A Bullying Conundrum?

In two days’ time Dani goes back to school. Just one day this week in what is their first return after the long summer holidays. Easing them into it.

I was not expecting to have a conversation about bullying with Dani for some time yet. I mean, three and four year olds don’t really bully do they? Sadly, I may have to. I touched on this subject in my post about the final day of Dani’s first school year (read here)

The Signs…

I knew something was wrong when I picked him up on the final day of his first school year a few months ago. Carlos, the biggest boy in the class by far came out about a minute before Dani.

Supposedly big friends, Dani refused to acknowledge him when he shouted out grinning. When I asked what was wrong and what had happened I got no reply. Later that night being tucked up in bed Dani told his mum that Carlos had punched him. He had told the teacher but it happened again later.

In any school in any year some kids can be almost 12 months older than others. That is a lot at any school age but for Dani and his classmates it is a big difference. Carlos is only about 8 months older than Dani but twice his size. Really; he is massive for a kid that age. I can see why the other kids are afraid to stand up to him. He gets it from his father who is a huge bloke.

Is it bullying?

I honestly do not think he is a bully or even knows what it means to be a bully. He is just so much bigger than the other boys that when he says or does something the others invariably listen. When he plays rough the other kids are simply not big enough to push him back with anything like the same amount of force. He probably thinks that is just normal.

Is it genuine vindictive bullying? I doubt it. However, if it is not nipped in the bud it can become exactly that.

The school play their part for sure but as with everything in life you cannot rely on the authorities to resolve such problems.

 I have told Dani not to be afraid and just hit him back. The only way to beat bullies is to stand up to them. If he stands his ground then he will get respect and it is important not to let the other kids know he is afraid. It is not Dani’s style though. He will only lash out when he is very upset.

 By this time next week we will know whether it was a passing phase or whether there is a budding bully in our midst. I hope Dani can deal with it himself. Apparently one or two other boys have stopped playing with Carlos. Poor Carlos. He is probably oblivious to it all. I do hope so.

Otherwise it’s poor me! I wouldn’t want to have to confront Carlos’ dad. I would then know exactly how Dani feels craning his neck to look up at Carlos.

Women’s Football Hype

In response to my previous post on gender equality a friend of mine jokingly sent me a link to a youtube video showing how great women’s football was. Alright, it was really a collection of bloopers and complete football “fails” showing that women cannot hope to be as good as men at playing football – at least not in the foreseeable future.

But wait…

OK, fair enough, I thought. You could easily cobble together a similar video of hopeless miskicks and similar mishaps from the men’s game (even at the top level). It must be the big kid in me but I can’t resist this… Then I read something about a top ladies’ national side being humbled by a team of 15 year old boys. I had to investigate further – in the interests of gender equality research you understand…

Feel free to look this up. I did; and I found that it was indeed true. The Matildas – as the Australian ladies team are known – got a proverbial kicking from an under 15s boys’ team. Losing 7-0. Seven nil! In a country where football is arguably only the 5th sport for men while the Matildas were reportedly the 5th best in the world of women’s football at the time.

You can read another article about this game here…although this article seeks to make excuses for the loss it seems to me that the boys were just too good and completely waltzed around the Matildas. Pun fully intended.

When I dug deeper I found that it was not a one off. It has happened on many occasions…

Sweden, USA and more…

In 2013 the Swedish ladies team lost to AIK, an under 17s team from Stockholm. One report hinted that after going a goal behind, the women’s team coach asked that the boys might even take a defender off the field and play with only 10 “men” (boys surely?) to give the women a chance. Although it seems that they continued with 11 players. The boys won the game convincingly; 6-1.

There are even several accounts of the USA ladies – arguably the top side in women’s football –  being taught how to play the beautiful game by a group of boys. Including one as recently as April this year when they were soundly beaten by the FC Dallas U15 boys…read about it here.

Then I found a link to a report about an under 15s team beating the German ladies national team – supposedly 3rd best in the world. Most of that boy’s team were actually playing in an under 14 team!

Media Hype…

It’s funny how the media (especially the BBC) never mention this when they try to push women’s football down our throats. Such is the lack of real sport on the BBC these days due to the subscription channels buying up all the best (or at least most popular) sporting events including an almost complete monopoly on top flight football, that they think they have no alternative but to present women’s football as a real alternative. It isn’t and we all know it isn’t. So why does the BBC pretend it is? Work that one out for yourself.

I wonder if any of the national ladies’ teams will challenge a boy’s team ever again?

Forget gender equality. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that while clearly women are better at some things than men, then so too, it works the other way around. But you can’t say that if you work for companies like Google it seems (please look it up – google it in fact). And so it goes on….

What a bizarre world you are growing up in Dani…

Gender Equality: Why men and women can never be equal.

There seems to have been a lot about equality between the sexes in the media recently. Maybe it’s always there in the background and I have only picked up on it more recently. One thing is for sure; the hard-line gender equality debate has overtaken what is often referred to as the old (and much softer) ‘battle of the sexes’.

There are always stories doing the rounds about the “gender pay gap” and gender inequality when it comes to promotion. The media are even giving air time to some lunatics who are raising their kids to be “gender neutral”. They think that if we all did this it would give boys and girls (although you are not actually allowed to refer to your offspring in those words) an equal chance in life. Can you believe that!? I don’t want to but sadly it’s true. Such people are out there.

As hard as it is to accept, the truth is that men and women will never be equal. To put it simply they cannot ever be equal. Not a chance.

Name Calling….

Right. I can hear people calling me now. Sexist, bigot, anti-woman, dinosaur, mysoginist, male chauvinist pig (oh, now there’s one you don’t hear that one much these days. I wonder why?)

Now just for the record; it should be obvious from my age that I grew up in the era of “sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never harm me”. I could not tell you how many times I heard that phrase when I was growing up. Either myself or other kids saying it. Often parents, drumming it into their children. And guess what? It really is true despite what the social engineers try to tell children today. It worked back then and could work again given the chance. Fat chance though. To use a favourite quote of boxing promoter Don King: ‘The chances of that are slim to none. And Slim just left town.’

But let’s not get too carried away. For anyone even thinking of calling me names I suggest you continue reading…

How? Why?

“So” I hear you say. “How is it that men and women can never hope to be equal?”

I am going to explain and it is incredibly simple.

Young children need their mother more than their father. It’s called nature. It’s the way it is. It does not matter one tiny bit how much we men think we can do the same job as a mother; we can’t. Accept it fellas. We cannot compete with women in this arena and usually come a very distant second. How simple do you need this explanation to be?

It doesn’t make me envious of Dani’s mother. It is a reality however and I just accept it. That is not to say that it makes me feel a little inadequate at times. When he has been hurt or upset and only his mum will do I can’t help feeling a little useless. While he is so young I too want to be able to console him, cuddle him and let him know that I am also there for him. Sadly, the truth is that in those tender years there is nothing a dad can do to compete with the mother. Nothing. Nada. Zero, zip and sweet FA.

There are of course times when the mother can’t be there (some, often sad, cases when the mother is no longer there) and men do try their best. But it is definitely not the same. When kids get older this natural instinct (for that is what it is) becomes less obvious. Less automatic. At some point it appears to cease altogether; but does it really go away completely?

Obviously, no mother can be on hand 24/7, 365. At such times, children of a certain age will allow themselves to be comforted by their dad (or grandparent etc…). Given the choice however they will always instinctively head for their mother.

That’s a fact of life fellas so just accept it. In the ‘Game of Life’ we are second best in that event and always will be.

On the other hand we could all march through the streets demanding equality. But what would be the point? Trust me. We can never hope to be that equal.

Three New Superheroes

Three new Superheroes

You might think that there are enough Superheroes out there already. But you would be wrong. How many is enough for a 3 year old (going on 4) with the hyperactive and infinite imagination that kids have?

Dragonfly

Superhero: The Movie is a spoof on the superhero genre of films. The majority of the story mocks the basis of the first Spider-Man movie but also a few other Marvel films. Instead of being bitten by a radioactive spider the “hero” in this parody is bitten by a radioactive dragonfly. I normally give these type of films a wide berth but when it was shown on Spanish TV recently I did watch most of it and thought it was quite funny.

Meanwhile Dani was playing with his toys and I thought he had not even noticed the film. But he had…

When asked who his favourite suprer hero is he usually lists one or two. Invariably Iron Man gets a mention and sometimes Spiderman, sometimes Batman. Now he adds Dragonfly! As if Dragonfly is a real superhero.

Wait a moment. What am I saying? Are Iron Man and Spider-Man real? Well no of course not; but at least they are supposed to be genuine fictional characters.

Note: I do try to tell him that Wonder Woman – the 70s version – is better than them all but he is not taking the bait.

Meanwhile here are two that Dani’s old dad made up; and Dani has taken on board as his own…

Medical Man

Origin: A cheap version of the Playmobil sets his mum bought when on a work trip to Prague.

Medical Man is a doctor by day. By night his alter ego allows him to fight the villains using a clever set of career based skills. He dresses in a white lab coat and blue trousers. Just like a doctor in fact. His disguise is merely a cape with the letters MM and a surgical facemask.

Special Powers include:

    • Ability to repair (cure) his own injuries using his extensive medical knowledge – naturally!
    • Putting his enemies to sleep by injecting them with various medicines that he has stolen from the hospital store room.
    • Super hearing powers due to his stethoscope with built-in amplifier.
    • Climbs and swings from building using the extra strength waterproof bandages – again, liberated from the hospital’s storage room.
    • He leaves no fingerprints because of course he always wears surgical rubber gloves.
Medical Man – a clinical hero. It’s said he works in both NHS & Private sectors.

Star-Jumper Man

Again this character came from a cheap Playmobil-like set. He was just a mild mannered train passenger who just happened to be sporting a green jumper with a large yellow star on the front. Very seventies! I used to have one similar with 3 yellow stars. He is a super hero with no discernible abilities apart from suddenly being able to drive the train. I think Dani likes him because of his outfit. Well, Captain America gets away with wearing a blue jumper with a white star. Star-Jumper Man uses different, more earthy colours. That’s enough surely.

One day my son will realise that these superheroes were just a figment of his dad’s imagination. Until then I am going try to make them seem even more real and sit back and enjoy the fun. Or maybe I should approach Marvel comics with my ideas?…

Star Jumper Man. That 70s fashion sense is not to be underestimated
Star Jumper Man may be small; but he’s a grafter!

Telling Tall Tales

All the small ones tell tall tales
Walking home and squashing snails.
Baggy Trousers – Madness (1980)

It is such a great age for both of us. For Dani he is at that age where he can now communicate in various ways. He can express himself well enough and ask questions – including that favourite most repeated one; “Why?”

For me it is even better. I can spin the biggest most ridiculous made-up stories and he will more or less buy into them. Hook line and sinker. Providing I do it convincingly enough. (For proof of this look out for the next post about superheroes.)

I wonder how much longer that is going to last? When will he realise that his daft old man is telling him completely ridiculous porkies? He is already getting wise to me.

He seems to know when I am deliberately taking the piss. Not a complex tale of nonsense but a quick and deliberate thing – like just being incredibly childish.  Here’s an example.

If I say something to attract his attention – especially in an animated way or displaying a certain degree of urgency – even if he is engrossed in a game he will eventually respond. Then when I just tell him “Ah. Nothing” he immediately grins. He gets it. He knows that I am messing about. After a short pause he will then do the same thing back to me.

“Daddy. Daddy. DAAAADDY!”
“What?”
“Nothing”

Or to be more accurate; “nussin”. All done with a huge grin on his face.

For the moment though I still have a full poetic licence to conjure up intricate and stupid tales. The lad is even trying to tell his own tall tales. And I love it.

Health Matters

Last week in a Blogpost on the sad case of Charlie Gard I said I was going to write some comparisons between the health systems on offer in the UK and Spain so here goes…

Apologies. This is a longer than usual post but please stay with it as I believe it is an important one.

This is based on…

My personal experience is limited in both countries – thankfully. From a personal health point of view I have been a national health service outpatient and a private patient. Nothing major but enough to be able to compare the two countries.

Naturally I have also observed the Spanish system through my young son for his regular medical check-ups, inoculations plus the odd illness and subsequent hospital visits. The usual child’s scenario

The Public Sector…

I don’t want to detail all my hospital visits on the NHS but suffice to say when I was doing more sport I had several injuries that required visits to the nightmare that is the Accident & Emergency (A&E) departments of hospitals in various towns. I also know what it is like trying to get an appointment to see General Practitioner (GP). Over recent years I have made similar visits to hospitals or doctors clinics in Spain.

While the NHS in the UK is completely overburdened – at breaking point –  the Spanish public health system, generally known as the Sistema Nacional de Salud (SNS), seems comparatively underused. The appointment booking process is much easier and waiting times are far less than in the UK’s NHS. Even the waiting times in the A&E departments are far less than the infamously overstretched NHS equivalent.

The Private Systems…

In my brief experience of the “private” system in the UK I had several appointments and a scan. The course of treatment also included 10 physiotherapy sessions The cost of my annual premium shot up considerably the following year.

There are so many types of policy I cannot possibly speak with experience on all of them but generally, in order to book an appointment to see a specialist in the UK, requires your GP to make a referral. As I am sure everyone in the UK knows it can take weeks to get an appointment with a GP. This means that there is an inherent delay built into these private policies. This is true for most private policies in the UK – maybe all; I really don’t know. If you know please tell me.

The two systems are not run completely separately in the UK. Doctors, consultants and other specialists spend part of their valuable time between both systems – no doubt with a reasonable amount of travelling time between the two in some cases.

When I was a child this kind of thing was always referred to as “robbing Peter to pay Paul”. Shared resource in the health sector does not work and is one of the key failures for both private and public sector health care in the UK. Both private and public systems suffer as a consequence.

In Spain there is some sharing of consultants/specialists but it is not as widespread. Plus the private hospitals have their own dedicated staff. If you use the private sector you can feel (more or less) safe in the knowledge that you are not using resource shared with the public sector (and vice versa).

There is no A&E for private health care in the UK. If you need to go to A&E then you face a lengthy period of time in the waiting room. Four hours plus is commonplace. That was certainly my experience on the several visits I have had to A&E in UK hospitals, going back over a 20 year period.

In Spain the private health system runs in parallel and completely separate. The health companies have their own clinics and hospitals which includes the equivalent of an A&E service. The waiting times are almost zero when compared to A&E in the UK. Bliss.

I know from experience that on the odd occasion Dani has woken with a fever or shown signs of a rash, within minutes of arriving at the private hospital he has been seen by a doctor.

You can book your own appointment to see a doctor – effectively the equivalent of a British GP. You can book an appointment to see a specialist directly, without going via your own doctor (GP).

Cost comparison…

In the UK a few years ago I was paying over 60 pounds per month for a system that does not include A&E treatment.

In Spain, I would pay about €65 (Euros) as an individual but can get it as cheap as €35 through an employer’s scheme– that’s less than half what it was costing me in the UK. As if that is not good enough the premiums have not increased., despite me having used the system several times.

In Spain you can get fairly comprehensive cover for less than half the price of an average package in the UK. Not only that, you actually get a good, dedicated service with hardly any waiting time, any time of day.

I don’t know for certain how they manage to do it but they certainly seem to offer a much better service in Spain. This is true for both the public and private sectors.

Here is one simple theory.

How? Why?

In the UK the NHS is a national disgrace and needs completely rebuilding in my opinion. Yet the private health service is also incomplete and not fit for purpose. I believe that Spain has a much better health service. Let me try to explain why.

It’s basically a numbers game. In Spain, so many people have private health insurance. This could be as part of their salary package or they will pay for it themselves. The fact that so many people in Spain are using the private health systems means that the numbers using the public system are greatly reduced. This allows the Spanish SNS to cope far better than the overburdened British NHS can ever dream of doing. I realise that many people have similar deals in the workplace in the UK but those schemes are nothing like the Spanish private health system as explained above.

The appointments process is not only more efficient in Spain – for both public and private systems – but there is far less waiting time when you arrive at the clinic/hospital. Again, this applies to both private and public services.

The Spanish private health system is what private medical insurance should be; and that is probably why it is so widely used in Spain. The biggest argument against private health care in the UK is that the NHS invariably suffers. The Spanish systems prove that this does not have to be the way.

Puzzling…

One thing puzzles me however. What is going on in the world of Radiology? What is it about that occupation? I have had x-rays in both countries and even in Spain the wait times are grossly out of proportion to all the other services. If anyone reading either works in radiology or knows someone who does, please let me know why this is.

Original Expectations….

I said when I started this blog that Dani might expect the best of both worlds. In this case I believe he has the best two options simply by being in Spain.

First Zoo Trip

During a trip to the seaside last week when the weather was overcast we decided to visit one of the local attractions.

We visited a small zoo in Borth on the west coast of mid-Wales. Not being a huge fan of zoos I was pleasantly surprised. The zoo began as a way of giving a home to some of the many exotic pets that are discarded each year in the UK. This does not just include animals like terrapins and iguanas that can quickly outgrow their owners glass tanks. Even the zoo’s ocelot and leopard were unwanted pets.

In 2014 it was estimated that there were more than 42 million rare and unusual ‘exotic’ pets kept in the UK. That’s a lot of animals; even if that figure does include “tropical” fish.

All Creatures Great and Small…

I was initially expecting only a little more than a petting zoo. Mainly typical farm animals with the odd caged wild animal plus a few reptiles. How wrong I was. They have a wide selection of monkeys, marsupials and large birds. They even have an Iberian Lynx – supposedly native to Spain although increasingly difficult to see there in the wild. The lynx recently gave birth after being received as a gift from another zoo: Alas we never saw the kittens.

They have recently taken on two lions (one male one female) from the Noah’s Ark zoo farm near Bristol. Apparently these lions were surplus to requirements in that zoo farm such has been their success and growth. The enclosure is spacious and the animals come right up to the fence. It is the closest I have been to a lion in any kind of zoo.

They do also have all the typical petting zoo creatures like small rodents, lambs and ponies.

Snakes on a Boy….

Not to be confused with that dreadful film Snakes on a Plane; this was the reptile encounter. A fantastic, educational, close encounter with some of the zoo’s more exotic species.

The reptile keeper brings out some of the snake collection so you can see them at close quarters and even hold them. The first snakes he brought out were a relatively small Corn Snake (that he had wrapped around his neck) and a Royal Python called Luna. He passed the python around the audience where the kids got to hold it.

A mere six foot (2 metres) or so and not weighing too much Dani comfortably held it on his lap – half excited half scared I suspect. But he never flinched or showed any signs of fear. What a charmer! Snake charmer no less. He held it and stroked its smooth and silky skin. It is a common misconception that snakes are wet and slimey.

Then they brought out the second python. I say “they” because it took 4 of them to carry it. This thing was a female Burmese python called Bernie. She is over 20 feet long (over  6m) and weighs over 12 stone (that’s over 168 pounds or more than 68kg in new money)

First they had to uncoil it and then lift it before carefully walking out of the glassed housing area into the public seating zone. Finally placing it carefully on a table for the kids to maul it. In reality the kids were very well behaved and treated the animals with respect. The girth of this animal was incredible. Dani could easily fit inside it without any stretching or bulges showing.

 As big and powerful as these pythons are they are gentle in nature and do not bite. The one disappointment was that none of the pythons we met was named Monty.

Other Attractions

Apart from the advertised feeding events and reptile encounters there are other attractions that you cannot find in most zoos. Peacocks roam freely and clearly enjoy displaying their famous feathers. Visitors are free to enter the wallaby pen. For an extra fee you can even enter the popular meerkat enclosure. The interaction with the animals is fantastic and a great place for kids to learn or stimulate a thirst for more knowledge. Borth is only a few miles north of the university town of Aberystwyth. If you are in that part of the world I can highly recommend it. Check out their website (which is currently being updated/rebuilt) at http://animalarium.co.uk/

 

 

Aside……A couple of film references

If you are a frequent reader of the Blog you will know that I occasionally like to make references to the movies. Here are another two…

Snakes On a plane – Extremely shit (2006) film starring Samuel L. Jackson. The “L” stands for Leroy by the way. Although I will admit there was at least one very funny moment just about when the snakes were starting to appear when a man is taking a leak in the toilet. Real snake meets trouser snake (so to speak). It had me in fits of laughter. While I consider Sam Jackson to be a decent (rather than great) actor he did play one of the great cinema roles starring as Jules Winnfield in one of my all-time top 10 films Pulp Fiction.

A Clockwork Orange: This 1970s cult classic, taken from the book of the same name, was banned for many years in the UK. Reportedly because too many youth gangs were copying the behaviour of the film’s anti-heroes. The main character is Alex played by Malcom McDowell. In the movie, Alex has a pet python he calls Monty.

A Sad Conclusion to Charlie’s Story

I have already nailed my colours to the mast on this one so there is no way I can let this go without having another say…

Even if the end was (more or less) inevitable –  I was always going to write about it. Whether Charlie got to visit the doctors in America or not. Even if that therapy failed to make a difference. Happy or sad, good or bad; this story needs a conclusion.

Whatever your opinion recent events should have brought a tear to your eye.

Being the cynical old dad that I am I might normally laugh at the self-styled Charlie’s Army. Write them off and call them nutters etc…as many seem to have done. But this is different. This case involves the National Health Service (NHS) and I am immediately sceptical of what goes on in the UK’s hugely inefficient health system. I am not anti-NHS nor do I particularly favour private health care per se. I do however believe that while the intentions may still be honourable the NHS is no longer fit for purpose and should be rebuilt from the bottom up. It is certainly not this untouchable, perfect organization that we are often led to believe it is. It should not be above criticism. This is a very important issue because it affects us all remember. Or soon will do for my generation. I have written a blog post comparing the health systems in Spain and the UK which I intend to publish this week. Please read it and feel free to comment.

I do not have blind faith in the workings of the NHS. The nurses and doctors and their assistants – people on the shop floor – may be doing their best but as an organization it is broken. Unfortunately, the NHS in the UK is above such criticism. It is a political football that no one dare criticize. It certainly seems there is no politician brave enough to suggest that it must be hugely improved or even rebuilt.

Conspiracy Theories or Just Harsh Realities?

For all the good that places like Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) do they are definitely influenced and (who knows?) may be funded (at least in part) by big pharma. Vested interests abound.

Is the therapy (including drugs) being offered by the American doctor something that cannot be copyrighted by big pharma? Just a thought. This blog post is beginning to resemble the Pelican Brief!

Having said all that, I am an old dad. It means I have been around long enough to see a lot of things. Nothing surprises me anymore. I am by nature bit of a cynic. Such cynicism grows with age and experience. This is true for most of us. So here is another thought…

Has the situation been deliberately prolonged by the parents? Is it possible that they have done this for some untoward reason? I do not think so; but you can never be too sure. Remember the case of the woman in Doncaster, England who faked her own daughters’ disappearance in the hope that the public would throw money at the cause? It turns out the little girl was hidden away in the house of one of her mother’s friends. These things do indeed occur. Life really is stranger than fiction, so nothing, absolutely nothing, would surprise me.

Time will tell if the money raised for little Charlie will be used correctly or not. I believe it will.

The Sad Summary…

One thing I am convinced of is that the GOSH have some serious questions to answer. Unfortunately in the UK the hospitals and NHS never seem to have to confront such questions. Whatever they say is supposed to be taken as the undisputed truth and second opinions (if they ever happen) are not considered. The whole system needs to be seriously looked at. If nothing else comes of this sad case then let us all hope that it somehow changes the way such things are considered in the health service

Some things are hard to dispute. In her final statement to the court Charlie’s mother summarized it simply.

“There is one simple reason for Charlie’s muscles deteriorating to the extent they are in now – time. A whole lot of wasted time.”

And…

“All we wanted to do was take Charlie from one world-renowned hospital to another world-renowned hospital. We feel that we should have been trusted as parents to do so.”

I would urge you to read up on the facts of the case. Read the mother’s final statement to the court. For me, it is clear that Charlie should have been given that one opportunity. For me, the timeline of events tells its own story.

So; this sad and sorry tale draws to a close; although not quite. Even now they are still deciding where Charlie can be allowed to “die with dignity”, telling the parents that Charlie cannot be allowed to die at home.

I wonder what will come to light in the coming months? I am sure we have not heard the last of this.

From Fake News to Fake Fairy Stories

We live in an age of “fake” news. Or so we are told by all sides of the political spectrum. Was it ever any different? Of course not. The difference nowadays is that we all think we are more connected and more in tune with the latest news etc… We are not.

That aside there is plenty of scope for fake stories. Even those incorporating fake goods. There is a saying that “life is stranger than fiction”. Well sometimes even fiction can be stranger than fiction…

Tales Ad Lib…

Whenever I try to tell a story I often get interrupted. Other characters get thrown in by a little voice. By a little boy who is supposed to be listening to, not telling, the story. I welcome interaction in the story telling. Let’s face it we have all heard the tales so many times; they do get boring. Even the better fairy stories turn dull after the 200th telling.

The other day was a great example. When I tried to relate one of his favourite stories – The Elves and the Shoemaker – he insisted on including the Muffin Man. Whenever I got the part where someone came into the shop to buy the latest foot fashion (made the previous evening by the little helpers) he insisted that it was the Muffin Man doing the shopping. No idea why it had to be him but I could work with this I thought. Over-lapping characters from different tales or rhymes can be quite fun. It can quickly turn the story into a scene from that movie Shrek.

In this case it goes something like this…

I usually throw in three or four artistic cobbling night-shifts. Then once they discover who is making the shoes the shoemaker and his missus make their little helpers some Saville Row inspired three piece suits. The following mornings, each time a few fine pairs of shoes go on sale, in walks the Muffin Man. It turns out that the shoe shop is just around the corner from Drury Lane. I never knew that (he said, surprised). Did you?

The combination of good quality leather combined with the fine stitch-work and artistry of the nimble fingered elves meant that the shoes could sell for quite a sum. This wasn’t cheap bargain footwear or even mid-range. These were top end designer priced shoes. So, for three or four consecutive days Mr. Muffin Man splashed out top dollar – actually, pounds, shillings, pence, farthings and groats in this pre-decimalisation case – for the various elf made shoes.

The rest of the story was pretty much standard with only a few minor elaborations. Standard poetic license for any old dad.

On the final night of the story the shoemaker once again lays out the best leather he could find. Only this time he also leaves a couple of perfectly tailored suits for the elves. Just like the previous nights the elves make the shoes and then notice the suits. They try them on – perfect fit of course – and then decide to walk off into the sunset. Actually, sunrise in this case. Just like that. No explanation as to where they came from or where they are going. Nobody knows. It’s probably just an elf thing.

The Sting…

Meanwhile right on cue, some 10 minutes after opening time, in walks the Muffin Man. Only this time he is not alone. With him are two policemen; and they were not looking for new shoes.

It turns out that the Muffin Man had been working as an undercover Trading Standards officer and all this time he has been following a trail of high quality fake Jimmy Choo shoes. They were so good in fact It was impossible to tell them apart from the real thing. He had been following the sudden unexplained spike in fake designer shoes (and bags apparently) in different shops around the country. The only connection was that all the shops were owned and run by old couples who should have been retired but could not afford to. The elves had been moving freely from town to town spreading their high quality counterfeit wares upon the unsuspecting public. Seemingly with no care for the intellectual property rights of the designers or the statutory rights of the consumer. Yet somehow they were also like good Samaritans, helping hard up old age citizens. Quite a conundrum for any law enforcer.

Morals in the Story….

The more fake the story the more intently he listens. Maybe he is already a little bored with the routine versions and wants some taller tales.  Now all good children’s stories should have at least one moral. This one is clearly no exception but there are so many and they are so complex. Where on earth do I begin? All help is greatly appreciated.

Poor Charlie Soldiers on….

Poor little Charlie Gard has just been given a third reprieve. It seems that some team of medical experts has informed the Great Ormond Street Hospital (where Charlie is being cared for) that there may be some benefit in some form of treatment. The exact details of this treatment are not clear – to me anyway.

Yet the powers that be still won’t let his parents take him to the USA. That is still the most baffling part of this whole sorry saga.

Since I posted the article on Charlie two VIPs have intervened. Verbally at least. The Pope and even the president of the United States – Donald Trump himself – have weighed into the debate. I tweeted my previous post on this subject to Mr. Trump. He probably does not read them himself. No doubt that is work for some of his minions. It is highly unlikely that he even writes “his” tweets. Still, it was worth a try.

Just a thought…

A thought occurred to me the other day while reading some of the articles in the media about poor Charlie’s case.

We are told that he has the extremely rare mitochondrial depletion syndrome. We are also told that he is one of only 16 such cases with this condition. The therapy offered in the USA is, we are told, experimental. If there are so few cases to experiment with surely it would be in everyone’s interest for Charlie to go to the USA?

How can they find a cure (or useful treatment) to such a rare condition without a patient to experiment on?

Just a thought…

Meanwhile I hope that someone in authority makes a good and right decision for once. For the sake of little Charlie Gard.