owlfish: (Fishy Circumstances)
posted by [personal profile] owlfish at 10:44pm on 10/01/2016 under ,
We had tickets today to go see the Nutcracker, the English National Ballet at the London Coliseum.

Back in December, in preparation, we checked out a copy of Ella Bella Ballerina and the Nutcracker from the library, the story of a girl who joins Clara in experiencing much of the plot. We've been reading it (by Grouting's request) on a near-daily basis. This last week, I showed her videos of specific pieces from it, and then the whole of the first act. (Just as well so she could start processing the scariness of the mice.)

Today, we joined [livejournal.com profile] naxos and friends in going to one of the few under-5-friendly performances of it. It was, on the whole, very nicely done, with some truly spectacular dancing and good minor variants on the plot in the first act. The second act, alas, had even less plot than usual.

The audience was chockful of children, and Grouting commentated and questioned the whole way through, but all topically and in a quiet voice. All that preparation paid off. (And no one shushed her, unlike the fairly quiet but unfortunate-in-neighbors two-year-old in our group.)

In case any of you are going and care: SPOILERS FOLLOW.

1. The mouse king survives until the second act, which is great because he's funny and engaging and mischievous, and hitches a ride on a rope dangling from the hot air balloon. The best way to have gotten more plot from act 2 would have been to let him survive EVEN LONGER. But then Clara doesn't kill him or even really injure him; the Nutcracker does it single-handedly. So, Clara loses her best bit of agency.

2. The death is the introduction to the Drosselmeyer Show (aka dance of the National Stereotypes) which follows. He's come along with the hot air balloon for transport to the land of the Stage Show in act 2. Each dance is revealed by a stage within the stage, in echo of the puppet show of act 1. As a result, the Sugar Plum Fairy shows up exactly once in act 2, for her solo number. She's not the host of the land of sweets. And so she loses all her agency.

Dear English National Ballet: Why did you have to make all your plot changes at the expense of your erstwhile female protagonists?
owlfish: (Fishy Circumstances)
Older women rarely get to be protagonists, or otherwise portray as complex and interesting characters. That's a reason why there was a moderate amount of buzz around Harry Connelly's A Key, An Egg, An Unfortunate Remark. Its aging protagonist had adult nephews, and a long career in her past. It's sad that's worthy of remark.

Worse than not being the star of a tale is the opposite: being entirely erased from the narrative.

So last week we took Grouting to Peppa Pig World. It was vaguely en route to where we were spending most of the week, and other parents whose judgement I trust had told me it was worth going. It was, indeed, a decent day out and we didn't run out of things to do, Grouting crashing before we made it through all seven toddler-friendly rides plus other things and people to browse and meet respectively. She played in the small water park and was hugged by Susie Sheep. The weather wasn't too bad.

What was increasingly obvious to me, however, was that Granny Pig was nowhere to be seen. Peppa is a young anthropomorphized pig, with a younger brother George, parents, and grandparents on her mother's side, all of whom play major roles in the television series. Her grandmother has a pet parrot, raises chickens, has an orchard, cooks, and creates games for her grandchild. She is, following entrenched gender norms, nurturing. Her grandfather takes them on adventures in their boat and on his miniature train. He is, to be clichéd, a man of action. He also tends the garden.

In the themepark, right next to the entrance, is "Grandpa Pig's House", with Grandpa standing outside. There's "Grandpa Pig's Train" to ride on and "Grandpa Pig's Boats" to ride in. In the dinosaur ride, there's Grandpa Pig again, looking after the garden and telling the riders about seed packets. Two of the seven rides are named after, and sculpturally manned by him, and he appears in a third.

There is not a single Granny Pig to be found outside of the gift shop. She's even been erased from her own house.

In this version of Peppa's world, has Granny died? Was Grandpa divorced much earlier? Is Granny lurking inside house, her name not on the deed to the property?

Or, mostly likely, is it that Granny is categorized as so much background noise, nurturing and supporting, but not leading adventures?

Except for that, I had an unexpectedly decent time there.
owlfish: (Fishy Circumstances)
posted by [personal profile] owlfish at 02:43pm on 20/05/2015 under ,
I realized yesterday that none of the local baby/toddler song groups I've been going to for the last several years has done "I'm a little teapot." And yet I *know* I know at least a couple of UK natives who know it, having heard them use it before.

[Poll #2011574]

P.S. There's a missing "have" in that last line.
owlfish: (Fishy Circumstances)
posted by [personal profile] owlfish at 05:33pm on 10/06/2014 under , ,
owlfish: (Fishy Circumstances)
posted by [personal profile] owlfish at 12:28am on 11/03/2014 under ,
Sometimes, the songs I encounter in the course of Grouting-focused events strike me as being things that I would never have encountered in the US. This verse of "Little Peter Rabbit" is currently exhibit A for this train of thought.

Little Peter Rabbit had a cold upon his chest.
Little Peter Rabbit had a cold upon his chest.
Little Peter Rabbit had a cold upon his chest.
So he rubbed it with camphorated oil
owlfish: (Feast)
posted by [personal profile] owlfish at 03:41pm on 15/01/2014 under , ,
High-end restaurants bring out the highest expectations and the worst of dismissive snark. Even running into that snark second-hand often puts me off discussing restaurants. (But it's annoyance with snark which inspires this post.) Because, you see, I really like to go to intensely creative, experimental, highly-recommended restaurants even if they are expensive. I don't do it all the time. It's a treat. It's a long-term hobby, if you will. It's an education. And it's a financial choice; other people are most welcome to choose to spend their money on things I don't. (I very much appreciate that I have the luxury of being able to make this choice.)

Alinea is in the news currently for its chef, Grant Achatz, insulting the crying baby who dared join its parents for dinner recently. (via [livejournal.com profile] aliettedb) They had a last-minute baby-sitter cancellation, and nonrefundable tickets for the currently very, very hard to get into restaurant. He reacted in horror at how a crying baby was likely disturbing all his other customers. I hope everyone else had a good evening that night, even if Achatz did not.

The good news it that not all restaurants competing in the creative, high-end league that Alinea is in, are like that. Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons makes its own fresh purées for babies with vegetables fresh from its garden. Toddler food is given equal care. It's in a hotel, it's true, but it's not alone.

We had lunch at L'Enclume the other week, taking advantage of familial childcare. It's currently rated by the Good Food Guide as the best restaurant in the UK. It was a gloriously wonderful, creative, largely seasonal, twenty-two course meal. Two other tables had each brought a young child. The parents of one, not quite an independent walker yet, handed over a supermarket ready meal for the staff to heat. The parents of the other fed their slightly older baby with food from their plates. The two high chairs the restaurant was using were very different from each other, so clearly they requisitions one from elsewhere for the reservation.

Especially having left Grouting behind, it was a delight seeing the other babies running around. When one because unhappy, one family member sacrificed the quality of their food for a happier child, taking them outside for a break. There aren't any changing facilities, but improvising changing places is an ongoing issue when out and about with a very small person.

One of the things about Alinea's food is that much of it is very time-dependent. If the mouthful isn't served with a minute or three of intention, it won't necessarily work. The hot/cold contrast will be lost. The broth-filled dumpling might be a little more underwhelming at the wrong temperature. It's a conflict between eating the food as the artist/chef intended, and caving to the realities of serving actual people. It's also a conflict over the roles of children in society, and whether or not "fine dining" should be a sphere in which young people grow up comfortable. It's also the endless conflict over parenting styles, tolerance of and reasons for a crying child.

I've eaten at Alinea, one of the very best meals of my entire life. It was years ago, before it was quiet as expensive as it is now, before the non-refundable ticketing system came into effect, valid only for quite of two or four. I called the week before and got a table for one.

Much as company is also good, one of the things that made that meal for me is that I was by myself. It just me and the food and my thoughts and people-watching. It was a meditative, as well as delicious, experience which I could take entirely at my own pace. I enjoyed eating the occasional thought-provoking, whimsical, humorous meal by myself.

Achatz may worry about saddling the baby's fellow diners with their company; but whether they want it or not, they're obliged to have company of some sort, in their multiples of two and four, quite apart from the lottery of whomever else has happened to buy tickets for that meal.

Edited to add: More concrete details on the story. The problem wasn't a baby at Alinea, but parents who weren't actively parenting.
owlfish: (Fishy Circumstances)
posted by [personal profile] owlfish at 01:06am on 21/11/2013 under ,
When Grouting became proto-verbal, we belatedly started signing with her. Belatedly because she'd been spending so much time in our arms and it takes two hands to do much communication by hand. Also, because from the start it was learn as we go.

I started thoughtlessly, with a friend's recommendation of catchy song videos with signs on YouTube. Only Baby Sign Time is an American show and, as it occurred to me only a few weeks later, I'd just signed up for a baby signing class in the UK. Grouting still signs "more" and "boat" the ASL way.

Take two. I download a fantastic British Sign Language video dictionary app, free, from the University of Bristol. It's still my default go-to reference when I want a sign to use with Grouting.

Take three. The class begins. I'd signed up for the only one locally available... and it turns out it's teaching Makaton, not BSL. Mostly there's not too much conflict; but thinking we were learning the rudiments of a language was one of the appeals of taking a class.

I am deeply ambivalent about Makaton. It's a commercial product, a language learning framework, with English (not BSL) grammar, simplified signs, standardized, and is (at least in the UK) derived from BSL. There are no free dictionaries. Everything is for sale. It's aimed at children with physical communication difficulties to surmount which have nothing to do with hearing. Down's syndrome. Babies.

Part of the appeal of this project was the idea that I'd learn a bit of another language. The other part was that we'd communicate more easily with Grouting. The communication bit is absolutely a success. Her signs are a fusion of those first few ASL ones, lots of BSL, some Makaton ones, and, occasionally, ones Grouting has figured out or made up herself (keys, fireworks). So it's not a consistent vocabulary since I never introduced it as one. I do still pick and choose signs sometimes on the basis of how easily Grouting could distinguish them from other signs.

Today in class, we were given a sign for Christmas. The North American in me rebels at using a sign based on "putting a turkey on the table" for Christmas. Especially in the same week that we celebrated an early Thanksgiving. BSL recommends a quick bit of beard stroking to achieve the same concept. One ASL version involves outlining a wreath. Either way, I prefer the options given to me by the full-fledged languages to that from the commercial language product.
owlfish: (Fishy Circumstances)
posted by [personal profile] owlfish at 04:38pm on 22/10/2013 under ,
Hickory Dickory Dock
The mouse ran up the clock.
The clock struck one,
The mouse ran down
Hickory Dickory Dock.

[Poll #1939966]

I'm not used to this song having additional verses, but that's how it's sung at local playgroups. Is this a recent development? A UK thing? A local thing?
owlfish: (Fishy Circumstances)
posted by [personal profile] owlfish at 12:45am on 14/08/2013 under , ,
[Poll #1928956]

Last week in guitar class, it was news to me that "Little Bo Peep" had any tune at all. The other students were mildly astonished; they'd never known it without one.
owlfish: (Fishy Circumstances)
posted by [personal profile] owlfish at 05:07pm on 17/06/2013 under ,
[Poll #1919561]

I hear quite a few mothers of Grouting's cohort referring to babies as "bubbas", but until this year, I'd never heard it used in that way before.

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