Howard: Pit of Despair

Howard Mosley-Chalk is a father and a husband. But more importantly he is a man. These are his (un)manly words.

I’m writing this in an upstairs room, peering down out of the window at my two eldest children playing in the garden. One has a water pistol and is intentionally soaking himself, while the other is seeing how close she dare ride her scooter by her brother’s exposed (and wet) toes. I watch them for a while, smiling. Although I’m happy to see them playing with gay abandon, my real pleasure stems from the fact that neither have yet noticed.

You see, this summer… we’re not using the sand pit.

I’ve written before about the sand pit; mostly around April when it finally comes to cleaning the damn thing out after a winter of neglect. There are usually frogs in there, as well as spiders big enough to build their own sand castles. Digging up the damp, dirty sand is always a pain in a bum, as is disposing of it, cleaning the wooden frame itself, and purchasing the six million metric tonnes of play sand required to fill it back up (knowing the cycle will begin again next April. Like Sisyphus am I).

Gone

This year was different, though. When it came to removing the water-logged, weed-infested, amphibian-occupied sand, the whole job took about 20 minutes. There didn’t seem to be much sand left in there, forcing me to scout about the garden to see if our toddler had hidden it in plant pots or pour it down drains. Alas, he had not. If you’ve met him, you’d be surprised by that.

Perplexed, and beginning to believe that the sand had either been stolen by the huge spiders to construct a base in the neighbour’s garden from where to launch their attack, or that there had been a glitch in the matrix, and our future alien overlords had decided to alter the simulation in my favour, I reached for my drone.

I’ve found that a drone can help in all manner of situations, from needing to take a photo from high above, to… needing to take a video from high above. I sent the wee thing skywards over my back garden (did you know I have a clear view of the Minster from house? You only have to go 30 metres straight up) and snapped a few shots. Dear God, it was everywhere.

Angels and Demons. And sand.

I hadn’t noticed from the ground, but it seemed that the sand from the sand pit had leaked, been blown, or – as previously suspected – carried by a toddler, to cover every inch of the ground. There was a think layer of sand over every conceivable surface in the garden: patio, lawn, mud kitchen, car port, and the secret corner behind the bushes where I go to cry. It looked like an aerial photo taken by an American military satellite, the day before the invasion of Iraq. It was one of those Da Vinci Code moments – I realised I had been standing on the answer to my question all along. Swearing, I landed the drone and reached for the pressure washer.

Back to now, with the garden cleaned and sand free, and the kids are drenching/endangering themselves without having realised that a usual feature of our summertime garden is missing. The sand pit itself is standing upright against the fence, empty, looking quite like the Stargate (had the budget of that film been about fifty quid). I intend to dismantle it later and stick it behind the play house. The cycle is broken. Next April I shall not toil. No, I’ll be sitting in a deck chair, sipping an elderflower cocktail, and enjoying my view of the Minster (via drone, obvs).

Advantage, daddy

The episode has got me thinking about what else I can get away with not doing: basically, how can I take advantage of the kids’ forgetful, developing brains. Not bathing them is right out, as one of them goes to school and the teachers would notice the smell. Also, feeding is an essential I can’t forgo, as I really couldn’t stand an increase in the number of times each day I’m told ‘I’m huuungrrrry!’ Sick of it.

What about Christmas? What if we just never mentioned it? It’s not like they know what time of year it is. If I managed to keep them from seeing the decorations in town (which usually go up around this time of year, right? Local joke!) they’d never know. We’d save thousands.

So anyway… if you were hoping to bring your kids ’round to my gaff to build sand castles this summer, you can get stuffed.

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