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.

Friday 25 April 2014

The rest of you are all rubbish

Time is no longer gently trickling away, like sand through an hourglass. It is going in a roaring gush, like a lavatory supplied by a Thomas Crapper high level cistern with a knackered ballcock.

In little more than a month I shall be 60, and drawing my pension. Admittedly only the occupational pension of £728 per annum I apparently earned in five years’ hard labour at a City stockbroking firm between 1978-83. The partners’ Antipodean heirs and successors sportingly went to some considerable trouble to track me down and advise me of this windfall, which was very decent of them. It must, I suppose, have been a non-contributory pension scheme as I certainly wouldn’t have volunteered to set aside any of my meagre income to provide for an old age I was convinced I would never live to enjoy.

At that time nuclear war still seemed a very real possibility. One of the incidental attractions of relocating from central London to north Northumberland in 1986 was that it seemed to afford a slightly greater chance of surviving the inevitable holocaust. Shortly after I moved The Guardian published a map showing the USSR’s nuclear targets in the UK, in order of priority. Number one was Heathrow airport, from whose shadow I had just escaped. Number two was RAF Boulmer, linchpin of the UK’s air defence system, located on the Northumberland coast about ten miles from my cottage. I realised then that I was doomed.

But life is full of surprises and so I now find myself approaching the happy day when I can get my hands on a Senior Citizen’s railcard, yet with two children under the age of five.

They delight me much more than I delight them, on the evidence of recent conversations.

A couple of weeks ago the elder boy announced that he loved Mummy and my wife and I thought it would be a good idea to explore whether such sentiments were more widely shared. So I asked two-year-old Jamie whether he loved Mummy and received an unequivocal “no”.

Pursuing the theme, I asked for his view on Daddy, his brother, grandparents and the family pets, all with the same result.

“So who does Jamie love?”

There followed a long pause.

Eventually, after much thought, he ventured. “My love Ni-ni.” (His name for the Jellycat toy leopard from which he has been inseparable almost since birth.)

“My love Iggle Piggle.” (Another soft toy.)

“My love Old Piggle.” (Iggle Piggle contains some electronic gizmo that means it can’t be machine washed and it is, in consequence, absolutely filthy. So I took him to Toys ‘R’ Us and bought a new one with a view to putting the original in the bin. Predictably, we now have two filthy Iggle Piggles which have to be carted around with him at all times.)

“My love Peter Rabbit.” (A fourth soft toy borrowed from his brother.)

“My love Becca.” (One of his key workers at nursery.)

Then silence.

“Anyone else?” I asked, hopefully.

“No. The rest of you are all rubbish.”

A view confirmed when I went to collect him from nursery the other evening (something I rarely do) and was greeted by tears and a thrust-out lower lip.

“Not you! Mummy!”

“Come on Jamie,” said an emollient nursery worker. “It’s Daddy! You love Daddy!”

“No my don’t! Daddy’s stupid rubbish!”

I had to bribe him with two miniature Milky Bars to get him into the car.

So if you see a suspicious elderly man in a three piece suit with a watch chain laying a trail of sweets to tempt a sweet, curly-headed child into the back of his car, please don’t call the police straight away. At least not until you have checked that it isn’t me.