GatesOur house is like a prison.

We have glass gates to the kitchen, dining room and Flower Girl’s room. We also have outside locks on the doors to the upstairs and downstairs bathrooms and all the bedrooms, including mine. For some reason we also lock the front door from the inside during the day. I can’t get into the kitchen unless it’s meal time or unless I’m on my way through into the garden… but then I have to get someone to help me undo all the silly locks. The living room, hall, stairs, landing and my bedroom are fairly easy to get to most of the time, but even then I usually have someone following me around.

What’s going on? Everyone else is allowed to come and go as they please, why not me? I watch them over the gates and think how much easier everyone’s life would be if we were all able to go wherever we wanted. For instance, I’ve spent hours watching Frowny doing the cooking and she’s always having to rush about between cupboards and drawers, opening and closing the oven and the fridge… it’s just not very efficient. If she allowed me to help her I could start by emptying all of the cupboards so that she’d never have to go hunting at the back for all those jars and tins and packets that have gone out of date. In fact I could help her with that problem too by opening them all and making sure they tasted ok.

Then I’d open the drawers and get out all of the knives, forks and spoons for her. And I’ve watched her chopping up vegetables with tiny little knives – takes her ages and I know for a fact that she keeps this whopping great big knife like a sword in the bottom drawer which would get through all the cutting jobs in no time at all.

She also spends ages sorting out all my medicines for me. Hours and hours taking all the little pills out of the packets and putting them in separate bowls. Ages spent with syringes sucking up all the medicines from different bottles… all pointless. I reckon if we just took them all out at the same time it wouldn’t take me more than 20 minutes to munch through the lot. Job done.

As for the bathrooms, don’t get me started. Every day they’re endlessly turning the taps on and off, on and off, on and off… crazy. Whenever I get anywhere near any taps I just turn them both on full then never have to deal with them again. So much time saved.

In fact it’s the same story all over the house. In mine and Curly Top’s bedrooms we both have boxes, baskets and cupboards full of toys. Well you can’t very well play with them like that can you? Do you see where I’m going with this?

In the living room I used to see Frowny lifting up vases, picture frames and other bits and pieces so she could do the dusting (I even saw Smiley doing this once, but it was a very long time ago), so whenever I see ornaments on any surface – wherever I am – I try to help by pushing them all onto the floor for her. It’s surprising how delicate some of those ornaments are; sometimes they break and have to be thrown away, so I like to think that’s another good deed I’ve done in pointing this out. Actually now I come to think of it I haven’t had to do much of this in our house for a long time so she’s obviously starting to realise how silly ornaments are in the first place.

At my school and at some of those places where I go to play at weekends they have lots of doors with flashing lights and beepy-buzzy things on them. But they don’t work very well because sometimes they let one person go through and sometimes they don’t. They seem to work better with two people so I usually go and get someone and put their hand on the handle to see if we can go through together. But even then they don’t always work.

If a door is left open I can never resist going through to see if I can get a snack for myself. A couple of times I’ve found doors open to the outside and in those cases I have a little wander to see if I can find a garden with a bouncy castle or a paddling pool. Usually all I find is lots of cars whizzing by, but within a minute I always bump into someone I know… how weird is that? In fact they often turn up in groups of two or three; all the attention can be a bit embarrassing at times but I do my best to live with it.

But the gate thing at home started a long time ago. When I was very little we used to have these baby prison gate things which were frustrating at first, but as I grew bigger I realised that with a bit of determination (and a lot of rattling) I could just pull them off. If this failed I could just lean on them until they collapsed. Smiley got wise to this and started attaching them to the door frames with big screws, but when I was a little bit taller I found I could lean right over, lift my feet and pivot over the top… not the best idea I’ve ever had – because it involved landing on my head or my face – but very effective.

Then one day we had a visit from a man with a clipboard who went round the house looking at all the doors and making funny sighing and tutting noises. He said “wood” and Smiley said that was no good because I would climb up it. I didn’t know what he meant by that but it hardly sounded like a bad thing. Then clipboard man said “metal?” but Frowny said she wasn’t having that because it would look like a prison. I quickly lost interest in the conversation and wandered off, but a few weeks later I came home and there were glass gates everywhere.

At first I wasn’t very keen because I kept walking into them and banging my head, and they were no good for climbing because they were too slippery. After a while I got used to them and found that they were very good for making dribbly patterns on, which has been particularly nice for Frowny because its given her something to polish after she lost all the ornaments.

There’s a bit of a problem with opening and closing them though; for some reason clipboard man only put doorknobs on the inside, which didn’t seem very efficient because it meant the grown-ups had to keep reaching over the gates to open them. As soon as I was tall enough I thought it would be a good idea to help by reaching over and opening all the gates myself, but one day when I came back from school all of the doorknobs had disappeared. Spooky. Drives them all mad when the doorbell goes or the phone’s ringing and they’re on the wrong side.

Now everyday I have to watch this ridiculous situation where every time anyone wants to go in or out of a room they have to argue with each other about who’s got the doorknob in their pocket or where they put it when they last had it. Sometimes Curly Top is locked in the living room with one of his friends and he calls for the toilet: Frowny flaps around in the kitchen, eventually finds the doorknob for the gate, opens it, locks it behind her, unlocks the living room door to let Curly Top out, re-locks it behind him, unlocks the bathroom door to let him in, locks it behind him, then has to go through the whole process in reverse to get back into the kitchen. The world’s gone mad.

The solution seems obvious to me, just take off all the gates and get rid of the locks on the doors. But you try telling them that and do you think they’d listen?

You just can’t help some people.


The Blankey Game

blanket-head2Obviously there’s absolutely no need to explain the Blankey Game to any of you, because I’m sure you all have your own subtle variations on it.

What do you mean you’ve never heard of the Blankey Game? How can that be? The absolute, no question, bestest and most popular game in the world and you say you’ve never played it? You sad, sad, people.

I’ve seen you all out there kicking a ball around a field and I’ve thought, “What’s the point of that?” You kick the ball away, then you run after it, then you kick it away again. And then you give it to someone else and it’s their turn to kick it away. Makes no sense at all.

There’s another one where someone tries to throw you a smaller ball and you have to whack it away with a big stick. I really can’t see the point of any of these games… if you don’t want the ball why bother with it in the first place?

Well I simply can’t let you all go on with such empty lives so allow me to explain. First, find a decent-sized blanket. My favourite is a mustardy-yellow jobbie with a kind of squared texture all over it. It’s perfect because it’s not too thick or fluffy (things can get pretty heated during the Blankey Game) and you can almost-but-not-quite see through it.

So what you do is this: search round the house for the blanket and drag it along behind you (sometimes along with whatever relative or stubborn cat happens to be sitting on it). You then have to go and search for Smiley. Now obviously this bit isn’t going to be very practical as it would take him a long time to get around to playing with everyone in the world. You can play the game with other people at a pinch but if you can persuade Smiley to play you’ll be in for a treat because he’s the undefeated world champion.

When you’ve found him all you do is hand him the blanket and he’ll do the rest. He usually starts by making a kind of groaning noise or mutters something about being busy but don’t believe a word of it, it’s all part of the game – you just keep handing him the blanket until he accepts it. He usually weakens quite quickly but don’t give up if it takes a little longer. I don’t think I’ve ever had to persevere for more than an hour or so.

As soon as he accepts it what you have to do is run away as fast as possible. This is hilarious. Don’t ask me why, it just is.

He then has to put the blanket over his head and chase after you, making “Oooooooh!” noises as he goes. Ok, so you run up and down the hall a few times, stepping on whatever person or animal is silly enough to be in the way and he staggers around after you, bumping into walls and door frames. By this time he’s usually managed to grab me a couple of times as I’ve been dashing past. He squeezes me in a bear hug and, with the blanket still over his head, presses his face up against mine and makes creepy ghosty noises. But, fun though this is, it’s just the initial warm-up period. Now it’s time to take things up a gear.

At this point Smiley attempts to throw the blanket over my head. This is the really weird part because when it’s over his head I can see him perfectly well, but when it’s over my head I become COMPLETELY INVISIBLE! How cool is that? I wander about the house following all the vague shadowy shapes and all I can hear them saying is “Where’s he gone?” I can’t see him anywhere!”

I quickly pull the blanket off my head to reveal myself and they look absolutely shocked! And just as quickly I put it back over my head and they’re back to being completely baffled… honestly, I can’t believe they haven’t figured this out yet, especially because at this point I’m usually laughing so hard I’m worried that I’m going to burst something.

Now this would already be enough to make it the best game ever invented, but wait, there’s more. The final stage involves Smiley dropping to his knees, still with the blanket over his head, and chasing around the floor like a dog in search of my toes. I can run but I can’t hide. I try lifting my feet off the floor as far as possible when I’m running away which possibly makes me lose some of my usual cool composure (I know you’ll find that difficult to believe) but at this point I’m usually past caring. I’m still working on a technique where I reckon it’s possible to have both feet off the floor at the same time while I’m running but I haven’t quite mastered it yet. Sometimes Smiley scurries off back to the living room and goes quiet and still for ages, so I have to sneak back to check if he’s still alive but at this point he comes back to life and starts chasing me again. Gets me every time.

After a few minutes of this I’m so exhausted that I have to confiscate the blanket from Smiley and go and flop on the sofa for half-an-hour or so to recover. And to stop him bothering me any more I usually put the blanket over my head to make myself invisible so that he won’t find me.

If you’ve never played the Blankey Game before then find a partner and do it today. I promise you it’s the most fun you’ll ever have.

Honestly, I could wet myself.

And frequently do.