The Gift

I watched the leaders’ debate. Amazing. With three kids, all boys, all under eleven, all on holiday, my wife and I got to watch the debate. How? An interesting gift.

A friend moved house months ago and we finally got around to visiting. We felt very bad for not having visited; it was a ten minute walk. It was very nice. The house, not the walk. We drove because we were late, as always. Interestingly, their eldest has the power to save money, unlike our own burn-a-hole boys, and has purchased his own Xbox 1. The man of the house is a bit of a gaming geek, and they also have three boys to entertain. This led to a household with no fewer than five consoles, one of which, an older Xbox 360, now sat in the garage. The new garage, not yet so piled high that things could still be found. Found and offered.

The leaders’ debate gave us a pile of commitments, some already broken, most waiting to break. As parents we’ve broken most of ours. Healthy food, TV, reading, all gone a in flashes of tantrums (from children and adults). The latest to fall? We’ve always said we didn’t want the boys to have a console in their rooms. Visions of square eyes, bedroom tans and a complete lack of social anything always held us back. The first real test to that commitment came today. The proud new owner of an Xbox 1’s mum asked us – in a sensibly conspiratorial aside – whether we would like the spare Xbox for our eldest’s bedroom. We promptly collapsed. Yes, please!

His bedroom already had its own TV: a modern flat screen. Nice. But not. It was flat, but it was also square and very small, just ten inches. Who’d have thought such tellies existed? Somehow my eldest, in a strange parallel to my own youth and my black and white portable and Woolworths trainers, had managed to be stuck with this serviceable screen. Serviceable is the ultimate dismissal of technical goods; it’s like describing a League 2 fullback as ‘workmanlike’.

So the free gift suddenly had a need for a new telly. Should we? Note the past tense for the small screen’s description. We promptly collapsed.

And that black and white portable and those Woolworths trainers, did they make me a better person or just leave me with bitter memories? That telly saw me through some tough times, but all my mates had colour. All my eldest’s mates have flat screen TVs, Xboxes and Call of Duty.

A trip to Argos, a quick tea, a dash upstairs, a fiddling with stands and wires and the lucky find of a spare HDMI cable and eldest was up and running. And we were settling in front of Natalie Bennett.

A whole hour later we were finally interrupted. A whole hour. No interruptions for a whole hour. A whole hour of Clegg of saying nothing, Farage being somehow less offensive than expected yet so incredibly offensive, and three women who were fantastic. Three women who I could vote for. Unfortunately, two of them represent parties I can’t vote for and one of them I won’t risk voting for because I live in a constituency where Ukip are a genuine threat. Which left the other two. A champion(ish) defending his corner, no need to take any risks, and a challenger who can’t quite work out the mood of the crowd. Cameron was the despicable non-committal weasel and Miliband was earnest to the point of pleading. I don’t believe either of them, but I’m left with little choice.

Sad faces at the door. Sad and cute. Sad and upset. Reasonably so. The inequality is painful. The gift was kindly offered and gratefully received. We promptly collapsed.

Debate done, Newsnight watched, decisions unchanged. Online to check for tellies. Interesting offer on Xbox 1. Family Xbox 360 to move to middle and youngest’s room leaving room for Xbox 1 downstairs. Middle boy shows surprising maturity in negotiations: eldest gets his own Xbox Live and middle boy doesn’t get that till he’s 10 1/2. He’s too clever. Sold.

A whole hour uninterrupted. A memory we couldn’t and wouldn’t shake.

 We promptly collapsed. But there will be no Call of Duty. Another commitment.

The Gift

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