Tuesday, December 31, 2002

Watty's not been here

Oh, you noticed. Well, I'm still alive.

Various things intervened, including Christmas. And you don't want to know how long it took me to drive to Maidenhead every day for a week. And I've been thinking about this here blog thing.

And I think I've decided that it needs to be less of a diary, and more of a place for me to put things which interest, amuse or inspire me. Which is not to say that there won't be ecxiting things about the air conditioning unit (which is even as I type, successfully freezing the back of my neck), just that there will be fewer domestic insights. I'm not sure how this will work, but I know I need somewhere to come and write things down, and I know I've really missed it...

Ah, well. It remains only for me to wish all concerned a happy new year, and to point you at my rant review of the things I liked this year...
I'll be back in the new year. No, really.

Wednesday, December 04, 2002

Watty wasn't going to be here tonight:

I was going to try to watch some of the few things I've taped during the course of this year - I have a couple of Proms, A Clockwork Orange, a couple of documentaries, and there's also the Hitch Hiker's DVD... But that didn't happen. Just as the boys and I were being left to our own devices (well, me to mine, the boys to sleep), it transpired that Father Christmas was in the village. So Cameron's not going to bed, then. Sadly for him, Conor's already asleep.

I shall explain. Every year, Dunstable Round Table send a Christmas float around the village, collecting for charity. Father Christmas perches on the back, and I'm sure those really are elves doing the door-to-door.... The music was audible at 7:30, so we settled down for a short wait. Which became a longer wait. Which became an opportunity to do Cameron's new map jigsaw puzzle, and an opportunity to listen to some Christmas songs, and a chance for Cameron to watch Gary Rhodes' cookery programme (no, honestly - he wanted to watch it). Eventually, at about 9pm, the truck appears, and the elves knock at the door. I let Cameron open it, wide-eyed. He's confident enough now to actually talk to the elves, and put his money in the tin unprompted. Reward: one sticky drumstick lollipop, and a great deal of excitement. I'm a bit cynical about the 'magic of Christmas', but Cameron's not:

"Dad, that was the bestest thing I've ever seen!"

Sunday, December 01, 2002

Watty's also been to Dunstable Cemetery:

There's something about cemeteries, isn't there? The feeling that there is something taboo or governed by superstition, yet the familiarity of the experience, the realisation that most of the other people in here are also using it for recreation rather than remembrance. They hold an endless fascination - who can resist comparing the styles of memorial, chuckling at Victorian names, identifying the tragic stories, or simply trying to find the earliest date? We really just went there to let the children blow off some steam, but a couple of things caught my attention:

A simple, tiny white stone, marked: Kevin Clifford, January 1960, aged 4 weeks. Who were you, Kevin? Easy to talk of tragedy, of course, at this distance, but there are no other related stones around - no other Cliffords. How did you come to be there on your own? An only child whose parents - living still, most likely, couldn't bear to be reminded of you, and who moved away? The missing child in a large family, barely remembered, save by the mother who carried you? Abandoned, with no one to care for you, and your fate otherwise unknown? You'd have been coming up for 43 now - I wonder what you'd have made of your life, who your children might have been? You missed a lot of good things, Kevin, not growing up, but maybe you missed a lot of pain, too.

Easily the gaudiest, most ostentatious memorial in the whole place remembers what were clearly the patriarch and matriarch of an enormous family. Bigger than most of the tombs of the monarchs in Westminster Abbey, it dominates its little corner of the cemetery. Entirely carved in shiny black marble, it was either designed to look haphazard or has been added to piecemeal over the years. Each of the ten children has their own personal remembrance on it somewhere, some lengthy texts, some simple words. There are photographs and carvings - one piece of stone depicts what must have been the couple's faithful Yorkshire Terriers, another, uniquely in my experience, carries a minutely engraved picture of a Bedford panel van. I don't stand in judgement over it - opinions of taste really don't count when it comes to this kind of thing; a family will remember in the way they feel is appropriate - but I am intrigued by my reaction. I don't come away thinking how much their family must have loved them; I come away shaking my head at how much it all must have cost...

You see, there's always something to be learned in a cemetery.
Watty's been to the L&D:

Which is to say, the Luton and Dunstable Hospital. Although I don't generally recommend visiting Accident & Emergency on a Saturday night, I have to say we were seen quickly and efficiently, and it was early enough for there not to be any unpleasant scenes...
I'd better explain. Yesterday, we went to visit our friends Helen and Ross and their three children. There was much playing and fun, and the children had a good time, too. We had a long walk/scooter/cycle/pushchair ride round the neighbouing cemetery, and a marvellous dinner. And then, when it came time to get organised to go home, our boys suddenly find very important things they have to do now. In Cameron's case, this involves frantic bouncing on the indoor trampoline - there may even have been an element of showing off. Suddenly, from the kitchen, I hear a thud followed immediately by an "I've really hurt myself" kind of crying. I rush through and pick him up. Nothing is immediately apparent, but I can see blood from somewhere. Then he opens his mouth. It's full, literally full, of blood. We manage to work out that he's come down on the handle of the trampoline chin first, and that he's therefore bitten into his tongue. Everyone winces in sympathy, Cameron is still inconsolable. We manage to get some water into his mouth, so that we can see what the damage is, and it looks bad enough for the decision to take him to A&E to be an easy one. Conor is persuaded that staying behind will be fun (which it is), and two jittery parents and one sore boy pile into the car, and head for the hospital.

And, considering all that you hear about the state of the UK hospital service, it's relatively smooth and easy - not counting the charge to park our car, of course. The A&E is virtually deserted, thankfully, and we'r processed quickly. We wait for no more than 10 minutes to see a triage nurse (No matter how long I live, I will never be able to hear the word triage without thinking of M*A*S*H); we wre then allowed to wait in the children's waiting room, where there are brightly coloured plastic objects to take our minds off things, and we're ushered through very quickly afterwards. Cameron hasn't bitten all the way through - in fact he hasn't damaged the underside at all, and aside from a warning against salty food (just think about that for a minute...) we are free to go. All over in under 45 minutes.
So, hats off to the L&D, and if I thought there was any point, a warning to Cameron to be a bit more careful in future.... I'll tell you about the cemetery, if I get time later.