Friday, 25 September 2015

A rusty sausage


So junior, that's what I've taken to calling you of late (half to entertain your mum when I pat her tummy and half to entertain myself), I've not written to you for a few days and that's partly a good thing, if I carried on at the rate I was writing it would be ridiculous and you'd have too much to read and not enough time to live.

There have been a few things I've wanted to tell you but none of them seemed to be substantial enough for a full entry - that sounds a bit ridiculous, there are no rules, I should be able to tell you what I want, when I want, but I've kinda slipped into a routine.

Anyway, one of the things I wanted to tell you about was manners. I've been thinking about this for a while but couldn't quite get it into a shape. I was in a meeting the other day and I needed to leave early so I asked my head teacher if I could please excuse myself. It's kind of a polite phrase and it's one of those things you must do if you need to leave but it's not quite time to go. It made me think of two things. It made me think of family meals and opening doors.

All my life I have always opened doors for people, male or female.  If I'm walking with someone and there is a door I will always open it for them. It's second nature. More recently people have commented on this. I was visiting another school and I opened the door for a colleague. She said, "I'm very much for women's rights but it's always pleasant when a man opens a door for me."

And this is a thing about this world. Everyone seems very bothered about everyone's rights and their own rights and the right and wrong thing to do and I think they forget sometimes, that just being kind or thoughtful or helpful is the easiest thing to do and often takes the least effort.

It also reminded me of family meals and this is something that is really changing and has massively changed over the last few years. When I was growing up we always sat around the dinner table at teatime and we always ate as a family. It didn't seem strange or weird or uncomfortable. It was good to sit down with your grandma and grandad and auntie and we all ate together. When we ate at home or at my grandparents we all ate together. And if we wanted to leave the table for any reason, we asked if we could be excused. It's sort of natural now. And I’d forgotten until I asked permission to leave the meeting.

Now the more I think about this, the stranger it seems. My earliest memories of when we first ate together included no watching television and no drinking fizzy drinks. The television thing changed, oddly enough, with a soap opera called Neighbours.  I’ve no idea why and you needn’t worry about it but we seemed to be all so addicted to Neighbours that we started watching it whilst we ate. At that time I don't even think I knew what fizzy drinks were. We always sat down around 5.30 and ate our tea together. We'd usually have three courses as well. Soup. A main and pudding.

Nowadays this doesn't happen so much. It seems the idea of family and being a family has slipped a little. Lots of people don't sit around at a table and eat any more. They sit in front of the telly and eat from a tray off their knees and don't seem to do that family interaction thing.

You know, your mum's family still eat around a table and that's a good thing but for some reason lots of people don't do that. That's one of the things about writing this for you. It acts as a reminder for me and your mum as well. I think eating together is an important thing to do. And to spend a bit of time with your family in the evening, talking about your day,  that can be no bad thing. I think me and your mum will try to make this a habit we keep for you, too.

The second thing I mentioned was fizzy drinks. I'm fairly certain when I was young we weren't allowed fizzy drinks around the table. Now I don't think there were so many fizzy drinks available then but the ones which were available, we weren't allowed to drink.

Once we were away on holiday, I'll have to ask your grandma where we were, although I think it was Blackpool, and I was watching a band play. It must have been the evening turn. I used to really like sitting close to the musicians. I think the drums attracted me then and at that point I didn't play any instruments.

The band were about to start and the bass guitarist snapped his string. He looked at me and asked if I'd go to his car and get a spare string. I couldn't believe how important I felt. I don't think the band were anyone in particular but I felt like I had the best job to do in the world. I brought him his string back, which he changed and carried on playing.

At some point he gave me the broken guitar string, which, surprise surprise, I still have, and he bought me a Ribena and lemonade. Now I'm sure I must have had fizzy drinks before but that tasted like the best drink in the world ever. And from then on I was allowed to drink Ribena and lemonade at home.

Some parents are funny about what their children can and can't eat or drink. I imagine they think it's bad for their teeth or their health or whatever. I've talked to your mum about this and I don't think we'll control what you eat in that kind of way. I sort of think it's important you discover what it is you like and dislike all on your own without us putting restrictions upon you.

Saying that, I don't really remember thinking one way or another about it. Though I do remember some farm yard crisps being advertised and my mum buying me them, only to find out that were bacon flavoured. We didn't have anything like that in our house when I was growing up so my mum made me take then down the road to one of our neighbours and give them to him because he wasn't Jewish. In fact your grandma and grandad still don't have anything non-kosher in their fridge other than Kelda's ham which is much to your auntie’s disgust.

For me and your mum this is another thing we have to think about. What you are and where you come from is important but neither of us have much time for religion. It will be stranger for me than your mum because I did have a religious upbringing of sorts. I think what religion taught me all the way along was that one way or another it was a way of trying to distinguish between people and make them different.  It seems to me that religion wants to say one way is different or better than another and that doesn’t really work for me.

I suppose what I'm trying to teach you today is, no one is better or more different than anyone else and more importantly manners don't hurt a thing, or cost a rusty sausage as I'd say to your mum. Be kind to everyone. Be polite to everyone. Open the door for someone if they are walking by you, it doesn’t cost a thing, hold out your hand if someone needs it. And whatever you might or might not believe, never judge anyone else for their ideas. Just do the best and be the best that you can.