13 December 2013

Christmas cheer

Christmas is descending and bringing with it a dose of homesickness, darker days, and the nagging feeling that I've forgotten to buy someone a Christmas present. This last one is undoubtedly true, considering my Christmas shopping so far has primarily consisted of buying a few pairs of wool socks. They are very nice. Anyone (everyone?) would be lucky to get them.

I have been regaling my students with descriptions of the Christmas trees of my childhood, complete with illustrations. My drawing skills were recently mocked following the Boroughs of New York Illustration Disaster, but I'm confident that I've redeemed myself and re-established myself as a serious artist in the medium of chalk on chalkboard.
A close representation of both childhood Christmas trees and my classroom drawings of them
As a child, I swore I would have a proper Christmas tree when I was an adult, and leave the grand specimen up for more than a few days. Last weekend, I put up our festive decorations, thereby keeping the second part of my vow. However, as I was admiring my drawing on the chalkboard in the middle of one of my classes, I was struck by the similarity between our current tree and the trees of my younger years.
Space-age (or possibly post-apocalyptic) tree
'Man hands on inadequate Christmas trees to man', and all that. Poor Smalls, at least my childhood trees had needles (albeit only a few).

06 December 2013

Dealing with toddlers, crazy strangers, and even stranger students

Earlier this week, Smalls and I went to Prague for a doctor's appointment. Through a series of unfortunate decisions, we ended up without a buggy/pram/pushchair/stroller/kočarek. This did not seem initially to be a big problem as Smalls is getting very confident on his own two legs and has made minor journeys on foot without too much complaint.

However, this particular doctor's visit culminated in blood very literally being drawn, and Smalls and I were both quite traumatised.

Smalls was adamant that he needed to be carried as we searched for restitutive ice cream, and I didn't have the heart to make the poor boy walk.

I did, however, out of consideration for my back, test a couple of times whether or not he might be willing to do a bit of walking.  He was....for all of a few metres.

Unfortunately, during those few metres we turned a corner and were met by two strangers who exclaimed how clever and how big of a boy he was to walk all on his own. One even decided to treat us to a five minute lecture on the importance of small children walking, how she saw so many children - even as old as two! - going to školka in a kočarek.

This was all in rapidly delivered Czech, and my attempts to escape for the now very necessary ice cream by indicating that I understood very little of what she said were strategically ignored.

These kočarek-bound children never learned to run, she said. Therefore they did not play football or tennis and were all destined for early graves, no doubt, due to their parents not making them walk at an early age.

Satisfied with a comprehensive lecture on the importance of toddlers using their own legs, she nodded and turned to leave.

At which point, my darling son stuck out his arms and demanded to be carried the rest of the way.

Readers, I carried him.

On a possibly-related note, the high school where I teach is a very good school, with bright, generally dedicated students. So, I naively thought I would never have to utter the words: 'Give Franta his shoe back; stealing shoes is not acceptable classroom behaviour.' I was wrong.