Where the wet patch is
The half-term holiday is drawing in. On the plus side it means that I'll get to take some much needed time off work; on the minus side it means we'll have to drive more than 400 miles north to get to my in-law's home in Glasgow.
I'm hoping that this year's journey will be better than 2008's. The signs are in our favour: we have a new Honda people mover-style car and my youngest daughter is now able to read.
This means that the seven-hour journey should be both more comfortable and less noisy. The fact that my daughter takes enormous pride in being able to read helps, unfortunately, the fact that she is easily scared doesn't.
Her vulnerability to the ghouls, ghosts and monsters that inhabit children's books is complicated by her paradoxical fascination with them. I just hope she doesn't shriek out in horror while reading Janet and Alan Ahlberg's Funnybones – I could do without the big skeleton and the little skeleton being cited in an insurance claim.
But what would Maurice Sendak, author of timeless classic Where the Wild Things Are, make of my daughter's susceptibility to fear. Sendak recently told children that if they "can't handle it", they should "go home. Or wet your pants".
Although my daughter loathes this book - it gives her nightmares - she also loves it and will not allow herself to be parted from it. I only hope she doesn't follow Sendak's advice.
If Sendak telling your child to wet it's pants hasn't dissuaded you, watch the trailer for the film version of Where the Wild Things Are.
Don't be misled by this headline
I got a nasty and, as it turns out, unnecessary shock this morning when I read the headline Start school at six, report says.
By some cruel trick of fate, my internet connection dropped out just as I attempted to click through the headline, leaving me in agonised and agitated suspense for a full half-hour.
In my coffee-fuelled paranoia, I had immediately assumed the headline meant that there were plans afoot to free up parents' working time and increase our nation's productivity by ensuring all children were at school by 6am.
I could not help but imagine my yawning children sitting down to period 3 mathematics listening to the sound of the dawn chorus. My imagination also threatened me with the image of my 12-year-old daughter chasing her mobile alarm clock into my bedroom at three in the morning in order to give herself ample time with her trumpet-shaped hairdryer.
But what I feared above all was the thought it might mean it became de rigueur for me to show my face in the office by 7am at the latest. Against a background of an election run-up in which all parties are competing to see who can sell us the most attractive and juicy tax rises and budget cuts, it is easy to see how I have been primed for such paranoia.
I don't like to think of myself as an alarmist but I must be honest and say that I immediately phoned my wife to complain, "Can you believe it? This is beginning of the end. We'll never sleep, our children won't know us and we'll be working 14 hours a day until we reach the minimum retirement age of 82."
Shortly afterwards my internet connection returned, both reassuring me and making we feel silly in a single fell click as I learned that the story actually concerned the rather less alarming prospect of delaying formal learning until children reach six.
The report also accused the current education system of having "Stalinist overtones" and called for the scrapping of Sats. I'm afraid that my sense of relief is so strong I'll settle for anything that doesn't involve waking at 4am.
The first time I… saw someone take to the fourth plinth
In fact three of us in the office were initially transfixed by the art/history project which saw one new person take to the fourth plinth in London's Trafalgar square, every hour for 100 days as part of Anthony Gormley's living statue venture.
Two of us had applied to go on, but unfortunately were never chosen and our other colleague's boyfriend actually made it onto the plinth in a very late night spot in the third week of the project.
There have been mixed reactions to the living statue, but here in the office we thought it was a great idea - we watched as people sat in the pouring rain, or ranted about social policy, or sang songs to a handful of spectators below.
We marvelled at some of the artwork made atop the plinth and admired the ingenuity of ideas which came to fruition under the gaze of the internet's live feed. And all three of us sat and dreamt about what we would do if our hour of glory arrived.
In an interview with the Daily Telegraph Gormley summed up his thoughts on the One and Other project. He spoke about the wide range of personal responses to the living statue's call and the forms they took:
"Yeah, …public causes, whether they were to do with political, medical, or Save The Children, but then also the private declarations of love, affection or loss. And when you combine that with moments of complete bizarre eccentricity, there's an amazing mix here. And I think it is that mix …it's the diversity…this is a slice of life; this is an amazing tribute to the varieties of human self representation and experience."
Whoever they were, whatever they did, whether we liked it or not, whether we laughed, thought deeply or switched off quickly - here in the duck2water office we were in awe of the project. And I personally would see it go on forever, because then I might get my chance to take to the fourth plinth like a proverbial duck2water.
The first time I… played Frogger
I took to Tetris like a duck2water.
Recently a friend sent me a link to a retro gaming site which offered internet versions of all the games I grew up with in the video arcades and eventually on my dad's ZX spectrum.
It has Frogger, Asteroids, and Pac Man - all seminal moments of gaming wonderment that left children breathless with excitement and adults exclaiming, "Oooh, isn't it amazing how they get the little space ship to move like that!"
The one omission from the list that I can spot, and I'm sure there are many others apart from Galaxians, which both my friend and I would have put on the list, is a game I can't remember the name of. My friend knows it as "Scramble" where his rocket ship flies along horizontally dropping bombs on small planetbound targets and the pilot has to negotiate the rise and fall of the rocky crags that make up the landscape of the game.
My dad had a slightly different version - which I have just been informed was called Defender, or WMS Defender, and, despite being a girl, I was quite good at it. Much to their annoyance, I would regularly beat my dad and my older brother at this particular game - a fact of which I am even more proud now that I have found it is deemed to be one of the more difficult games of those early days.
Aagh, fond memories of a bygone era - thank goodness we got past the monotonous bip, bop, bip of Pong video tennis.
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