South London Photographer: The Minotaur, a giraffe called Donkey and Us

One of the good things about the early mornings we have been getting used to since my eldest started secondary school, is that there is enough time to have a bath rather than a quick shower. Of course, where I go, the two smaller boys tend to follow, so rather than a long relaxing soak, it’s more of squashy, crumpled stew. On Friday just gone, a translucent plastic giraffe called Donkey, which doubles as a swivel stick when not being an animal friend with an identity crisis, joined us too. And that was just for starters.

“So, No 2”, I said, just before he stripped off and climbed in, “if you’re going to ruin my peace, I guess we might as well do your talk homework in here,” since we’d not got round to it. We should have done it the night before, but I had been out for the evening; gosh, it seems there is so little room for slippage in our schedule so every moment must be put to good use – doing it in the bath solves our failure to get Friday’s homework done on time brilliantly.

I had actually chatted briefly with No 2 about it previously, but the subject had quickly turned to computer rights. I have recently banned him from watching YouTube altogether, after hearing one of his heroes going on about masturbation being a really useful arm strengthening exercise! His profile on my desktop computer is monitored and streamed for adult content but clearly I’d not thought about securing my own gadgets, which he had been using at the time.

It’s so bloody difficult to keep all this stuff at bay. No 1 had alerted me to the fact that I had unwittingly allowed his younger brother to download Mortal Combat; thankfully No 1’s fascistic monitoring of No 2’s online activity meant we caught it very soon after my own clumsy mistake.

“Why can’t I watch YouTube???” No 2 had wailed when I’d mentioned homework previously because his conversation is littered with such non-sequiturs and in his mind any question he is asked should rightly be answered with one of his own, about the frustrations of being 7 and having to adhere to at least some basic restrictions online.

“Because, you love the violent stuff and it’s totally inappropriate for your age. I can actually see it making you more violent before my very eyes. Next question!”

He agreed it was a good idea to do the homework in the bath, and picked up the instructions, which I’d placed carefully between the bottles of shampoo and conditioner, to read them.

As No 3, Donkey, the plastic giraffe, No 2 and I all squeezed in, in anticipation of the stories we were about to hear, I said,

“So, tell me, my delicate 7 year old, what are we chatting about today?”

“King Ageaus, Theseus and the Minotaur,” he replied.

“Ok, tell me what happens ”

“Well, there’s this guy called King Minos and he’s really evil and every year gets King Ageaus to give him 7 men and 7 women to feed his Minotaur, a beast that is half bull, half human with huge horns who lives in a labyrinth designed by Daedalus. And Thebes, King Ageaus’ son says he’s going to go and kill the Minotaur, but King Minos’ daughter Ariadne falls in love with him and helps him by giving him a ball of string so he can find his way out of the labyrinth. And Theseus rips the minotaur’s head off because he’s superhuman and escapes using the ball of string, which he nearly loses, so is terrified for a while until he can find it, in case he has to die next to the stinking dead body of the Minotaur in the dark, scary labyrinth. And then he takes Ariadne on a ship but dumps her half way home, on an Island where she’ll probably starve to death, because she’s in love with him and he doesn’t really like her as much, but he forgets to put up some white sails on his ship, which was meant to be a sign to his dad that he was alive, so his dad, King Ageaus, jumps off the cliff and commits suicide in the sea, which is named after him and is still called the Aegean sea today ….”

“Well, remembered…” I tell Son No 2 as he recounts one of the goriest stories I’ve ever heard him tell me with gusto, glee and an impressive attention to detail.

Your boobies are funny!” says No 3 as he tries to poke them with Donkey.

“Stop that!” I shriek.

He eats the piece of paper with the talk homework instead, and then grins.

Thankfully No 2 is so enthralled with his myths he remembers everything he has to chat about, so when I say, “And is there anything else you have to tell me?” he recalls exactly what the next question was, as I swill about in my bath, now not only over populated with people and a giraffe named Donkey, but also seemingly littered with the dead bodies of countless tributes to the Minotaur, the Minotaur himself and Theseus’ dead father.

“Yeah, Daedalus and Icarus were in trouble because they had helped Theseus escape so they were locked in a tower. But they got away. And he had designed some wings for himself and his son, Icarus, but they were held together with wax so he told Icarus that it was really important not to fly too close to the sun. But Icarus didn’t listen and so the wax melted and his wings disintegrated and Daedalus watched as his son fell to his death, yelling at the last moment, ‘help me, father’, which haunted Daedalus for the rest of this days in Sicily.”

Bleedin’ heck, I thought, perhaps I should let him play Mortal Combat after all, just for some light relief.

I pushed the corpses of so many tributes aside, shoved the Minotaur to front of the bath – he’s dead anyway, what does he care if he gets the tap end – , climbed out, stepped over the charred, soggy remains of Icarus, his toasted feathers littering my bathroom floor – scoffed something at him about hubris –  and escaped the gruesome hell to get dressed before dropping off the boys off at school just about on time.

Amazing how all this extra time in the morning somehow means we (I say we, I mean I) are constantly fooled into thinking there is still loads of time left when actually there isn’t.

I hand the boys over and rush home to sit down and read as Friday has been appointed by me in my busy schedule as Study Day (I’m think I’m going to need more than one day a week actually, although where I find extra ones, I’m not sure). Lovely, I think, no more gruesome Greek mythology for now. Instead I shall be looking at Freud and one of his mates, Otto Fenichel.

I begin by reading some text that concludes “(to look) is: to devour the object looked at, to grow like it, or, conversely, to force it to grow like oneself.” I go on to understand that our eyes evolved for the purpose of seeing other organisms that their owners might eat, shag or entrance. And that organisms with good eyes had a greater chance of surviving to go on and eat, shag and entrance for longer thereby producing progeny with bigger, better and stronger eyes used to locate other organisms they could eat, shag or entrance.

I crawl under the desk, my own eyes agog with horror and my hair on end at the viciousness of existence – and log into iTunes looking for Mortal Combat to download. Seems that violence is at the core of us all, and it’s me who needs the light relief.

Tomorrow morning I think I’ll lock the bathroom door and keep the whole ablution time to myself.

Right, off to do some corporate shots this week, which have come about as a direct result of the clients seeing some corporate work I did earlier this summer. Good!  All the seed sewing of the last 18 months or so is really beginning to pay off. But before that a delicious curry lunch since I have twice cocked up social outings this week where I should have been eating curry, and I do feel I owe it myself to have one.

SJ x

(c)Sarah-Jane Field 2015narstutium

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