little red jottings

when a little red pen wanders off the page

Tag: feet like hands


There’s a new activity in our household, and it may be the salvation of us. It’s parkour, or — as we called it in olden times — playing outside.

I’ve been encouraging the boys to get outside forever, and they seem strangely resistant unless they have an adult with them. The Cat bemoans our lack of a soccer pitch, which is an odd thing to expect a house to have — although he would settle for a flat bit of lawn — and somewhat unnecessary given that we have four or five school playgrounds, two public gardens and three playing fields within 20 minutes walk of our front door. Not that I expect them to trot off alone because kids don’t do that these days, but they do have fairly regular outings to places where they can kick a ball around.

Anyway, the soccer at home seems a bit fraught and I find the afternoons get swallowed with chores and cooking, so we often end up inside more than any of us really need or want.

But then we discovered this parkour thing. My acquaintance with the sport is extremely nascent, but it seems to be basically moving in interesting ways around urban environments. This gorgeous video shows what you can do with some walls and a fence, and this one takes things a bit further with a field of aeroplanes and high-level gymnastic skills. We have neither aeroplanes nor gymnastic ability, but we have a deck, a path, some fencing, garden beds and a guinea pig hutch, and there’s a lot of fun to be had with those ingredients. Essentially, the trick is to find a space with some stuff in it, then work out how to run, jump, climb, crawl and slide around that stuff. We can do that.

The Cat has made up a basic route around these items, and everyone in the household has had a go. I like the way it draws on the different skills and characteristics that we each have: the Cat’s inventiveness and spatial creativity, the Rabbit’s agility and love of play, Ian’s sense of fun, and my enjoyment of movement and dance. It’s also completely non-competitive, so the boys can go outside, make up a route and each have a go without it descending into a scrap over rules and outcomes.

It was so successful yesterday that they moved on to picking blackberries down the back of the property and harvesting zucchinis and potatoes from the vege patch without any maternal prodding or, indeed, attention. There was a wee incident with the spade, but we resolved that one without major bodily harm. So, parkour for the win. We’ll head out this weekend and try it in the urban wilderness.

After that, things got a bit busy while Ian did the frying part of the stir fry and I lit the fire, and through it I had a vague sense that the Rabbit was up to something, possibly in the bathroom, but I assumed it related to a bodily function and ignored it. So then I met him coming out of the bathroom looking damp and on-a-mission-ish. The bathroom also looked damp, and there were five facecloths in the sink and a sneaker and a fair bit of dirt in the bath. “I’ve just been washing things,” he said. “My hands, all these things (gesturing at his clothes), my shoes … well, mostly my shoes. They were very muddy, but they’re clean now.”

Which is delightful, because I had been fearing all week that my inability to get the bathroom cleaned was procrastination or laziness or poor time management skills or something morally questionable like that. But, no. It was prescience.

The Wellington summer post

P1090875A funny day to be writing this, with 140km winds and the rain gusting in. It’s been nice though, and will be again, so I shall reserve the snark. In any case, I’m tucked up in a café while Ian braves the zoo with the boys, so it behoves me to be civil.

Ian’s up here for work reporting the Summer News, and we’re his hangers-on. We did this last year too, and we were a bit quicker to get into the swing of capital holiday mode this time. We’re only halfway through the visit, so there might be more to say later.

In the meantime, lists, I think. With illustrationP1100023s from an event I wasn’t part of.


Beautiful sights

  1. Dear family friends standing together as their baby boy was baptised, a little oasis of loving calm that we didn’t completely ruin by arriving late and dramatic after a delayed early morning flight.
  2. Rabbit wearing full soccer kit — Barça shirt and shorts about five sizes too big, knee-length socks, boots, plus red-framed sunglasses — and walking along the street eating his first chocolate éclair. His face a perfect mix of wonder, delight and determination to finish the damn thing.
  3. P1090999The Cat, who has a tendency to freeze when grown-ups attempt to engage him in conversation, confidently and politely advising a couple of women about which bus would take them to the railway station. Also his strong sense of the necessity of giving some money to anyone busking or begging.
  4. My lunch today — a coffee with cream, a tasting platter of small and delicious vegetable dishes,  flatbreads and crackers. I feel vaguely greedy and conspicuous, but mostly very happy. There’s a salad of garden vegetables (chard, slivered carrots, radishes), beautifully dressed and enriched with nuts and dates, there are pickled plums and salsas of avocado and eggplant, there are creamy potatoes, green beans in a tomato sauce, a soft, spicy tangle of onions and capsicums, and a little dish of capsicums, olives, walnuts and herbs.
  5. P1090922The boys playing in the rocks at Plimmerton, looking for crabs and discussing the characteristics of sea worms/centipedes.


Memorable meals

  1. This lunch, obviously. It’s like my Platonic lunch ideal, the lunch of all my dreams and desires and imaginings. It’s from the legendary Lido café, and you should try it if you ever get the chance. The chef is going to send me the recipes. None of the staff seem to have seen the dish before, which makes me wonder about any number of things, but mostly makes me hope they get a taster soon. I think it’s only just made an appearance on the summer menu.
  2. P1090923Pizzas at the Mediterranean Food Warehouse. We walked up to Kelburn through the bush and via a soccer match. The children scrapped like feral warthogs until the food arrived and peace descended. The adults shared a glass of red. We worked out which European and Asian cities we each most resemble.
  3. Lunch at our friends’ house in Petone. Beautiful food, a soccer match on the lawn and another at the school, easy, enlivening conversation, the kids enjoying each other.
  4. A café lunch in Plimmerton, but only for the gossip, which cannot be shared.
  5. Still to come, I hope.


P1090957Best activities

  1. Football matches on Sky.
  2. Working through maths and reading activity books with the Rabbit, who is VERY KEEN.
  3. Bouncing along the street with the Cat while he assembles dream football teams and I nod sagely from time to time.
  4. Sleeping.
  5. Seeing friends.
  6. Running and walking up lots of steps.
  7. P1090964Buses, trains, no car.
  8. Long, ranting conversations with my fella.
  9. Discovering that GoFugYourself recapped a TV series of Wolf Hall, which brings together, I don’t know, at least ten of my favourite things in this world.
  10. Visiting my favourite ceramics and knives shop.
  11. Gelati.
  12. Walks along the esplanade.
  13. Family football matches. In case anyone was missing the theme.
  14. Popping into Unity Books every time we walk past.
  15. Riffing on the new family insult: you great, big … potato.




Two wheels

So, exciting news here — I got me a new bike, and it’s loooovely. It’s fast and all the gears work and it’s got a step-through frame and I can reach the ground when I stop. Perfection!

I got panniers so I can pop my laptop in and be a two-wheeled editor-about-town, and I’m planning a series of narrow-legged, loose-sleeved outfits that will let me cycle comfortably and still appear tidy at meetings. One day, we’ll do the Central Otago Rail Trail as a family, and then I can use the panniers for more rugged, outdoorsy purposes, but in the meantime, I quite like the idea of merging my need for exercise with work requirements.

The Cat and I rode down to the harbour and along the bike track at the weekend. It was a long, hilarious, companionable ride, punctuated with many, many stops for road crossing, navigational discussions, inclines, declines, shags, herons, a spoonbill, a family of geese scrambling up over the rocks at the river mouth, bananas, water, leg stretching, and a particularly nice moment when we just sat on a bench and looked at the water. We were a little team, and as we rode along, the Cat whistled and sang football anthems while I reminded him at regular intervals to stay left.

To feel freedom and flight in my own body and at the same time glance over to my beautiful boy feeling the same thing, yeah, that’s a moment I’ll treasure.

World Cup Final (live blog)

Well, this is very experimental. I suggested to the Cat that we live-blog the final, and he was all over it.

5.29am A Goal! Argentina! Off-side! Big emotion on the couch. (And for Higuain as well.)

We’re just getting into this now. Ian got the Cat up in time for the start, but it’s 5am here, so I consider myself successful just for having got out of bed in the first 20 minutes.

5.32am Is it time for coffee yet? Why are the outfits different colours to last time? Yellow cards like confetti.

5.34am Germany getting chances. Lots of running. Messi misses.

5.35am Shit that was close. I really like the Argentine goalie. The Cat is checking my spelling.

5.38am Germany and Argentina played each other in the quarter-finals of the World Cup. Germany whipped Argentina 4-0, and Maradona was Argentina’s coach. So close again, but at the other again. Messi looks cross.

5.39am Jeez, still nil-all and it’s 39 minutes in.

5.40am Germany got a good chance. Out. Lots of crowd noise and the ref is having a chat with a few players.

5.41am We’re backing Argentina, by the way. Crosses coming, Argentina heads away. Sneaky Germans. My lovely goalie.

5.44am Klose was close.

5.45am I just noticed that the Argentinians have very bright shoes on.

5.46am The ref has a lot to say. Flag is up. Ball hit the post and came back to a player who was off-side. Too complicated for me, but the Cat gets it.

5.47am Half-time. COFFEE.

5.58am Baguettes are spread and the coffee is almost ready. The Cat has trivia for me. Germany last won in 1990, playing against Argentina. Argentina last won in 1986, playing against Germany. So, there you go.

6.03am Argentina has conceded three goals this World Cup. Bosnia-Herzegovina (1) and Nigeria (2), but they won both those matches. Off-side again? C’mon Argentina.

6.06am Good baguettes. Messi so close. Damn.

6.07am Mr Trivia tells me that Germany has conceded four goals this World Cup. Ghana (2), Algeria (1) and Brazil (1). Drew with Ghana and won the other two. One of them emphatically.

6.08am Rio looks pretty. Players on the ground when they should be kicking the ball in the net. Argentina still there. Jesus is watching on the hill and the cameraperson is having fun.

6.10am We’re down the German end, but the ball is out now. Germany’s first World Cup was won in 1954. 2-down at half-time, but came back to win 3-2 against Hungary. They won their second in 1974 against the Dutch. The Dutch scored before the Germans even touched the ball, with Cruyff dribbling up to the area and winning a penalty. Neeskens converted it. Bang! In the net! The Germans came back to win 2-1.

6.15am A very cross, injured Argentinian (Higuain). Looks like the impacts can be high at these speeds. Still freaked out about Neymar’s back.

6.18am Argentina has only won two World Cups. 1978 against the Dutch and 1986 as above.

6.19am Stuffed chance by Phillip Lahm.

6.20am Bit of trickery around the ball and a stuffed chance by Mesut Ozil too. Oh no, not a chance. Off the side of his leg.

6.21am Argentina corner. A German head and an Argentine head hit the ball at the same time. Ball goes out. Two heads not better than one.

6.23am Bad tackle by Mascherano. The yellow card comes out again.

6.24am Another player down, another yellow card. Agüero this time.

6.25am Singing from the crowd. Sounds Argentinian. Romero snatches the ball from the air with no trouble at all.

6.28am Apparently Lahm does a lot of yoga. He can certainly run fast.

6.29am Romero saves another goal. Bless him.

6.30am Ref looking very cross. Someone got told.

6.32am Ball played to Messi. Didn’t work.

6.33am Close, Messi, but not close enough.

6.38am Great defence from Argentina, but Germany playing well. Romero boots it. Ten minutes to go.

6.40am German attempt at goal, but well off-target.

6.41am Funny facials from the ref. Not a man to be easily swayed by appeals from players. Should get him to negotiate contracts for me.

6.43am Lovely passing, but Aguero slips.

6.46am Substitutions on both sides.

6.49am The last two World Cups haven’t been settled in ordinary time. 2010 went to extra time and 2006 was penalty shoot-outs. Into stoppage time now. Three minutes and Argentina need to get something please. Praise God for Romero, and he seems to think so too.

6.51am Lovely defence. Argentina running now, but it doesn’t go anywhere. 30 seconds on the clock. Some tired legs out there. Extra time coming up, and more coffee.

6.59am Very close for Germany. Messi! What was that?

7.02am Romero looking very focused. Like a short-sighted chipmunk.

7.03am I’m… yes, hungry. (The Cat.) Mascherano, was it? Missed. We send Ian to make noodles. No, it was Palacio.

7.12am The Cat is stretching. He looks more relaxed than anyone in the crowd. Is anyone ever going to score? Lahm on the ground. Grass everywhere. Was there no catcher on the mower?

7.14am Extra time half-time. The Argentinian coach looks very animated. The German looks concerned. The Cat is thinking about noodles.

7.17am We’re back. Romero kicks to the German goalkeeper. Free kick to Germany, goes nowhere. Everyone’s playing with their heads. Free kick against Aguero. Schweinsteiger looking pretty banged up. Lots of heads making contact. Brains cells being lost by the minute.

7.22am The Cat is into his noodles. Rabbit still sleeping. Schweinsteiger is back.

7.24am Germany scores! Not happy, Sam. A left-footer from Götze. A very sad child in the stands. I feel for him, but it’s not over yet, kid.

7.29am A header over the net.

7.31am We are deflated. And we stuffed the tipping competition too, after a flawless run in the round of 16 and the quarter-finals.

7.32am This would be the first time a European team has won in a South America-hosted World Cup. There’s a German on the ground, but Messi has a free kick. C’mon Messi. Argentinian children are crying everywhere. It’s Schweinsteiger down again. I think he should go have a beer.

7.34am Messi way over.

7.36am Germany have won. The Cat tells me that no-one has won three World Cups anymore. Brazil has five (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994 and 2002). Germany has four (1954, 1974, 1990 and 2014). Italy also has four (1934, 1938, 1982 and 2006). Argentina has two (1978 and 1986), as does Uruguay (1930 and 1950). France has one (1998), England also has one (1966), and so does Spain (2010).

We’re going bookshopping today. Or maybe to find some soccer shirts. The Cat still loves Messi, but maybe more when he’s playing for Barcelona.

Signing out from the 2014 World Cup. It’s been a long month, but a good one.

All in the feet

IMAG3173The Cat’s world revolves around soccer at the moment. He takes his ball to school every day; on the way home I get a play-by-play account of the pre-school, morning tea and lunchtime matches. I have to employ all my wiles to get him off the pitch after school, and it all ends in tears more often than not. He’s been reading up on the World Cup, and regales me with facts and statistics all day, every day. He watches as many matches as he can, tips like a pro, analyses each performance. He takes his ball to bed, to dinner, around the house. It drives me a bit batty, if I’m honest, and more so when he insists on using his feet for everything — moving toys, putting clothes away, mopping the bathroom floor. If I ask him to use his hands, he looks at me as though I’ve suggested it would be handy if he grew a pair of wings.

So, I remember the good it is doing him. He is learning to handle losing and winning and missing the goal. He’s thinking about passing the ball, where his team-mates are, where he is. He’s getting fitter, more co-ordinated, stronger. His hair grows shaggier every day, and it suits him. He runs training sessions with the Rabbit every afternoon. They work in the hallway, do penalty shootouts and fitness work, practice heading and saving goals. He is mostly a generous and creative coach, and he’s only taken his brother out with a too-hard ball a couple of times.

It bewilders me a little, this love of the beautiful game. I knew what to do when his obsessions were birds and bus routes — we had outings and books and maps and timetables and games — although I couldn’t do much more than ride dinosaurs out. Geography made sense to me, and I learnt a lot. But I’ve never liked team sport; as a child I preferred walking and skating and, well, reading. So soccer caught me by surprise; it took me a while to realise how deep his commitment ran. I’m on it now though. I kick the ball to him, race when he snaps it past me. I find books and whoop when the team scores. I’m helping him make a board game. One day, I’ll bring oranges to the Saturday morning match.

My boy is revelling in something I don’t know, and I’m trying to keep up.

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