three-quarters, I am pretty sure that I regarded my mother as the fount of all knowledge and was so terrified of my father that I hardly dared to speak to him at all.

Now I’m 60 and am increasingly conscious that I know almost nothing. It’s lucky that neither of my children read this blog, or they’d be almost certain to post comments eagerly agreeing with me.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Daddy, you don't understand

I don’t know which idiot introduced my children to the world of Milkshake on Channel 5. Until recently they had seemed perfectly happy with CBeebies, which offers a similar mix of cartoons, interspersed with commentary from preternaturally cheerful young adults. I enjoyed observing these to see if there were any conceivable diversity box that the HR department had failed to tick when making their selection of the “talent”, but I never managed to catch them out.

Critically, being on the BBC, CBeebies also contains no advertising breaks.

Now my boys benefit from Peppa Pig and Thomas and Friends, the undoubted highlight of their morning viewing, which even a trainspotter like me has to admit captures many essential aspects of British steam railways very accurately. If one can overlook the fact that locomotives, carriages and wagons don’t actually speak.

However, they also get bombarded every fifteen minutes or so with an intense burst of advertising, from which I deduce that the campaign for gender neutral toys really does have a very long way to go.

This morning I noticed that the evil capitalist advertisers had already started sowing the seeds of what might constitute an ideal Christmas gift. So, as a distraction technique from something that looked likely to prove particularly expensive, I interrupted my elder boy’s consumption of his boiled egg to ask whether he had given any thought to what he might like for Christmas this year.

“Yes, I’ve made a wish,” I thought he replied.

“A wish, eh? Well, I hope your wish comes true.”

He gave me a penetrating look. “No, Daddy, I’ve made a LIST.”

“Well, the thing is, Charlie, Mummy and Daddy have just bought this house and we haven’t got any money, so you might not be able to get everything on your list this year.”

He had been sitting some way off on the pew we inherited when we bought our converted chapel, having left space for Mummy to sit down between us. Only she was too busy making his packed lunch to do so.

But now he moved along right next to me, and brought his face unusually close to mine. He was wearing the pitying look of someone addressing a very confused elderly person, and he spoke clearly and slowly.

“You don’t understand, Daddy,” he asserted. “You don’t NEED any money to buy Christmas presents.”

“Really. Why’s that?”

“Because Santa makes them.”

Having thoroughly depressed myself by taking a look at my bank balance this morning, I very much hope that he turns out to be right.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Curls are for girls

Obviously the Hanns occupy a progressive household in which huge efforts are made to avoid sexual stereotyping. Nevertheless our boys manfully persist in playing with model trains, cars and farm animals rather than dolls. Though they do at least make an occasional stab at cooking, both with plastic ingredients and with the real thing.

Reports from families blessed with daughters suggest that they face far greater challenges in persuading their little charges to eschew pink and take an interest in things mechanical rather than furry and frilly. One of Mrs Hann’s contemporaries was reduced to mild despair last week when her five-year-old daughter announced, with the know-all air of everyone her age: “Don’t be silly, Mummy. I can’t be a doctor. I’m a girl. I have to be a nurse.”

Still, at least we continue to strike one outstanding blow for equality. Best described by the long-suffering Northumbrian who had the misfortune to follow my family around a series of shops in Rothbury a couple of weeks ago. As the circus created havoc in the queue for the till at the Co-op, he said to Mrs Hann sympathetically:

“Ye knaa, it could’ve been worse. Ye could have had two boys!”

“I have got two boys,” Mrs Hann replied rather coldly, at the same time making a mental note that it was probably time to do something about the younger boy’s hairstyle, which lies at the root of the recurring confusion.

Like his elder brother (and indeed his father at a similar age) young Jamie had at that time a full head of winsome blond curls. Charlie and I both had haircuts that did for ours when we were two or thereabouts. Up to now Jamie has resisted, clasping his hands to his head and crying “No my hair!” when anyone suggests applying some clippers to it.

The photograph that graced my last entry was actually taken as long ago as last September, and was chosen because it was the only photograph I had to hand of him with his chief comforter Ni-ni (pronounced to rhyme with pi or, for that matter, pie. He chose the name himself because his mother handed the thing to him last thing every evening with the words “Night night” and he reasonably assumed that this was the name of the toy.)

Until Saturday morning he looked like this, with curls so long that they could easily be made into a pigtail:

And then on Saturday Mrs Hann took him to the hairdresser, with her heart hardened to resist his protests and turn him into a stereotypically short-haired boy.

At this point I intended to follow the above “before” shot with an “after” photo. But as it turns out I don’t actually need to bother you with that, because only a real expert would be able to tell the difference.

This is because Jamie kicked up such a monumental fuss that it was decided by all concerned that it would be easier just to leave his hair long until he himself decides the time is right to make it otherwise.

Shoppers of Rothbury and Malpas please be warned that the pretty little blonde girl in the dungarees may actually be a boy, particularly if he is holding hands with a white-haired Operation Yewtree suspect who is pretending to be his father.