Chapter 58-The Art of Surfacing

“Of course in my day, we just used to chuck them in the water and waited to see if they’d sink or swim,” said my Grandmother, with an unnerving twinkle of nostalgia in her eyes.

I am sure there were many enjoyable aspects to being a child of the 1930s. In my mind’s eye they include blackberry picking, lemon curd sandwiches and playing Pooh sticks.

They do not include being thrown in the river after the Pooh stick to see who could learn to swim fastest.

Thankfully, Raffie’s swimming teacher is a modern woman and is not keen to see them flounder. But after taking a break over Christmas it was not a happy start to the day. Raffie was very disappointed to hear that we hadn’t given up on swimming after all, “but WHY do we have to go again?” but knows better than to complain to the teacher’s face.

Trialling the swim hat, as a bath is much more fun.

Trialling the swim hat in the bath as it’s much more fun.

Over the months his confidence has been improving, and he is tolerating being splashed at times, but we were still having tears at the thought of going under the water. Until this week.

We had tears at the thought of it, but eventually he shut his eyes and mouth and under he went. Putting his head under the water may seem insignificant but it has been like climbing a mountain for Raffie, who has never been entirely convinced about the benefits of swimming.

Raffie's response to his first ever lesson, having fallen asleep half way through it.

Raffie’s response to his first ever lesson, having fallen asleep half way through it.

And most weeks we have tears at going under the water, being sprayed with water, and generally doing anything he doesn’t want to do.

For some reason, splashing outside of the pool is perfectly acceptable.

For some reason, splashing outside of the pool is perfectly acceptable.

But perseverance has paid off, and the look of satisfaction on his face has made all the moaning worth it. While I was wrestling with our locker which had swallowed my £1 coin, he watched another swimming lesson in the big pool, transfixed. “I want to do that,” he said, and if he keeps persevering, perhaps one day he will. And much as I love my Grandmother, I think we’ll stick with our swimming teacher to help him get there.

A well-earned rest after splashing around.

A well-earned rest after splashing around.

Chapter 57-The Fun of the Potato Fair

The fortunes of the day can turn on a sixpence, especially when you forget to use the right word at the right time. “Does the potato fair have a slide? Does it have rides? I can’t wait to get there!” said Raffie, champing at the bit to get out of the car.

“Er no, it’s where they sell lots of special potatoes to plant for the new season,” I said. Desperately wishing I had used the word ‘sale’. Or ‘event’. Or even ‘market’. Anything but ‘fair’.

“Oh,” he said, a look of disappointment darkening his face. I got into the brace position. But, remarkably, he took it extremely well-a great achievement considering how excited he was about the funfair he was convinced we were going to. No tantrums, and no screaming.

After a start like this it can only get better, and thankfully it did, as despite the garden centre not having any rollercoasters or candy floss, Raffie could not contain his excitement.

Getting into the spirit.

So very exciting.

“I didn’t realise potatoes could be this exciting,” said a very nice lady watching Raffie run amok through the nursery, looking at the seeds and trying to bag up onions. On discovering some ducks taking a bath in a pothole he ran around in circles and joined them splashing around in the sunshine, before heading off into the garden area to see if he could find any chickens.

Making himself at home with the potato bags.

Making himself at home with the potato bags.

Having bought more than 60 potatoes we should have plenty to keep him occupied, and he can’t wait to get started. It will take more than a hot bath and a glass of wine for me to recover digging over the allotment this week but for Raffie, the fun (and the chitting) is just beginning.

And with his growing love of gardening, he should know more than his onions by the end of the season.

Concentrating.

Lost in seeds.

Chapter 56-Where there’s muck there’s brass

Having waxed with a weekly wave and smile, Raffie’s fascination with the bin men is now on the wane.

Where once he screamed with glee at seeing them stopping outside the house, this week’s anticipation has taken a more sombre tone.

“Can you send a message to the bin men Mummy?” Raffie asked. What could it be? To wish them a Happy New Year? Or ask if we can have our bin back this week? No. “Can you tell them not to take the rubbish this week as we’re keeping it. All of it.”

And so, it appears that one Mummy’s trash is a pre-schooler’s treasure.

For months Raffie has been turning into my nan, pulling things out of the recycling bag while shouting “You’re not throwing this away are you?” We have been finding new uses for bits of rubbish with varying degrees of success, inspired by ideas of all shapes and sizes-not least the enthusiasm of CBeebie’s Mr Maker.

There was the octopus crafted from the remainder of the bubblewrap. Then we have the fire engine created from two cardboard boxes hoiked out of the recycling bin and decorated with Fireman Sam stickers and a toilet roll ladder.

Bubblewrap tentacles.

Bubblewrap tentacles.

And I am still pulling bits of paper out of the carpet thanks to the ‘Mike in a snowstorm’ winter wonderland work of art.

Mike Wazowski in a snowstorm. Thankfully only a temporary exhibit.

Mike Wazowski in a snowstorm. Thankfully only a temporary exhibit.

We also have autumn leaves, fashioned in the image of his Grandma’s wallpaper and applied to the kitchen wall. This morning we made something shiny out of cereal box which I had tried to sneak into to the bin after breakfast.

Something sparkly on a cereal box.

Something sparkly on a cereal box.

“Have you spoken to the bin men yet?” as he caught me red-handed trying to put a toilet roll in the recycling bag. “No not yet, but they will need to come and take some of the rubbish-especially what they can’t recycle,” I sheepishly.

“OK, well don’t worry I’ve put a big bag of it in the back room so it doesn’t get mixed up. There’s all kinds of things we can keep, plastic bottle tops, boxes, cardboard and paper.”

So while the bin men have a break, Raffie has plenty to be getting on with while the rain lashes down outside. And although we’re awash with rubbish, every rain cloud has a silver lining. We can only be thankful that Raffie has almost the same enthusiasm for cleaning up afterwards, and with any luck he’ll be happy to see the bin men again soon for all the right reasons.

Tidying up.

Tidying up.

Chapter 55-A Clean Sweep

“A fox in a cage so it can’t escape, a penguin, a cat, a dog and a cuddle.” Thanks to pre-school, Raffie’s Christmas started during the first week of November. But faced with such a list, even Santa would have met his match getting this delivery down the chimney, apart from the cuddle of course.

But we needn’t have worried, as after we struggled to close the groaning boot to take his gifts and him away for Christmas, he was pleased with his presents. Despite the lack of a fox in his stocking, he was particularly overjoyed with a broom he received from his auntie and uncle on Boxing Day.

A boy and his broom.

A boy and his broom.

And not just any old broom. This, we were reliably informed, was the mast for his new ship.

“Where are you going?” I asked enthusiastically. “To the land of the dinosaurs Mummy,” he replied, with the kind of withering look suggesting this was blindingly obvious. “And I have to hold on tight so I don’t fall off.” Sensible advice for any prehistoric traveller.

All aboard for the land of the dinosaurs.

All aboard for the land of the dinosaurs.

On returning home, Raffie then decided to head to the kitchen by Moon buggy, but apparently, and despite bringing plenty of useful supplies including an ark, it wasn’t quite the same without the broom.

The first outing of the Moon Buggy.

The first outing of the Moon Buggy.

Happily, Raffie’s festive adventures have been a little more successful. From the letter to Father Christmas, to staying the whole way through a pantomime without having to leave, Raffie has loved every minute and despite this he still took having to take down the Christmas tree in his stride.

The serious business of taking down the decorations.

The serious business of taking down the decorations.

And even though it has meant watching Mr Peabody and Sherman at least once a day ever since, we are relieved that he has enjoyed all of his presents great and small.

The coming year is one of great change. Now the party’s over we are, like thousands of other parents, still agonising over the school application form. We have no idea of where he will actually go to school in September and like everyone else, once the form gets sent off, all we can do is hope for the best.

But with his new broom Raffie is cheerfully sweeping out the old. And having steered a steady course through the land of the dinosaurs, he’s hopefully heading for more great adventures promised by the new year.