Wednesday, August 27, 2008

On the eve of school and other stories

It's finally upon us - the first day of Kindy (as kindergarten is called at Tom's new school) is tomorrow.

Working out Tom's schooling up here in Edinburgh was a major deal for us - a big leap into the unknown. It took us away from Tania with all her incredible personal support and marvellous liaision work with the school in Ruddington and it took us away from a group of teachers and professionals who took the time to work Tom out and to ease his transition into the mad world of pre-school.

Finding the Steiner school has made what threatened to be an anxious period somewhat more straightforward.

Describing Steiner to family and friends has been a humorous experience. There have been a couple of 'in the know' friends who have responded with unbridled enthusiasm and cries of 'if only we could...'. A small number think we might be joining a cult and there are those who've needed potted summaries from the ground up.

And it hasn't been so easy to explain beyond a phrase I've found myself using time and again - 'I wish I'd gone there' and I'm so pleased that Tom has that opportunity.

It is the type of school that upholds and lives by those ideals you ponder on and yearn for when you despair of the commercialisation and materialism that so readily engulfs childhood. It is the type of school that will permeate into our lives in ways that prehaps other schools wouldn't and in ways that can only benefit us all.

I think I'm more excited than Tom...

Anyway... the last of Tom's birthday treats arrived at the tail end of last week. I took Friday off and we went to see 'The Gruffalo' - a play based on the hugely influential (in our house at least) book of the same name. Tom was stunned into silence again - barely moved for the full 50 minutes. Live theatre is so much easier than movies or TV for him language-wise, it is hardly surprising that it has the hold on him it does.

A second treat followed on Saturday... Safari Park time and, most importantly, an opportunity for Trevor to meet the family.

Trevor the giraffe is so important that we have a spare. He's in the back of a cupboard somewhere with gleaming white fur and well distributed stuffing. He no longer looks anything like the original and we have developed a whole 'health spa for giraffes' cover story should we need to carry out the exchange.

Anyway - Tom showed a great deal of enthusiasm for the animals... at least until he saw the dodgems and other fairground attractions. The first chink in this new-found enthusiasm for all things natural came in the rhino enclosure where, having seen his fill of these beasts and the graceful antelope that also lived there, he glanced out of the back window and shouted excitedly

'Look!! A Mercedes!!!'

Yes - more interested in the car following us. He's a proper boy isn't he?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Greetings from Edinburgh

So we finally got moved four weeks ago and, after a catalogue of delays and general buggering about on the part of numerous conveyancing and real estate ‘professionals’ (and I use that term pretty loosely), last Friday we actually sold the place back in Nottinghamshire. It only took a year.

Amid the stresses, strains, thrills and spills of moving have been any number of moments when I’ve thought ‘I really must blog that’. But those boxes won’t unpack themselves and, with a new city to be explored, we’ve all been focussing elsewhere.

So… a few potted highlights:

Meet the gang

Tom talks about ‘the old house’ and Ruddington (the village where we lived) a lot. Summer might seem like a convenient time for moving to a parent but, for a four year old who has just fallen in love with this whole nursery/school thing, it just accentuates the ‘differentness’ of this new place and the lack of playmates.

Tom’s approach has been to elevate previously ignored soft toys to the status of friends. The gang includes Trevor the much adored (and frequently filthy) giraffe; Steve, a teddy bear with an irritating jingle; a gangly frog called Eyeball; Mister Cat and a few other recent additions including a koala with unfortunate chalk marks.

We have just about manage to restrict the party to one or two for outings but, when Tom is negotiating the flat in his pushalong car, the whole mob gets crammed in the back.

Personalities have been developed – Trevor is the devil-may-care somersault expert and toy most likely to slide down a muddy bank while the koala has rapidly developed a level of authority-defying cheekiness – and we’re certainly not discouraging this endearing foible. Indeed, it gets every day started with a smile.

Tom’s bedroom is at the opposite end of the flat to the bathroom and our room and, every morning, Tom drives all his cuddly friends to the toilet where he, courteously, holds each of them up to pee before he finally takes his turn. We lie in bed next door, giggling as he provides the appropriate sound effect.


So we arrived in Edinburgh just in time for the festival and, while I squeezed a few evenings of grown-up entertainment in while Nik and Tom were in Geneva, the highlight thus far has to be Tom’s fourth birthday treat - The Bubble Guy - .

Bubbles filled with smoke, bubbles inside bubbles, kids kissing bubbles, people inside bubbles – what’s not to love about that. Watching Tom’s face and seeing him completely enraptured for nearly an hour was the perfect gift for us – and I hope it was some compensation for him given that his party consisted of playing pass the parcel with three grown ups and sharing his cake with a line of stuffed toys in party hats.

So I’m writing this during one of my all too frequent stays in a dull London hotel – away from my beautiful wife and son in our splendid new city. Talking about them brings me closer to them in some small way and helps pass the evening – I really should do it more often.

I phoned home about 6pm, hoping to talk to Tom before he goes to bed. Occasionally he’s keen to talk and answers questions happily, telling me about his day and his many needs. Today, for the first time, he answered the phone and shrieked happily to Nik - ‘It’s daddy!!’

It’s a measure of how successful Tom is with his implants that it took me some minutes to realise what an achievement this is.