The Diary of a Commuter

Monday, 30 July 2007

Dawn Chorus 2 - Beauty Is Truth, Truth Beauty

Act One
Scene 2

The master bedroom of a quiet, surburban house in East Dulwich. It's 5.47am on Monday. From underneath the continental duvet the sound of deep, peaceful, unconscious sleep can be heard. All is calm.

Suddenly the upstairs fills with the sound of someone clattering about in the bathroom at the end of the upstairs corridor. From the sounds being made, it would appear that this person is around 3 feet tall.

After some commotion, a lot of banging and scraping, huffing and puffing, and the occasional words of frustration, the sound of someone going to the toilet can finally be heard. After some moments, and what appears to be the successful completion of the task, a short, yet incredibly loud fart can be heard echoing from the bathroom.

Daddy, who has awoken due the noise, wanders down to the bathroom, bleary eyed to check that everything is OK. Standing at the entrance to the bathroom, he looks down at the man-cub, who is sitting on the potty.

Daddy: Everything all right?
Harry: Yes Daddy.
Daddy: You sure? Thought I heard a funny noise.
Harry: No Daddy, it was Doggy.
Daddy: Doggy?
Harry: Yes Daddy, Doggy did a trump.
Daddy: Oh, right. You sure it wasn't Harry?
Harry: Yes, Daddy. It was Harry.
Daddy: Thought so.
Harry: Daddy?
Daddy: Yes, Harry?
Harry: It's all part of life.
Daddy: (pauses) Indeed. Back to bed now, it's still snooze time.
Harry: Ok Daddy.

Harry pulls up his pants and meanders back to his bedroom. Daddy turns, still half asleep back to the master bedroom, and slumping back into bed he returns immediately to his dream about being on Desert Island Discs.

A Vespa scooter can be heard buzzing down a nearby street.

Fade to black

Friday, 27 July 2007

In Sickness And In Health

My wife is truly amazing.

I believe it was the author Saki who once wrote in 'Reginald on Besetting Sins' that "women and elephants never forget". This is in fact a classic misconception. It turns out that they're actually not particularly bright creatures at all. In test cases they frequently show themselves to be slow and indolent, rarely capable of offering anything but the very minimal levels of base intelligence.

Elephants on the other hand....

It would appear that elephants, women, and indeed men have terrible memories, as my wife and I discovered recently on the morning of our 6th wedding anniversary, which we both completely and utterly forgot.

In fact, we forgot with such spectacular style that it wasn't until my mother phoned at lunchtime to wish us both well on our happy day that we realised our total oversight. After putting the phone down, we looked at each other slightly sheepishly, hugged and wished each other a belated happy anniversary. No cards, no presents, just a kiss. Then I went back to bed.

In actual fact I happened to be terribly ill, and she had promised me that I could spend the morning in bed, away from the chores, away from the kids (more for their benefit rather that mine.)

So, as I lay in bed feeling like shit, leaving my wife to deal single handedly with World War 3 downstairs I realised how easy it is to miss the important things in marriage, and indeed life. Send as many anniversary cards as you like, as many presents as money can buy, but nothing really matters more in a marriage than a bit of love and understanding.

We may have forgotten to spend a fiver down at Hallmark, but the vows we made six years ago stood solid as a rock. In sickness and in health. That's what I'm talking about.

Friday, 20 July 2007

Ashes To Ashes

The Lake District is shit. Actually that’s not completely true. The Lake District is quite possibly one of the most beautiful parklands in the United Kingdom, it just happens to be covered in shit. Totally. In fact it is quite astonishing how wholly and completely covered in shit the Lake District actually is.
Let me try to explain. Take a salt cellar the size of say, Durham. Fill it to the brim with Maltesers and Revels (technically Revels contain Maltesers I know - but one requires proportionately more Maltesers for the desired effect). Stand well back, and sprinkle liberally and evenly from Thursby down to Grizebeck, making sure you take in Crackenthorpe and Whitehaven. In actual fact this will look nothing like the vista of scattered poops stretching the length and breadth of our most beautiful national park, but those who frequent the lakes on a regular basis would it find strangely familiar.

This was not the most important feature of the recent trip up to Cumbria with my father. The most important feature was this. He wanted to take me to the place where he wants his ashes scattering.

To say that my father enjoys walking would be an understatement of catastrophic proportions. He adores, loves, lives, nay breathes walking - and his favourite place to walk is the Lake District. The place we were headed was Stickle Tarn - favourite part of the lakes. We were booked to stay for two nights at his favourite pub in the area, which just happened to serve his favourite pint of bitter. To recap, for those at the back, he rather liked this particular place.

In the 30 or so years that he’s been coming to the Lake District however, this was the first time that I’d gone with him, and I suspect he was quietly over the moon. I was equally excited. This was about spending some quality bonding time with each other - in my fathers territory, on his patch, in his element.

It is not unknown that when my father and I get together, it invariably involves a drink, and this was no exception. My father was hoping for a walk on the Friday afternoon but unfortunately the weather was against us. So, after unpacking, it was with a wonderful unspoken understanding that we made our way silently to the nearest watering hole - The Old Gnarled Toe (or something similarly endearing) to begin a late-afternoon-till-chucking-out-time “session”.

The following morning we forced down a full English Breakfast and headed up Stickle Ghyll - a mile long near vertical hike to Stickle Tarn, the final resting place-to-be of my father.

The day was fantastic, we hiked over marshes, waded through streams, "scrambled" up rock faces and generally had the Lakes - both thoroughly loving every minute of it. And then we arrived at the top of the mountain overlooking Stickle Tarn, possibly and certainly according to my Father the most beautiful lake in the Lakes. We both stood in silence looking across the incredible vista, and then he said "in there please, son."

I realised instantly that this was a photo opportunity not to be missed, so grabbing my phone I turned it around on us (there was nobody else there to take it). I captured the most perfect shot of the two of us, with Stickle Tarn between us in the distance. As we both sat there admiring the my handywork I suddenly had the stangest feeling. This would possibly be the most important photograph of us both that would ever, could ever be taken. There we were, in my Dad's favourite place in the world, a place he has come to time and time again, the place to where I would eventually make this same journey, alone save for a cask in my rucksack.

Morbid as this may sound, it seemed to make him happy to know that when the time came he would return here forever. It turns out in fact, that his Father's ashes were also scattered in a lake in the Yorkshire dales, and we joked that perhaps all the men in our family should pick their favourite lake, and keep the tradition alive.

It was a great trip, and one i hope we shall make many more times together, before the final solo mission I will, inevitably, have to make.

By then of course, there will be even more poop to step in.

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Sunshine and Rain

At 18.33 yesterday evening on Platform B at Kings Cross Thameslink, the sun broke through the heavily pregnant clouds for less than a second. As it caught the outline of the rain each drop became instantly and uniquely outlined by a shimmering silver sheen. The rainfall seemed almost to pause mid flow, as if surprised and taken aback by this strange yet beautiful intrusion into it's otherwise obvious life. As the sun paled, the rain began slowly drift down, as if pulled magnetically to the dark, slippy high voltage rail.

A shadow passed by momentarily.

Sunday, 1 July 2007

In The Night Garden

I certainly didn't expect my wife to lace my Sunday night gin & tonic with an acid trip, but it was a lovely surprise. I think was just her way of saying thanks for being such a good hubbydaddy. And so, with dusk descending slowly over East Dulwich, and a steady rain just beginning to lop gently against the faux Victorian framework of the living room window, I felt the tired yet warm satisfaction of a man who had surpassed all that was asked of him this weekend. Let me explain.

We have recently had the garden done, and the diary for Saturday and Sunday was filled with activity for Daddy. Fetching of gravel, shifting of soil, lifting of palm trees, carrying of stuff and spending of money. I also had to fit in Harry's Little Kickers class plus a supermarket trip, feed the kids, feed my wife, grab a bottle of Masciarelli rose from green & Blue and pick up disc 2 Season 1 of 24 from Film Night (we’re a bit behind). All tasks successfully completed I finally crashed onto the leather sofa with Harry to catch up on some important pre-bedtime kids TV.

It was at this point that the LSD kicked in, and it was clearly "good shit". I began to experience the most intense mind-bending colours, bizarre shapes, balloon people, wild music. Plus the whole experience seemed to come with it's own narrative - Sir Derek Jacobi if i was not mistaken. I was transfixed. It was going off.

Or at least, that’s what I thought was happening.

“That’s Pinky Ponk, that one’s Makka Pakka, and they’re the Harboos.” said Harry

It turns out I wasn’t tripping, I was in fact watching “In The Nightgarden”. I immediately removed the spectrum sunglasses.

Being a parent means you become, by default, a bit of an aficionado of kids TV. Some of it is OK, but most of it is frankly shit. The Tweenies for example. I hate the Tweenies, I want to punch them all - especially Jake for making Harry say words like "broked" instead of "broken" and "seed" instead of "saw" - what the f**k are they playing at? Likewise Tikkabilla is simply offensive.

In The Nightgarden is not shit - it is genius. Here is a show, thankfully, that seems to hark back to the good old days. My childhood was peppered with inventive, pseudo drug-influenced programmes. Mr Ben, Chorlton and the Wheelies, The Herbs (the clue was in the title). Then of course there was Magic Roundabout with more drug references than you could shake a stick at, The Clangers and the brilliant Rhubarb and Custard - the list goes on.

These were shows made by people who were either on copious amounts of mind altering drugs, or who knew people who were on copious amounts of mind altering drugs. They appealed directly and perfectly to that part of the brain that only a child can possibly make any sense of, and we were transfixed. I'm not suggesting for one moment that young upcoming TV producers need to start sucking on the sugar cubes - they just need to get a little silly again.

In The Nightgarden is a step in the right direction.

So as the Tombliboos snuggled down to bed I realised that sadly my wife had not dropped a couple of Smiley's into my drink, it was just a normal G&T, made the way I like it - lots of ice, lots of lemon, lots of gin.

Resourceful as my wife may be, I imagine even she would find it difficult to get her hands on LSD in Dulwich.