Sunday, 16 October 2016

CBeebies and I – A journey through kids TV

I would love to be one of those people who turns around and says my kids never watch TV but, let’s face it, I’m not. If anything, I’ve found the TV to be incredibly useful during my time at home with Oscar and Isabel.

When they were small, it was ideal for me to pop them safely and securely in their little chairs in front of the idiot box while they had their milk, so I could crack on with doing as many little jobs as I could manage during that window of time.

Furthermore, it is a distraction and, when looking after children, distraction is king. Trying to stop them from running down the hall and opening the kitchen door? Tell them to come and see what animal is on My Pet and Me. Jumping up and down on the stairgate again? “Quick! There’s bubbles on Something Special!”

A TV-related picture, the only one I have - so it will have to do!
In terms of children’s TV, I’m only acquainted with CBeebies and – generally – we only ever tend to have it on during the morning after breakfast and before we (all) go upstairs to get dressed. However, subtle tweaks to the schedule mean I’m now well-versed in a range of shows and, due to repeats, most of the episodes to boot.

Here’s a few thoughts I’ve noted down while ‘enjoying’ some of the programmes recently…

Raa Raa The Noisy Little Lion

Lorraine Kelly narrates this and as she’s a national treasure (like Forsyth or Rylan) that should make it exempt from criticism. However, one particular episode had me seething. Little Raa Raa spent the episode waking up each of his napping friends individually by shouting: “FOUND YOU, we’re playing hide and seek”.

They obviously weren’t happy (I’d be livid) and weren’t too impressed when he told them they now had to find him. So off he went and then they followed. But guess what? They couldn’t find him. Why? He only had the nerve to FALL ASLEEP in a bush while his knackered friends searched for him. What a little f…

Teletubbies

I don’t have a bad word to say about Teletubbies. It was the first show that Oscar and Isabel really took to and were mesmerised by. They’ve always loved it. Throw in the fact that now Isabel sings “La La, Poooooooo” in a broad northern accent and you can’t go wrong. Superb.

Mr Maker

The recent Great British Bake Off furore has, for me, really put a spotlight on how the BBC is working to ensure that licence fee payers’ money is being used economically. But hang on, what’s this? Mr Maker’s off to Hong Kong? Australia? Brazil?!? And he’s having Arty Parties every week too?

Someone needs to have a look into this. I mean, he’s doing all of this while the Beeb can’t even afford a tent and some ovens.

Go Jetters

Nagging catchy theme tune? Check. Disco-tastic. Yep. A band of jolly adventurers led by a sparkly disco unicorn? Affirmative. An obligatory selfie taken at the end of every episode? Damn straight.  This show has all of the aspects which would usually make me want to jump out of a window.

However, following my initial uneasy relationship with it, I’ve grown to love it. It has that whole sneaky educational stuff which means kids learn about stuff (see also Octonauts) and is decent entertainment.

Saying that, the fact that the evil Grandmaster Glitch turns up everywhere the Go Jetters visit is a little too convenient plot-wise.

Furchester Hotel

Pretty harmless and I do relate to the Mr Dull character who is just seeking a bit of peace and quiet in his life.

My main qualm is that they always sing one of two songs – Furchester Catastrophe or A Furchester Never Gives Up – and that final closing song on each episode which pleads to the viewer ‘not to check out’ is a bit Bates Motel.



Tree Fu Tom

This has been watched on a couple of weekends. I don’t really understand the concept of Tree Fu and what my children are supposed to be getting from this show, but it gets an easy ride as David Tennant voices a little acorn fella in it.

Balamory

I’ve only seen a couple of lunchtime repeats of this, back when the kids were having post-lunch milk.

All I can remember is one episode revolved solely around the fixing of a toilet and I’m sorry to say that while that may have stood for entertainment a decade ago, it’s simply not up to scratch these days. I’m out.

Justin’s House

I don’t like my house when it has two screaming children in it, so why on God’s green earth would I want to watch a programme with a live studio audience of hundreds of the little blighters?! Nightmarish.

Plus, I should add we remain fairly unconvinced – and slightly perturbed – by Justin Fletcher in this household too. Just don’t know what to make of him.

Hey Duggee

Like with Go Jetters, at first I wasn’t sure about Duggee. A canine scoutmaster who hugs the kids after every meeting? Bit weird, like.

But again, I gave it time and I think it’s a personal favourite. I love the theme tune, the style of animation and some of the humour (which includes a few nods and winks for the grown-ups). It’s a good watch.


Bing

I’ve gone public in the past about my feelings towards Bing and while I hate to go over old ground…forget it, I genuinely can’t stand him. Every episode he does something inexplicable which ruins the fun and means he ends up whining to poor Flop (his dad/carer/both).

For a while I thought the low point was when he turned his blankie into a cape and inadvertently got it wet while sitting on the toilet. I mean c’mon. However, that all changed quickly when I saw him not only STEAL a lollipop from a shop but then also kill a butterfly for no reason.

He’s a monster and I don’t like him. He whines about the smallest little things when he should just man up and forget about it. I mean, what kind of idiot would waste his precious time moaning about shit that simply doesn’t matter?!

Countdown

Erm, not strictly a show for kids and not on CBeebies...but, well, it has snuck into our occasional daytime viewing when we’re in on an afternoon.

I’m not sure if my love of the show is to do with being the wrong side of 30 and wanting to seem intellectual, supporting a Leeds-based institution or simply enjoying the opportunity to see Rachel Riley on a daily basis. Draw your own conclusions.

Do You Know?

While I don’t have many recollections from being very little, I’m pretty sure that when I was a toddler I couldn’t give a shit how bricks were made. As an aside though, Oscar was caught kissing the TV when the presenter Maddie was on there, so fair play to the kid.

In The Night Garden

I’d love to tell you what this is all about, but I honestly have no idea. Night Garden is generally the first moment in the day when Ana and I sit down together while the kids have their evening milk on their aforementioned chairs.

However, we barely converse as we’re either on mobile phones (quintessential modern family) or one of us has watched Night Garden for too long and started dozing off. I don’t know if it is the soothing music, the characters or just the general ambience of the show, but it can send me to sleep in minutes.

If I do manage to stay awake, I still don’t actually know what’s happened or what the point of the episode was though. This is because it simply does not hold your attention. If I’m on my phone, I’ll look up and see a bouncing ball (OK) or maybe all of the characters dancing (fine) or the Tombliboos running around without trousers on (huh?!?).

The kids do love it though and it is a part of their bedtime routine, but I have no fucking clue what on earth is going on.



Obligatory epilogue

So there you have it, that’s my take on a few of the things these withered northern eyes have seen in the past 12 months. Do you relate to any of this? Or am I completely on my own? Is Bing a great masterpiece? As ever, all views and comments on here or the social medias appreciated!

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Stay-at-home dad life: The ups and downs

It is now around 10 months since I took over the reins and started looking after Oscar and Isabel full-time. While sleep deprivation and general exhaustion mean my recollections across this period are often sketchy to say the least, I do remember the first and second days very well. For very different reasons.

Prologue

Hang on! I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking: ‘But surely you didn’t just jump straight out of a job and into looking after twins without any prep Rob?!?’

That’s a great question, reader (fan).

I didn’t. Ana and I were wise enough to make plans so that we would actually have a week at home together with the twins before she went back to work. As well as being quality family time, it meant we had a bit of a handover period.

It worked really well too, as it not only gave me an insight into how to she was running the show but also meant I had a chance to sample the things which were to become my daily life.

From the outset I’d always said that if I was doing this job, I’d do it right. This meant putting aside my general social ineptitude and throwing myself into going to groups, coffee mornings and all of the rest of it. They were key as it would give the kids interaction with others and Daddy some form of adult conversation (not that kind of adult, you weirdo).

So, I sampled the life and readied myself for what was to come. What could possible go wrong?

Day 1     
                                                                                                                 
Well, nothing actually. My first day as a proper stay-at-home dad was a breeze. Easy. No problems whatsoever. Smooth sailing.

They woke up, had breakfast, their morning bottles and then a play before a quick nap. Then I got them up, dressed and over to a neighbour’s place for a regular weekly playdate.

To explain, we’re very lucky to live on an estate with many other new parents. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, all of us keep in touch on a Facebook group and we take turns to host a little get-together on a Monday morning. It is still going relatively strong – which is brilliant.

Enjoying some sensory play on the afternoon.
Following that, it was time for the babies’ lunch and another bottle before a further nap. After that, I got creative by turning the living room into a little sensory play area. Nothing too fancy, just curtains closed, a few multi-coloured LED lights, some noisy toys and a bit of music. Then it was dinnertime and Ana walked through the door.

The twins with the returning hero.
I can only assume that I had prepared myself for the worst, which is why I was so delighted when everything went perfectly. I was genuinely proud and it felt like a real ‘I can do this’ moment. I had proven myself and was ready for anything.

Day 2

Ready for anything except Day 2.

One of the clearest indicators of how Day 2 went is to look at the pictures I took on my phone around this period. There are a good few from Day 1 and a couple from Day 3, but none from Day 2. Day 2 was terrible.

The overriding memory was Oscar being inconsolable the whole day. It was probably teething troubles, but deep down inside I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was actually him realising that I had taken over from Mummy at home. In my head I decided that Day 1 went so well because I was novelty (‘Daddy’s home!’), but on Day 2 I became significantly less exciting (‘...why is he still here?’).

With Oscar being grouchy and therefore neither of them napping well, I resorted to the tried and tested approach of taking them out for walks in order to get some respite. As you’d expect from the flow of this narrative, it was of course a very grey, rainy day to compound the misery.

And just to wrap things up, I also managed to hit my head on Isabel’s cot while trying to retrieve a dropped dummy which had left her crying and miserable too. You couldn’t make it up. When we went out for a walk in the afternoon I did what any self-respecting man would do, sat outside the Royal Armouries and called my Mum to tell her my woes.

All in all, if Day 1 had been an incredibly pleasant surprise, Day 2 was an absolute shock to the senses which snapped me out of any false sense of security that I had flirted with. It was the poor sequel – like Grease 2 or, God forbid, even Speed 2: Cruise Control.

Epilogue

The first two days were such polar opposites that they are unforgettable, but if truth be told they were a perfect introduction to what this life would be like.

Some days can be very easy and others are pretty hard – and I write this a day after the kids were climbing on the TV table, jumping up and down on the sofa, pouring soup on their heads and dropping wooden bricks on me.

But, honestly, most days never hit those extremes. Sure, there’ll be things that go wrong and rearrangements to be made, but the key has been to just to stay calm and go with it. There’s no hiding in this – if it’s 15 minutes until playgroup and Oscar decides that’s the time for a poo-nami which leaks out of the nappy onto his clothes you have to sort it. Then, if Isabel then decides to follow suit five minutes later, you again just have to sort it.


This is life now.