Dear Dave

Wednesday 12 August 2009

For posterity

Dear Dave,

I mentioned something about time capsules to Fraser the other week and he didn't know what I was talking about. This made me despair slightly.

"Remember when you were three and you forced me to read that story about Bob the Builder and a time capsule every night for several months?" I asked.

Fraser looked blank. "No."

"Really?" I was incredulous. "The posh teacher woman puts in a school cap and Mr Bentley makes a matchstick model of the town hall."

"A what?"


Seeing I wasn't getting anywhere, Sarah chipped in. "A time capsule is something people put interesting objects into so people in the future can dig it up and find out what life used to be like."

"Oh, OK," said Fraser.

"Farmer Pickles puts in a welly," I muttered, still miffed he didn't remember. A little more gratitude would be nice. It's almost worth having another a child just to show him how much effort he was when he was small.

Er, actually, on second thoughts...

Anyway, he probably still wouldn't get the picture. Perhaps in twenty-five years time, when he has kids of his own, he'll appreciate all the effort that's gone into raising him. Then again, maybe he won't have kids. If that's the case, convincing him of my Herculean ordeal will be difficult. I'll doubtless still be regularly recounting various tales of when he and his siblings were spectacularly sick over me on public transport but he'll have learnt to ignore my bitter, broken ramblings long before then. I'll need some hard evidence of my parenting endeavours.

Hey, perhaps I should make a housedad time capsule - that way I can disguise a blatant attempt to wangle myself a place in a better nursing home as a selfless effort to inform the people of tomorrow about being a father in the early twenty-first century. Excellent.

Let's see, what do I need to put in?
  • A homemade greetings card. Nothing says 'Welcome to your fun-filled slice of yester-year!' better than a folded bit of paper plastered with a hundred scraps of wool, fifteen feathers, some dry pasta, half a roll of sticky tape, three shells and a pebble. Of course, the card will also need plenty of glitter in a variety of colours stuck on using a glue stick. Since the half-life of such adhesive is around three months, I'll need to use an awful lot of glitter to make certain any is left attached in two and a half decades. I'm thinking about three buckets of the stuff should do it...
  • A pile of VHS cassettes featuring the Teletubbies. Sure, there won't be any functioning VHS machines left to play them on, but that's the point. Housedads of the future will be used to downloading exactly what their children want to watch at the touch of a button. They won't have had the experience of a small child demanding digital channels on an analogue telly or a DVD in a room that only has a video player. It will be educational. Besides, I really, really want to get rid of the tapes.
  • Detailed photo documentation of my housedad life. This would come recorded on an array of unmarked memory cards of varying formats, all put in a small bag and gently shaken together.
  • A selection of fridge magnets. Also in a bag. Possibly the same bag.
  • Cheap nick-nacks. I can't move through the house without standing on a spinning top or a comedy moustache that came from a Christmas cracker. If I open a cupboard, I get showered in whistles and tooters and sliding-tile puzzles from party bags. My sock drawer is full of yo-yos. The tumble-dryer is packed with souvenir key rings from a hundred different trips. I can't even have a bath without being attacked by a dozen empty bottles and a wind-up shark. The people of tomorrow should see the big heap of plastic tat that seems to naturally accumulate around children...


    Oh, hang on...
  • Some letters from school, demanding money. These turn up all the time, asking me to fill a little envelope with coins to pay for milk or snacks or excursions. My favourite ones request cash in return for a supply of little envelopes. Between the three children, it's very easy for an occasional letter to go missing in my filing system, thus forcing the school to send round a crack team of ninjas to inform me at sword point that, if I don't cough up £1.20, Lewis will be left at the zoo and Marie will be eBayed to cover legal expenses.

    If I put the letters in the time capsule, at least I'll know where they are.
  • A packet of baby wipes. Despite my youngest child being nearly five, I still try to remember to carry wipes with me. I never know when another parent is going to start handing out jam doughnuts at the swing park or at what point in a family holiday one of my offspring is going to be quietly, and yet copiously, sick all over the luggage. You can never have too many wipes.
  • A Wii. Just in case any good games have come out for it by then.
  • Some sunflower seeds. Every year, at least one of my kids brings a sunflower plant home from school. I don't know why. By including seeds in the capsule, I can share the fun of desperately trying to keep the unlucky specimens alive for more than a few days. Also, if the heap of plastic tat outside the capsule has got really big, WALL-E might be needing them...
  • A packed lunch and three changes of clothes for my entire family. Force of habit.
  • Coffee. It's a housedad essential. I would put in some beer as well but I'm keeping that.
I could probably find plenty of other stuff to include too. I suspect it would be wasted effort, though. At the grand opening of the capsule, my kids would simply shrug and historians would smile politely at my collection of junk and remember a really important seminar elsewhere. I, meanwhile, would play with the wind-up shark and sift fondly through the key-rings, reminiscing about exploring castles and climbing dinosaurs. I'd dig the tapes out of the glitter, wipe them down and figure out some way to get them working. Then I'd compost the letters, plant the seeds and make myself a coffee before settling down to watch Teletubbies while investigating the sandwiches. It'll be just like old times...

Hmmm... Maybe I should put the beer in after all.

Yours in a woman's world,


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