Wednesday, 16 September 2009

This shows how far I have come

We decide to go to London, on the spur of the moment. We walk to the local station, get on a train, connect with the Underground, and here everyone is.

OK, I cannot say that Shark, Squirrel or Tiger appear deliriously happy about this momentous journey, but one day they will learn what a huge leap forward this has become for their mother who failed from the moment of their birth because she has only two hands.

What impossibility it was, for something like the first four years, to make it to the Co-op. That's maybe two hundred yards away from the safety of the front room.

So impossible and beyond my means in fact, I once had to collapse in the street in a broken heap and sob to Dig from a mobile phone to collect three screaming children and a corpse because I was in the act of stringing myself up from a wing mirror of a clapped out Fiat.

That was the bleakest, bombed apart, smashed up time, when the joy of having triplets was eclipsed by the knowledge that this was a life sentence to be led alone with no appeal, no parole and no reprieve. Life was an eternal struggle and the only change of pace was brought by the question, Can I make it make it to the Co-op without self harming?

I coped by not giving in, by achieving more than the day before, because giving in would mean I would surely die, and probably by my own hands. Not giving in meant going out every day, rain or shine, even if we made it only to the garden, car, street, corner shop, or the playground at the edge of the street.

But now the demon days are gone, and heading to the Science Museum is straightforward, and of course I can cope. Even when we miss the train connections, which suggests the signs are now pointing in the wrong direction when you compare just how a joyous a spontaneous day out in London should be.

The Science Museum doesn't help, quite honestly, because today they are employing at the entrance points a range of bag snatchers and peepers with faces hammered out from granite.

One bag peeper, let's call her Gorgon, frisks me for illegal items like napalm, incendiary bombs, knives and balloons. Yup. Balloons.

Anyway, the conversation Are you carrying any knives? goes something like this.

Grit (eye spying a small penknife in the Gorgon's box) : Why are you confiscating penknives?
Gorgon (recoiling as if asked Why are you confiscating nuclear missiles?) : Knives can be used to damage equipment!
Grit: I hadn't thought of that. Does that happen a lot?
Gorgon: Well, sometimes ... (rummaging in Grit's festering stinkpot of death, otherwise called handbag) ... or you might attack someone.
Grit (bursting into laughter) : What? I might go berserk? How many times has a visitor been attacked in the Science Museum with a knife?
Gorgon (adopts very superior expression, looks away, shoves festering stinkpot back at Grit, says nothing.)
Grit : Can I assume never then?
Gorgon (looks at ceiling in lalalala not listening mode)

I cannot say this warms me to a happy and successful day at the Science Museum, even though I have loved the place, really. It shows me bizarre bits of engineering parts that make no sense, and displays Bacofoil round the spaceman which I guess someone must dust after visitors have gone, keeping it extra sparkly. So it is sad that a place which celebrates invention, inspiration, ingenuity, freedom of thinking, all possibility, now embraces paranoia.

It is extra sad when the next incident happens in the Launchpad, the children's science exploration area. Shark is with an 'explainer'. Explainers are 'friendly staff' who explain things.

I don't know about you, but explaining means to me you might take the time to talk through a sequence of ideas, so that the subject in hand is intelligible. That's not the same as instruction, is it? Like, bark out a series of orders for which there is obedience or defiance.

The explainer looks at Shark, tells her what to do, and she does not immediately do it. He waves her off the equipment, does the job himself, tells her to do exactly as shown... and she does not. In recognition of every individual child's own approach, own path, own learning curve, he throws up his hands at her and walks off.

I watch this, gobsmacked, wondering whether home education has turned me into a totally alienated human being, or whether this is now normal behaviour when dealing with children, even if your job is to create fun from science exploration. The answer comes in seconds when a secondary school teacher bawls out a girl from across the floor because she is using equipment in an area of the Launchpad she is not supposed to. The girl drops the magnetic blocks like she was stung. Head bowed, humiliated, she immediately walks back to the school group which was, I'd say, ten yards away.

By this time, things are not looking good inside the Grit head, even though a day in London just because we can remains a great achievement. So it is with some relief that over the tannoy comes the announcement that for the next hour, we can enter the Wallace and Gromit exhibition A World of Cracking Ideas, free.

Grit and the gritlets race along there, and quite frankly I am salivating at the thought of saving some £25 in exhibition entrance fees.

And all I can say is that I am so very very glad I did not pay that amount, even though it is a delight to see Wallace and Gromit and even though Nick Park is a hero in this house.

Which all gives us time to explore the rest of the Science Museum, which is excellent, and we spend a long time fumbling about plastics and learning about materials.

But it all shows me what a long way we have come. Once, and not so far away, a day out in London was totally off-limits to a single travelling Grit and three gritlets. But now, even though the good auspices are not there, the day does not sink in disaster. I can overcome setbacks, redeem the moment, bring something positive from impending misery, and wrench achievement from a situation that once looked like total doom. The gritlets declare it a very good day out and everyone tells me they learned something new and surprising and interesting.

These days, the mistakes I make do not presage the end of the world. I simply will try not to repeat them. Next time, I will try and make the first train, grit my teeth past the bag peepers, skip the Launchpad, and avoid the high-spend special exhibition. We'll stay with the fantastic displays in the Science Museum itself.

And I'll smuggle in 100 deflated balloons in assorted colours and I will blow those beauties up in the ladies toilets, leave them there, call it performance art, and title it One for the Gorgon.


Lynn said...

So glad those Demon days are a distant memory:-)

Great post.xx

Grit said...

yes lynn, they are. mostly because in reality they are probably too awful to recall.

Maire said...

I so empathise, I had at one time two babies 18 months apart, a very stroppy teenager and a move 7 hours away from anyone I knew.

Lynn said...

I know exactly what you mean!!

There are two particular incidents that happened when I was in the black hole that still have the ability to shake me when they snake their way back into my mind in moments of self doubt. xx

kellyi said...

This gives me hope. I don't have triplets but I do have four children all close in age.

I am still at the "getting out the door is an achievement" phase.

Beyondmywildest. said...

We were there the day after you!

We got a free explosions show, only some of the experiments didn't work and Barbie was flung by hand rather than shot out of a cannon.

I love the balloon idea, wonder how easy it would be to smuggle helium in.

The Green Stone Woman said...

I had two children close in age and I think I was quite insane for a number of years. I remember the feeling quite well and I would not repeat that time for all the money in the world.

Grit said...

let's do it ladies. whenever you go to the ladies loo at the science museum, leave a blown up balloon there. an act of resistence to the ridiculous paranoia that now bans balloons. what are they going to ban next? high heels? oh, yeah.

let's just blow up those balloons. and don't forget to blog it.