Mind the step


A long time ago, standing talking with a group of friends at the bottom of a flight of stairs, I witnessed what I still consider to be one of the coolest/funniest incidents I have ever seen. I can’t remember the discussion we were having at the time – probably small talk; I can’t even remember who I was talking with, but I clearly remember the following:


The conversation was suddenly interrupted by an enormous amount of banging, crashing clattering and all the other onomatopoeias you would associate with a young man falling down an entire set of stairs from top to bottom.


He landed in a crumpled heap at the feet of one of the young ladies I was talking with. We looked at him in stunned silence until she held her hand out to him to help him to his feet. As he unfolded himself and got slowly up she asked, in a concerned voice;


“Did you miss a step?”


“No” he replied, “I think I hit every f***ing one!”


And he strode off, his dignity emphatically reclaimed.


Baby sitters and small boys and hospitals and David Bowie


As an adult one of the things I found hard about leaving the children with sitters was the fact that the sitters did not know what the normal boundaries, expectations and limits for acceptable behaviour are in our house. What we are allowed to watch on the TV, when we go to bed, how many snacks we can eat , how long we should brush our teeth – all became negotiable once we were out of the house.

Luckily, I am such an ineffectual parent that most of those things are negotiable the rest of the time too so no harm done. I always thought David Bowie was being a cool dad when he wrote in Kooks;

And if you ever have to go to school

Remember how they messed up this old fool

Don’t pick fights with the bullies or the cads

‘Cause I’m not much cop at punching other people’s Dads

And if the homework brings you down

Then we’ll throw it on the fire

And take the car downtown

I now realise that he was as inept as in the parenting department as I have been. It usually needs someone sensible to sort things out, like my wife.

When we were small me and my older brother were once left with a sitter who was wonderfully amenable to whatever it was we said we were allowed to do.

A happy afternoon of trashing the house ensued, sugar sandwiches, mud fights in the garden, ransacking cupboards that were usually off-limits. We had fun.

Things reached a wonderful zenith when we found an empty cardboard box to play with. Well, I say empty, it was after we had emptied it. Everyone knows what fun you can have with an empty box right?

Taking advantage of the fact that the normal rules didn’t seem to apply we decided to hold our very own sledging competition. This is very simple, you sit in the box at the top of the stairs and gently rock yourself forward until you tip over the edge and slide down the stairs at great speed and spill out at the bottom, shrieking with laughter and running back up for the next go.

Naturally our attention spans wouldn’t allow for just keeping it at this. We decided what we wanted was more speed. The obvious way to achieve this was with a gentle push over the top step. Or a not gentle one if you wanted to see what would happen if a lot of extra speed was applied to the launch.

I should explain that the house we lived in at the time was one of those 60’s built ones with stairs leading straight down to the front door, the front door made of two glass panels in a wooden frame.

I am assuming that anybody who has ever seen a YouTube video or watched You’ve Been Framed will know where this story ends. If you didn’t guess; it ended with the first occasion of me putting my big brother in hospital, and ME in trouble for breaking the window. (I still don’t know why it was me, technically he was the one who broke it). So that is why I have found it hard to leave the children with sitters.