Archive for the tag “adventure”

Down means out

Today I’ve been thinking about inheritance. Not, in case you’re wondering, the kind of inheritance which means you don’t need to worry about paying the mortgage, or makes you the proud owner of Great Aunt Bessie’s socks. No, the hand me downs I have been pondering are more along the lines of what you inherit emotionally.

My Grandmama (of underlined thank you letter fame in ‘About the book’) was a MOB of fine standing. With not just three, but four strapping boys to her name, she had both her house, and her hands, full. Together with my Grandfather (think Father Christmas re-incarnate) they lived a slightly bohemian existence, first as school teachers and later on as youth hostel wardens. They also, obviously, lived in different times.

Their 1940s and 1950s boys were left outside in their prams to ‘exercise their lungs’, walked miles across the fields to catch the bus to their school and were banished from the house sometime after breakfast and only allowed back inside when it got dark. With no television, the wireless was the focus of family life, practising ‘Singing Together’ songs a highlight of the week.

Our 2000 and something sons are – in so many ways – being brought up, in another world.

My feeble attempts at ‘controlled crying’ just made me feel ill, if I park a smidgeon further from school than the usual five minute wander, a rebellion ensues, and on the occasions (many) when I do kick the boys out into the garden, I nevertheless want to know exactly where they are and when they’ll be back. And contemplating life without a TV (albeit with appropriate modern-day screen-rationing in force) is like imagining a Devon cream tea without the clotted cream. I know, I know, utterly ridiculous.

Amidst all the differences however, there are elements of ‘Grandmama’ which still survive. And these elements are known in our house as ‘Grandmama’s Rules.’ Thus:
No. 1: No sticks are allowed inside the house. (I have, in a bid to minimise lunacy, extended this to swords and balls and anything which can be ‘brandished’.)
No. 2: No toys at the table. (Or actually, anything that is not there to be eaten or drunk. Anything else will be fiddled with, faffed with or knocked over. All of which distract from the operation of eating.)
No. 3: Down means out. (If you get down from the table, you’ve obviously finished and therefore you leave the kitchen. This is admittedly a little trickier to police in our open-plan abode.)
No. 4: Do not use the towels as hankies. (I have to accede that this has never had to be implemented. The boys refuse to use a hankie – towel or otherwise – and prefer to sniff, incessantly, uselessly and loudly, instead.)

So, in our house – and I know at least one other household where they have adopted many of the above – Grandmama’s legacy lives on. The fantastic thing about the fact that these are her rules – and not mine – is that I am not to blame for banishing fun. And of course, the other fantastic thing is that the rules can be added to, amended or adapted as the situation requires: the perfect answer to every tricky MOB moment.

Surely an emotional inheritance worth its weight in gold.

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What Floats your Boat?

So as you know, I am a MOB. I didn’t expect to be one: always thought I (like my mum) would have one of each, a ‘Perfect Pair’. But I didn’t. Instead I was blessed with three oh-so-bouncy boys and, of course, their ‘biggest boy’ dad. I adore my males; love every last hair on their why-bother-with-a-brush heads, but I often wonder if being surrounded by testosterone has changed the way I live. Whether I would be doing what I am now had I been tickled pink rather than bathed in blue.

Take last weekend.

For reasons too complicated to explain, we are currently babysitting a rather large boat. It sits outside our sitting room window, old and elegant. Or rather, it did. Until Sunday, when the Father of Boys (or FOB as he’s known) decided that the boat needed to go out. For the day. With us.

It’s not that I have an aversion to boats. On a calm, sunny day, with Jackie O sunglasses and a stylish scarf I can see the attraction. On a choppy, storm-threatening triple-waterproof kind of day, I cannot. My Naval FOB however, won’t be deterred by a ‘bit of breeze’ and our sons are super-excited by a whiff of adventure and danger. So, not for the first time, I find myself outnumbered by the delights and desires of the lads in my life. A little reluctantly, I enter the world according to… boy.

We attach trailer to towbar, bundle kids, lifejackets and a brand-new bucket barbeque into the car and set off for the slipway. I croc my way through fetid mud towards the boat. ‘Do we really need 2 cans of petrol? Surely we’re not going out that far?’ I shout hopefully into the cutting wind. The FOB doesn’t hear me; he’s gazing at the horizon and staring out to sea. I zip up my Berghaus and haul myself aboard.

Two hours and a thankfully less-choppy-than-anticipated estuary crossing later, my doubts (like the storm clouds) have all but disappeared. The boys are busy re-enacting Olympic long jumps on our almost-empty beach, the FOB is in the boat doing something important with ropes, the bucket barbeque is appropriately smouldering. This is the life, I think, dolloping ketchup on baguettes, and sausages on the grill. There’s a tiny hiss as fat splatters coal and I lie back in the sand, wriggling my toes.
***
The sausages take over an hour to cook. The FOB eyes the barbie with the expert eye of an Aussie. ‘Might be better using firelighters next time… ’ Then, ‘Right,’ he says authoritatively, quickly downing his just about ‘hot’ dog, ‘we’d better get going. The tides going out quicker than I thought and look,’ – I follow his finger towards the now exposed sandbanks mid-river – ‘we’ll be stuck on the sand if we don’t move soon.’

Too late.

Moments later, he’s up to his thighs in water, dragging the boat, me and the boys across the flats. ‘Can I help, dad?’ asks our eldest Sensible Son, threatening to leap from the boat to his father’s side. ‘Sit down!’ I growl, fearing mass ‘men overboard’. Reluctantly, he puts his bottom on the bench as the FOB lurches forward once again.

45 minutes later and we are finally free of seaweed and sand. The boat is floating, and we start the engine. ‘How long will it take us to get back to the slipway?’ I ask my panting husband. ‘Not too long…’ he replies, scarily vague. We putt tentatively into the now narrow deep water channel, and head slowly back whence we came.
***
‘The problem,’ the FOB informs me cheerfully at around 11.30 that night, ‘is that the slipways round here are too short.’ We are ankle-deep in mud, it is dark and it is cold. The FOB is holding the boat’s anchor, inching it up the mud flats as the tide v-e-r-y slowly comes in. This has to be the MOB equivalent of watching paint dry. ‘If the slipways were longer we would’ve been able to get the boat onto the trailer and out of the water even at err… an…umm… unexpectedly lowish tide rather than…’
‘…Rather than discovering that getting it out was impossible, having to drop anchor in the nearest-to-shore spot, wade across a mudflat to catch a bus back to where we left the car and then return in the middle of the night to haul the boat further up the beach in case the short anchor doesn’t hold in the storm that’s predicted for tonight?’ I yabber.
‘Well… yes,’ he accedes, catching my less-than-ecstatic drift. ‘But,’ he puts a long arm around my shivering shoulders, ‘Just look at that moon… it’s so romantic!’
I can think of a few more luxurious and frankly, less soggy, locations for a romantic assignation. Ones involving champagne perhaps, candles, cordon bleu food. I sigh and look up at the sky. The clouds have parted and the moon is indeed spectacularly bright.
‘Cheers!’ I say, pouring steaming tea into metal mugs, ‘here’s to boats, boys and maybe even checking tide tables.’
He grins and we stand and sip in silence.

What things have you enjoyed as a MOB that you didn’t think you would?

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