Dear Dave

Friday, 26 June 2009

It could be worse than Terminators

Dear Dave,

Never build an intelligent computer.

It's bound to end badly. The exact details of the disaster are hard to predict - the thing might shove you out an airlock, start World War III, imprison you in the Matrix or send an unstoppable robot back in time to kill you - but whatever form catastrophe takes, it's unlikely to be a happy experience. I know this from watching movies, so it must be true...

Thankfully, judging by the utter stupidity of most of the computers I have to deal with in daily life, the rise of the machines is still a long way off. It's certainly far enough in the future to make the possibility of a zombie outbreak a more pressing concern in the short to medium-term than the evolution of Skynet. (Remember: Stock up on chainsaws not armour-piercing bullets.) I mean, if the military really had had a computer capable of playing WarGames with Matthew Broderick in 1983, I'm sure most of the technology would have filtered out into civilian life by now. We should have been having philosophical conversations on the futility of nuclear war with our laptops long ago.

Instead, we have automated, voice-recognition call centres. These give us four options for our customer enquiry, none of which is right, and then pick one at random whatever we say anyway. I encountered a system recently which didn't even have an option to go back to the previous question. When it misheard 'Report a Problem' as 'Billing', I was stuck in a sub-menu dealing with statements, direct debits and Visa cards with no way to escape. I had to hang up and start again.

If that computer ever becomes self-aware and tries to take over the world, I can't see it getting very far.

The armed forces probably do have better artificial intelligence than that but I doubt it's great. Even if they're fifteen years ahead of everything else, the Gulf War must have been full of incidents like this:

Skynet (Beta): Thank you for calling Central Command. Please state your name, rank and serial number.
Soldier: Pulse R., General, 5559781.
Skynet: Good day, Sergeant Pul. Please state the second and fourth numbers of your PIN.
Soldier: No, that's not right.
Skynet: I'm sorry, your PIN has not been recognised. Please repeat your name, rank and serial number, remembering to speak slowly and clearly. If you are in an area of high background noise, you may need to change location.
Soldier (over gunfire): Erm... I've what?
Skynet: Good day, Private Erm. Please state the first and third numbers of your PIN.
Soldier: Just put me through to an operator.
Skynet: I'm sorry, I didn't understand that. Would you like me to put you through to an operator?
Soldier: Yes.
Skynet: In order to ensure you are sent directly to the most appropriate member of our highly-trained staff, please state the nature of your request. Do you wish to make an enquiry about your most recent pay slip, log a fault pertaining to essential equipment, report a sighting of a Weapon of Mass Destruction or request an air strike?
Soldier: I need an air strike right now!
Skynet: All our operatives in the accounts department are currently busy. Please hold for assistance. (There's a click and classical music starts to play.) Thank you for your patience. Your call is important to us...

Things are doubtless more sophisticated than this these days, but if the army has Terminator robots then there's a good chance they could be out-foxed by hiding behind a newspaper, wearing a false nose and moustache or speaking in a very bad French accent. A mildly rutted field or a little light foliage would also be liable to make them stumble over and lie on the ground waving their limbs in the air (for the five or six minutes it took for their batteries to run out).

Nope, I don't think we have anything to worry about from anyone attempting to build a brilliantly clever super computer for a while yet. It's simply too hard.

I did find a far more worrying line of research in the technology section of a local museum, however. It was from a project in the Seventies where programmers worked on developing a computer as intelligent as a five-year-old child. There wasn't much to see other than a robotic arm which played Draughts clumsily but the very idea was almost as frightening as turning a corner to encounter a group of suspiciously grey-skinned people groaning about brains.

The coders were either hugely ambitious or had never met a five-year-old child. Five-year-olds are pretty smart. They may not be able to play Draughts well but they can be cunning, observant and empathetic, not to mention sly, scheming and manipulative. They can outwit adults with ease.

The lack of realism in the project's goal was scary. The truly terrifying part, though, was the thought of what would have happened if, after thirty years, they'd finally succeeded. With that level of cluelessness, the researchers might well have hooked the thing up to the Disney website for a little play while they went out for a couple of drinks to celebrate. Unfortunately, by the time they stumbled back to the lab wearing sparkly, cone-shaped hats and drunkenly blowing tooters, we'd all have been doomed.

Imagine a five-year-old connected directly into the world's networks. Rather than being hunted down by metallic warriors with glowing red eyes, the human race would starve to death as global production was switched from food to bubble mixture, balloons and all the plastic tat you find in the bottom of party bags. Adults would be forced to work all day as slaves, pushing small children on swings and roundabouts. There would be nothing on TV which didn't involve talking animals.


Humanity clearly had a lucky escape when the project ran out of funding decades ago. Nonetheless, just to make sure, I snuck back to the museum after dark and dropped the whole exhibit into a bubbling vat of liquid steel.

You can't be too careful, after all.

Yours in a woman's world,


PS Never mind five-year-olds, even a four-year-old can be ruthlessly logical and devastatingly astute:

Marie was being awkward on Saturday. She wanted to go to the shops with Sarah but wasn't willing to put any effort into getting dressed. She made a big fuss about the effort involved with pulling on each piece of clothing, and had to stop for a rest every few seconds. Then, when I went to rub on her eczema cream, she started dancing. Everything was a struggle.

"Could you be good for Mummy today?" I said, not wanting Sarah to have to put up with this kind of behaviour for hours at the shopping centre. "Do what she says and don't argue with her the whole time."

I immediately realised the chances of Marie going along with this were small, so I decided to give her something easy to agree to, so we could work up from there. "Be nice, and reply properly when she asks you a question. Don't just stamp your foot or say, 'Bah!'"

Marie hung her head and pouted.

"Come on," I said. "How hard can it be to not say, 'Bah!'?"

She screwed up her face and seemed on the point of tears.

"What's the matter?"

"But," sobbed Marie, "she might ask me what noise a sheep makes!"

Somehow, I went from telling her what to do, to having to give her a mint to cheer her up. She was all smiles by the time she left the house - not because she'd acquiesced to be good but more because she knew she'd won yet another victory.


At least the robots would be quick...

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Taking my elbow off the brakes

Dear Dave,

Ah, the perfect Father's Day:

A long lie, a cooked breakfast and an afternoon spent dozing in front of the British Grand Prix. Then some quality time with the Xbox, followed by a couple of beers and a film featuring explosions, giant robots and Megan Fox. Meanwhile, the children tip-toe around quietly, being polite to each other and clearing up after themselves.

This is the life...

Not my life, unfortunately, but, hey, I can dream. Marie's attending a birthday party and so I'm writing this surrounded by yelling three-year-olds at the softplay.


Still, at least there's cake and these days I don't usually have to go into the ball swamp myself. I can shove Marie through the entrance of the giant maze of ramps and netting, and then retreat to a safe distance. I can drink a cup of coffee and make use of the free wi-fi while remaining oblivious to her dare-devil antics dancing on tottering piles of squishy shapes.

It might be worth checking on her later but there are plenty of adults about. After years of crawling through large PVC pipes to rescue her from foam-filled disaster, I'm more than happy to stay in the viewing area and let her fend for herself for a while.

Besides, the bruises haven't entirely faded from last time I was here, a fortnight ago.

It was the turn of Scary Karen's younger son, William, to have a party. With him and his brother in the softplay, I thought I should keep a closer eye on proceedings than normal. (They're the only pre-schoolers I know who've been banned from gymnastics classes for bringing power tools.) They were the least of my worries, though. I'd just followed Marie up to the top of the apparatus when Karen got carried away doing a Tarzan impression. Letting rip with a ululating cry, she swung across the cargo net on a rope and then let out a shriek as she went flying and body slammed me. I yelled and we both fell backwards and went head-first down an enormous slide in a tangle of limbs and cleavage. She was on top. I think I may have screamed.

The rest I've blanked from my mind. The next thing I remember is staring up at a circle of wide-eyed toddlers and then crawling away to the café, whimpering quietly to myself...

On the whole, it was not a pleasant experience. Oddly, however, it was less sore than the only time I've been down that slide voluntarily:

When Fraser was small, I encouraged him to have a go, only to realise as he disappeared that this meant he was at the bottom and I was still at the top. We were a couple of minutes of clambering apart. There was no telling what trouble he might get himself into in that time. To catch up with him quickly, I had no choice but to follow him down the chute. Undaunted, I launched myself in. After all, how bad could it be?

Within half a second of beginning my descent, I regretted my decision. I was hurtling to my demise in a highly-polished, neon red tunnel of doom, and I didn't even have headroom to sit up and see where I was going. In an instinctive bout of self-preservation, I stuck out my arms to slow myself down.

My speed barely altered and I had to spend the rest of the afternoon with my elbows dipped in a couple of Slush Puppies to soothe the friction burns they suffered.

Ow. Fear, and a need for control, brought me pain. I'm not doing that again.


I can't recall ever having seen this happen to a child. They just whoosh down. More than that, it doesn't matter whether they come out laughing or crying, they're back for another go within minutes.

There's probably a metaphor for life, parenthood, faith, marriage and/or bull riding there if you can be bothered to look for it.

Hmmm.... Bearing this in mind, maybe I've been a bit hasty. Maybe I should stretch my boundaries a little and live life more to the full... I think I'll go have another shot on that slide while Marie is still small enough for me to sneak into the softplay on the pretense of looking after her. Who knows? It might be fun.

If you hear a distant, terrified scream, you'll know it's me. Hopefully, this time, it'll be due to the slide and not Karen...

Yours in a woman's world,


PS Happy Father's Day! Here's wishing you more than a mildly insulting card and a badge which reads, 'Best Dad Ever!'. Put your feet up. You deserve it.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

An academic exercise

Dear Dave,

Marie just got her final end-of-year report from nursery.

I suppose it should have been a momentous occasion. Another three weeks and she'll be done with pre-school education. More significantly, after six years of lurking outside the nursery door at 11:30 every morning, I'll be done with pre-school education. All three of my kids will have moved on. This was my chance to reflect on how far Marie's come and savour the fruits of my housedad labour.

Except, of course, I had a quick glance over the report, shrugged and then filed it on top of the big stack of stuff that I'll maybe have time to file properly once she's at school.

I remember poring over Fraser's first nursery report, analysing every detail. He can hang up his own coat! He can count to 10! He can interact with other children without battering them over the head with a wooden brick! Surely he must be a genius! I saw that same hungry eagerness in the eyes of the newer parents. In some cases this was their first taste of institutional feedback on their three-year-olds; their first chance to have their parenting affirmed. They ripped open the envelopes and devoured every last comma of the contents.

I, meanwhile, have now received getting on for a dozen school reports on my children. Since the teachers obviously expend a great deal of time and stress on them, it's something of a shame that I've come to realise the information they contain can be divided into two categories:
  • Stuff I already know.

  • Stuff I don't agree with.
This makes the whole exercise slightly pointless.

It really isn't a surprise to me, for instance, that Marie 'regularly uses her own drawings to express her ideas' and that she 'loves to show adults her work and to talk about it'. Rather than counting the number of pictures she produces each day, I now measure her output in terms of how many inches higher she's made the pile of creations I've been forced to admire. I'm well aware of her artistic tendencies. (To be honest, I'd be more interested if they'd found a way to get her to stop expressing her ideas...)

Elsewhere, however, the report states that 'Marie is able to count from 1 to 10 and recognise all these numbers in writing'. This is technically true but I'd actually be pretty confident of her recognising any number from 1 to 100. It's not worth making a fuss about but a factor of ten disagreement in her level of numerical attainment does make me wonder at the accuracy of the rest of the report. Taking every word to heart probably isn't wise.

Now I think of it, I guess there's a third category of content in reports that becomes more prominent higher up the school: stuff that's very important to teachers but that I'm not interested in at all. This includes such things as attainment against national standards and what's in the curriculum for the year. I can see why the teachers are very agitated about this information - it affects their career prospects, school funding and the likelihood of the Teacher Police turning up and asking awkward questions in a stern voice. If I was a teacher, I'd be agitated too.

As a parent, I'm not so fussed.

National standards come and go with every passing government. I don't need the details. I only care whether my kids are doing 'Well', 'OK' or 'Not so hot'. As for the content of what they're studying, I'm fairly indifferent. There's more 'common knowledge' in the subject of geography alone than my kids could realistically hope to learn in their entire school careers even if they studied nothing else. If it's ever important that they know the state capital of Minnesota, they can look it up on Wikipedia. At the moment, they're learning how to learn. I'm sure they'll cover the basics - dinosaurs, the Romans, Google and Mary Queen of Scots - at some stage. Beyond that, I'm happy to let the teachers stick to whatever topic they've found good worksheets for.

Yep, I've chilled out considerably since reading Fraser's first report. The kids are doing fine and hopefully they would tell me early on if there was a major problem rather than letting me wait until I got the write-up at the end of the year.

The official reports seem somewhat unnecessary with nursery kids anyway. I only have to stand Marie next to a three-year-old to see how much she's progressed since this time last year.

That's not to say I'm entirely past caring, though. The final sentence of her report did catch my eye. It says, 'Marie is ready to start school.'

Let's face it, that was worth reading.

(...even if I did know it already.)

Yours in a woman's world,


Friday, 12 June 2009

Parental precognition

Dear Dave,

That's shocking.

I mean, how thoughtless. Some people really have no consideration for others, do they? You must be devastated...

I seriously can't believe your parents have arranged to be busy the entire school summer holidays. Couldn't their once-in-a-lifetime cruise wait until September, for example? If not, I'm sure the visiting cousins from Australia could have been persuaded to postpone until Christmas. And as for the week giving respite care to terminally ill, blind donkeys...

I guess you're going to have to take your kids with you when you go away this year. No more lying quietly on the sand, soaking up the sun, for you. You'll be running around kicking a ball, collecting shells in a bucket and changing nappies full of beach as well as poo. The closest thing you'll get to a rest is being buried alive by an over-enthusiastic toddler with a sharp spade. Enjoy.

You might be as well staying closer to home and finding somewhere with an activity club and creche facilities. Forget about proximity to art galleries, vineyards, intriguing shops and night life - you're a parent. The first thing you need to ask about a hotel is whether it has a softplay.

It's just another example of how life has changed. There's not much you can do really. File it in that mental list of stuff you're simply going to have to put up with until the children leave home. You know, like not getting enough sleep and being unable to cross the road unless there's a green man. Before you become too distraught about your loss of freedom, however, remember that parenthood does have its advantages. (Besides supplying a selection of adorable little munchkins who'll grow up to push your wheelchair around in your declining years.) For instance, now I'm a dad, I can see the future.

It's true. I only need one look at a situation and I can tell exactly what the outcome is going to be. Take what happened on Sunday: At church, Marie was delighted to find some sparkly beads on the floor and, as we headed home, she bounced along, clutching them in her hand. With my paternal sixth sense, I had a very clear vision of what was going to happen next...

"Keep them in your pocket or you'll lose them," I said, trying to avert the disaster I'd foreseen.

Unfortunately, Marie wasn't having any of it. "I'm holding onto them really tight."

"That's as maybe but..."

I didn't get a chance to prophesy further because we bumped into an old friend I hadn't seen for a long time. I was suddenly busy explaining where I've been for the last ten years while still trying to stop the boys from wrestling next to a busy road.

After a couple of minutes, Fraser shouted, "There's a key here!"

He was right. It was balanced on top of a low wall next to the pavement.

"Someone must have found it and put it there," I said, "so whoever dropped it will be able to find it."

"OK," said Fraser. Both boys immediately started wrestling at the same time as attempting to climb the wall within inches of where the key was precariously placed. My special powers kicked in again.

"Don't jump around next to it. If you knock it over into that garden, it really will be lost."

They started to argue that they weren't that close, all the while waving their elbows around right next to the key. I ordered them away from the wall. They argued some more and then ran off behind me.

I turned back to my conversation but Marie started to cry.

"Lewis bumped me and made me drop my beads!"

On further questioning, it transpired that she couldn't recall how many beads there were, what they looked like or exactly where she'd been standing when they fell out of her hand. Nonetheless, she was inconsolable.

I sighed.

Then all of us began crawling around on the pavement, searching for an unknown number of minuscule beads of indeterminate colour. Well, nearly all - the friend suddenly remembered an urgent appointment elsewhere...

Somehow the whole thing was both inevitable and unavoidable. Having parental precognition is all very well but there are only so many times I can tell the kids off for stuff they haven't done yet before it becomes oppressive. I don't want to live in my own little version of Minority Report.

I suppose it might be better to relax, let the predictable disasters happen and then encourage the kids to learn from their mistakes.

Actually, no, I tried that. If I don't warn them of impending catastrophe, I'm the one who ends up having to clean the dog poo off their shoes, bandage their wounds and/or explain to their teacher why their homework smells of curdled milk. Worse than that, I have scientist children. They know that merely because something went terribly wrong last time, it doesn't necessarily mean the same thing will happen again next time. They have to verify the results.

Then they have to do it a few more times just to make sure.

When I first became a dad, I didn't see that coming. It's very tiring. I could maybe do with a holiday lying quietly on the sand, soaking up the sun.



Yours in a woman's world,


Monday, 8 June 2009

Dealing with fear

Dear Dave,

I dread going to the barber as much as other people dread going to the dentist. Dentists look into my mouth, smile and tell me what wonderful teeth I have. Barbers wave scissors around my head and complain my ears are at different heights. I know who I'd rather visit, thank you very much.

But I guess we all have our own fears. Marie refused to go downstairs on her own the other morning in case Spooky Spoon from Numberjacks was waiting for her. Since Spooky is basically a computer animated piece of plastic cutlery with a face, I found this terror somewhat hard to understand.

Marie also leapt around screaming at the sight of a fly recently, and on another occasion she made a big fuss about a gnat that was so small, it took me several seconds to spot. I had to roll my eyes and tell her not to be so silly.

Of course, it's easy to dismiss other people's fear. I can't see why anyone might get worked up about confined spaces, for instance, and I don't find open bodies of water terrifying either. I even laugh in the face of custard. I'm not especially courageous but I don't find these things scary at all. Therefore, anyone who does cower at the prospect of being locked in a small cupboard on a boat with a bowl of dairy-based dessert topping must be a real wuss.

Possibly, anyway...

Despite all her cowardly shrieking about fictional eating utensils, Marie proved herself braver than me yesterday:

While Sarah's been away, we've done a few things we don't normally do. Maybe it's that the nice weather has put me in a adventurous mood or maybe I've felt the weight of having to be the fun parent as well as the nagging one. Whatever the reason, we've tried some new foods, mixed up the routine and branched out with a couple of activities.

Marie has particularly had fun with some chalk I found:

At ground-level, this is all people and flowers and rainbows. Somehow, from a storey up, it looks like Teletubby Armageddon...

In this spirit, when I caught a spider that was scuttling round the kitchen yesterday, rather than chucking it straight out the window, I decided to let Marie examine it. I had it trapped with a mug and a piece of card but I quickly swapped the card for a clear saucepan lid. The arachnid was nearly 5cm from toe to toe and lurked menacingly at the bottom of the mug, the curved lid magnifying it in a disconcerting fashion.

I hate spiders. Throw a spider into the whole cupboard/boat/custard scenario and it would definitely be a lot more frightening (not to mention messy). I was worried I'd made a mistake and Marie was going to freak.

She peered at it and then said, "It's beautiful!" She insisted I put it on the back of her hand so it could crawl up her arm. When it wandered off after we let it loose in the garden, she was heart-broken.

Then she freaked because she saw an ant near her shoe. It wasn't even heading towards her. I couldn't really laugh at her too much, though. After all, she'd just enjoyed something that would give me nightmares.

I'll try and be more supportive next time she hides under her duvet at the thought of malevolent dining implements...

Yours in a woman's world,


Wednesday, 3 June 2009

I guess Dr Pepper doesn't have kids

Dear Dave,

Sarah's away on business at the moment so I'm entirely in charge this week. I should probably take advantage of the freedom to act without veto by getting all the kids jobs down a mine and then organising a poker night to celebrate. To be honest, though, I'm too tired. Last week was pretty hectic - Sarah had lots of preparation to do for the trip and the children had an unusually busy social calendar. I seemed to spend most of my time rushing children backwards and forwards between clubs, activities and birthday parties.

Fraser's own bowling party went well (in a dark, deafening sort of way). One boy did bring along six sharpened pencils, specially so he could be Wolverine, but thankfully we de-clawed him before there was a major disemboweling incident.

Strangely, half the kids at school seem to have been born at the end of May. After months without any, we've had four birthday parties to attend in a few days and, somehow, I keep returning with more party bags than children. Why I get the spares is a mystery. I think I must just look like a guy who could always do with an extra bottle of bubble mixture and a balloon. Anyhow, the upshot is that we've collected an awful lot of little bags full of sweets recently. I have no adult back-up but the kids are running round the house, pumped up on sugar and waving about all kinds of plastic tat.

There may be screaming as well but I have party blowers stuffed in my ears to block out the noise...

Ho hum. I should get the kids to help me with the household chores so I can conserve my energy until the cavalry has returned and recovered from jet-lag. Unfortunately, it would almost certainly be more effective leaning out a window and singing, in the hope a host of woodland creatures hop in and do the washing up. Even if I did manage to get the kids to do a satisfactory job on the housework, I'd use up twice the amount of energy training them than I would doing the cleaning myself. Of course, I'd be better off in the future, but this isn't the best week for long-term planning.

By the time Marie is the age Fraser is now, I'm sure I'll have the kids drilled into a crack team of hygiene specialists, capable of abseiling from a helicopter to scrub toilets. As things stand, however, I'm still getting used to the idea that Fraser really is old enough to make himself useful and that with a bit of instruction, he might be capable of such advanced tasks as emptying the lounge bin and cleaning the bathroom sink.

I suppose what I'd find particularly handy would be being able to send him round the corner to buy some bread. There's one quiet road to cross and another with a pelican crossing, so the undertaking should be perfectly feasible - I just haven't yet managed to shove him out the door with a pound coin and an order for a loaf of medium-sliced own-brand wholemeal. This is partly because he's bound to argue that he prefers white bread but mainly because I haven't had the courage. The list of potential disasters is almost endless. I'd spend the whole time he was gone visualising catastrophe.

It wouldn't be so bad but Lewis and Marie are worse than me:

Fraser comes out from school twenty minutes later than Lewis and walks home by himself. Last Thursday, I started to become concerned when I'd been expecting him for a quarter of an hour and he still hadn't showed. That's a long time to be hanging around.

"Get your shoes on," I said to the other two. "We need to go and see where Fraser's got to."

"Maybe he's in Heaven," said Marie helpfully.

"Erm, well, let's hope that..."

Lewis chipped in. "Perhaps he's been run over by an ambulance."

"I'm not..." I began to reply but Marie cut me off.

"Or maybe he's been eaten by a bear!"

Any other day, I could have dismissed this suggestion out of hand but it just so happened that Fraser's class was meant to be on a visit to the zoo. I hadn't been too worried until then but I had a sudden vision of Fraser being mauled by a panda and then flattened by the responding emergency vehicle. It wasn't good.

"The bus is probably late back from the zoo," I said, trying to remain calm. "Get your shoes on and we'll go and find out.""

"Why's he at the zoo?" asked Marie.

"He's on a trip... Hang on, didn't you know he was at the zoo?"


"Then why did you think...? Oh, never mind. Let's go." I wasn't in the mood to explain that, under normal circumstances, the chances of Fraser being eaten by a bear in Edinburgh were more remote than being struck by lightning or having an aeroplane land on his head. Besides, I knew it would only end in Marie gleefully proposing a scenario involving some cataclysmic combination of aircraft, storms, carnivorous wildlife, paramedics, X-Men and a totally enormous spider.

I didn't want to go there.

Lewis was already out of the door and at the gate, peering along the road. I finally got Marie outside but then realised she didn't have a coat. As I turned back to fetch one, Lewis shouted out, "I can see him!"

"Thank goodness," I said. "Back inside, Marie."

I ushered her back through the door again and went down to the gate to confirm the sighting. I scanned the whole way along the street. Twice. I couldn't see him.

"I thought I saw him," said Lewis. "It might have been someone else."

There wasn't anyone else. The street was empty. "OK," I said, rolling my eyes. "We're going again, Marie. Out you come."

She'd started taking her shoes off and was wanting to watch something. I had to threaten to withdraw dessert privileges in order to get her outside once more. Then I grabbed her coat, locked the door and headed for the gate. We got there about the same time as Fraser.

I was relieved but surprised - he was sauntering along and hadn't had time to get all the way from the other end of the street since I'd looked. I had to suspect he'd seen me first and hidden behind a wheelie bin in an effort to freak me out.

It had worked.

I gave him a hug and checked him for panda bites and tyre marks but it turned out that the bus had simply been late getting back from the zoo. At least I think that's what happened. I didn't get the chance to quiz Fraser for long because Marie and Lewis started loudly demanding my keys so they could get inside to the telly...

So, yes, it might be a month or two before I can pluck up the nerve to send Fraser to the shops. Although, now I think of it, the bathroom sink is in a bit of a state. Maybe I should work myself up gently to giving him more responsibility and independence by teaching him to use a damp cloth.

I mean, what's the worst that could happen?



Actually, maybe I'll wait till Sarah gets back...

Yours in a woman's world,