...cats, bears, wolves and monkeys playing Uno.
(Wolfie has just played a blue 1, and play is passing clockwise; Brown Bear is therefore just about to win. Cat has managed to stitch Monk up something rotten with a few well-placed +4s, and has left him with a hand worth upwards of 120)
The garklet keeps asking what Cat and Monk get up to while he's at nursery, and we've started to stage vignettes to indulge him and amuse ourselves.
Scene: I was taking the garklet for a haircut, and we happened to pass a church that was ringing for matins. He asked why the bell was ringing, and misheard 'matins' as the name of one of his friends who moved to Cambridge last year (who I shall refer to as M). The important thing to note is that M is the child of a lesbian couple.
- Where M?
- M's in Cambridge.
- Why M in Cambridge?
- Because his mummies got jobs in Cambridge.
- What about him daddy?
- I don't know - M lives with his two mummies.
- No, M not got two mummies. M got a mummy and a daddy.
- No, M has two mummies. Remember, you saw them both at G's house earlier in the year. And you saw them when you went to M's birthday party. And you saw them almost every day when they picked M up from nursery.
- *upset* No, M got a mummy and a daddy. M not got two mummies. You pooey!
- I'm not pooey! Not all little boys and girls have a mummy and a daddy; some have two mummies, like M, and some have two daddies.
- *very upset* NO! YOU WRONG! YOU POOEY! M GOT A MUMMY AND A DADDY! pthpthpthpt!
- On that we'll have to disagree.
I mean, what else can you do in this situation?
Since we had our loft boarded and smartened up a few years back, we've been merrily using it to store away the things that we don't need from day to day, or which don't belong in the library. Unfortunately, it's starting to get a bit full in there (what with ias's sewing stuff, my tools, Xmas decorations, the garklet's baby clothes, our suitcases, and so on), so we've been planning on putting some of Mr Kamprad's fine modular shelving solutions up there (specifically the GORM range).
Now, I could just have gone up there with a tape measure and an old envelope to note down how many of each item we needed, but the space is confined enough (and our need for storage great enough) that I am going to have to cut shelves down to fit. Version 1 of the plan was on the back of an envelope, but didn't have accurate measurements. Version 2 was in Illustrator - great for the plan view, not so good for working out whether it will all fit under the roof.
Version 3 is in Google SketchUp, complete with models of the shelves (rather than just bounding boxes). Fortunately, I stopped short of modelling everything in the loft so that I could plan how to fit things on the shelves.
In other news, we took the garklet to the cinema this morning - Harbour Lights (and some other cinemas in the Picture House chain) are screening episodes of In the Night Garden to get the little ones used to sitting quietly in a darkened room. He liked it greatly, and was so well-behaved that I'm toying with the idea of taking him to see Up.
Finally, I've also managed to get around to reading Brundibar to the lad - a Sendak-illustrated version of the Czech children's opera that was first performed in Theresienstadt in 1943. The story itself is charming, but Sendak's illustrations add another layer on top of this (Brundibar is pictured with a toothbrush moustache and side parting, for example) which make this more than just a children's book. I'm still quite surprised that Portswood library had a copy. Highly recommended.
The garklet is generally a good lad, but he often gets a little excited or frustrated, and when he does he has a regrettable tendency to hit people. We've just been moving some of his toys back into the living room, into the wheeled boxes that I'd built with a little bit of IKEA bricolage, and he ended up running around with one of his old toy boxes on his head while shouting "robot!"
And then he hit me. Not a hard blow, and not one borne of malice, but the sort of roughhousing that we're trying to get him to tone down a bit.
And that at moment, inspiration hit.
"garklet, are you being a robot?"
"Yes, my am robot. Urrrr!"
"Well, there are some important rules that good little robots have to follow. The first rule is 'don't hit anyone', the second rule is 'always do what grown-ups tell you to do', and the third rule is 'be careful'. Okay?"
The garklet is running around naked after his bath. I'm playing him some music to dance to. On the grounds that he likes the KLF remixes of the Doctor Who theme, I played him some Vangelis, and then some Jean Michel Jarre.
He's now running around wrapped in bubble wrap shouting "like a robot!"
For those that haven't met him, the garklet has a bit of a thing for aeroplanes. This really became apparent about a year ago; I read him Sadie the Airmail Pilot every night for at least a month, and he was fascinated by the aircraft flying into Southampton Airport (we're less than a kilometre south of the perimeter, and probably less than 200m west of the southern approach flight path).
Last summer, we met up with my uncle and aunt at the Isle of Wight Steam Railway (they had a 1940s weekend) and ias ended up buying him a selection of planes, mostly WWII fighters. She was under my vague instructions (I had thoughts of making him a mobile), but most of the aircraft have ended up going into his toy box. He has a very chipped (and badly modelled) diecast Spitfire, and a number of cheap polystyrene gliders. There were two planes that we didn't give him, on the grounds that they were too nice. One was a Spitfire kit (that I've yet to assemble), and the other was a Corgi diecast of a Mk.IIc Hurricane, from their Battle of Britain Memorial Flight range. He found the latter last week (I was tidying up a shelf, and it was in the pile off stuff that I'd taken down) and has barely let it out of his sight since.
You can see where this is going, can't you?
Thanks to our location, we get a lot of interesting things going over, from the Red Arrows to a B1-B Lancer. I've seen the BoBMF quite a few times (four? five?), so they're no longer quite as much of a gosh-wow as the first time, even though they still are rather cool. Tonight, we had a Spitfire (a photo-reconnaissance job) and a Hurricane en route to a flypast at Shrivenham.
The garklet hadn't quite connected the special planes with his toy planes, although he does recognise the replica on the airport roundabout as a Spitfire (I haven't yet explained that it's a replica of K5054, the prototype aircraft which flew from the then-named Eastleigh Aerodrome).
He's now seen 'his plane' (or to be more precise, LF363 wearing the colours of YB-W - his plane is a model of this with remarkably accurate markings). He's one happy little boy, and I'm going to have difficulties getting him to bed tonight.
ias recounted a conversation that marklesuk had with Thea, on the subject of apes and monkeys, which got me browsing aimlessly through Wikipedia. I came across an article on Yerkish, an artificial language designed in the 1970s for use by non-human primates, principally chimpanzees. Yerkish has a vocabulary of symbols (lexigrams) which are used to label buttons on a keyboard, and has a relatively complex grammar. The paper referenced in the Wikipedia article (a scan of a microfiche version of a typed paper original) has an appendix of conversations with Lana (the first chimpanzee to have learned Yerkish) that were so close to conversations that I've had with the garklet that I think they merit reposting.( In which Lana throws a tantrum ) ( In which Lana learns about boxes ) ( In which Lana humours a literal-minded researcher )
A bit of a life roundup for the past week. First off, the cat. She might have stayed around for an extra day, but she buggered off the following day. I suspect that it was the move from luxury single sachet cat food to multipack Waitrose own-brand cat food that did it. The garklet seems to have taken it well, and has accepted the explanation that "she's gone back to her family" (which in all truth is the most likely outcome), and hasn't settled for "she was driven away by next door's army, and is now cowering under a bush with tiny, frozen paws, etc". He still asks after her most days ("gat? ee-ow?"), which is very sweet.
The big event in the young lad's life is that he turned two on Sunday. ias has said more about this, so suffice to say that he ate too much cake and ice cream, and really enjoyed playing with my sister.
He then promptly came down with a stinking cold (proper 40-a-day cough), and had to be taken out of nursery early on Monday. We then promptly came down with it - I took yesterday off, and ias probably should also have done so. We've both been off today, and our likely disposition tomorrow is an open question.
In the past, we've both complained about our poor timing when ill; when you want a good black and white film on daytime TV, there are none to be found. Fortunately, things have been rather better this time. So far I've watched (or napped through) the following:
- Threads: I didn't see this when it was first broadcast (although I do remember the cover of Radio Times), so I was rather grateful when ias's parents bought me the DVD for my birthday. It sounds rather daft, but I wasn't prepared for just how bleak it would be - and I'd been prepared for an awful lot. Had to pause for ten minutes in the last third and go and do something else instead. I'm very glad that I've seen it, and I'm not sure that I want to watch it again in the foreseeable future. After this, I decided that both of my choices for the next film to watch (Grave of the Fireflies, and Edge of Darkness) were probably a bit too much, so instead I watched...
- Ratatouille: My sister bought this for the garklet, so I thought that I ought to review it before subjecting him to it. Still a bit old for him, but he should enjoy it when he's a year or so older. Generally charming, with some lovely sequences, but I felt that the critic's Proustian moment should have been properly Proustian (with a petite madeleine and a cup of tea). Whoever heard of someone going dreamy-eyed over ratatouille? But I digress.
- Next on the list were the final two episodes of Band of Brothers. I've been watching these as BBC2 show them, and have rather enjoyed them. Yes, it's a military soap (as a yoof, I was hooked on Tour of Duty), but it works well, mainly because of the talking head interviews with the veterans of E Coy (most of whom appear as characters in the series). The impression I have is that it's fairly historically accurate, and the series certainly deserves all of the plaudits that have been heaped on it.
- Today's treat was not just a black and white film, but one that made my top of one of my Top Five lists: Went the Day Well. Still a cracking film, and an interesting contrast to Band of Brothers.
Also seen on Monday was Pom Poko, a Ghibli film about tanuki (Japanese raccoons). Rather fun, although the dubbing was rather coy at times; the tanuki's oversized testicles were referred to as a "raccoon pouch".
We appear to have acquired a cat:
We passed her on Brookside Way, and she followed us home. She then hung around outside for another half hour, and was looking quite lost (ias found her when she went outside to get some thyme).
The garklet seems a little unsure as to what to make of her; he's currently stroking her gently, but he was telling the cat to 'go' earlier. He at least now seems confident that she won't play with his train (although he's quite keen to demonstrate it to her).
I've been on a quick trip to the shops to get some catfood. We'll keep her in the kitchen overnight (with the window open), and put up 'found' posters tomorrow if she hasn't left. She seems in good shape; her coat is in good condition, she has no injuries, she seems free of fleas, and she seems a reasonable weight, but she's doesn't have a collar. She also smells faintly of cigarette smoke, so she's been living around people.
So, ias is currently away at a workshop in Manchester, which means that the garklet and I have been having some quality daddy-son time. This is also the first time that she's been away from him overnight since he was born (see her post here).
I was a little worried about how he'd take this, but it's been generally better than I'd thought. He's been a bit at sorts over the last week, having just moved up to the next group at nursery, and he's only just started going into nursery again without wailing and hanging onto our knees.
He asked after ias when I picked him up last night ("mimi?"), and kept asking on the bus, but I distracted him by pointing out that I'd promised him 'cake' (== malt loaf) the day before. Got home, got dinner on (fish pie - his favourite) and gave him a slice of malt loaf to tide him over while we were waiting for the pie to cook through. Watched CBeebies, ate loads of pie (he demolished 80% of an adult-sized portion), and then settled down to watch Babe ("baaa? gog! oo-ack-oo-ack! ee-ow!"). When that was over, he happily went to bed (read him Barbapapa *again* - the lad doesn't want anything else at the moment) and settled.
Woke three times last night, which wasn't too bad. Once just after midnight (he settled himself back down), once at 0315, and once at 0430. At 0315 he was rather upset and was insistently calling for ias, and it didn't look like I'd be able to get him off to sleep again in his cot, so I brought him into bed with me for a cuddle; he settled within about ten minutes. Much he same at 0430, but he settled a bit more quickly.
Woke for the day when the radio came on at 0700. He was demanding ias, so I phoned her, and then we skyped for a bit (which at least let me get to the loo).
Had a cheery breakfast, then into nursery, again cheerfully. Dead proud of the little lad, am I.
The words have been coming thick and fast, and it's been quite a while since I last tried to list his vocabulary, so this is not going to be an exhaustive effort. In general, his spoken vocabulary is less than half the size of his understood vocabulary, and he's adding 5-10 new spoken words a week at the moment. Words he knows:
- Most of his body parts, although he has a tendency to get 'cheeks' mixed up with 'chicks'. He also has the alarming habit of poking himself in the eye whenever he says 'eye.
- Clothes. He says 'shoes', 'socks' and 'jumper' quite clearly.
- A lot of vehicles. We've heard him say 'car', 'van', 'lorry', 'bus', 'train', 'railway', 'aeroplane', 'bike' and 'fire engine', and he can do reasonable impressions of them all. I've probably missed quite a few here, since vehicles are the Best Thing Ever.
- Animals: 'cat' (obviously), 'dog', 'cow', 'dinosaur', 'spider'. Probably many that I've missed.
- Quite a lot of foodstuffs, mostly things that are close to his heart: 'ham', 'cheese', 'yoghurt', 'bread', 'peas', 'butter', 'peanut butter', 'apple', 'banana', and 'biscuit'. He also knows 'carrot', which was a bit of a surprise, and 'tomato', even though he won't eat them.
- Assorted furniture. 'chair', 'bath', possibly 'table'.
- Bath time: 'sponge' and 'towel'.
- A few scattered verb phrases, the most notable of which is 'come on !'
- 'No'. Yes, we're reached that point, and we're starting to get frequent mild tantrums.
The garklet has managed to outdo himself this morning by taking a small swig from ias's bottle of Chanel No.19. Not the eau de toilette (which is relatively cheap at ~£60/100ml) nor the eau de parfum (which is slightly more expensive at about ~£80/100ml), but the little 7.5ml bottle of the parfum, which works out at a staggering £850/100ml. We don't think that he managed to drink much, since it's quite bitter - maybe 0.1ml, which is still enough to make his breath reek of No.19 - but he then managed to tip half the bottle over the dressing table.
My hands now smell of nothing but No.19 (which is pleasant, but I'd rather smell it on ias), and the bedroom is rather over fragranced.
On the plus side, I now know what to get ias for Christmas...
A few updates since last time:
- A dog. After an enjoyable cream tea at the Station House in Burley last weekend, he's finally worked out that not all furry quadrupeds are cats. This was helped by the three dogs that were sitting near us - after about an hour of 'no, that's a dog', he seemed to get the difference. This is of course a phenomenally interesting thing to have happened; I teach my students about various concept learning algorithms, and it's great to see the young lad starting to compete with the cutting edge of 1980s AI.
- A spoon. He said it twice while waving a spoon at me, and that counts, dammit. Also, nursery seem to think that he's been saying it for a bit.
- A bowl. Pronounced like the thing you tie in a bit of string, and distinct from 'bow' (rhymes with 'cow'), which is the noise made when you throw something.
Anyway, as much for our benefit as for yours, here's the young lad's current (consistent) vocabulary, as well as we can make it out.
- Any furry, four-legged mammal, most commonly a cat.
- dak, duk
- A bird, most commonly a duck.
- Daddy. Or Mummy. Or Alex. Or, in fact, any person.
- A vehicle (including aeroplanes)
- Bubble. Or any round, see-through and pretty thing (raindrops on windows, etc).
- lo, elo, iya
- The noise made by something falling or being thrown.
- A ball, or something which can be thrown.
- uh oh
- 1. Oh dear, something has fallen down. It may have been an accident, but it's more likely that I did it on purpose.
- 2. Oh dear, something is not right. Also used when someone sneezes.
- That, the thing that I am pointing at. Why do my stupid parents not understand what I'm saying to them?
Given this, it's hardly surprising that one of his favourite books (if not his absolute favourite) is the wonderful Sadie the Airmail Pilot, which features a cat who flies planes. Things don't get better than this for the under-twos, it seems.