Saturday, January 26, 2013

Dulcius Ex Asperis

Thumbnail for version as of 09:43, 16 January 2009My Dad's favorite phrase was "sweeter after difficulty" - or "Dulcius Ex Asperis" for any Latin purists.
It's the Clan Ferguson (yes there's a real clan)  motto.
"Dulcius Ex Asperis" and a bee on a jaggy thistle all-proper.

My Dad was a Ferguson through and through and thought the motto made complete sense.

His belief was that difficulty was part of nature - like the change of weather.  And, as it was  inevitable,  it should be met with acceptance. Without blame or shame. With open-eyed observance, rather than avoidance.
Difficulty could hurt, damage, cause doubt and pain. It might even knock you over but it couldn’t ever break you, not without your say so.
As inevitably as it came, the weather would pass and nothing could feel sweeter than getting back on your feet again, with the sun coming out. 
Than stretching your arms and taking a breath.  Strong.

My dad like to wear check shirts. And socks and sandals when he wore shorts.  His nose would take on gigantic bulbous proportions with too much sun. He and my mum loved dancing. He was nimble in his feet.  Loved when Shirley Bassey was on TV, and would suck the sir through his teeth whenever there were snakes. 
My dad invented "Chinese egg" and he'd always pick me up from a station so I wouldn't have to catch a taxi. He had the most hilarious arguments with my Mum about how to cook fish and he had the bluest of blue eyes.

7 years ago this week I looked down at my father on a hospital bed, trying to ingrain the image of him in my head, knowing I’d never see him again.  Yet, still I see him, in my own hands, or when I try to style my hair, in my son's bluest of blue eyes.

In my mind both my parents are on a cruise in the Bahamas. The ship has all the mod cons apart from (ridiculously) phone reception and my parents really should complain about that, but they're having such a good time they don't.

My dad is wearing shorts and his nose has taken on gigantic bulbous proportions because of too much sun. He and my Mum are having an ongoing argument about the right way to cook fish. Sitting at the Captain's table. Or nimble on the dance floor. Far away from snakes. To the music of Shirley Bassey.

But this week, every year, the weather changes. It has to. It's inevitable.

This week every year I’m reminded who I am.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Cycling or spinning

I'm spending today trying not to be annoyed.
It started with my 5 year old "coloring in" the oak table in the living room (no I did not miss a word)
I love the oak table. It's old. Really old. The top of it painstakingly crafted in a herringbone design by some dedicated worker years ago.
It is beautiful.  Really beautiful. Except, now it's beautiful and covered in pen.

True, he didn't plan to color in the table. That wasn't what he set out to do. He was drawing a picture of Darth Vader But he was so involved in creating the greatest depiction of evil -  that even though he was destroying something grown centuries ago and crafted patiently over time by skilled workmen - he kinda, somehow, figured it "collateral".

Once he was done, he came and confessed to me. He said he was sorry. He showed me where the dammage was. He apologized again when he saw my expression and his bottom lip quivered and he promptly went off to "tidy his room."
I attacked the table first with WD40 pen and then furniture polish.
Nothing. It'll take a lot more than that to take the stain away.

Then I turned on the radio. Apparently Lance Armstrong met with Oprah . Apparently he told her how sorry he was.  He didn't really mean to do anything bad, he was just focussed on winning and yes he knew they were illegal but...
The radio was turned off.

Course my 5 year old and Lance Armstrong are completely different:
Obviously my 5 year old is still a child. So young in fact you have to put all medications on a high shelf in case he should think they're candy.

Also my 5 year old when he finished his drawing, handed it to his brother, saying "use this for identification purposes. This is what bad looks like. See this and inform the nearest adult."

My 5 year old didn't try to blame his brother. Didn't claim his brother had done it too once. Didn't discredit his brother. Didn't threaten his brother. And even though he doesn't know what the word 'litigation' means - even if he did, he wouldn't have used that on his brother either.

Lastly, when my 5 year old tearfully apologizes, you know for sure he means it.

My son at 5 years old, doesn't tell me what he's done wrong, hoping I'll let him draw on the table again.  Instead he acknowledges what upset he has caused, and then does whatever he can to make things better.

I know that, as years pass, I will look at the pen marks on the oak table. and they'll remind me of my 5 year old. When he's a full grown man, I'll see them and remember how he was really trying to do the right thing, but just got kind of distracted.

Guess me and Linda Armstrong don't have much in common either.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Keep off the flowers

Earlier this week I watched a Percy Jackson movie on TV with both my sons.

The hero from a series of books, based on Greek Mythology , written by Rick Riordan,  Percy Jackson is an American teenager who's also a demi-God. (aren't they all?). 

Anyway, so we're watching the movie - but before this all sounds like technology based Waltons story  - I have to point out that I was doing it under duress:

2013 has started with a vengeance  Sure it was lovely to have the holidays, but now there's a ton of work to catch up with, stuff to be done, resolutions to be kept.
And if I'm honest, anybody stupid enough to have built themselves a daily web show (hands up me and Mr T) will find themselves with an endless amount in their "to do" pile that gets added to every day.

But my sons had both protested.  They had loved watching movies together during the holidays. Couldn't I do it for a LITTLE while? 

I sighed and conceded.

Well Percy Jackson's quite something. Despite being part mythological, he and his friends Annabeth and Grover are all very attractive and focussed - not qualities I seem to remember I particularly had in my own teenage years.

I watch them as they defeat Medusa - a pretty aggressive woman with snake hair (selectively ignoring the comment from Mr T - "Is that Medusa or your mother first thing in the morning?")

I watch them petrify the Hydra using Medusa's head (ignoring Mr T 's, "that's exactly what happens to the mailman if he sees your mother in the morning.")

And as Mr T snores on the sofas alongside us, I snuggle up with my boys and watch Percy, and his friends,  enter "the Lotus casino" in Las Vegas.

"No, they're going to the kingdom of the Lotus Eaters" says my 10 year old.

I used to love Greek mythology. It's one of the things me and my 10 year old share.

In Greek mythology, the Lotus eaters were people who lived on an island filled with lotus plants. The lotus fruits were delicious and addictive and narcotic, and the Lotus eaters existed off their heads.  Only caring about the Lotus flowers and completely unaware that real life was totally passing them by.

I'm thinking to myself I like Rick Riordan's writing very much.

"That's clever making the Lotus eaters in Vegas," I say.
"Why?" says my 10 years old.
"Because, well because....never mind. You're missing the movie."

So in the Lotus casino, even though they appear to be in a bar, Percy and his friends don't drink - like I say they are NOTHING like me as a teenager. They eat Lotus flowers and hang out with all the other people who are out of their heads on Lotus flowers. They meet a guy who appears to have done nothing much other than eat Lotus flowers and play pinball since 1971.  I'm not going to do a spoiler - though I will tell you that there are subsequent books in the Percy Jackson series.

Point is, my 10 year old, my 5 year old and me,  watched the movie, all snuggled up on the sofa, whilst their father 'napped" beside us.
Even though my phone rang a couple of times. Even though there were definitely e mails that should have been read and e mails that should have been sent. There was a video that had to be tagged. Scripts should have been finished. And I should have been making dinner.
But we watched the movie right to the end.

And periodically since I've found myself thinking about it.

Another glass of wine or 10?  Lotus flower.
Piss around on Facebook for hours. Lotus flower.
Bitch about someone who's pissed me off. Lotus flower.
Compare myself to other people. Lotus flower.
Get mad at myself for not achieving. Lotus flower.
Worry about stuff I have no control over. Lotus flower.

It's ridiculous. But when you think something, you can't make yourself unthink it.

So here at the start of a new year, I can't say for sure I'm going to avoid every 'Lotus flower." In fact I'm pretty certain I'll dabble from time to time.
(Anyway, surely it could be argued that the continual act of looking for Lotus Flowers could be considered a Lotus flower in its own right.)

What I do know, is I'll be watching a lot more movies with my kids.
Maybe Percy Jackson really is a demi-God after all.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

New Shoes

We took my 10 year old to buy new shoes and, turns out, he has man feet.

The tiny premature boy, who shivered his way into the world one rainy day in November, a decade ago in a North London hospital, no longer fits anything in the children's shoe department.

"Some babies are just ready early," the special care nurse had said, as my little man lay there with a breathing tube up his nose. so small and blue-white and vulnerable.

We didn't believe her at first. It looked like we might lose him. But it turned out she was right after all,  and that was the first (and I expect last) time he was,  or will ever be,  'ready early' for anything.

Using the contraption in the store, I had measured his feet.
Adult size 7.

My other half laughed, patted him, proudly, on the back and called him "Flipper "  - only to receive a stern talking to from our 5 year old about "name calling" and how it can easily be classified as "bullying."

My 5 year old stared. Marveling at the giant expanse of foot,  he commiserated that this would mean there'd be no chance of shoes that light up when you walk - a complete disaster from my 5 year old's point of view.

I worried he might be embarrassed.

"It's a good thing to have big feet, honey, because then you won't blow over in a strong wind, " I said, using the logic that had been used on me.
My 10 year old, stretched his legs, stood up and then walking up and down in his new shoes to test the comfort, said, "I need to have big feet, because I have a long way to travel."

When I check on him last thing at night, tucking his blanket around him, I see him as I did 10 years ago, even though he's far from small and not blue-white or shivering.
Then, closing the door, I can't help but snigger at the humungous great toes sticking out the end of his childhood bed.

My 10 year old son has man feet.