Swimming Lesson #9

Today was a pleasant, sunny day, although I didn’t have a very good breakfast (heavy on croissants, light on good quality protein) and I was probably still knackered from yesterday, so I was far too susceptible to snacking. But the good news what that it didn’t rain, so there was no struggle getting a car to the swimming pool today.

When I got there, they had some kind of device like an aquatic vacuum cleaner inside the pool, for some young urchin had defecated in the water, so they were having to clean it. Fortunately, they have the indoor pool as well, and that’s where I went today.

Most of today we focussed on breaststroke again. With my freestyle right now it’s a series of smaller tweaks – things like doing a higher ratio of kicks to strokes – rather than the major remedial work on breaststroke.

I’m struggling with the kick. I think it’s several things -I don’t kick out wide enough, there’s not a dynamic enough whipping motion at the end to bring my feet together, I’m not kicking with my heels – but so many different ways to do it wrong mean I’m very inconsistent. I’ll get one good kick in, then multiple ineffectual ones. Plus it’s not quite symmetrical and so I start to veer off in one direction or another.

The arms should allow me to correct for that, but if I try that, I forget how to breathe. Honestly, if it’s not one thing it’s another, but I have to remind myself that less than three months ago I couldn’t get my head underwater. Everything is going in the right direction.

I also seemed to have very poor lung capacity today, or I couldn’t get from one end of the pool to the other. Perhaps I was tired and so more feeble, so I was taking longer and so my time underwater was the same, but I felt half as good as usual. Maybe I should have drunk more water. Or something. Or something.

And so, the long weekend approaches. Maybe I’ll get Destroyer to teach me instead.

A morning out

This morning was Family Day for La Serpiente’s school, and to celebrate it they had a charity morning, where the children went to an HDB estate in Ang Mo Kio to give out food parcels.

Of course, if your Masters thesis was on the immorality of charity you might struggle a bit with this, and it’s worse if you haven’t had breakfast, even if you’re used to believing seven impossible things before breakfast.

So, uncaffeinated, hungry, stressed about the work day, I took the girls to school and then on a bus to Ang Mo Kio, and there we helped to pack bags with edible products (that’s what it said on the side of the box) and then carry them across the estate. I’m unconvinced about trying to get four year olds to carry a kilo of rice, a litre of vegetable oil, and several tins, but I suppose it makes them strong.

We had to take three bags to the furthest block on the estate, as I scowled and growled in the sun. Not all our recipients were in, and some of them were grumpy to have somebody bring food to their door, so I don’t know what that would mean. La Serpiente continued to carom around quite happily, but then neither she nor Destroyer were carrying immense bags.

Now fully stewed, and as it was noon, we headed home, the children beginning to wig out with exhaustion and me in a right bubble. My wife met us on the way home and the kids were asleep before I was even in a taxi heading to the office.

I spent the afternoon recovering from hunger and rage. I missed lunch, so there was nothing but crisps to snack on and coffee, and that in turn meant when I went running this evening I wasn’t in a good state. A broken man, I returned to home just in time to spend half an hour putting Destroyer to bed.

I really must eat more breakfast.

In the morning

Predictably enough, after we put Destroyer to bed last night she came into our room at 2 in the morning, followed by La Serpiente at 4 in the morning, and nobody woke up until 8 in the morning, and there was rain in the morning. Alive, alive-o.

This evening, our resolve hardened, we tried to not have a repeat of last night. Destroyer was unconvinced and so when I left her room at 9:30, she followed me out. I went back in and shushed her down, and left. She followed me out and howled some more. My wife went in. My wife came out. Destroyer came out and howled some more. I went in. I came out. Destroyer came out. My wife went in. At last, Destroyer gave up and went to sleep.

All the while this was going on, La Serpiente slept on. The miracle of going to school is that she is at least tired enough to go straight to sleep in the evening, after a manic blast of enthusiasm.

I missed her bathtime tonight though, because I was behind on my running, and so I took Destroyer out in the running stroller for half an hour. I think that was a fairly good way to exercise; Destroyer got to point at shadows and say “noisy!” whenever she saw a bus, and (I hoped) the evening stimulus would make her ready for bed.

It didn’t, but we know that now, and we also know I don’t have the mental strength to do a run after being bellowed at for an hour, so I suppose this was at least an efficient set up.

And so to bed. I wonder how many people will be in our bed in the morning.

A breakthrough

Last night, when Destroyer wouldn’t stop screaming at me at bedtime, I sang the first line of “Do You Want To Build A Snowman” and she stopped screaming immediately. She did then spend an hour explaining the plot of Frozen in a combination of hand gestures and burbling (“blob blib breakfast walls hurray blib blob blib”) and after that she screamed at my wife for ten minutes, so this wasn’t the most efficient way of getting her to sleep, but whatever.

Tonight, though, I got home from the track about 8:15, to find them both awake. Destroyer again greeted me with a long account of the day, and then I went in to put La Serpiente down. For the first time in forever (you see, even I can’t resist quoting Frozen) she told me all sorts of details about her day at school, at the thunderstorm she’d been in, the whole nine yards. And then she was asleep ten minutes later.

Meanwhile Destroyer was in no mind to comply with bedtime. She just sat and demanded books and toys and after it got to 9:30, I relieved my wife and then had 45 minutes burbling, occasionally being hit in the face by the hardback book she wanted me to read her. This was beginning to get ridiculous.

Our friends in Seattle, Stacy and Rob, give their boy three bedtime stories and then leave the room, and he burbles to himself until he passes out. Envious of this, tonight I tried an experiment; with Destroyer clearly exhausted but in no mind to submit to the embrace of sleep, we just left the room.

This was not a risk-free approach. Stacy and Rob’s boy is in a cot that he can’t get out of, so he’s stuck in the bedroom. Destroyer, on the other hand, is quite capable of opening doors now. What would we do if she followed us out?

She didn’t.

She cried for a few minutes but was probably too tired to conceptualise escape routes from her room, and quickly she went silent. My wife, foolhardy as she is, went to check on her a little later. Why? A watched pot never boils, an observed child never shuts up, etc… Honestly, I was most worried Destroyer had decided to sleep on floor and looking in the room would require opening the door on her head, but there she was, comatose on her bed. So if we can keep this up, we might just get our evenings back, and be able to watch motorcycle races in peace and comfort.

Yeah, a likely story, eh?

Lovecraft Country

This week I read Lovecraft Country, a book with a Lovecraftian bent, although it was more the Lovecraft of The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward, crossed with the Horror at Red Hook, than The Call Of Cthulhu or The Colour Out Of Space. I picked it up at random from the “fresh returns” section at the National Library, having heard good things about it, and only later realised that the author, Matt Ruff, had also penned Bad Monkeys, a book I really wasn’t impressed by.

Lovecraft wrote his books from the viewpoint of an upper class white guy, WASPish, terrified of the nations of dark skinned people who were going to destroy civilisation. The overarching metaphor of his fiction, of humans being a tiny bright spot surrounded by uncaring darkness, had unfortunate parallels with the thought that white people were surrounded by terrible, insensate dark people. And the trouble is, once you subtract the racist subtext, there’s not much apart from the words “squamous” and “rugose” left to get excited about. If you’re not reading Lovecraft for the prose, what did you come for?

In recent times, people have written Lovecraftian stories with a non-white protagonist. The Ballad Of Black Tom is The Horror At Red Hook from the perspective of the mysterious black manservant. Ruff tries something similar, but different: a shift from the 1920s to the 1950s, and a cast of black protagonists arrayed against a range of much more powerful white people.

It’s not a novel so much as a series of connected stories, and the very episodic nature is one strike against it. Further, the good guys always win; none of them are maimed, killed or driven mad, which really isn’t authentically Lovecraftian. Then again, perhaps it is authentic; Lovecraft would doubtless have seen a plot where white people get their comeuppance and black people survive to be a terrible outcome. However, The Ballad Of Black Tom feels more correct (nobody gets out alive!) rather than Ruff’s nearly happy ending for everyone (if you want to talk problematic, what about the black woman who keeps a fridge full of a magic potion so she can turn herself white – are we in happy ending territory at all?)

There’s no squamous or rugoseness. There’s no purple prose. There’s one bit of irony Ruff allows, when there’s talk of the improvement that will come when a Republican replaces a Democrat (because they used to be the good guys, geddit?!) but it’s pretty plodding prose throughout, and the Enochian language and pentagrams feel like a bad rewrite of Charles Stross’ Laundry computational demonology (itself a riff on Lovecraft). So a bad facsimile of a pastiche.

I didn’t hate Lovecraft Country like I did Bad Monkeys, but it wasn’t much cop. Maybe I should have just read Black Tom twice…

Against sleep

We had a fairly placid Saturday; La Serpiente lay next to me for an hour and watched cat videos, then we went out to brunch and then came back so the girls could roll toy cars down ramps near our apartment. I thought after that excitement both girls would nap, but Destroyer failed to sleep, doing nothing but burble and clamber until I gave up and took her shopping for yogurt and AAA batteries.

In the afternoon we went over to the Suntec Convention Centre, because there was some sort of trade show for kids’ classes with huge discounts. The trouble is we had a stroller, and Suntec seems to have one lift (and a thousand escalators) but nobody is capable of taking the escalators so that meant a twenty minute wait to even attempt to get up to the right level.

Eventually we gave up and I took the girls to the library while my wife went into the show on her own (a plan that should have been obvious from the start, in retrospect). La Serpiente complained vociferously about having to walk (in between skipping and running everywhere) and I was honked off because I was meant to be having a rest day rather than walk lots.

My office building is between Suntec and the National Library, so we stopped there to avail ourselves of air conditioning, I bribed both girls with blueberries, and a friendly security guard gave Destroyer a balloon. Which was nice, apart from the envy it provoked in La Serpiente. Hurray for sibling rivalry. She whined all the way to the library, apart from when I told her whining would automatically disqualify her from future balloon antics, but secretly I was pleased, because this would wear her out and make sure she slept well tonight.

… Which failed to come to pass. After we dined at a German restaurant we went home and skipped bathtime, and La Serpiente then refused to sleep for over an hour, complaining that she couldn’t sleep, and once driving herself to tears by headbutting the bedframe. I was impatient to go fill in a 7 page immigration form (which only took me an hour, rather than the 20 minutes it claimed would be necessary) so I was a bit annoyed, but meanwhile my wife passed out on Destroyer’s bed (and even without a nap, she still took ages to get down). I assume the kids are doing this on purpose.

A short walk, spoiled

This morning I went to Sentosa for a team building event. I took a train down to Harbourfront, then the monorail over to the island. Staring at my phone, I got off at the first stop, and then consulted Google Maps and realised I should have stayed on the monorail. I rushed back up to the platform and then had to wait for the next train.

At the next station, I got off and started walking. My destination was 5 minutes away. I began to trudge, my flip-flops beginning to chafe.

Twenty minutes later I was still walking, and now Google Maps was telling me I was 15 minutes away. I went along interminable roads through the jungle, up hills, down hills, through a crowd of peacocks. I went along a path hewn through the forest, eventually finding a bus stop, and then rode back to where I had started, where I discovered my destination was a five minute walk from where Google Maps has told me was the wrong place to get off the train. So thanks for that, Google Maps.

The team building event was a lot of running around in the sun, so this wasn’t a very adequate preparation for all of this. Plus by then I had blisters from the flip-flops, so that was two rather painful hours of my life, after which I went home and passed out on my bed until the evening, when we had to go out and drink gin and play Cards Against Humanity. Such is life.