Category Archives: Parenting

Bullitt to bedtime

Detective Bullitt spins his tires for the chase.
Image via Wikipedia

There is nothing like a good movie to get your pre-teen boy off to bed. A sleeplessness – brought on by pencil-case swapping anxiety – was causing a few problems with family evening quietude.

Reading was no good. He had already been through Diary of a Wimpy Kid – Roderick Rules and was in no mood to hear my dulcet tones. I was watching nothing in particular on the idiot box when he plonked himself down on the sofa and declaimed that he couldn’t sleep. There was only one thing for it.

I got down my DVD copy of Bullitt (1968). Despite its 15 certificate, there isn’t much here that will cause problems for a 10-year old. The film contains what is probably the best movie car chase of all time. Steve McQueen turns the tables on two mob assassins and pursues them and their Dodge Charger through the streets of San Francisco  in his Ford Mustang before forcing them off the road and into a petrol station forecourt where they crash and burn.

The grinding of metal and gears and smoke give the chase a visceral reality lacking in many other movie car chases. The editing is top-notch – continuity notwithstanding. The VW Beetle appears several times along the way but fails to detract from the quality of the scene.

By the denouement we were both ready for bed.

If we have the same sleep problems tomorrow it will be time for The Italian Job (1969).

Go The f*@k to Sleep – please

For anyone – like me – who has had late nights and frustrations trying to get the nippers off to ‘Dreamland’

How many times have we all wanted to shout out ‘Go the Fuck to Sleep’ as one of the little ones pads down the stairs for the umpteenth time in a night? Adam Mansbach has put his frustrations to one side to pen this little children’s book for grown-ups to help us relieve ours.

Better still, get the Samuel L Jackson voiced audio book – I dare you. I double dare you.

Read on.

Junior football – It’s not the FA Barclays Premier League…

… but it sometimes feels like it when you’re following the trials and tribulations of your 10-year old son’s team as it progresses up the local FA Junior Alliance League U10’s league. Written off as non-starters at the beginning of the season the boys are now challenging for a top-3 berth. They’ve played some good football along the way but all the issues that are evident in the senior, elite leagues are evident at this the most grass-roots of grass-roots levels – the performance of female match officials, foul play, crowd problems – you name it’s there.

This week the boys suffered the worst defeat of their season to date, which could put their ambitions in doubt. They were outplayed by a team who definitely wanted the win. On a rain-soaked muddy pitch (conditions under which the game should probably have been called off anyway) they all but gave up after the first goal went in. It’s something when a team loses and the best player on the pitch is the goalkeeper. They were beaten by poor  coaching – they were told the game was an easy one and when they went behind their complacency got the better of them.

However, at least two of the five goals were scored as a result of poor refereeing – and it’s impossible to criticise a female ref these days. A throw in was awarded, but the player still made his pass after the whistle. A defender, playing to the whistle, raises his hand to keep the ball from going out of play behind the goal to avoid wasting time. The referee then blows for a penalty – handball in the area – ignoring the fact that she had awarded a throw in seconds before. 2-0.

Shortly afterwards the referee impedes a defender, preventing him from getting to the ball ahead of one of the opposing forwards. He shoots, he scores. 3-0.

And so it went on. I know it’s just a kids match but it is important that we instil a sense of fair play into kids that could become the future of the sport. And in officials who should have the courage to not only stand by their decisions but to recognise when they have made serious mistakes. But it’s important to resist shouting abuse. The officials themselves are young teenagers and are volunteering their time to referee these games.

Still, number one son was delighted with his goal keeping performance. He saved at least four other good shots as the opposition got behind his non-existent defence – often with odds of three against one. The problem comes post match getting a bunch of moody 10 year olds to shake hands.

Spectating parents can also be a problem. It isn’t the Premiership, and the kids are only 9 and 10 years old. Shouting encouragement is one thing, but abuse is something else and can be damaging to developing confidence. There are obvious frustrations but ‘at the end of the day’ it should be fun.

Watch Ray Winstone’s  video. I see one of these almost every Saturday. I find that most post-match blues can be cured by listening and encouraging and being the bringer of a bar of chocolate and a couple of packs of Match Attax.

Reading with the kids improves literacy

Cover of "The Ghost of Thomas Kempe"
Cover of The Ghost of Thomas Kempe


It’s my son’s birthday today. He enjoys reading so among his presents are a couple of books about science and space.  

There’s no fiction though, the stuff we enjoy reading together at night. He asked me recently about books that I enjoyed as a child. There are so many it was impossible to give him a definitive answer. We have read many of them together already – The Narnia Chronicles, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Owl Service and so on.  

One in particular did spring to mind though – The Ghost of Thomas Kempe by Penelope Lively. It won the Carnegie Medal for Children’s Literature in 1973. The edition I had as a child was a 1975 paperback edition from Piccolo – now long gone. I bought it in the school bookshop as a ten year-old – coincidently the same age as my son is today. I was attracted by the cover more than anything. It’s the story of a boy who moves to a cottage and gets the blame for the mischief caused by the eponymous troublesome spook.  

I thought ‘wouldn’t it be nice if I could find a copy of that to give to him.’ And I have – on the excellent Abe Books website. A quick trawl and three or four pages in I found the exact edition I was looking for (not the one pictured incidentally). I’ve lightened the wallet by the princely sum of £7.00 and the volume is on its way. I can’t wait to start reading it to him.  

Reading aloud to your child will help improve their literacy and encourage them to read themselves. There is no doubt about it. My children like to be read to – but they also enjoy reading to me, which is a relaxing way to end a busy day.  

Who’s Gordon Banks?

Gordon Banks

Tuesday morning after the bank holiday weekend has dawned grey and cool for the time of year. It’s a bit of a struggle to get back up to speed after a weekend of gardening, footy tournaments, BBQs and beer – and some parenting on the side. 

Sitting at my desk in the office wading through the pile of emails that have clogged up my in-box over the past few days brings back the cares of the PR business and tracking down client work. Where was I up to when I downed tools last thing on Friday?

My mind is still in a fog and I’m missing the weekend already. It seems that life is what happens away from the desk. Comparing weekends with colleagues I found that we had done quite a bit more than I at first thought we had. 

C played in an under 9s football tournament on Saturday. The format was two leagues of eight teams – an A league and a B league. C’s coach put his team in the ‘A’ league. This proved a problem because the teams in that league were of a higher standard and our team would have fared better in the ‘B’ league. 

That said, they enjoyed the matches despite losing all but one of them. After two games C was asked to go in goal because the lad who was playing there was leaking goals and didn’t really know how to play in that position. C did his best and saved a number of shots. The result of that game was a 1-1 draw – the team’s best result of the morning. 

Jubilant, and with the plaudits and back slapping of his team mates and their attendant parents, C decided that from now on he would play in goal. He was now Gordon Banks, Petr Cech, David James and Iker Casillas all rolled into one. 

His enthusiasm wasn’t to last long though. The final game was against the top placed team in the league. Needless to say they ran C’s team ragged. He let in several goals. Often he was the last man facing two attackers as the rest of his team had been stranded too deep by a quicker and stronger team. 

C had the ball kicked out his hands as he scrambled on the ground to save one shot –the subsequent goal was disallowed. When the fifth goal went in he threw off his goalie gloves and began to sob in frustration bringing the game to a temporary halt. Consoled by his manager, the opposition coach and the ref he carried on for the final minute of the game. 

In the car on the way home he asked me not to tell his mum what had happened. I told him that as this was the first time he had played in goal in a competitive game he had done very well.

“You can’t expect to be Gordon Banks or Peter Bonetti after just one game,” I said.

“Who’s Gordon Banks?” came the reply.

After a bit of football history and some positive support he still wants to play in goal. Now my mission – should I chose to accept it – is to proceed to the nearest sports store and buy him a pair of goalie gloves, and he remains as enthusiastic as he was before his torment. 

It is important to have realistic ambitions and not to expect more than you can reasonably expect to achieve. C expects to be an expert at things at the first try, and is often disappointed to discover that he isn’t. However, dreams are important and it is essential that we support our children in those dreams while trying at the same time to keep them grounded in the real world. It’s a difficult balancing act. Just encourage them to keep trying.