Sunday, 13 May 2012
Life with Girl
Later that day we rode our bicycles together along the canal by our house, and stopped, as we often do, by the turf bridge. For decades workmen harvested (mined?) the peat – called turf here in the Bog of Allen – and loaded it onto carts on rails, pulled by horses up to this now-rusted iron structure, to be loaded onto horse-drawn barge and pulled to the furnaces and stoves of Dublin. Now it’s a spot for The Girl to stop her bike, take off her shoes and dip her feet in the icy water. And this particular day, to accidentally drop her bicycle basket in the canal.
The waters were clear enough that we could see it a metre and a half down. As a devastated look spread over her face, I put my arm around her. “It’s my fault, Daddy,” she said. I told her that I could help her out, but I wanted her to read some extra for me tonight. “I promise,” she said. I plunged into the near-freezing water, and emerged with the basket.
During the very cold bicycle home, The Girl said. “I’ll never do that again.” Good, I said, smiling, because you can swim now, and next time I’m making you get it.
Once in a while, I take The Girl to the cinema, and whenever possible it’s to – for her it’s a whole new world, and for me a trip to the past. I used to work as a film critic for a newspaper chain in the USA, which sounds like great job until you realise how many bad movies you have to see. In the last decade or so, however, I have seen only a few movies a year, withdrawing from that and most other mainstream media.
The other day, though, we saw Pirates: An Adventure with Scientists, and it not only had the charm of other works from the creators of Wallace and Gromit, and like their other films was enjoyably ridiculous, with Charles Darwin and a pirate teaming up to fight Queen Victoria and rescue the last dodo. Victorian Britain, pirates, scientists, dodos – it’s like they took all her favourite things and put them in a blender. "That was the best movie ever!" she said, "although it wasn't a very accurate film, was it?" she asked, sincerely. No, I said, but stories don't have to be.
Cinemas have become so expensive, though, that we more often have a “movie night” at home once every couple of weeks. I brought home A Night at the Opera recently, which is one of her new favourites, and I often bring home old musicals. Only watching them again for the first time since my own childhood, though, do I realise how family-unfriendly some of these musicals were. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, for example, featured hillbillies who kidnap women for marriage; Carousel, a carny who beats up his wife before turning to crime. I suppose it's no stranger than Sweeny Todd ...
Still, songs and choreography are amazing, and tonight as she curled up in my arms and watched “June is Busting Out all Over” from Carousel, she was as much in awe of the dancing as I was. I don’t need to show her the whole movie; I treat it as I do David Attenborough’s documentaries, encouraging her to watch the parts when the seal pups are happily frolicking in the surf, and knowing to skip ahead before the orcas appear.