Friday, October 9, 2009

If you hear something repeated often enough, it often starts to develop deeper meanings for you…. Whether that’s a catchy song that grows on you or a favourite film that seems to get better each time you see it.

There’s a lot of repetition involved in children’s entertainment. Especially 2 year olds. They never seem to get tired of hearing the same things over and over again. Whether that’s the story of the Very Hungry Caterpillar or the phrases of Mickey mouse coming from the aeroplane toy he rides around the kitchen.

It’s tempting to think these simple verses are all the same, and at first I thought they were… just simple words and phrases designed to hold kids interest.

But the more I hear it, the more respect I’ve got for the very hungry caterpillar… On the face of it, it’s just a few sentences about a caterpillar eating various fruit and then turning into a butterfly. But as you hear it more and more (and believe me, I have), you realise that on top of the simple repetition, there’s teaching about numbers and counting, about the days of the week, about change and the processes of nature, the sun and the moon, and there’s even a message about healthy eating.

But on top of that, it doesn’t talk down – it uses long words (butterfly, caterpillar), and difficult concepts (metamorphosis, getting ill from eating too much). And it doesn’t bypass things just because its audience won’t immediately understand them. It makes them work, and they respond to it- or at least George does – with enthusiasm and passion.

And it does all of this in a form that’s so economical with words and meanings that it’s a kind of poetry.

Contrast that with the Mickey mouse aeroplane toy - whose words are basically just sales pitches for disney’s empire. Constant mentions of the names of other characters in the Disney franchise are all you really get from it. The lyrics of his theme song are particularly good:

M-I-C-K-E-Y- M-O-U-S-E
Mickey mouse
Mickey mouse
Mickey mouse
Mickey mouse

…and so on.

All toddler’s literature is not the same.

Friday, October 2, 2009

I haven’t been sleeping too well this week. I keep waking up in the night, and I have to assume I’m worrying about the new baby. Not that I shouldn’t be – it’s within 2 weeks of its designated arrival date, and by all accounts it’s going to drop a nuclear bomb in the middle of our lives, changing everything in ways we can’t even imagine.

Except I’m not actually waking up thinking about that. The problem is, there’s nothing to think about – the baby’s not here yet, and what it will bring with it is beyond speculation… on a conscious level, it’s hardly entering my mind at all – because there’s really nothing I can do, forsee or plan for.

Instead I’m waking up thinking about when I can go and see Andrew’s new flat (which he finally got the keys to last week). I’m thinking about work and whether I need to hire a salesman to go out and get my work known to TV companies, and whether if I do, it’ll result in me spending all my working day doing pitches for work I don’t actually want and won’t get anyway. I’m going through the lyrics of songs I can’t remember (for some reason whenever I wake up I have a few lines of a random song running over and over through my head – and usually it’s not even a song I like).

I’m trying to solve a problem my friend Raoul (who turned up from Switzerland at the weekend because he was at a paleontological conference in Bristol) put to me over a Jamacan meal. He wanted to devise a way to work out when a fossil was found somewhere in the world, where that part of the world would have been 500 million years ago when the fossil was deposited. (I decided there was a way, and it involved the same kind of maths that’s used to morph one person’s face into another in special effects work – but I didn’t want to be deciding that at 2am).

Only rarely am I actually waking up for a good reason (like the fact on Monday at 2am that our next door neighbour’s new alarm system suddenly decided to ring for an hour).

So that’s what I’m thinking. In the meantime, Lisa is sleeping like a log. Partially, I think because she’s more and more tired all the time. It’s her last day at work on Friday and that won’t be a day too late.

I say only partially because I think her perception of the new baby is very different from mine. From my point of view, the new baby appears in the world in a couple of weeks, and that’s when everything changes.

For her, the new baby is already here. Every moment, it’s quite literally right in front of her. She’s been living with the new baby as a reality for months now, and if anything it’s actual delivery will mean it’s making less of an impact on her life than it is now…