Each chapter is a day of advent, so you get to read a chapter a day throughout December. It’s meant for older kids, there’s some philosophical thought in there that may go over J’s head a little, but it’s also a great tale. I loved it so much that I still have my tattered old copy and I remember, years ago, thinking how lovely it would be to one day read it to a child of my own. So that’s what we’re doing. I’ve dusted off my old copy and we started today.
Well she is, actually, quite: weighing in at just over 9lbs, introducing Beatrice Frida Worsley (or maybe Carys? Or Theodora? To be confirmed…)
She arrived stylishly, speedily and scarily through the sunroof by emergency c section at the beginning of the week. We think she’s a beaut.
May God bless and keep you always
May your wishes all come true
May you always do for others
And let others do for you
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung
May you stay forever young
May you grow up to be righteous
May you grow up to be true
May you always know the truth
And see the lights surrounding you
May you always be courageous
Stand upright and be strong
May you stay forever young
May your hands always be busy
May your feet always be swift
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift
May your heart always be joyful
And may your song always be sung
May you stay forever young
- Forever Young (by Bob Dylan, of course…)
Dear Egmont publishing,
At least four mornings of the week my son wakes up garbling made-up songs about Fireman Sam. I’d estimate that about half of his days are spent submerged deep in a world where Fireman Sam, Penny, Elvis and invented, complicated rescue scenarios are more real than the tea I’ve put in front of him, or the garden furniture that he’s scaling while shouting: “GREAT FIRES OF LONDON!!!!! Mandy’s stuck on the North Face!”
So when he came back from a weekend with his grandfather, clutching the Fireman Sam magazine that you publish, I wasn’t bothered, despite the fact that I’m not buying him new stuff at the moment. In fact, in the two months since that weekend he’s pored over it almost every day. It’s got puzzles and colouring, some educational games and some sweet stories so actually, for £2.75, it was pretty good value for money, I thought. I was pretty sold. Until yesterday.
Yesterday, J discovered the ‘Pontypandy Post’ page on which you print photos of a few of the kids who read the magazine. They are, the page explains, Fireman Sam’s ‘Number one fans’. You take a photo of yourself, put it in an envelope addressed explicitly to Fireman Sam himself who, a two-year-old mind can only imagine, then picks his very own favourites.
J looked confused. “I want my picture up there,” he said. “I am Fireman Sam’s biggest fan.” I said we could take a picture and send it in. “No we can’t,” he said, crestfallen. “Because I don’t have any of that stuff.” And I realised he was right. We can’t. Not really. Because it wouldn’t stand a chance of being printed.
Let’s take a look at the kid you’ve highlighted as the ‘top’ fan. There he is, looking cute in his Fireman Sam pyjamas. Behind him is a bed, covered in a Fireman Sam duvet cover. Next to that, some Fireman Sam curtains, a Fireman Sam nightlight on a desk with a Fireman Sam table cloth over it, a Fireman Sam rescue boat beside it and at least a dozen other Fireman Sam books and toys crammed into the frame.
Now I like Fireman Sam. I like the sweet values it promotes: neighbourliness, bravery, looking after your friends. But I don’t like the message you’re sending out here. In fact, I’m furious. How dare you? How dare you tell my son that the kid whose parents shell out the most for merchandise is a bigger, a BETTER fan than the kid who spends all day inventing Fireman Sam stories drawing only on his imagination?
Every single picture on this page is marked by merchandise: there’s Isabel with her Fireman Sam magazine; Lewis in his Fireman Sam t-shirt, posing with some guy in a Fireman Sam costume; Thomas and his plastic fire station and all the rescue vehicles; Elliot in his Fireman Sam dressing up costume. I know you can’t take a picture of imaginary stories. But where are the photos of the little boy playing in his cardboard box fire engine? The little girl surrounded by her drawings of Pontypandy mountain?
Tell me that this issue is not typical. That you don’t usually tell little minds that their heroes only value them if they buy the right toys.
Yours still a little hopefully,
It didn’t work, of course. But we did discover unchartered territory: the ghostly Three Mills Island, just off the Olympic site, and its free kids’ play space ‘The Wild Kingdom’.
It was the kind of wild I love, complete with nettles and brambles amongst the climbing nets and wooden stepping stones against a backdrop of urban decay. It smelt of adventure. But it was deserted, so maybe other people like their playgrounds a little more sanitised? Do stingers trouble you?
I’ve become far too heavy and grumpy and lazy to do anything except wait. Wait and waddle. Waddle and wait. And since that happened, I’ve noticed how much easier it is to do nothing outside.
If we stay inside and do nothing, we send each other climbing up the walls, tearing our hair out within an hour. If we go outside, mooching about achieving absolutely nothing seems easier. Why is that? Maybe because we’re literally giving each other more breathing space. So outside it is. Let’s hope it’s not an alfresco birth…
DISCLAIMER KLAXON: This is not a ‘how to’ post. Sorry. I’m sure you can find one around, but it will be written by someone far more organised than me. This (and the ‘part B’ post that will follow it, provisionally entitled ‘HOORAY! BUT….’) are more like:
‘what I learnt and acquired, during a few months of trying to put together all the things a baby needs for free by: trial; error; begging; borrowing; and rummaging around online, in my local community and (a bit) within my own values and conscience’
But that was too long for a blog title. It was too long, actually, even for the content of one post. So here’s Part A: What We Acquired. ‘Part B: What We Learnt’ will follow and will include a bit of banging my head against a brick wall and generally cursing this project before coming round to the whole idea again…
But I’m getting ahead of myself. This is Part A – what we’ve managed to acquire – and I’m actually pretty pleased with it. I think it includes a lot more than a baby really needs. We were lucky in that some of Johnny’s old stuff was still kicking around (though less than I’d hoped, since I’d forgotten that I’d ‘lent’ so much out and forgotten, too, who I’d lent it to…) so we were able to
cheat recycle in places. But in lots of cases (particularly newborn clothes), I ended up having to turn down offers of more free stuff, to prevent the family smothering in a pastel-coloured avalanche of baby kit.
So here’s the stash. Just the newborn and 0-3 months stuff, mind, we’ve managed to get our hands on a lot more in bigger sizes that’s waiting in the attic.
Now tell me what I’ve forgotten and send me into a blind panic…