Further conversations with Elspeth

ImageMore quotes and conversations.


January 22, 2013:
Elspeth: Mum, I made a mud pie!
Me: Ok, who’s going to eat it?
Elspeth: Nobody, it’s made out of mud! But the mud is made out of playdoh.
January 17, 2013:
Elspeth is making up a song, and part of it goes, ‘How good is my voice? Do you like my voice? I think my voice is a very good voice!’
January 13, 2013:
Ellie’s holding a piece of sandwich and carrying on a conversation with herself in two different voices.
Voice one: I’m hungry.
Voice two: I’m full.
Voice one: I’m still hungry.
Voice two: But I’m really really full!
… and it went on like that.
January 11, 2013:
Aidan (watching cricket): That was a monster of a 6.
Ellie: What monster, I can’t see one, where is he?
January 8, 2013:
Elspeth just hid something for me to find, and when I said, ‘Hmmm, where could it be…’ she ran to it, pointed at it, and said ‘It could be here!’
January 3, 2013:
Me: Oh, Elspeth, you’ve got orange texta all over your pretty dress!
Elspeth: I’m making it MORE pretty!
January 1, 2013:
I was building towers for Evie, and Ellie came along and took some. ‘I’m stealing your blocks! It’s a lovely day for block stealing. Now I have a nice block collection.’

How to make friends when you’re three

‘Hello, what’s your name?’

That’s a great start. Especially when the child concerned has previously shown little to no inclination to be sociable.

However, when the addressee is two and shy and says nothing, the next step probably shouldn’t be to remark ‘I don’t think she heard me,’ and then crouch down, nose-to-nose, and shout, ‘HELLO, WHAT’S YOUR NAME!’

That is exactly what Elspeth did with several children at Child’s Play today. Fortunately for me, the parents of the other children just laughed and didn’t seem to mind that my daughter was screaming at their darlings demanding identification. And even happier, eventually Elspeth did ‘make friends’ with two of the children; twins called Chloe and Jake. Elspeth and Evelyn played with those two for quite a while, as I chatted with their mother, until we had to leave. Hooray for ‘making friends’.

Pragmatic versus the fantastic

DragonAs a child, I had a vivid imagination and was an avid reader. I lived in fantastical worlds, worlds from books or from my own imagination. In my games I was a princess, an adventurer, a damsel in distress. Anything was possible.

But my childhood (and ongoing) fascination with fantasy has led to a profound sense of dissatisfaction as an adult. Everyday life is drab, humdrum. Real people never embark on great quests or do battle with forces of evil.

Part of me knows it is ridiculous to even feel this way. In the words of Tim Minchin, ‘Isn’t this enough? Just this world? Just this beautiful, complex, wonderfully unfathomable natural world?’ And he’s right, that should be enough. It is pretty amazing.

But where are my dragons? Where’s my holy grail, my quest, my dangerous journey, my mind-reading powers, my bow and arrow with which I will bring down the powers of evil, my letter from Hogwarts?

And so I ask this of my readers: If you had to raise a child, would you want it to have a vivid imagination and then later be disappointed by life? Or would you rather your child be completely down-to-earth and practical?

The circuit

I took the girls to the playground across the road this morning. Well, it’s across the road, we go there a bit. As recently as yesterday, Evelyn hesitated to climb the steps. But this morning she was racing up them, running across the wobbly bridge, and half-falling down the slide with reckless abandon! As I recall, Elspeth was about three months older than this when she started doing that circuit, so I guess Evelyn has benefitted from having an older sibling to watch and learn from!

Les Miserables

I adore Les Miserables. I really do. I’ve seen the musical theatre production twice, I’ve read the book, I’ve owned various audio recordings such as the 10th and 25th anniversaries, I’ve seen an older movie, and last night I saw the new musical movie. (Excellent, except for Russell Crowe who just doesn’t suit Javert at all.)

But when I think too much, I have several problems with the story. Sigh. Fortunately I know my love for the music will continue to override the problems caused by overthinking things.


If you don’t know the story, don’t read on.


Firstly, Jean Valjean was never a bad man. His original crime was minor, and committed only to save his starving nephew’s life. Certainly prison changed him, and the way he was treated as a parolee made him feel victimised and defensive. But those things could have been changed by any gentle and compassionate treatment, he would not have required religion to become a new man. The story does tend to emphasise the role God and religion in people’s lives, but I really feel that every single character would have or could have behaved exactly as they did without religion.

Secondly, there are issues with the way women are treated. Fantine is ok; she committed an indiscretion in her youth which she accepts without regret, and works hard to pay for – that is, she gets a respectable job to support her child, and doesn’t seek charity. She is self-reliant, as much as possible for a woman at that time.

But my main problem lies with the Cosette/Eponine dichotomy. Cosette is just such a frustratingly nothing character. She’s pretty, she’s priviledged, and… what? Is she smart, funny, brave? We have no idea. Eponine, on the other hand, is full of character; she is courageous and idealistic and compassionate, she’s useful and street-smart, and she pushes back against what she feels to be wrong even when that means rejecting her own parents. So what happens? Eponine dies tragically while doing what she feels is good and right, fighting the good fight on the barricade, and Cosette survives and gets the guy by moping around in her rich papa’s nice house.

To add to this, even if we presume that Cosette has some personality and worthy qualities, how would Marius know that? Up until Valjean rescues Marius from the barricade, Marius and Cosette have seen each other twice, and only conversed once. Marius and Eponine, by contrast, know each other well and speak frequently; he must be aware of her qualities just as she is aware of his. One is left to presume that Marius prefers women who are attractive and useless, which lessens the appeal of his otherwise respectable character. So the great love story is really the story of a chauvanist and his prize.

Yeah. I think too much.