Things I shall never do (or never do again)

Cartwheel - Evolution #1

Cartwheel – Evolution #1 (Photo credit: Thomas Z. Photographie)

The  sun has at last been out this weekend and my children have come blinking mole-like into the daylight from enforced indoor imprisonment for the last 5 months.  Hurrah!  Finally they can partake in wholesome activities like cricket rather than the definitely less appealing screen-based activities which form such a large part of their lives, particularly in winter, only relieved of course by the odd game of Cluedo (see previous post).

As I sat outside and watched them play, my daughter who is currently going through a purple-gymnatics-rapunzel stage (sometimes all at once), attempted a roly-poly (technically called a forward roll I believe).  For one insane moment, I thought I might show her how it’s really done and then thankfully I remembered the “cartwheel incident”.

A couple of years ago, showing off, I thought I might demonstrate my childhood gymnastic skills by cartwheeling on the beach.  It became abundantly clear half way through the cartwheel that this was possibly one of my more foolish decisions.  Too late. 38 year old women who only irregularly partake in exercise should never attempt anything that they did with ease in childhood.

My cartwheel was less beautiful circle in motion and more immediate and somewhat explosive irreparable puncture.  As my son pointed out at the time, he had learnt something from my cartwheel demonstration just not what I had intended – how not to do a cartwheel and how to keep a straight face when your mother starts her gymnastic demonstration with the grace and flair of Olga Korbut but ends it splattered on the sand looking as though she has been run over by said cartwheel. Utter humiliation.

So somersaults are something I shall never do again. It got me thinking. What else will I never do (or never do again)?  I will never dive or even jump off a diving board again. My relationship with swimming pools has definitely changed over the last decade. When I was young and on holiday, you could never get me out of the pool – pools and I had a largely harmonious relationship.  Now, it’s a little bit more fractious, and honestly I’d be perfectly happy to spend 2 weeks in the sun sitting around a pool without ever getting in it.

Why? Well for the reasons outlined above with regard to my gymnastics prowess, it would be potentially mortifying to dive/jump/bellyflop off a diving board at my age – the permutations for embarrassment and humiliation actually make me shudder.

As for swimming itself…I know it sounds a bit pathetic but I don’t really like putting my head in the water now – not because I’m precious about my hairstyle (far from it…largely as I don’t really have a hairstyle as such to be concerned about) but I just don’t really like it.  A nice leisurely, but regal, breaststroke is about all I can manage these days with my head firmly out of the water.  I’ll leave the more energetic strokes to those a little younger than me.  To be honest, I never really got the point of backstroke anyway – why would you swim on your back, unable to see where you are going, towards a concrete wall?  Backstroke is pointless and to my mind potentially dangerous.

What else?  Oh yes, I am unlikely to spend an entire day (unless ill) watching back to back soap operas like I (obviously occasionally) did at university.  There was a brief period after the birth of each of my children when I dabbled in Neighbours, Home & Away, Hollyoaks and even, on a particularly bad day,  Doctors, but I managed to wean myself off them once I no longer had the excuse of sitting on my sofa for hours ostensibly feeding a baby.

However, at university, (obviously occasionally) soaps determined my daily schedule and it was not unknown for me and my best friend to spend an entire afternoon watching back to back soaps just because we could. Now however I have much more intellectually challenging tasks to complete such as deciding whether pesto pasta is on the cards for dinner (which it is today incidentally) or driving my “taxi” around the local area, picking up my non-fare paying customers and depositing them at their various required locations for tennis, football etc.  I do allow myself one little indulgence though – EastEnders.  Love it.  I always watch it and feel so hugely lucky and grateful for my little life – however miserable my day has been, at least I don’t live in Albert Square.

There are, of course, hundreds of other things that I shall probably never do or do again equally as trivial as the above.  There are lots of things, not just trivial things, which I wish I could do or wish I had done.  Equally there are lots of things that I can do now which I couldn’t have done when I was younger and that’s where the focus should be I suppose.  What would you never do now or never do again?

Miss Scarlet in the Dining Room with the Dagger…


Cluedo (Photo credit: Chez Pitch)

I think it was Miss Scarlet in the dining room with the dagger.  Sound familiar?  Cluedo, of course.  It’s school holidays again (claps hands with glee) and in a fit of good mothering I have been teaching my boys to play Cluedo.

They have adapted well to the novel concept of a board game (heavy sarcasm) – no buttons to press, no electronic scoring, no “sick” graphics.  But Cluedo 2013 is very different to Cluedo c1979.  The principles are the same – amazingly “Health & Safety” has not outlawed the basic tenet of someone getting murdered in a gruesome manner in favour of someone being slightly hurt which wasn’t their fault at all of course.

The board has changed – I swear the corridors and hallways between rooms are half the length/size – presumably not to appear too overwhelming for the exercise-shy younger generation of today. We no longer have Miss Scarlet, Professor Plum, Colonel Mustard et al – much less gender specific nowadays – Plum, White, Scarlet etc. The weapons are the same – although dagger seems a little outdated – perhaps “pistol” and “dagger” are used intentionally so as not to be seen to be promoting guns and knives.  Of course, the rope is no longer a real little piece of rope, it is a plastic version – almost certainly my old friends “Health & Safety” at work again although what a small child could possible do with one inch of string is beyond me.

Perhaps the biggest reflection of the changing times is in the rooms.  Gone is the Billiards Room, in is the Games Room sporting giant TV screen (showing football of course) and among other things somewhat intriguingly a wine bottle lying abandoned on the floor (an interrupted game of “spin the bottle” perhaps?). Gone is the Ballroom (no surprises there, it seemed rather outdated to the average Joe in 1979 too), in is the double Garage and Courtyard complete with faux Greek pillars and gargoyles. Most fascinating of all are the details: in the kitchen, the pre-requisite of a modern kitchen, the island; in the study, the computer with wireless keyboard; in the living room, the corner leather sofa and floor-standing giant sound system speakers and my favourite, in the bathroom, a corner jacuzzi bath and “his” and”hers” side-by-side basins.  All very 21st century.

Actually, thank goodness for the details because they gave me something to focus on throughout the somewhat excruciating experience of teaching the boys to play the game.  Of course, I have won every game despite my best efforts to lose.  It has not proved easy to lose: partly because one son seems totally incapable of not showing me his hand (a rather crucial element in this particular game) and the other son has shown thus far absolutely no understanding of the technique required in order to bluff your opponents; partly, and I am not proud to admit this, I have won every game because I want to win – I know, pathetic to be competitive against your own children.

On a serious note, I am actually very pleased that the boys are enjoying playing a board game.  After all so much of my own childhood was taken up with endless rounds of Boggle, Yahtzee, Monopoly, Scrabble and the interminably boring Snakes & Ladders (which I will only  now play under extreme duress or with a pre-determined conclusion time).  Most gratifyingly, one son actually wants to play Cluedo in preference to watching the drivel that seems to be permanently pouring from the TV screen – in fact, he chose it over The Simpsons – Mother :1, Bart: 0.

Despite my gentle ribbing, I know that the 2013 Cluedo board is much more attractive to my boys than the one of my childhood would be – reassuringly familiar in its details – and that probably goes in part towards their desire to play. Even though by playing the game they are parted temporarily from their beloved screens, the screens are still subliminally playing their part accessorising various rooms in the Cluedo mansion.

Not all changes to board games are a success. Take the version of Monopoly that I saw this afternoon at a friend’s house.  All looked pretty familiar but something was missing – the money: no orange £100s, no pink £500s…all replaced by a single “debit  card” and a debit card machine.  Wrong, very wrong.

If I was to be all worthy about it, I could bang on about how this cashless version teaches children nothing about value, nothing about counting out money, nothing about actually physically handing over money. Of course this is all true but for me a cashless version is an utterly pointless version. How satisfying was it to demand £1000s in rent for your “hotel complex” on “Mayfair” and then watch your siblings/friends hand over a fistful of hard cash?  How gratifying to charge an extortionate amount to your already financially troubled opponent for your “Get Out of Jail Free” card?  How much did you enjoy seeing your mountain of cash building up on your side of the board whilst your opponent fell on hard times with a measly £500 to his name? Perhaps I am sounding like a rather unpleasant “loadsamoney” relic from the ’80s but come on, that’s what the fun was, wasn’t it?  Where’s the fun in a debit card, tell me that?