I have a ton of bits and bobs I've written down the last few days and can't actually be bothered to tie them all together. So instead I'll just splash it out here for you all.
- When my wife first came to the UK during college she applied for a part-time job as a front desk receptionist. At a massage parlor. She had absolutely no idea what a massage parlor was and just thought it was like a tanning salon that you get in every strip mall in North America. When she told me about the interview (when the truth was revealed...) she said all the women were big old fat lasses. But that the one woman said she loved her job because - with her background - she would never have been able to buy a pony like she had by working there.
- I am officially middle-aged. Today at the playground I spent an inordinate amount of time picking up the garbage that the oiks had dropped all over the place in spite of the very easily accessible and numerous trash cans every where. But the clincher was the amount of tutting involved and comments I made that led to my daughter also picking up half-empty Mountain Dew bottles and remarking, "it's like they don't even bloody care." No doubt I will now start insisting on wearing wool socks no matter the weather, going to the hardware store every Sunday to look at cans of paint and will remark without shame to rooms full of relatives when we visit them that, "I've put the fan on in the bathroom..." to indicate that I've just had a poo and it's best to avoid the room for fifteen minutes.
- Every two weeks or so my wife explodes into effervescent panic about her daughter growing up to be a slut of some kind. It doesn't appear to be based upon anything actually happening. Especially as my daughter isn't even five and hasn't really done anything to suggest that in late life she'd let any old Tom, Dick and Jane drive their vehicle into her parking bay - if you know what I mean. Actually hold on.
Let's move on - I'm going to discount that one. Especially as right after it hit her she realized she need the toilet. I've put my wife's moral convulsions down to nightmares she may or may not be having. Sadly for me I've had two different unrelated nightmares repeat themselves more than twice over the last month which have led me to look differently at my son. The first is that my son grows up to be Swampy. And I don't mean like Swampy - and burrows tunnels and lives up a tree to stop a by-pass being built somewhere. I mean he comes to me on day (still as a two year old) and confesses that when he grows up he will be the actual Swampy, and will go back in time to bother other people with his crusty, white-man-with-dreadlocks ways.
But worse than that abomination is that I have dreamed at least three times that I can recall that my son is secretly the incredibly creepy dead-kid Gage from Pet Sematary (that's how Stephen King spelled it, so who am I to argue?). And that he does to my Achilles tendon what he did to Fred Gwynne's from under the bed with a scalpel. Which is troubling. But unlike my wife's panicked desperation where she thinks it might be possible for her daughter to grow up to be a brainless slut, I am certain that I'm not going to bury my dead child in a Micmac Indian burial ground. Even if he does crack his head open doing one of his flying-Karate Kid-pissing-dances from on top of the toilet.
- I've realized that some of my bad habits have completely rubbed off on my kids. And as foul and icky as these are I'd ignored them based on judging my wife's main bad habit of leaving tens of piles of shoes all over the damn house as if Imelda Marcos was burrowing up out of the ground like a mole. But my kids don't emulate that - they emulate me. First and foremost - my daughter is frequently knuckle deep up her nostrils committed to chasing any hidden treasure out. My wife pretends she doesn't pick her nose (and she certainly doesn't then EDITED OUT TO PREVENT DIVORCE with it). I - however - see the whole notion of nostril cleaning as the same as making sure your face isn't covered in mud. But another obsessive habit I have is ripping off my finger and toenails when I think they're too long. As in every couple of days I'll go to great lengths to find something to rip off. My son and daughter are right there with me with this now. My wife will - very infrequently - snap off the china-plate thick hunks of toenail that she grows with clippers that can somehow cut through them, and then chuck the debris into a garbage can. Well - she does mostly - sometimes she piles the stash up on a table and leaves them there until I clean it up or the dog eats them. Yes - he does. I though am a filthy pig of a human being and just rip them off and pledge to vacuum them up the following day (amusingly I'll pledge this even if I rip them off at 8am in the morning - fulfilling my procrastinate proclivities to the full). I will also admit that if clipping I do feel prouder the further the projectiles ping off to.
Sadly I've only just noticed that when I do clip my kids nails my son demands that I leave the clipped-off bits dangling so he can rip them off and then throw them on the rug. So I've had to have a chat with him about how the debris is supposed to go in the garbage. My daughter even employs a game where she'll express danger and shock at her nails coming off, even going so far as to yell, "my eye!!" before grasping her face exaggeratedly.
- Before I first came to the US I smugly told my wife I wouldn't need to learn to drive. "Please - you couldn't possibly understand dear - you're an American," I probably said pompously. "You don't need to drive anywhere. It's absolutely a choice." One of the very first things we did after I arrived was go out to buy milk. After being in the car for over ten minutes and the store being nowhere in sight I began to think that maybe my wife was taking me to a nearby farm to actually milk a cow. Amusingly we ended up living in Grand Island, NY a short while later - which is a small island in western New York that you literally can't get off without a car.
- Lately I've been pining for the UK. It's not on the usual schedule for an expat to go through so I was worried at first. Then I started realizing that I was longing for things that don't actually exist anymore. So a Britain where milkmen clink down the road at 5am - with four bottles of red-top, some eggs and a bottle of that Schweppes lemonade that came in the thick-glass bottles that looked like a bathroom window. A Britain where when you visited your Gran she gave you ice cream from inside a foil wrapper that she cut with a knife to serve you. For pubs on the Gower that serve home-made sausage with onion gravy that you can sit outside of with the paper, a good book and smoke a pack of JPS for three hours and watch life slowly amble by.
But the last time I was back in the UK I was astounded at how much more commercially-obsessed the place seemed to be. I still remember popping down to the local SPAR early one morning and all the kids going in and out were all dolled up as if they might be picked up by television producers to be on Britain's Got Talent (that talent being wearing tight pink t-shirts and having Bogan hair). Everybody dressed the same, had excessively groomed hair and was drenched in perfumes (and, if the tabloids were to be believed, Canesten cream) and felt compelled to blow their credit on the same stuff to show how much disposable income they didn't really have. Every town and city center became a drunken, cheap, kebab-spilled, g-string of a place come six o'clock every day. And the dog poo!! Oh the dog poo absolutely blood everywhere. But more than that - one of the primary reasons I moved was a moment when I was walking the dog and some 10 year old kid was sat on a bench with a few mates and he yelled, "what the fuck are you looking at twat?" to the elderly couple in front of me who were walking their dog. Call me a square from the 70s but that would have seemed out of line if I didn't see it happen all the time. It's taken me a decade - and a hiccup in the middle where I actually succumbed and went home for a bit - to realize that it's okay to miss stuff from back home without it meaning I actually want to be there. And it's a good time to remember that the reasons that we moved here are still valid. Even if I do live somewhere where the teenage boys (and even many twenty-somethings) use something called Red Man Moist Snuff instead of hiding in the woods behind the park and smoking cigarettes.
Okay - time for cheese.