17 Nov 2015

The weather

When our youngest was 3 and a half we sold her buggy on eBay and I purchased a corporate wardrobe of clothes. All within a six week period. My head still hurts a little bit to think about it. My relationship with modes of child transportation is not dissimilar to the one many grown men have with their motor vehicles and I don't enjoy clothes shopping unless it's for denim.

The whole thing was like Bam! - your pre-school stay-at-home years are over and your world is now juggling childcare with spreadsheets and never finding the dishwasher empty. Welcome to the season of always feeling like the thing you should be doing has sneakily been gazumped by the thing you're actually doing right now and sending the kids to breakfast club when they don't want to go because there's no bread or milk in the house. Again.

I missed the season I had just left. I actually missed it in the same kind of way as I missed the last few weeks of coupledom after child#1 arrived four and a half weeks early and then wouldn't sleep for longer than 45 minutes at a time unless the Hoover was on or he was attached to a boob. Hoover frequently lost. Neighbours get a little irritated if you try to vacuum at 3am.

I don't know if new seasons are hard purely because they are hard, or if they feel harder than they actually are because they are new and different and sometimes arrive when you're still dressed for the previous one. And when you're in the middle of a season it's hard to imagine life ever being any different one day. But the days gradually get warmer and the hours of daylight resolutely increase until one day you can't actually remember the last time you wore gloves - just that you don't need them anymore so maybe now's a good time to wash them because they stink of Wotsits.

And so it is with family stuff. Kids drift into and out of seasons so gradually sometimes that things can go completely undocumented until you look at old photos or spend time with a family who are at an earlier stage.

I don't know the last time child#1 asked me to read to him. It was years and years ago. He just gradually stopped asking and other things naturally took their place.

I don't know when child#2 last lined up all his Brio engines in front of the TV so they could watch 'Thomas & Friends' with him. Or when he finally stopped head butting nearby surfaces or the floor whenever he was cross.

I don't know when child#3 stopped her post shower game of wrapping herself in a bath sheet then curling up on the bathroom floor and barking until I arrived and unwrapped the towel to unexpectedly discover a puppy. Every. Single. Night. I might have recorded it just once if I'd not been absolutely sick of the game unable to envisage a time when we'd not be playing it anymore.

Today's weather:
• Child#1 enjoys reading lines and lines of spurious code off his laptop screen to me. These words are in English but their position next to each other in big long sentences (and I use that word rather loosely) means nothing. He's not good at addressing my questions without repeating the same meaningless words back at me in a slightly impatient voice, but he IS good at testing websites and new booking sites for work, finding typos and fixing broken code.

• Child#2 is the most laid back, sociable person I know. It's like a lifetime's worth of aggression was expressed in the first 3 years of his life and now the diplomacy gene is in overdrive. He hates conflict and often mediates between opposing viewpoints (either that or it's all there, waiting to explode again at puberty).

• Child#3 spends a long time after her shower sorting through her cuddly animal collection to select her 'bedtime crew' for the night so no one feels left out. Inspired by Sue Bentley's magic puppy books, she writes stories about talking dogs, draws pictures of sparkly dogs and would love to own a real live dog. We are not getting one. We own a low maintenance cat and 2 mice, who are a year old and therefore due to die off soon. 

I don't know when life got a bit saner. Maybe the season was so mental because too many different types of weather were all happening at once. I was most definitely still dressed for a different climate when it started.

Today's outlook: 

• Child#1 can be left in charge of Child#2 and Child#3 for short periods without expecting payment or major incident.

• Due to my redundancy by stealth programme, Child#1, #2 & #3 get up, dressed and organised for the day with minimal adult intervention, then journey to and from school independently.

• We still occasionally run out foodstuffs, but Lidl is just around the corner and everyone in the house is capable of going for bread and milk.*

Forecast: Who knows? These things are never accurate anyway. There will definitely be weather of some description.

* Except the cat- who is a pure free loader.

12 Nov 2015

Fake teeth and farming before the internal combustion engine

My mouth is ageing faster than the rest of me. For the past few years I've worn a partial denture to compensate for 2 missing lower teeth. The first of these could have been saved by a root canal filling, but given the time involved for this vs a simple 20 minute appointment and 40 quid for an extraction I went for that instead. Against my dentist's advice. Then about 2 years later I found out why when the tooth next to the space became infected due to being ever so slightly wobbly.

A wobbly tooth is an exciting thing when you are 5 years old. It's a rite of passage ushering in the era of the toothless smile, comments from older relatives about kissing boys and finding £1 under your pillow for every one of them you can wobble out. But by the time the Tesco people are happy to sell you kitchen knives or Jack Daniels without an ID, a wobbly tooth is no longer a good thing.

When you can be bleeped through as a Customer clearly over the age of 25 without anyone ever properly looking at your face, then any space in your mouth where a tooth used to be is already putting pressure on remaining teeth making you more likely to loose another tooth in the future. Who knew? So my wobbly tooth was removed and I got a partial denture instead of a pound coin. Welcome to middle age.

For 4 years after that I didn't think much about my old lady mouth at all. Brushing took longer as the fake teeth need cleaned separately then you need to clean the sides of the real teeth next to the gap, but it's no big deal. Then one day I was cleaning the denture when it broke clean in half.

Annoying. It's amazing how hard the opposite jaw has to work to crunch up cornflakes when the fake teeth aren't there to help. But my ever so lovely dentist quickly arranged a repair (I love the NHS) and a week later the denture was returned as good looking as new. Honestly- you couldn't even see the fault line where it had snapped. I clicked the fake teeth back into place and ... Owwwwwcchh!

This wasn't good. But I figured they just needed wearing in like a new pair of Doc Martins. Forgetting of course that a) this most certainly did not happen when the denture was originally fitted and b) every pair of Doc Martins I have ever owned have seriously shredded the skin on both heels for at least a month.

But I am forgetful and stubborn that way and wore the fake teeth for 4 long days. Sleeping was OK. Not eating hurt a little bit. Eating anything hurt more than new Doc Martins. But the more it hurt the more determined I was that it would be fine. Most of the time it felt as though I had a localised throbbing headache in my jaw. A wad of swollen tissue developed under one side of my tongue causing a slight lisp. I eventually gave up after realising how stupidly asymmetrical my mouth was and made another appointment.

My lovely dentist sorted me out in under 5 minutes after buffing the fake teeth with a metal whizzy thing that removed the extra bit of resin that must have been jutting out. I clicked the teeth into place and... Yay- A perfect fit! Like the teeth were made for my mouth. The tiny bit of material she filed away was almost insignificant, but it meant the difference between functioning normally and being constantly distracted by pain and having an unhealthy interest in soup, milkshake and anything else that didn't need to be chewed.

Then Jesus said, 'Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.' (Mat 11: 29-30)

Before the industrial revolution, bulls or oxen were used to pull farming machinery so Jesus' audience would have been familiar with this image. Apparently the animals would work either alone or be paired up and fitted for their yoke which would be individually contoured to the unique curve of their muscular backs and shoulders. The harness was never off the peg, but made to measure. The farmer would try it out, then return with his animals to get their yoke adjusted, perhaps several times, until it fitted perfectly. The animals' strength was vital to their task, but so too was their comfort and health.

Pulling a plough.
Munching up cornflakes.
Walking around in shoes that fit you.
Doing most things in life involves surfaces making contact with each other.
Movement proves we are alive.
And things have got to fit well together or they become worn and damaged.

Especially if you're talking about solid wood vs an ox's shoulder blades.

Or new Doc Martins or rigid plastic vs human skin.

My yoke is easy to bear and my load is light. What does that mean then?

The religious system back then was complicated, entwined within the overarching control of the Roman empire. There were laws and some more laws and then even more laws to regulate the original laws. It was unnecessarily complicated and underpinned by a corrupt multi-layered power structure that was designed to keep people subdued. To keep them on the fringes. To oppress.

Religion was hard.

Jesus' method was groundbreaking in its simplicity: Love God and love people. That sums up everything you need to know. It's not easy, but neither is it difficult to understand.

Because it's life.
And growth.
And movement.
And work.
The seasons don't stop and there's farming to be done.

The work required might be demanding, but it's designed for you and I'll kit you out with what you need. It's tiring and exhausting sometimes, but following me is not damaging. The yoke was crafted for you and look! I fit at the other side.

There has always been inequality and power struggles. In every society that ever existed and is yet to emerge there are corridors of power and those who fight to maintain them. But when God says We're in this together, he means it.