Sunday, 29 August 2010

Whoosh, crash, bang, wallop!

Three of our grandchildren, aged 2,4 and 6 came to stay last week, so we're a bit worn.

The main entertainment was the local Agricultural Show, which has all kinds of fun things on offer, in particular large tents full of farm animals doing various types of poos, farts and wees. This of course is hugely attractive to a 4 year old boy, whose most successful Christmas present ever has been a Whoopee cushion. It's one thing to see your Mummy sitting decorously on the loo, but its quite another to see a cow in full flow. The 2 year-old of course was simply delighted to discover that piggies do actually go 'Oink Oink'. (No, I know they don't really, but I can't spell that wonderful, snuffling up the nose, incarnation of pigginess that our 2 year old can mimic so well, including the smell).

Then there are those enormous tractors which pull cars and horse-boxes out of trenches of lovely sticky, gooey mud. And diggers! And quad bikes you can sit on!! And when all these attractions pale, there's always candy-floss. And then we're all very tired and getting a bit grizzly so let's get home quickly before total melt-down occurs.

We had to steer them away from the fairground rides though, because they are a health hazard for grandfathers.I well remember my effort some years ago with our other three grandchildren, when the eldest boy was accompanied up a rickety and dangerous-looking helter-skelter by his father and the smaller one was left howling at the bottom. Such deprivations hit two-year-olds pretty hard. So hero grandad volunteered to carry him up the very steep ladder and escort him safely down, sharing a mat.

What I hadn't allowed for was the weight of the coconut matting they gave me at the bottom, which I then had to carry to the top. The heavy toddler in one arm and the heavy mat in the other then left no hands free for holding the ladder. A sensible person would have given up then, but how much howling would that have provoked? Anyway I'm still a Northerner at heart and I'd paid my money.

Helter skelters don't look very high from the bottom, but once you get three- quarters of the way up carrying a toddler in one arm and a heavy mat in the other you realize that it's a long way to fall. You also remember at that stage that you have a pacemaker and palpitations and you get very breathless on exertion. One's balance deteriorates as one gets older and dizziness can be a problem too. Moreover there's a queue of little urchins on the ladder immediately behind you so there is no possibility of reversing down.

Fortunately I had read many books about Everest climbs and so I knew that the technique is to climb one step and then pant for about 2 minutes, and then take another step, pant for another 2 minutes and so on. I was greatly handicapped by the fact that I had no ice-axe to lean on and the altitude sickness was pretty bad in the thin air. The pain in the arms from carrying the heavy equipment was quite severe too. It worried me that neither of us had left a farewell note for our family. After about 3,000 feet of this, the South Col hove into view and I began to have a small hope that we might not both perish after all.

One last temendous effort up the Hillary Step and we reached the small platform at the summit, with its totally inadequate guard rail. The problem then was to position the mat on the top of the helter-skelter slide with one hand whilst stopping the toddler falling over the wobbly rail, then sitting on the mat without it swooshing down, taking me with it and thus leaving the toddler stranded at the top. I did eventually manage this feat, with a lot of anxiety and a modicum of muttered profanity, then I had to lift the toddler onto my lap and it was 'Chocks away'.....

Unfortunately the Laws of Physics dictate that acceleration increases dramatically with the mass of the falling body and when there are two bodies, one of them fairly large, the acceleration is amazing and the G-forces on the bends are colossal.

Moreover there is always a crowd of solicitous Mums gathered at the foot of a helter-skelter to encourage and welcome their little ones, who normally weigh about 2 stones and arrive at the bottom at a speed of about 10 m.p.h. My grandson and I, with a combined weight of 16 stones, arrived like a bob-sleigh at the foot of the Cresta Run and scattered these maternal skittles at about 90 m.p.h.

You can imagine the carnage.


  1. Oh that made me laugh! We had our own Agricultural Show here earlier this month and the kids ARE fascinated by all the toilet goings on of the animals.

    Did your show have a display of Indian Runner Ducks? Or performing terriers? *sucks teeth* sounds like OURS is miles better than YOURS.

    But we do not have anything so lovely as a helter skelter. We have bored teenagers giving you five minutes on a bouncy castle for £5 or you can experience the anxiety of watching your beloved son hurtling himself down the Highest Inflatable Slide in Scotland.

    I really DESERVED my gin and tonic in the Drunks Tent after that :-)

    Ali x

  2. Ah, the Drunks Tent. I like it. I'll deal with that tomorrow.

  3. The Alwinton Border show is always a good bet for high jinks and inebriation. No helter skelters though, which is probably a very good thing as several pints of local brew and pie and mushy peas would travel quite a distance from the top of one of those things.
    Great post