I make my daughter her ‘quatre heure’ – or after-school snack – each day. This involves fruit, a drink and two small slices of toast, one with butter one with organic chocolate spread. I got bored one day and, with the aid of a pair of scissors, cut the pieces into heart shapes for her. She liked that. She liked that so much that she then refused to eat it unless I cut it into heart shapes for her each time.
Then I got bored of cutting heart shapes and tried my hand at other ‘designs’. They won’t win any art prizes, but she likes them and it’s quite fun for both of us. These are all first time efforts as I’m still ‘honing my craft’ but I will upload more photos one day when I think they are worth sharing. So here we have: Heart and the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben and the Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile, Pacman chasing a ghost (I realise for accuracy the ghost should really be blue, but I try not to feed my daughter blue things) and Jaws chasing a school of fish.
I’m back at school now, teaching the kids – not MY kids, although they are there, I mean the kids in general. This return has been a long time coming, thanks to that ever-present virus, and to be honest with you I wasn’t sure if I’d be going back at all.
Just to recap/fill you in – I’m an assistant at my local school and I teach the kids English – quelle surprise – teaching is maybe a bit grand as it’s more of a mixture between entertaining and teaching, but I do my best and we all usually have a laugh. I take the kids on before and after their dinner hour, the bigger kids first then the the little ones. So I get load of distracted, hungry big kids and then a load of full, lethargic little kids.
Most of the time.
I’m up against it though in terms of popularity, as my fellow ‘animateurs’ – as we are called here – are all French and so offer a variety of exciting activities liked painting Pokemon, creating little purses, crafting cuddly donkeys and one activity that simply involves going in the ‘room of fun’. So put that up against ‘English class’ and it’s not really a surprise that I’m usually the last girl at the dance. The other animateurs have queues for their activities, me? I have to get the security ladies to make them come along.
That only applies to the bigger kids though – the little kids are more than happy to come along and find my accent fascinating. Strange how kids can change in a year from all happy, eager smiles to grumpy and ‘cool’. Too cool for English anyway.
So yes I’m back but it’s a very different landscape to the one I was forced to leave due to being furloughed following the Corona outbreak (part one?). Now all the kids are regimented, separated into classes, kept apart and generally monitored to ensure they don’t interact with other groups too much.
Like a kind of health-conscious segregation.
It’s masks on all the time for me as well, which makes it so much easier for the kids to understand me.
There also seems to be a lot less kids in general, I don’t know if they are hiding away or if some parents have simply opted, in the current ‘climate of fear’ to go the home-schooling route. I used to be that you would have to fight your way across the school playground, fighting through the crowds with all the speed of a salmon swimming upstream, dodging running kids, footballs, hats, you name it. Now you can just stroll right through them, like their fun-factor has been drained away.
Children that did not keep up with their studies during this current crisis have suffered the worst though. There was the confinement period, which was followed by a brief return to school, which was then followed by the eight week holidays. Some parents have not helped their children maintain their education levels, and never returned – albeit briefly – when they could. As a result of this some children are having to repeat the year, or have even been relegated into lower-level classes. It’s not great to see – potential like that, squandered.
Still, my kids are there too and it’s really great to be able to see them in this environment. I often arrive early and so get the privilege of being able to watch my children play with their friends, unaware that I am watching them – the office has mirrored doors and windows. I look at it as a kind of aquarium, just one for kids.
They can be my bridge for the other children too, when a concept is too difficult for me to explain, or I simply don’t know the words, bilingual kids come in very handy, especially when they are your own. Just don’t rely on them in crucial situations like at the bank or when asking directions as they have a tendency to shut down in times of real need.
So yes, I’m back, for how long I don’t know, and I’m not saying that as a reflection of my abilities, more of the ever present threat Covid 19 poses. The landscape at school has changed, but whether these measures will be sufficient? Time will tell….
It has now been four days since this infernal, though necessary, incarceration commenced. My tormentors hound me constantly and it seems as though I cannot take but three steps without one or the other of them appearing, as if summoned by some dark force.
As if on cue Thing Two appears through a doorway and gazes at me, the hint of a smile playing around her mouth. What, I demand, does she want from me now?
‘Elsa’ she replies, her hideous mantra starting afresh.
Elsa. The girl with the pale face and the anthropomorphic snowman. She haunts my dreams.
I obligingly press play on the DVD player, and watch blearily as the hellish castle appears for what seems like the hundredth time in the last four days, and the tune invites me to ‘Wish Upon A Star‘. Oh I have wished. How I have wished.
Has really it only been four days?
I try to remove myself from the sofa, but her grip on my arm tightens ever so slightly and I realise I cannot leave.
Then I feel a fetid breath on the back of my neck and realise that Thing One is behind me. Snuffling and sniffling and filling my nostrils with the scent of his recently digested Babybel.
‘Pokémon’ he says to me while snorting. ‘Pokémon, Pikachu, Evolee, Snorlax, Pokémon’
This gibberish meant nothing to me four days ago but now I understand. I wearily get to my feet, forcing thing Two’s claw-like hand off my arm, where it leaves fresh marks.
‘Pokémon’ I nod to him and, reaching up, get him down his pack of cards.
‘Pokémon!’ he squeals excitedly, a string of drool hanging from his lip. ‘Pokémon! Pikachu, Evolee, Snorlax, Mewtwo!’.
He waves me away, my services no longer required.
‘Crisps! Drink!’ comes the command from the sofa, and I scuttle away to do Thing Two’s bidding.
I firmly believe that is I did not aid in the entertaining and feeding of them, they would kill me during the night.
This really is a blog post about something and nothing. More of a gentle, mental nudge for me to remember something when I’m older.
But it’s one of those things that I don’t want to forget as I find it very, very sweet and endearing.
My daughter and I have gotten a little bit hooked on Kellogg’s Coco Pops. It happened quite by accident. We were out of our usual cereal for a while and, as the kids and I eat the same one, I decided to try an old favourite that was more readily available here in France: the aforementioned Coco Pops.
However my daughter being the gourmand that she is, she immediately wanted to try them (she’ll try absolutely anything that one).
She loved them of course.
However as she is now pretty much French she seems to struggle with the name, instead of referring to them correctly, she instead calls them ‘Popo Cops’. I love this. Her mum tried correcting her but I asked her not to as I find it so cute. A little bit of a throwback to years gone by, when they were toddlers and were trying to wrap their tongues around new words and strange, cute distortions would come out instead.
I would try her on Golden Grahams next and see what she referred to them as. Except she’s already tried them.
This is actually what out fire-pit looks like, albeit a tad rustier now.
I like to burn stuff. There. I’ve said it. And now that I’ve said it I’d probably better explain myself lest you think you are reading True Confessions Of A Pyromaniac, and not some blog by some bloke in France with a couple of kids.
I like to burn household waste when it builds up. And garden waste. And wood. And just stuff that burns. But not buildings or people. See? I’m normal, just like you.
We buy a lot of items for our house as we have only been in it a couple of years and so are still making it ‘ours’. This leads to a build-up of boxes in our outdoor dependences (outbuildings we store all our garden stuff in). We do generally take this to our local decheterie (that’s French for ‘tip’) so they can recycle it. However sometimes I don’t want to do that and instead want to tear it up into little bits and burn it in our fire-pit.
I know, I know. This is not necessarily ‘Option A’ when it comes to caring for the environment, and I doubt Greta Thunberg would approve, but I don’t like her so I don’t care. Put it down to my primal nature and giving into the instincts handed down to me from my ancestors, who would huddle in caves and stay warm by their fires, with one eye on the entrance, fearful of predators.
That plus it’s a drag going to the decheterrie all the time. The French DO NOT do organisation so you’re looking at an hour of ‘fun’ sat in your car while they work out how to get their rubbish out of their cars and into a large metal box.
Anyway, onto the thrust of this blog: I’m not alone in my gleeful burning, my daughter loves it too. Every time I mention that the cardboard pile is getting a bit high her eyes light up, as if she senses what will have to happen. And if I say I’m going to take it all to the tip, she kind of makes a deflated ‘Hooooaauuawwwwww‘ noise and then follows this up with words like ‘Nul‘ (which is French for ‘boring‘) and ‘Boring‘ (which is English for ‘Nul‘).
But If I say I’m going to burn it all she’s right by my side ‘Can I help you?’ she offers sweetly, rubbing her hands in anticipation, knowing I won’t say no. Of course I accept her offer and off we go, breaking the boxes down and – carefully – inserting them into the fire-pit. She is always under my watchful eye, and she is always respectful of the dangers of the fire. There’s no flies on this one.
It’s a lovely little habit we have, and there’s nothing quite like sitting in the garden on a cold evening, leaning back on the bench holding hands and looking up at the stars while the fire gently crackles away. It’s these little moments, these little habits that you have to treasure and hold on to.
Any excuse to feature a photograph of Stormtroopers
The missus has been working away a lot recently, last week in Birmingham in the UK and this week in Cannes in France. Birmingham to Cannes – that’s roughly the equivalent of one week in a Thailand prison vs one week in a…well, one week in Cannes.
This working away malarkey has led to me being on my own-some with the kids. Or should I say ‘kid’. You see at the moment my daughter is going through a somewhat annoying phase where she prefers the company of females. This is despite me raising her for the last six years. Therefore, to avoid unnecessary upset (for both her and myself), when my partner works away she stays with her grandma – or ‘mamie’, as they prefer to be called in France.
If I’m honest I really can’t complain too much, after all as anyone reading this who is a parent will know – or anyone with half a brain cell for that matter – one kid is much easier than two. I do still miss the kisses and cuddles at bedtime though, I’m not a completely cold-hearted monster.
So I’ve have had lot more time recently to spend just with my son, and this has led me to reflect on how similar we are to each other. It’s something that’s been pretty obvious for the last few years – or maybe since ‘day one’ if I really think about it – but these last few days have really hammered it home.
He loves reading, he loves having a laugh, he loves video games, he loves to draw, he loves films, he daydreams (a lot) he’s annoying, he whines (a lot) , he’s lazy (very) and sometimes I suspect he wouldn’t be able to find his glasses if they were sat right on the end of his nose. He’s also got a very high-pitched voice that can cut through any other conversation with all the effortless precision of a dentist’s drill.
Yup. He is me.
Obviously not all those characteristics still hold true for me. I’m nowhere near as lazy as I was when I was younger, but this is something that we often lose as we get older. Well, some of us anyway (I’m specifically thinking of my father here, who wouldn’t get out of bed even if his house was on fire, and whose catchphrase was ‘No’, usually in response to the question ‘Can you help me with *insert generic favour here*’ but more often in response to the question ‘Are you physically active?’.)
He even sits to read the same way that I do – curled up in a corner, one legged crossed over the other, completely lost in a far-away world. We both enter creative ‘fugues’ as well now and again – him much more often than me. This is where he becomes obsessed with creating some new thing, drawing some new creature or painting some new portrait. He will not be distracted from his goal until he is spent/it is finished (whichever comes first).
This, obviously, leads us to my daughter. Who is a perfect clone of her mother.
Organised. Strong-minded. Laid back. Friendly. Easy going. Mature.
Yes, unfortunately with this one I think a little bit of me slipped in during the ‘cloning procedure’.
Apart from that though, she is just a mirror image. 2/5 scale size mini-mum, if you like. This also means that she has a tendency to mother her older sibling, something that he used to find annoying, but which he is relying on and appreciating more and more (see: lazy.) Needs his shoes? His sister brings them. Needs more tomato ketchup on his chips? It’s already in her hands. His glasses are dirty? She’s cleaning them. Getting picked on by a bigger kid? She’ll beat them up for him (this last one is a joke, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out to be true one day.)
Yes, we’ve cloned ourselves quite effectively, and can see ourselves in our kids each day. More and more as they get older.
On tonight’s menu in Mr Mum’s house we have a veritable feast of delightful foodstuffs, all lovingly prepared to cater to the needs of the individual’s requirements. It may be only sandwiches, but no corners have been cut (literally BOOM BOOM!) in the efforts of the Michelin starred chef that has created this bounty of bread-based, bite-sized taste-bombs, that will surely set the tongues of the tasters alight with joy.
Carefully sectioned into quarters, this sumptuous feast features only the (supermarket) freshest ham available, and with all the fatty bits trimmed off and shoved in the bin, there remains only the choicest pieces of ham to ensure the palate is treated to a veritable pork-based party.
Cucumber has been loving rinsed for three seconds and then sliced to make it look slightly posher than it actually is, and the segments have each been painstakingly, and liberally, salted, to avoid cries of ‘SALT! SALT!’ as has happened from time to time.
Fresh (ish) tomatoes have been added for a little variety, and also because there’s nothing better than cleaning the seed explosion from off of the sofa cover (purchased to protect the sofa underneath from seed explosions* (*and other things)) when madam bites into them like some kind of animal.
The whole dish is served up on a dazzlingly blue plate emblazoned with Ella and Elsa, or Sarah and Sue or whatever they are called, from the tragi-comedy that is ‘Frozen‘.
Grunts and chewing noises can be heard and there seems to be a word emitted from the thing on the sofa. Could be ‘Merci‘ or ‘Thanks daddy, I love you‘ or ‘This is delicious, I’m so lucky to have you making this for me‘ but in all likelihood it’s probably ‘Where’s my water?‘.
Eschewing the needless frivolities of cucumbers or tomatoes, this dish is served up in as bare a bones style as possible. This suits the needs of that most exacting of connoisseurs: my son. Who has rigid rules, very much like Fight Club.
These rules basically boil down to:
I don’t want any fruit
I don’t want any veg
I just want ham
Or sometimes pasta
With this in mind the meal for sir has been carefully prepared on seedless brown bread – oh yeah, rule number six, I forgot:
6. I don’t want any seeds in my bread
Again all traces of fat have been removed from the ham to ensure only the best meat passes sir’s lips. The resulting mix of bread and ham and butter has been loving shaped in to what one hopes resembles a face. Six consecutive attempts were made to try to lovingly shape it into this, after the first five were what could lovingly be described as ‘nightmare-inducing‘.
The whole meal is beautifully presented on a random beige plate due to sir’s ‘Marvel’s The Avengers‘ plate being out of commission due to an earlier incident involving chocolate.
‘What’s that?’ (after being told it’s a face) ‘No, it looks weird, it doesn’t look right…where’s my water?’