Cheetahs In My Shoes

living with the imaginary menagerie and all that it entails


Rock, Paper, Scissors

Mummy, is Egypt the luckiest country in Africa?

Now there’s an opener to a conversation – especially when it’s with a 7 year old who’s sitting in the bath with her brother.

My parents have just returned from holiday in Egypt, ‘topic’ at school this term is “Treasure” with a focus on archaeology and Tutankhamen and harvest activities have looked at those less fortunate than us.  It’s a lot to be whizzing around in your head when you’re 7.

So I try and explain that Egypt isn’t exactly ‘lucky’ and although they do have a degree of infrastructure (shit, need to explain what an infrastructure is) and beautiful things and places that the moment it’s not that great because there’s a lot of arguing going on about who’s in charge.

But they could sort it all out with Rock, Paper, Scissors

This, so it transpires is Year 3’s answer to most things.  They’re not overly sure of what the paper does to the rock, but they’re quite sure that the scissors cut the paper and therefore that will solve most political crises.

I suggest it is possibly a bit more serious than that and so the Cheetah Keeper pipes up with the useful suggestion that perhaps they could solve it all with a penalty shoot out.  Or perhaps a football match with boys vs girls.

I happen to have a reasonable knowledge of trading with Eygpt (fruits of a varied career) including being excluded from emails and being ignored in conversation because I’m female.  Cue explanation of some of the finer points of gender divisions in Egypt.  The Cheetah Keeper absorbed this information and usefully suggested that perhaps the red team should play the blue team instead and whoever wins could run the country.

Little did he know that football in Egypt makes the Manchester derby look like an incredibly sedate game of crown green bowls on a summer’s afternoon in a rural village…

Mummy, does Egypt have a priest?

A priest????????????????????

Like they have in America…

You mean a ‘president’???

Yes, a priest who’s in charge

A president.  Well, in Egypt they used to have a president but he isn’t there any more and they’re arguing about who’s going to be in charge now.  And in America, they’re going to be having an election in November to choose a new one.

The Cheetah Keeper then suggests that they could do rock, paper, scissors or have a football match instead.  His sister notes that in America football isn’t the same as our football.  I try to explain the differences between American Football (running, shoulder pads) and our football – soccer.

It’s decided that maybe a penalty shoot out would be better.  Or maybe rock, paper, scissors.

Politics made simple really.


Harvest Festival

Times have changed.

No longer the school harvest festival involves rows of children ‘singing’ “We plough the fields and scaaaaaaaatter, the good seed on the laaaaaand” or “Raiiise the glori’us ‘arvest ‘ome” with parents seeing the event as the perfect opportunity to palm off the overgrown marrow or glut of other home-grown vegetables to some unsuspecting person ‘in need’.

Tomorrow is the last day of ‘bring your harvest gifts into school’.  Marrows are not allowed.  This is the battle of the preserved goods.  Competition is intense.  There is skill involved.  New parents to the school are not yet indoctrinated in the ways of the shopping required for the best possible harvest contribution.

Why?  Well, because our harvest contributions are judged by quantity.  Not quality.  The prize (yes, prize, this year it’s a treasure chest full of chocolate coins) is awarded to the class who bring in the greatest number of products (or ‘projects’ as the Sealion Keeper* calls them).  There is a running total kept every day by the office staff and obviously the opportunities for numeracy lessons are plentiful.

But the pressure – oh the pressure!  To send in as many products as possible (obviously equal numbers for each child, you’ve got to be fair) without losing your store cupboard contents, a large chunk of the housekeeping money or the respect of your child is quite a challenge.  The children are coming home with a running total each afternoon – they know where their class is in the league table – this is, to put it quite frankly, war.

Which is why I spent last Wednesday afternoon trawling around Sainsburys trying to find the maximum number of products for the minimum spend – noting that the general assumption made by the merchandisers that those who are buying the ‘Basic’ ranges in the supermarkets are, well, short.  Or extremely flexible.

Didn’t do badly though – 12 items each per child (not that they could lift the bags), total spend for all 24, less than £7.75.

So, tomorrow, when “all is safely gathered in” we’ll get the final result.  We’ll see which teachers are quietly fist-pumping in their store cupboards and which children have chocolate coins melting gently in their sticky hands as they come out at the end of the day.  The battle will be over for another year and the parents have 12 months to hone their shopping skills further.

Oh, and our young homeless in St Albans will have enough food to see them safely into the winter storms and hopefully fill their tummies with some (relatively) nutritious, hot food and help them believe that there are people out there who do care.

Times may have changed but the underlying message is still there – making life better for those who need a bit of a hand, and if we can get our children round to that way of thinking, maybe the odd battle is a good idea.  What do you think??

* The Cheetah Keeper’s sister has decided her chosen career path is that of Sealion Keeper at Whipsnade Zoo and therefore wishes to be referred to as the Sealion Keeper on the blog from now on.  Who am I to argue?


Foot In Mouth Syndrome

I’ve suffered from Foot In Mouth Syndrome for pretty much as long as I can remember.  You know, the one when words fall out your mouth without your brain being engaged.  Words that can, despite your best intentions, offend, upset or make you look really stupid.  You’re often acutely aware of what’s just happened (sometimes not) and trying to resolve the situation generally involves digging yourself deeper into the mire.

Other phrases for it include “doesn’t suffer fools gladly”, “says what she thinks” and “reliably honest”.

The syndrome tends to present itself more prominently in times of stress, or when surrounded byidiots other people who believe they know best.   The workplace can exacerbate the syndrome, as can now, the school run and the extra-curricular activity parent waiting area.

I’ve mellowed over time, I really have,  but add pain, tiredness or a dose of hormones into the equation and it starts to bubble up again.  Oh, and maybe a child who has a different agenda to yours…

This morning was a prime example… Another parent announced she was off to ‘have a word’  with the teacher about the fact that homework was being set on a Monday to be handed in on a Friday rather than set on Friday to be handed in on Monday.  Why?  Because her daughter has too many extra curricular activities after school to fit in homework.  So was it possible that the whole school homework policy be changed to accommodate her?

Now in the past, the foot in mouth syndrome would have set in good and proper and a my mouth would have let forth a tirade of abuse honest feedback about how 7 year olds are unable to manage their time on their own and it is indeed up to the parents what they agree to regarding extra-curricular activities.   Just because the darling daughter wants to do something, it is not a necessity.  Oh, and how dare they suggest to school a complete change in policy to deal with their time management issues.

But you know what I did…

I walked away.  I’m still slightly in shock at myself.  Maybe I have the syndrome more under control than I thought.  Maybe I’m become older and more sensible. Maybe I was just reeling in shock.

I didn’t say what I thought.

I’ve just blogged about it instead.

What would you have done?  Am I alone in suffering from this?



See It, Snap It, Love It – Vintage

I wasn’t sure about what I’d ‘do’ for Vintage this week.  There is something very vintage that lives at my house, but I’ve agreed not to post pictures of it so I’ve had to find an alternative.  So here’s the Cheetah Keeper (just after his 1st birthday) in the vintage pedal car his father and grandfather lovingly restored for him.  For a while we had 2 of them in the house – we’re down to just 1 now (the other’s in the loft) and it’s still the most fought over toy amongst visiting friends…



See It, Snap It, Love It – Hidden

There is so much that’s hidden in this beautiful world of ours.  Hidden treasures, hidden beauty, hidden nature…

This photo however is about being hidden in a slightly different way.  Pre-empted by (in a very loud voice) “Mummy, come and look at me, I’m hiding”

Well, almost!



Chris Hoy Drinks Milk

The Cheetah Keeper and his sister (who now wishes to be referred to as The Sealion Keeper – because that’s what she wants to be when she grows up) have been inspired by the Olympics beyond my wildest imaginations.  So have I – Mrs unsporty, last at everything, look at a gym and pick up an injury Me has been transported to a world of goosebumps, tears and shouting at the TV.  I am proud to have been to the Ladies Football in Coventry and admit to a small merchandise purchasing spree (or six).  I’m loving it and can’t wait until the Paralympics start.

The Cheetah Keeper has established himself as Sir Chris Hoy’s biggest fan – oh, and Bradley Wiggins.  To the extent on the holiday trip to the barber he requested his hair was cut with Bradley Wiggins sideburns.  The barber duly obliged – with a large grin.

The Cheetah Keeper also has a bit of a record as a fussy eater.  I can understand his reluctance to try new foods links to his history of reflux but that’s pretty much gone now and he still stubborn when it comes to things like rice.  He’s never been a great fan of milk to drink either – until now.  Chris Hoy has been plastered on the side of the buses driving past work for months now – with a big milk smile.  Chris Hoy drinks milk – the Cheetah Keeper drinks it now by the mug full.  He’s also now prepared to eat/try any foodstuff with an Olympic/Paralympic logo on the wrapper or the Union flag on it – the boy has eaten mushrooms and our longest standing battle, potatoes, willingly.   For this alone, Team GB all require a sainthood.

Oh, and it’s got him writing – out of choice.

I could go on and on – instead I’ll leave you with our Garden Triathlon – I think it says it all: