Thursday, September 18, 2008

One Year Down, 17 to Go

Yesterday was my LOVELY SON’s first birthday. It was ace – we bought him some Duplo, so I have spent many happy hours building houses with it. Sometimes even when he is with me.

The past year has been a blur. His birth did coincide with a sudden increase in my workload, and it wasn’t until three weeks ago that I finally said to my girlfriend “You know, for the first time in 11 months I actually feel on top of things.”

Since then:

  • My PC died necessitating a costly, disruptive and time-consuming repair,
  • I had a nasty bout of tonsillitis and lost several more days’ work time, including missing a meeting that would have paid me just for turning up, cracking jokes and eating biscuits,
  • The washing machine died, necessitating a costly, disruptive and time-consuming search for a replacement.

I am now back behind schedule, about £800 worse off, and will never again make predictions about anything going well.

It is true that having a baby introduces you to a different circle of people. Including the Man Who Thought It Would Be OK to Take His Dog Into the Children’s Play Area. It wasn’t mauling anybody or anything, but it was running around without a lead worrying some toddlers and causing a great deal of middle-class muttering amongst the parents at the swings. Dark looks were cast around as we tried to work out whose dog it was, then, once identified, to try to get him to leave without having to actually confront him. Because no one wanted to star in the “Playground Stabbing Horror” headline.

It was like the Aesop fable Who Will Bell the Cat, where a cat was terrorising a community of mice, and they all agreed that the solution would be to tie a bell around its neck, so that they could hear it coming. But none of the mice wanted to be the one who had to perform this dangerous task, so although they would all have been better off as a result, it didn’t get done and the cat ended up still eating them.

But I wasn’t going to let that happen here. With the words of Pastor Martin Niemöller ringing in my ears I strode over to where the man was sitting on a bench (sitting on the upright part with his feet on the seat!) and smoking (smoking!), and spoke my piece. The effect that I was going for was Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry, though on reflection I think I may have come across more as Jeffrey Fairbrother in Hi-De-Hi.

I knew that I was in the right (there was a sign on the gate with a diagram of a dog in a red circle with a red line through it for flip’s sake), but he was determined to play the dog owner’s card of “My dog wouldn’t harm anyone”. It also didn’t help that he had sunglasses on so I couldn’t make eye contact, and that he was on his mobile phone the whole time, giving a running commentary about what the “white guy” was telling him off for.

At one point I tried to up my threat level, but again on reflection I think I was less Terminator and more Rory from series three of The Apprentice shouting “I Am Your Boss!”

The upshot was that he and his dog stayed in the children’s play area and we left, and I just spent the rest of the afternoon wondering whether to phone the police and tell them that he was a paedo.

As I put my son to bed I realised that discipline isn’t going to be my strong point as a parent. But I make great Duplo houses.