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September 21, 2007

London Goofy Faces

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Well, had a lot of pics of our goofy faces, as those who know me know I like to partake in. But I also have a few stories, so might as well combine it.

I’ve always gotten along with kids. One thing which rubs me the wrong way about many "adults" is their developed level of sophistication, selfishness, concern for their comfort and well being, and compromise of their ideals, seeing the world gray as it supposedly is, rather than black and white. But I feel children have a more pure heart. After all, Jesus pointed to them and said we must have a heart like theirs if we want to get through the pearly gates. Children are more spontaneous, not laden down by the burdens of endless self controls ingrained in us over a lifetime of being policed by society.

Children say what is on their minds, and one (me) can act like a clown with them without receiving embarrassed glances of scorn.

While traveling I’ve been looking for local charities I could get involved with, one reason of which was to get away from the computer and interact with people, above all children. But because this has proven difficult (I understand, I’m a single male living in a truck - what do you expect?), my spontaneous social skills have waned while on the road and it took me a while to get the oils greased with my nephews. But within not too long I was teaching them all my dirty discoveries from when I was their age, and dirty jokes from Canada, all while my cousin their mother rolled her eyes and watched helplessly while I turned her lovely little boys into the monsters they wanted to be.

I guess I could go on about the new generation of men brought up by single mothers, perhaps overly conscious of what is politically correct, or perhaps it is good. But I feel it is healthy for a young male to experiment with his wild male side. They once even thanked me for my presence, saying I was like their dad and that they were glad they did not have to behave like Tom-girls, as the endless stream of female aupairs might have aided my cousin with.

My cousin also mentioned that there was way too much testosterone in the household, but managed to tolerate our little antics.

You like sea food?

See? Food!

It was a great and spontaneous summer and reminded me of the joy I felt with children.

To accompany these goofy pictures, I’ll reveal some of our antics.

I wasn’t allowed to spank them, but to win their respect, I had to think of something. One of which was "THE GRIP". If they did not stop playing in the park when it was time to go home for dinner, I’d walk over, grab their bisep, and drag each of them for a while while squeezing away. I did this only once for about a minute. Later times I would only have to mention the G word and they would immediately come scurrying over very obedient like.

The second was the Aikido tickle. If they were naughty in some way (although they rather enjoyed this punishment and it turned out to be a joke and temptation more than anything else), I would use my martial arts Aikido skills, twist their hand, arm and joints to pin them helplessly face down to the ground, with moderate pain, and proceed to tickle them at lib. They were tortured between laughter and stretching painful tendons, and after completion, were rather confused if they enjoyed it or would rather not repeat it. As a disciplinary tool, it did have some medicinal effect.

Every day after dinner we’d turn to each other and ask, "One hander?" After which we’d run to the freezer, each grab one ice cream (okay, two when mom wasn’t around) and then play table football with one hand.

Them two on one side and me on the other. After a while this started to get a bit old, which is when we decided to make it a little more interesting so we added some large marbles, and most importantly, about 10 ping pong balls. Now the point system would work that we’d count the number of balls in each goal once the table was cleared. Of course, because of the light nature of ping pong balls and the fact that the little one liked to spin his men uncontrollably, ping pong balls often found themselves flying across the living room and making little bouncing noises all over the walls etc. It was many times like this that the cousin had to resign and go upstairs rather than deal with the screaming, howling, and sound of bouncing ping pong balls.

Whenever the cousin would go to London pottery class and leave us rebel rousers to ourselves, they tended to go wild for the first few minutes, but then settled down to their natural selves. It was a little annoying in the beginning, but I would partake to a certain degree, when it would lose its novelty and they stopped doing it, mostly because it was tiring, and getting old for them. But I understand, as a single mother, that my cousin would want to hedge in such behaviour the moment it would bud.

Well, can’t remember all the other goofy things we did, as they might have been endless, but I’d like to end off this page with the piece de resistance.

During my time there I made many promises, many of which I was not been able to keep due to the lack of time. I kind of scrambled towards the end to fulfil as many of them as I could. One of them was to start a BAND! Primarily because I wanted to show the little one the more interesting side of the violin. He was studying it because it would help him get into better school, and perhaps at one point he was interested. I on the other hand have taught myself to play 11 instruments, I love playing them all, and I love jamming with other musicians. So I wanted to show him the art of jamming in a band, and that learning to play music is not all about rigidity and following the notes on a page.

The older one didn’t really play any instruments, but he had longish blond hair, so he was naturally chosen as the drummer.

Taking our instruments, kitchen utensils and various sized Tupperware containers and steel pots, we decided to venture to under "the wheel" < picture , where we would be competing against London’s finest. I was actually out there some weekends before jamming with some good musicians, but without amplification for me, it did not go so well.

We got to the park and walked past the blue Russian man wailing on the electric guitar, the green painted queen, and strolled down the lane scoping out all the other entertainers. I would give them each one or two pence so that they could pose with the other entertainers while I took pictures. The dog man wasn’t very impressed with the contributed sum and I will not repeat the humorous comments he mumbled under his breath while they patronised and patted him on the head.

And eventually it was time for us to set up shop and pull out our rich array of instruments. I pull out my violin case, where there were also three harmonicas. My plan was to practice (in true jamming form, we didn’t bother practicing beforehand) "Should I stay or should I go now", I believe by the Clash. My plan was for the little one to play the simple two note melody while I filled it in the background, imitating the melody of the singing. The older one would clang away on the pots and pans, apparently oblivious to any sense of beat to the song. But it did not matter. I felt the cute factor would be enough to score us a few coins. I told them that any earnings we made would go towards beer for me and candy for them, and if we made enough then we could go on the Star Wars trampolines just around the corner (at 6 pounds per pop, I wasn’t very hopeful).

At one point the blue Russian man came over, talked with us, and said what an endearing family we were and that it was nice I was trying to introduce the lighter side of music to the boy.

The beat was way off, the little one felt embarrassed and didn’t want to open up, and after a full and hardly intense one minute of playing, it seemed that everything was fizzling out like a wet balloon released from the fingers. I instructed them that it was good that at least we had TRIED, and that it was a nice day in the park. I egged them a little bit, and convinced them to try ONE more time. If anyone gave us money we would stay one minute longer for every pence that we got. They agreed half heartedly and we tried once more, this time with slightly more gusto.

When, to our shock, a young boy started approaching us with what appeared to be a coin in his hand. We practically all froze in disbelief. He threw 20 pence into my violin case and we all stared at each other with mouths open. The little one said: "That means we gotta stay 20 minutes!" They were now enthusiastic and the little one tried harder to follow the notes I was showing him. Later in the evening they dug up an old Clash CD from their collection and played that song repeatedly before I left.

But now it was serious jamming time. We also planned that we could sing some hash house harrier songs that I taught them. On the way from school every day, we would walk by this one gay bar, and I joked that I could make some serious beer money and they could get lots of candy if they sang the song: "I stuck my finger in a woodpecker’s hole, the woodpecker said God bless my soul…". The mother chuckled at the thought, but then suggested I wouldn’t dare, with the expected threatening glare in her eyes.

So for 20 minutes we tried this and that song, the little one tried the harmonica for a while, I tried leading on the violin, and generally things were fizzling out again as our designated time was coming to an end, and no more pennies in the till to fuel an encore.

The grimace of one eating
turds in an Indian restaurant

Now before we had set out that day, the older one had made some suggestion about singing something horrible, in front of a sign which asked for 2 pounds to shut him up. The mom immediately dismissed that as a failed idea and that no one would pay money for that. The little one immediately sided with his mom. I was trying to be supportive, because I know that this is an important element in a surviving band. Generally the two boys are quite competitive and often fall into the most mundane arguments.

The whole way there the older one would keep suggesting his idea, I would try to be supportive, and the younger one would immediately dismiss it as silly and which would not succeed. Anyway, the end of the 20 minutes was approaching and the older one, once again, suggested his idea. "What have we got to lose?" I thought and suggested. But the young one remained adamant. Which is when the tensions grew, and within a matter of seconds our "lovely endearing family" involved two boys screaming at each other and throwing pots, wooden sticks and pans across the park at each other, each taking turns crying in pain, and then getting back up with even greater vengeance. I tried to mediate but it seemed hopeless, and at one point, when the older one screamed, "YOU F*CKING B1TCH!" at the top of his lungs, over the park grass where many relaxing Londeners were strewn, I had to chuckle and let them vent their frustrations. But their anger did not ebb but rather increased in waves of dangerous measure, like I have never seen them behave before, and I was truly becoming concerned that one of them would get seriously hurt.

And hence, my friends, we have concluded the shortest living band in history. They each took turns screaming at each other that they will never play in a band with the other again, and my little dream evaporated in a puff of smoke.

The magic of photoshop, applied by Ruskin himself.

I got sick to my stomach with their behaviour and wanted to go home, but the older one was still adamant, and decided he will "entertain" on his own. Me and the younger one just resigned and sat there waiting for him while he stood on the edge of the grass, his palm opened in front of him, suggesting passerbys to drop a coin in it, while he mumbled almost indiscernibly under his breath, "I stuck my finger in a woodpecker’s…". Eventually I had to drag them both home and we walked the entire way in reflective and moping silence, but in hindsight, it was just one other hilarious event. Hopefully to be repeated with future customers of my new cheap travel Europe tour guide services.

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Our t-shirt collage and bbq in the garden.

My last trip through Europe and London
More London Goofy Faces
London pottery handcrafted by my cousin above


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