Never Seen ‘Star Wars’?

This is one of my favourite internet memes:

Star Trek vs Star Wars

Memes like this work because there’s an element of truth in them; they take that truth, stretch it out until it’s silly and then it becomes funny. We recognise its truth in ourselves but also laugh at its daftness. We see the silliness in ourselves but embrace it anyway, knowingly. It’s something to with metal I think. Iron? Irony? ‘Ironic’: that’s it!

Putting aside the quasi-religious mythology of ‘Star Wars’ I’m not silly enough to think that either it or ‘Star Trek’ is an actual religion. Although there are some people, undoubtedly, who do. I do admit, however, that I was one of those annoying geeks who put “Jedi” as their official religion on that census a while ago. Sorry, bureaucrats! (Not.)

I grew up watching reruns of original ‘Star Trek’; it was one of the highlights of my childhood. (I didn’t get out much…).

“Beam me up Scotty”; “It’s life Jim, but not as we know it”; “That is illogical, Captain”; “I cannae change the laws o’ physics!”, the Captain’s Log (stop sniggering in the back seats, please). That iconic theme music! Rubber aliens, things that went “whoosh!” & “o-wee-ooo!”. Great stories, wonderful, charming characters, and – for its time – great special effects. It was socially radical too, in keeping with Gene Roddenberry’s vision: TV’s first inter-racial kiss, and a Russian officer at a time when in the real world the Cold War had only just ended.

‘Star Wars’ when it first came out was a revolution. It’s hard to imagine now with our plethora of sophisticated, multi-platform, mass media, computer-generated extravaganzas, not only in film & TV but also in gaming, just what a massive impact it made back then. I can’t see its impact ever being repeated – at least until we all have our own holodecks – it really was that HUUUGE.

I was an impressionable teenage boy when it first hit our silver screens. (Yes, I am that old, OK?). I was in a swoon, blown away, obsessed. Stupidly excited & enthralled, along with many millions of kids & adults all over the world who had access to a cinema. It was AMAZING! Then “The Empire Strikes Back” came out and it was EVEN BETTER! The third one was good too…

It would have been better if the E-woks were all Wook-ees as originally intended, but never mind. Hence the name: see? That’s a genuine “Geek Fact” (TM)!

After that it was “Star Trek: The Next Generation” (or ’TNG’ in Geekspeak). The wonderful Captain “Make it so!” Jean-Luc Picard, the stern Commander Riker, Data the android, and a Klingon officer! The Star Trek franchise continued on in several forms, and still does even now, on Netflix.

Later again the three much-heralded, much-anticipated ‘Star Wars’ prequels came out.

Moving on…

At least the sequels are pretty good though, right?

And here’s the bit where I probably annoy many fans of not only ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Star Trek’, but also of ‘Star Trek’ (original) and ‘Star Trek: TNG’ – because you’re not supposed to like both.

I LOVE THEM ALL!

I’ll wait…

Sorry, call me “Mr. Ecumenical”, but I just do. Yes, I’m probably a convictionless, unprincipled copout. But they are all great, and why should I miss out? Anyway, Panthesim worked for the ancient Romans didn’t it? That’s good enough for me.

 “What does this have to do with family, and children, and all of that?”, you ask.

Well, I’m glad you asked, because I’m coming to that!

That meme.

I loved it because it was very true of me. I had been counting the days and months and years until Jake – yes, and Ellie too – were old enough to WATCH ‘STAR WARS’ WITH DADDY!!!

I do love both, but ‘Star Wars’, being films rather than TV episodes, is just more accessible.

Finally the day came!

I had been given a shiny new DVD Box Set of the three original ‘Star Wars’ films for Father’s Day, remixed, remastered, re-everythinged, with oodles of extras, commentaries – the works! I was so excited! I got the party snacks ready, nice but naughty sugary drinks at hand – it was a special occasion after all! – and we all sat down on the sofa, ready for “Daddy’s special treat”.

The 1st DVD ready and in the slot, hands trembling, palms sweating, I reached for the remote – and I pushed the button!!

Nothing happened – I was on the wrong channel.

But I was not to be deterred so easily: I persevered! I pushed more buttons!!

AND THERE IT WAS. “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” “STAR WARS”: the thunderous brass instruments towering out that wonderfully iconic theme music, the scene-setting text scrolling up the screen, then the camera pans to the space above a planet as we see that little spaceship being pursued by what at first seems like a another small ship but which slowly expands until it fills the whole screen! Cut to the interior and we see the ‘droids C3PO & R2D2 frightened and bickering; blaster fire, Stormtroopers! Enter a very tall man, clad in black armour and a flowing black cape, a black helmet covering his face, breathing heavily but saying nothing. A beautiful young woman dressed in white robes slips a disc into the smaller ‘droid, while I only just manage to resist the very powerful urge to blurt out: “Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope!” And so on…

The film continued, and I was that excited young boy all over again, but this time sharing the experience with my own children! It was wonderful!

I looked over to see the open-mouthed expressions of joy and wonder mirrored in the faces of my lovely, loving, adoring little children, so privileged to be able to share with him this greatest of all Daddy’s treasures!

Yes! Their faces, their smiles, their…

Yes! They were looking…

…actually, a little underwhelmed, and not a little confused.

I found myself having to explain what was happening. And why it was so darn, blasted good (or words to that effect; nice ones), and why they should be enjoying it as much as I was!

They got bored after a while and we did something else.

Bored!?

With ‘Star Wars’!?

How could this be? What was the world coming too?! How can any child not love ‘Star Wars’?! I was crestfallen, all those years of anticipation crumbling around me.

We all enjoyed the rest of our time together; I don’t remember what we did, but it was good.

I have tried again, but it’s still no good. Jake even uses it as bribery now: “PLEEEASE, Daddy! I’ll watch ‘Star Wars’ with you!”.

I wonder if he’ll ever realise how depressing that is…

And the moral of the story? Don’t foist your interests on your children: they’re not you? Just because you like something it doesn’t mean that they will?

However I refuse to be defeated! I NOW KNOW WHAT THE PROBLEM IS.

They’re too young! I was in my early teens when Star Wars first enthralled me: THERE’S STILL TIME!

I have “A New Hope”! So from now on, every May the 4th (of course) we are watching Star Wars together!! Until they Darthing Mauly like it!!

The worst thing though? If we watched the first sequel I suspect they would absolutely LOVE Jar-Jar Binks.

*sigh*.

Shank You Very Much

Look, a button code!

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Three

Please don’t go. Stay here with me. It’s not my fault, I’m only three. I’m only three!

Giving adult voice to the thoughts and feelings of a three-year-old who misses their parent, this song tears me up: in more ways than one. It hit me like a silken sledgehammer with all those feelings of loss, of separation, all the guilt and recrimination that go with it,  and the “what-if” / “what could I have done differently?” thoughts that torture and taunt.

How old were Jake and Ellie when our separation became formalised?

Three.

‘We’ had been living here in Wales in a good-sized family home we were renting while we tried to sell our old place in the Midlands.  I was splitting my time between there and the little temporary place we first moved into which is now my home. The twins were just starting pre-school and only for a few hours a week, so I was still spending a lot of my time looking after them there. It was a ‘trial separation’ in all but name; “need some time apart” I was told.

I’d found a great new home for us all, right next to their school, in a quiet cul-de-sac; with a good-sized garden, a communal green outside and with friends they could play with nearby. It was perfect for ‘us’. I’d stayed up all of Christmas Eve cleaning up the incredible mess that a family with 3-year-twins will inevitably make, and finalising the packing and moving. I then drove through the night to London to join the family with my in-laws for Christmas. I didn’t want to miss opening the presents around the tree! It’s such an important and joyous time for young children.

I did all this in the full expectation that this would be ‘our’ new family home, that we would all be moving in there together as a family. I was wrong. That’s when our separation started for real.

They all moved in and I stayed where I was. Separated.

My wife had gone back to work after her maternity leave while I carried on looking after the twins when they weren’t at school, so for financial reasons (I thought at the time) it was only her name on the title deed. I hadn’t stayed overnight there so I couldn’t claim any right of residence.

I would still come over for evenings, have dinner there & play with them until their bedtime: that’s when it it became – for want of a better word – ‘difficult’.

In my life I’ve experienced grief and pain. My favourite uncle died when I was a young boy; I was a pallbearer at his funeral. I had to take the day off school and I think I spent most of it crying. My Dad died in 2005; he’d lived to a good old age, and I’d seen him only a few months before, but it was still tough. I’ve had abscessed teeth (several times), I’ve woken up in the middle of the night after a knee operation when the anaesthetic had worn off in such pain that – as an agnostic – I prayed to die.

None of that compared to what I experienced here though. As it became time for me to go the twins would become distraught. They would plead for me to stay, shouting, screaming, crying uncontrollably. They did everything they possibly could with their little 3-year-old bodies to stop me leaving. They would grab a leg each and hang on as hard as they could, gripping me like limpets and refusing to let go. They would throw themselves between me and the door to try to stop me from leaving: all the while screaming, crying & shouting “DON’T GO DADDY! STAY HERE!”. They’d try distraction, delaying tactics, everything they could think of, to stop me from going.  And I didn’t want to go!!

But what could I do?! It wasn’t my house! They were no longer under my care!

It was, is, and I think always will be the most painful, distressing thing I’ve had to go through.

You say you love me, then you walk right out the door; I’m left here wanting more.

I was left high and dry and didn’t feel I had the means or resources to look after them as they needed any more. They would come over to my little place, and still do, but when it became time to leave it was the same distressing scenario all over again. This went on several days every week, for many months. Over the ensuing years it’s lessened but it’s still there. To be honest, I’ve lost track of time for it all now.

I only found out quite recently that they blamed me for all this. They thought that I had left them, when the opposite was true!  It’s only in the last year or so as they’ve grown mentally and emotionally that I’ve been able to explain to them what actually happened – that I didn’t leave, didn’t want to, it wasn’t my choice and that it was the last thing I wanted to do! They thought this about me, that Daddy had left them, betrayed them – for all this time! Awful!

They’re great kids, balanced, largely happy, smart, doing well at school and socially, etc. I still see a sadness in them however, a Dad-shaped emptiness, and I just can’t help feeling – despite the circumstances – that I’m to blame. All those “if only”s!

Looking back I can think of things I might have said and done differently that may have made a difference. Who knows? I can’t rewrite the past so I’ll never know. “Hindsight is always 20-20”! At the time I was so shocked, distressed, confused, struggling with my own personal circumstances and, yes, depressed that I couldn’t see any alternative.

They were only three.

They’re older now, but they’re still children: my children. All I can do is try to do the best that I can for them with what I have, and that’s what I’m doing.

DIY Daddy
Shank You Very Much

The Golden Girl

While the twins were at my place on Sunday Ellie decided to do her homework!

Its theme was ‘mythology’. She didn’t know what that meant so she asked me and I explained as best as I could.

King MidasShe then went onto google on my PC (under my supervision of course!) and came up with the story of King Midas. I showed her how to click on the link she wanted and before too long she had written 2 sides of an A4 page with the story of King Midas & his ‘golden touch’. It was in her own words too, and not just copied, showing that she had understood the story. I’m a proud Dad!

She needed some help with some of the pronunciation and spelling – I mean how the heck do you pronounce ‘Phrygia’ or ‘Dionyssus’ anyway? I don’t know! It’s all Greek to me!* –  but her comprehension and written account of the story was excellent

    * sorry, couldn’t resist

Yes, it does seems a little strange her choosing to do her homework during the limited time that she has with me. She does love spending time here with her Daddy – that’s what she tells me anyway – but I think I understand. We were still doing something together, which I was enjoying & I which I think she was too. She & Jake however often don’t enjoy the same things, and even when we do all do something together they more often than not compete with each other rather than play together cooperatively. I often find myself having to break up a fight. I imagine that’s not unusual for young boy-girl twins!

When they’re with me they each mostly just want to do something with me and so are competing for my attention. I only see them part of a day on a weekend and one evening after school so we all try to make the most of our time together. It isn’t easy!

Minecraft warriorAnd to be honest Jake and I were engrossed in a series of intense one-on-one Minecraft battles that day, which he’d been preparing and planning for and looking forward to for some time. I said to both of them before they left that next time I was going to spend much more time with Ellie to compensate.

So Ellie was being ‘a good girl’, and she is that, in doing her homework here – but she had also put some thought into her reasons for doing so, which actually makes me think even more highly of her. She explained it to me:

When she’s at ‘home’ (or as I prefer to call it “her other home”) with Mummy she likes to play on the green outside with nearby friends of around her own age. More often than not, she explained, she gets called in from playing to do her homework, which obviously doesn’t usually go down too well in Ellie land! She thought then she’d take advantage of my little home office set-up to do her homework at my place, and then she’d have more time to play with her friends.

Smart girl!

Oh, and my Minecraft battle with Jake? 2-2. We are planning a rematch!

Now there is of course only one way to end this post:

A Design For Life

“I was not; I have been; I am not; I do not mind.”

The ‘Epicurean Epitaph’, a quote attributed to the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus, often now used at humanist funerals.epicurus-3

I found myself thinking about this yesterday, prompted by a Facebook meme.

It doesn’t just apply to a way of looking at death. It can also be a way of looking at life.

The basis of Epicurus’ philosophy after all, his lifestyle and that of his friends and followers, was looking for the things that make us happy and then as much as possible having those things in our lives.

Not in Hedonism: self-indulgent and unrestrained behaviour – a common misunderstanding of his ideas – but more in a satisfaction with life: involving moderation, respect for others and friendship.

“I was not; I have been; I am not; I do not mind.”

This could just as much be about happiness as it is a way of coping with the concept of our mortality. We all have peaks and troughs in our lives. There are times when things seem to be going well, when we’re making progress, when we’ve achieved some of our goals and are looking to continue onwards.

There are other times when life seems bleak, when nothing seems to work, where everything is going wrong – even to the extent that we give up hope.

Basic needs like food & water, shelter, safety, health, relationships. Simply said – not so simply achieved! Certainly not all at once. Sometimes we seem to have them all; other times none of it!

“I was not; I have been; I am not; I do not mind.”

‘A while back’ – I’m shocked sometimes when I think about just how long ago it was! – I was living and working in and around London, working in Finance.  I was “doing OK”, not great, but “OK”.

I met a girl, we moved in together. She was also “doing OK”. We went to restaurants, pubs and gigs: together and with friends. We travelled a lot. We moved to Brighton, then to Sutton Coldfield. We got married, then had children. Twins: Jake and Ellie. Great kids! Having been made redundant earlier I became their full time stay-at-home Dad: for 3 years, until they started pre-school in preparation for school proper. By this time we were here in Wales.

Now, 5 years later, we’re separated. I live alone, in a small house: fine just for me but nothing like our old family home. The children who were my life I see now just 2 days a week: most of 1 day on the weekend and 1 evening after school.  And to be honest I’ve struggled to pick up with my career where I left off. The industry is very tech-driven and seems to have moved on, irrespective of all my experience. My age counts against me too I think; having to start again as it were a lot of the jobs I am qualified for I think are taken by young people.

We had a big house, and a good lifestyle: travel, good food, fun. Now I sometimes struggle even with the basics. Then I spent nearly all my time with my beloved Jake & Ellie; now I often feel like I hardly know them, like they’re growing up without me.

It’s very easy to look back and think things were perfect though isn’t it? I know they weren’t, even then.

Further back –  in New Zealand, for instance, before I found my feet career-wise here – I sometimes struggled, financially and socially. Even after I moved to the U.K. there were difficult times: I got caught up in the mortgage interest rate crisis of the ‘90s, and leaving the somewhat extreme religious group I got mixed up in was necessary, but still difficult, not least as it meant cutting myself off from all my ‘friends’ & having to start again socially.

“I was not; I have been; I am not; I do not mind.”

I had tough times before, some good times, and now difficult times again. Life has its ups and downs. It’s just a question of perspective isn’t it? I’m trying to be grateful for what I do have. Great children who love me, food & shelter, safety, reasonably good health, friendships.

That’s more than millions of people all over the world can say. In many ways I’m lucky, despite what the reality of my life seems to be a lot of the time.

“I had not; I did have; I do not have; I do not mind”

I’m trying very hard to improve the things I can, while learning to accept and make the most of life as it is.

Thank you Epicurus: those are indeed wise words.

Separated

“Separated”.

What a word. What a big word! A word loaded with meaning.

“removed or severed from association, service, etc., especially legally or formally”  Dictionary.com

“severed”, “removed”. Reminiscent of surgical amputation, or tooth extraction: it sounds painful!

And it is.

Not quite married, not quite single. Both, and neither.

“But I’m not really married!” isn’t the exactly the world’s best chat-up line is it? Damn, I even wrote a song about it!

But that’s not the worst part – not for me, anyway. I don’t think it would help anyone – me, my children or their mother – to drag any recriminations, whys and wherefores all over the internet, and I don’t intend to.

“Separated”. Not just from my wife, from what is now the ‘family home’, but also – and most importantly – from Jake and Ellie. That’s the worst part.

Jake and Ellie. Who I’ve described as “the best thing I’ve ever done with my life”.  In low moments “the only good thing I’ve ever done with my life”.

Jake.  The Jake who I held “skin on skin” when he was born and who promptly stopped crying, then relaxed enough to relieve himself all over my chest. “The happiest moment of my life” I called it at the time.    DSCF2769

Ellie, my “Tiny Dancer”. The countless hours I spent cuddling her and singing her to sleep night after night, not leaving until I was sure she was soundly asleep.

That first year I spent with them, along with their mother, as a full-time parent was at once the richest and one of most demanding of my life.

The (for the first year at least) twice-daily walks in the double buggy, in all weathers, to give them the naps they needed. The vomit, the nappies, the sleep deprivation, the tantrums. Their first steps! Their first words! I remember tweeting “Teaching my little boy to roll a ball. Happy.” And I meant it. All those precious moments I spent with them, helping them live, learn and grow: three years a stay-at-home Dad.

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They’re now 8. At school, doing well, making friends, making music, playing rugby, and much more: so grown up! I see them so little by comparison. 1 day on a weekend and 1 evening during the week. I feel like they have been and are growing up largely without me.

It’s painful.

I’d defined myself and my life around them. And now we’re “Separated”. I left my heart with them and it’s still there: Separated.

Confession Time

There are an increasing number of stay-at-home & hands-on Dads – more power to them! There are many Dads of twins. And of course older Dads. But there can’t be too many who are all 3. That was one of the reasons I started this blog; in the hope that whatever experiences I had might be of interest to others: Dads, Mums, or those just looking.

How this all began.

It was supposed to be about me, me as a Dad, an unusual Dad, and how the experience affected and changed my life. I intended this to be a chronicle of an unusual parenting situation from an unusual perspective: my perspective, a bloke’s perspective. That’s actually what gave this blog its strange name. 1-DSCF3705

Best laid plans, and all that eh?

It turned out that it wasn’t about me – it never was, really – it was always about them: Jake and Ellie, my wonderful – now 8-year-old – twins.

I guess that’s one of the reasons I haven’t been too personal here over the years: not much writing about how I’ve been, how I feel, how all this has been affecting me, despite my blog’s stated aims.

DSCF3289

Another reason of course is that I am a bloke, and generally we blokes aren’t too good at that sort of thing: opening up about ‘feelings’, and ’emotions’ – or at least ones that don’t involve shouting at a bunch of other blokes as they run around after variously shaped balls.  In that way at least I’m what you could describe as a ‘typical bloke’.

And I haven’t posted much here, for a few years now; certainly nowhere near as much as I used to. In this blog’s heyday I was posting daily.  A lot of that of course is just due to the twins just growing up. They’re 8 and in school, and are very active in out of school groups and activities: I just don’t see them as much or spend as much time with them as I used to, so there’s just less to write about.

DSCF5334There’s another reason however that I don’t spend as much time with them as I used to, and as much as I’d like to. I’ve alluded to it here a few times but have never written explicitly about it. I’ve always meant to, but there never seemed to be a ‘right time’ for it. There probably never is. Also I’ve always tried to be positive here, and present my experience of parenthood as a positive one, which it largely has been, and this particular aspect hasn’t been positive. In fact it’s been bloody difficult.

“C’mon, spill it man: out with it then!”. Alright; OK then! That sergeant-major is still in my head it seems: more about that another time maybe…

OK, so (deep breath): we’re separated, my wife and I. Have been for over 4 years now,  since Christmas 2013, about a year & a half after we moved here to Wales, soon after the twins started school, just as we were all set to move into the new family home – which I’d selected mainly as it’s almost literally over the fence from their school.

I’m not going to lie: it’s been, and is, difficult. Any readers of this blog will probably know that the twins were, and in many ways still are, my life. They’re the only thing in my life that has ever given it any meaning, really.

The reasons behind it? I’m not sure I will or even should go into that here. And that’s partly because I’m not really sure. I do know that statistically there is a higher than average divorce rate amongst parents of twins: it can be very stressful! “Double the trouble, double the fun.”

As for the future: who knows? We’re still officially married, and we even actually talk sometimes: amicably, mostly. We should probably do more of that sort of thing.

So, anyway, that’s my News. It’s out of the way, it’s off my chest. It’s not before time that I ‘came clean’ here; I probably should have a long time ago.

I’ve gone on long enough already; I’ll write more another time.

Thank you for reading, if you’ve stuck with me this far. More later 🙂

 

 

 

Little Things Can Change a Life

I went to my local grocery shop yesterday. I had a little money in my pocket (for a change!) and I needed food to eat; it’s just something we all do when we need to.

As I entered the shop I saw a friend going in at the same time.

Now I won’t bore you with the details, but I’m going through a hard time at the moment, a lot of which is about my being very limited in how much I spent there, & my making a beeline for the bargains section. Among other things.

It’s summer here in Wales, allegedly. We’ve had some nice days, but this wasn’t one of them. It was raining heavily, cold and windy.

In short, I wasn’t in the best of moods.

I greeted my friend when I caught up with her: “Hi Liz”; she replied in kind.

In my very British way, as I often do, I then said ironically, “Nice day isn’t it?”.

Because as far as I was concerned it wasn’t. But, you know, I was muddling on through anyway, as you do.

Her response? She turned around, with a big smile on her face, and said, “Yes, it is!”.

She seemed completely genuine.

It wasn’t! But to her it was. I was taken aback!

That changed my mindset.

Yes, the weather was terrible.Yes, this, that and the other. And I know my friend has problems of her own, as do we all. Yet it was still “a nice day”!

It was a nice day because she had decided it was. So it was!

Yes, I was broke. Yes, the weather was awful. Yes, this, that, the other, and everything else. But I could still decide it was “a nice day!”.

Yes, I have problems, at the moment it seems too many. But compared to most of the world’s people I’m lucky. I’m not starving. I have a roof over my head. I don’t live in fear of being bombed. I have friends. And I have my music.

Today is a good day! I’m gonna make it that way.

My Sunday Photo 24/7/16: Meet The Band!

Introducing…The Jallie Band!

Featuring: Jake on metal gazoo, and Ellie on mouth organ! And Daddy banging rhythmically on whatever is to hand. (Sounds of wild applause and cheering)

They were pretty good too!

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