Archive for April, 2013

The Gravitational Pull of Thomas the Tank Engine

When the Little Monkey was littler, I was a bit reticent to get him Thomas the Tank Engine books and paraphernalia. I had the impression it was annoyingly twee, and I didn’t relish the idea of being beholden to a marketing juggernaut. But gradually the books crept in, some of them a bit rubbs, others not so; and the boy enjoyed the stories with his eponymous engine, so I decided not to stand, literally and figuratively, in the trains’ path…

For those who aren’t conversant with the ‘Little Monkey’ dialect, he’s telling us that “Toby’s got cow catchers, sideplates, and a coach called Henrietta”. The boy knows his stuff…

A Glimpse of the Rarely Sighted “Boxheaded Little Monkey”

Everyone tells you that children love nothing more than a good cardboard box. They’re completely right.

Music written by Tom Cusack.

Cross-generational Continuity

I was watching the bedtime story on CBeebies with the Little Monkey last week, and was pleasantly surprised that it was read by Floella Benjamin. She looked pretty much exactly how I remember; she’s barely aged a day since Play School in the eighties. I was pleased because I rather like it when happy memories of my childhood become those of my child. Although, I don’t really have particular memories of Baroness Benjamin, it’s more that she represents a nostalgic miasma of stories and windows, Humpties and Jemimas.

More specific memories arise from the Usborne books illustrated by Stephen Cartwright; they’re the ones with a little duck peeping out from somewhere on every page. The Little Monkey is particularly taken with the ‘Going to a Party’ story in his Little Book of First Experiences, because it includes a ghost. He loves ghosts at the minute. Having to read the same books over and over again can be tiresome, but the detail in the Cartwright illustrations staves off boredom; there’s a lovely one with a mother at the end of a day, having taken 3 children to the doctor, sitting in a chair having a cup of tea, looking shattered as the children play around her feet. Plus, there’s the duck to spot, which remains fun, 30+ years after I was first doing it…

Daddy: Funny, but not very good

A wistful young fellow

In my last post, I wrote about how the Little Monkey tells us when an animal noise is, in his opinion, “not right”. I thought I was being clever when, on being told that my elephant trumpeting was not up to snuff, I responded to my young critic with “Daddy’s not very good at elephants; Mummy’s better at elephants”. Being a little word sponge, he quickly picked up the phrase, and it seemed to assuage his irritation at my ineptitude at animal mimicry. (Although, to be fair, I do a pretty decent walrus, and my mooing is beyond reproach.) Which would be great, if he hadn’t started saying the phrase “Da-da not ver’ good” in isolation, without any context. I was merrily getting him dressed after his bath tonight when this phrase was quickly followed up with “Muh [Mummy] ver’ good”. I know it’s easy to erroneously project non-existent intentionality onto such utterances, but I got the impression he knew he was being cheeky. (Mrs. Monkeyshines denies coaching him, and I think I believe her…)

Waiting for a train in Thomas
hat and mittens

However, I do take consolation in the fact that I am deemed funny by the Little Monkey, indeed, sometimes I’m “ver’ ver’ funn'”. Moreover, I’m able to elicit this phrase at any time, due to some inadvertent Pavlovian conditioning. It started when we went to Saffron Walden museum, and the Little Monkey was playing in the sand pit (which contains various treasures to uncover archaeologist-style with a brush). When he’d had enough, I exaggeratedly brushed my hands together to get the sand off them, and to induce him to do the same. Which he did, finding the process absolutely hilarious. We did it over and over, long after the sand had gone, and eventually he told me “Da-da ver’ ver’ funn'”. Repeating the actions for his mother’s benefit, and on subsequent occasions, remains chucklesome sans sand, and he invariably repeats the phrase. So, when we have guests, all I need to do to get a bit of funny-dad kudos is brush my hands together…