Thursday, 29 December 2011

A touchable feeling of disappointment

As expected Number One Son got Pixar’s Cars 2 as a Christmas present. This was the most certain thing about this Christmas. We knew that the critics had panned it but nothing really prepared us for the real problem of the movie – it had been pitched for a totally different audience from the first one. It is clear that the makers have a limited options for a sequel; it recreates the plot of the first movie, is part of a story line arch in a series or diverts from the original. The people behind Car 2 have chosen the third option and created a spy caper. However, this was no Spy Kids but a love letter to James Bond and somebody has clearly taken their eye from the ball. Thus, this movie is actually totally unsuitable for its most loyal audience, the car crazy male toddlers. The same person must have been behind a collection of the dinky car models of all the Cars 2 main character that had no working wheels, i.e. they were just cast models you cannot roll across a surface. You can guess if I bought that product from the Disney shop - or not!

Cars 2 scene by Pixar.

No, the problem is not the way characters are presented in this movie since all the main characters are there – even surprisingly and seemingly pointlessly the hippy van (the reason for his inclusion is revealed in the end). It’s not even the postcard stereotypes of international places, i.e. Tokio, Porto Corvo or London. Actually, I found some of the stereotypes quite funny and the Queen car especially was quite sweet. Since this is a movie made for children and Americans who are unlikely to have visited Japan or an Italian Ligurian resort, the use of any easily recognisable attributes is totally understandable. No, the real shame was the surprisingly high violence content, the frantic waving of machine guns, grim grins and the number of those occasion when a character promises to ‘Kill you’. The spy action, the gangsters and danger could have been presented in a sweeter, toddler-friendlier way.

As a peace march participant back in the 1980s I feel that my child does not have to learn to hit and kill. Peter Bradshaw, feel very ashamed since you did not flag the violence up. You are writing for the Guardian and should feel your responsibility since you wrote about how the first movie had an addictive quality the adult in you could not see. The shame is shared by Mark Kermode on his DVD review in which he keeps lamenting the lame plot without pointing out the loss of innocence.

Movies sometimes grow with their audience and it may be the makers in Pixar banked on the pre-teen viewing instead of the small DVD addicts at home. We as the parents were hoping for another movie to show alongside Cars, Wall-E, Monsters Inc. and Toy Story 3 to have novelty value and variety. Luckily, Up was as marvellous as it was in the movies. However, Archaeologist Husband is now seriously considering if Cars 2 gets any further airings in the perceivable future.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Clowns and Father Christmases

Number One Son attended a big Christmas party and encountered his first Father Christmas with Archaeologist Husband. This was not a happy occasion and we have a photo to prove it. Nor is the primeval fear of a Father Christmas at a young age a rare phenomenon. Number One Son’s Number One Friend could stand the situation even less and was quickly carted away from the venue – as I could testify myself when picking up the ‘Christmas party people’.

The fear of colourful characters in costume and the horror on the faces of small children who have not realised yet the point of such figures as Father Christmas or clowns are related to each other. The suspicion towards characters with masks is understandable from the anthropological and evolutionary point of view. If you do not know something, you should be suspicious; this lesson should have been remembered by the Aztecs and the Inca when faced with pale men with beards on funny animals.

The Father Christmas of my early childhood was my grandfather in disguise. His costume was not of the warm, happy Coca Cola Santa Claus but that of the scarier traditional Nordic ‘Santa’, the bearded billy goat character with a black furry coat. This character asked if there were well-behaved, nice children in the house. These were due presents whereas the naughty children only got twigs for slashes and punishment. Maybe the small children sense the decay behind the rampant consumerism of modern Christmas or see a hint of darker historical characters that predated the well-wishing gift bearer.

Friday, 16 December 2011


Apart from cars, tractors and trains Number One Son loves airplanes. Living reasonably close to the East Midlands airport and an ambulance helicopter service a large amount of planes crosses the skies above. Almost every time Number One Son sees or hears a plane or helicopter he shouts ‘Airplane!’. This is relatively recent development and he was not this encaged with the planes during the summer.

Thus, he could hardly have been more excited than being at Heathrow and Helsinki-Vantaa during our visit in Finland over a long weekend this December. The planes are not as visible at Heathrow unless taking the airport bus to access the plane – which we did. However, at Helsinki-Vantaa he could see the planes below his feet from the terminal through the rain in the dark winter afternoon. He really treasured this moment before dragged away towards the non-Schengen passport check by his parents.

Not only were the planes a joy for him, so was the airports. All those wide and long corridors joining the terminal buildings made him run joyfully. The archaeological eye spotted the differences in the use of space at Heathrow Terminal 3 and Helsinki-Vantaa: the difference between denser and spacier possibilities for building and the different take to the need to engage the travellers with shopping in order to get revenues. Heathrow 3 truly is an arena for shopping! However, the real use of space for our son was taking a stroller trolley meant for carting tired children provided at Helsinki-Vantaa and enjoying a ride provided by his mother along the corridor during a quieter moment when waiting for our delayed flight.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Love for a Car

Some children have their teddy bears and our Number One does have his Mr Hare, too. But he likes toy cars very much indeed and his heart belongs to a very special red McQueen. His ‘Vroom vroom’ is constantly misplaced and looked for. It is taken to bed and it travels with him everywhere we go. Most sweetly, he put rhe Car to a swing the other day and gave it a ride like it was another toddler or a teddy bear.

We parents are constantly anxiously trying to keep track of the Car and many times Archaeologist Husband ‘excavates’ the cushions of our sofa or armchair and moves the furniture. The other day in the twilight on the way back from the park Number One Son threw the Car to an ornamental bush when we passed by. I managed to find the other Car he threw with his Vroom Vroom but not the anxiously missed article. I had to take a torch and return to the scene in the darkness. Luckily to all concerned, I did find his Vroom Vroom.

Unfortunately, the Car was less fortunate a couple of days ago. On the way to the nursery Number One Son tumbled and in the hurry to clean his hands and to run to our destination before the breakfast time, I did not realize that the Vroom Vroom was not with us anymore. I only realized it was gone when he did not hand it over in the nursery and it was not on the armchair arm at home. On the way to the car before driving to Cambridge I checked the point where Number One Son had tumbled. Yes, I did find the Vroom Vroom but one of the neighbours had been quicker and driven over the Car, which was now flatter than it used to be. Archaeologist Husband wanted to spare our Son from the view of the damaged ex-Car. Thus, we needed some replacement action and hope that the Car Number Three is luckier than the previous ones!

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Potty anxiety

The fact that we had little experience in small children before the arrival of Number One Son is apparent from our lack of awareness about potty training. We paid some vague attention to the few failed attempts the parents of Number One Cousin had in potty training. In addition, Number One Son has shown little awareness of his bowl and other movements until lately.

When we all seemed to be ready for potty training as a possible next move, it was already well into the autumn. It was also well into the local birthday season, which gives plenty of possibilities for comparing experiences. Since many of the toddlers we now head for their second birthday, I have realized that many of the parents have now managing to get their toddlers out of nappies. One should never compare but how one manages not to!

Number One Son showed marked hostility towards his blue potty. This may have something to do with me losing my temper once when he pooed on the bathroom floor... The potty was pushed aside when we tried to show it to him. However, in the nursery he has been ‘trialling’ sitting on a potty.

A friend suggested to try a potty of a different colour and model. Her son always heads downstairs to avoid their blue potty and uses the yellow one. I took her advice and managed to find one of those bright Fisher&Price potties from the Nearly New Sale. To my surprise and joy, Number One Son loves it and voluntarily sits on it – for two seconds or three. Now all we need is a dirty, dirty Christmas. We have to remove the rugs for the festive season!