Wednesday, August 12, 2009 11:07:49 PM
Luckily we have with us a laptop, a netbook, a Sony PSP and a Nintendo DS. Oh, and some things called “books”, but number two son has not worked out how to plug these in yet nor has he located the “on” switch on any book.
One late afternoon we were sitting round the table doing our various things. Number two son playing something called “Gangs of London” on the PSP, number three son playing something on the Nintendo DS while Mrs. Fiendish and I were reading.
Clearly, “Gangs of London” was not fully engaging number two son's interest because periodically he would stick his foot in number three son's face and order number three son to “smell my sock”.
After about 15 minutes of this number three son got fed up. Perhaps he was coming to a particularly tricky bit of his game and he did not want his concentration broken by a socked foot up his left nostril. So he punched number two son.
Middle son is the sort of person who, if someone else starts a fight, he makes damn sure he finishes it. It's not a side of him I have seen but number one son said that at school, in that brief period when all of my sons attended the same school, middle son was the psycho case that everyone steered clear of.
On the plus side, middle son is a fair minded sort. Knowing that youngest son is not really the fighting sort, what with his chronic back problem and all, middle son decided to even up the odds in the impending fight by offering the use of a carving knife to youngest son.
Youngest son, duly pissed off and backed into a corner, accepted the knife and feinted to use it against number two son, at which point it truly kicked off, with the kicking and the punching and the waving of the knife.
It would have been scary stuff had it lasted longer than about three seconds, which was the time it took for Mrs. Fiendish and I to intervene. I pulled off number two son and saw the thought pass briefly through his mind, “Shall I lamp my Dad one?”
I was fighting like a girlie at the time, gripping his shoulders but digging in my nails in the hope it would distract him from number three son.
Luckily for me, he decided not to whack me, and contented himself with some foul mouthed expletives aimed at number three son.
At home, middle son is easily the lowest maintenance of my three lads. Neat, quiet, intelligent and undemanding, and he actually makes the effort to spend time with his parents, aka the “cash dispensing taxi service”.
On holiday, however, I have seen the side of him which has exasperated a succession of teachers. When he is bored, everyone else has to suffer. He has no social skills whatsoever in terms of picking up body language. Alternatively, he may be capable of picking up when people are getting irritated by his behaviour but he just does not care.
All very worrying, and it has given me a couple of restless nights on this holiday. He'll be 17 in three months and he has shown signs of maturing – though that could just be a case of us moving him away from his gang in Enfield to what he sees as the stultifying boredom of Hertford – but for the first time we are considering medication to see if that has any effect. He goes to college this year to study art, a subject in which he is interested. We're hoping the combination of a less authoritarian environment and the chance to learn something he considers useful will finally get him on the straight and narrow as far as school goes, but if he blows this chance I don't know where we go from there.
It seems all my friends have kids who are not only going to universities, but top universities. OK, all of my kids are better dressed and know a much cooler lexicon of slang than most of my peers' progeny, but I can assure you it was not in the Fiendish parental game plan for our kids to be non-academic feckless feckers.
My sole comfort in this arena of offspring envy has been my best friend John, whose eldest daughter is slightly older than my eldest son. She's not been to university, she's underachieved at school, has a bed room that looks like a bomb has exploded in a “black garments only” clothes shop and she earns about thre'pence a week looking after horses.
You can imagine how overjoyed I was when I visited John last week to learn that his younger daughter – the one who goes to acting school and who has already appeared in Casualty and The Bill (hasn't everyone?) - has learnt Japanese and is going to Japan later this year.
What skills can I brag about for my youngest? He's quite accomplished at lying to police, which I suppose is a practical skill. He can make a sound like a train sounding its horn as it goes past, and his timing on this is excellent – it never fails to make me laugh. It's not quite on a par with learning Japanese, appearing as an extra in TV shows and performing in ice skating tournaments, though, is it?
Oh well, as my (elder) sister says: With kids, you go through the wringer and they come out dry.
Enough parental angst.
A bit more about the holiday
The weather has been pretty good. We've had about 7 sunny days out of 9, with the temperatures hitting the high twenties. Having chosen the Vendée over Brittany because it is a bit further south and therefore likely to have slightly better weather I think the decision has been marginally justified. It does mean we have had to drive a bit further but driving does not seem a chore in France – the roads are amazingly empty.
The French have been universally charming and sympathetic to my efforts to communicate. Yesterday I successfully asked an ice cream vendor if she had a Magnum. That's a seven word sentence, all in French, if you count Magnum as a French word.
Prices have been expensive – beer about £3.80 for less than a pint, but, hey-ho, that's tourist rates for you.
The food has been extremely variable. I don't suppose this area of the Vendée is representative of the standard of cuisine for all of France – you wouldn't judge all of England's restaurants on the quality of pie and chips in a restaurant in Margate – but in our experience we have been taking our lives into our hands if we move away from mussels and (superb) chips.
The steak and the lamb we have eaten has been uniformly stringy; no wonder this race contemplates eating horses – they can't breed a decent side of beef to save their lives.
The bread and the ham have been fantastique, however, as has the cheese, of course.
Wine has not been especially cheap. Mrs. Fiendish tried a locally produced wine the other day (we are situated near the Loire) and most of it went down the sink.
Beer is OK if you stick to Kronenbourg. Amstel and something called Pelforth (which could be the local brew, given its ubiquity) taste like fizzy paraffin.
I did buy a dark beer but Mrs. F. drunk it before I got a chance to open it. She said it was not very good.
We've not done a lot of these. Wasted a lot of money on a mediocre water park on a not very warm afternoon; elected not to do likewise on some half-arsed paintball and quad bike offerings.
We drove through some pretty towns yesterday (Monday) on our way to Le Grand Parc at Puy du Fou. Small French towns appear to shut down completely on a Monday afternoon, which is probably not a bad idea. Even the Lidl and Netto stores were shut, but the big Super U stores were open.
Le Grand Parc at Puy du Fou might loosely be called a theme park. There are no rides, just a lot of exhibits and shows. It has a vaguely mediæval theme - no, scratch that - make it an historical theme.
So there are staged Hollywood style shows on the following themes: gladiators, Vikings, knights in armour (the English were the baddies, so we cheered lustfully for them, of course), the three musketeers and some other shows probably based on local legends.
Following the story was a bit difficult because of the language difficulties, unless you spring for a headphone and translation kit. Best to just focus on the stunts (pretty good), the dancing (OK if you like that sort of thing), the horse riding (all those dressage gold medallists finally have a career path) and the spectacle.
The Battle of Donjon, which featured the nasty English attacking the plucky Frenchies in their castle, was especially baffling. The blood-thirsty English were sticking it to the outnumbered locals, and firing balls of fire at the castle from their siege engines. These siege engines, by the way, were on wheels and self-powered (I suspect there was a 2CV inside each of them) so it was a bit like watching a humungous episode of Robot Wars.
It was looking bad for the local team until the under-siege castle got on its bike – or more likely its cleverly concealed flat-bed lorry – and moved forward on wheels to mow down the English. Just like in the history books.
Still, it is no more ridiculous, perhaps, than walking forests (Macbeth or Lord of the Rings) but I would have loved to have known the rationale behind the finale. Probably something along the lines of “it takes more than dressage to win a battle”.
Less painful than watching the fourth test the previous day, in any case, even if the English had as much chance of winning.