Category Archives: Family

The Issue of the Tongue Scraper: A Conversation

I have been away for a while, often physically, mainly mentally. But I have decided to come back, at least interwebically.

My sister gave birth to her second sprout, a wee lass called Rosemary. She is not cute at all. She in fact looks much like the previous sprout (named Henry). The good news is that all my sibling’s kids have been complete uggos on entry to the world and then, magically, sometime later, they turn into these devastatingly cute urchins I quite like to show people pictures of (like it somehow reflects well on me).

Anyway, to commemorate this wonderful occasion I thought I’d relate a conversation I had with my sister, Cecil, a few years back in London. I wrote it down afterwards then forgot about it only to find it just the other day.

M: (upon returning from the bathroom) ‘What’s that triangle on a stick thing in your toothbrush jar?’

C: ‘A tongue-scraper.’

M: ‘When did you get a tongue-scraper?’

C: ‘I’ve always wanted a tongue-scraper. I went hardcore on my tongue with a toothbrush for years until I discovered how well a flannel worked so, understandably, the tongue-scraper was a complete revelation.’

M: ‘So now you just use the tongue-scraper?’

C: ‘Nah, all three. It works a treat.’

M: ‘Um, okay. Thorough. So, let me guess: the brush, followed by flannel, then the tongue-scraper.’

C: ‘Nope, after experimenting I’ve come to recognize the superiority of the scraper, flannel, brush regimen.’

M: ‘… I guess I can see the first two, but why finish with the brush? Kinda rough.’

C: ‘I see the brush, with toothpaste of course, as a kind of disinfectant or, yeah, a deodorizer. Fresh and minty. So it goes last. Logical, eh?’

M: ‘Right. Of course. And I imagine it gets the taste of flannel out of your mouth.’

C: ‘Actually, I’ve come to like the taste of flannel.’

I’m quite fond of that conversation; it captures something essential of my sister. Also, as an aside, I think ‘tasting flannel’ would be an excellent euphemism for lesbianism: ‘One might, if one were so inclined, taste flannel.’


Petting dos & don’ts

I feel great nostalgia for the pets of my childhood. I’m convinced that Rosie the labrador was the greatest dog that has ever lived – and I don’t mean that I’ll just stick up for her memories and life out of loyalty, regardless of evidence of other doggie greatness, I mean that I believe, fully and unreservedly, that Rosie is the greatest dog that has ever lived. I have kick-ass anecdotes made entirely of love and awesomeness that have never been surpassed. Feel free to test me, it is a competition.

Recently I stayed at home with my parents for a couple of months (a frankly embarrassing length of time for which I have several excellent excuses) which gave me ample opportunity to observe and interact with the current dogs, all personal-like. They’re two yappy little motherfuckers (poodles by breed, of the size that would comfortably fit into the tumble drier), called Mort and Sophie. They’re apparently unrelated, a recently learned factoid that made me feel a bit guilty for the multiple slippers I’ve thrown at Mort every time he starts humping Sophie.

“They’re terribly intelligent, darling”, pronounces my Mother when I question their dogworthiness. “At least Sophie is, Mort can be a tad retarded on occasion, but honestly just look at his coiffure.”

They emerge from the local dog-groomer bi-monthly, smelling very nice and looking ever so pretty, something I can’t deny, yet it throws into strange relief the memories of me and my sibling’s getting our hair cut at home with such paraphernalia as bowls and scissors, until, near grown, we fled home hoping to discover a social life undetermined by our weird looking heads.

“Stay still, dear… oh no, look what you made me do,” tolled the social death knell.

So some envy may have biased my failed relationship with pets, generation 3.

The dogs were taken to ‘Obedience School’ for some training, yet all they seem to have learned is to wait, sitting down, as their food bowls are put in front of them, whimpering until the key word is uttered and they can chow down. They pretty much just stare at you blankly if you expect them to do anything else.

Honestly, they’re idiots. Occasionally cunning idiots but, as I’m fond of pointing out to my mother, cunning doesn’t necessarily denote intelligence. My nephew can cunningly and consistently crap his nappies 2 minutes after they’ve been changed, no matter how varied the changing times or places. Very impressive, but the important thing to remember is that it’s his pants that are full of shit.

But embarrassment catches me up and pokes me in the sternum with the stiff finger of ‘so you think you’re so smart’ once more: My parents were away and I had to go around to theirs and hide the dogs in the laundry. Easy enough to do, you just have to get these beef-jerky treat things and bribe them into the laundry and close the door, they always fall for it. This stops them spending the next two hours yapping at the neighbour’s butterfly infestation. While I was at it I figured I’d try that discipline thing and get them to wait for their treat while reinforcing my obvious superiority. Firm commands of ‘sit!’ and ‘stay!’ were successful so down go the treats. Sophie and Mort are swapping their eyelines between the jerky and me, almost vibrating with the need to devour the food. I wait just a few seconds, getting a momentary feel for the joys of power over lesser creatures, before generously saying ‘eat!’. But they just sit there staring at me. I say, ‘Go on, you can eat now’, then, ‘go!’, ‘eat!’, ‘food!’ ‘alright!’ They just stare at me dubiously, like they’re thinking, ‘come on, we’ve got like one trick, stop fucking around and give us the word already’. I’m just staring at the beef-jerky saying random words, ‘yours… consume…  now… hairdrier… shamrock… sphagnum… …um, please?’

I eventually had to kind of push them right to the food and make encouraging noises and eating sounds while rubbing my belly. It was quite embarrassing for me and obviously confusing for the dogs. I swear they were looking at me differently afterward.

I asked my mother today, when I swung by to welcome her home, what the magic word was. Apparently  it’s ‘okay’.

I’d been hoping for something like ‘menopause’.

I don’t think I’ll give it another try, I really couldn’t cope if it didn’t work out again, the implications would be difficult to blot out. And those poodles can generate some pretty mocking looks, the bouffant bastards.

Coffee Conundrum

My mother bought this coffee machine, this turbo-charged make your own cappuccino monster that makes me feel socially, economically and culturally spoilt whenever I use it. Which is totally beside the point. It’s something I’ve become proficient in using, despite my ill defined reservations about it’s symbolic importance in my life. Thus I found myself, a week back, making a coffee for my father when this creepy guy I hesitate to call his friend, turned up. His relationship to my father requires some sort of qualifier, like golf-friend. Or, buddy. Acquaintance, I’m definitely more comfortable referring to him as an acquaintance. Because he’s creepy, you see. He’s the sort of guy, after he has died in some random traffic accident, that turns out to have a collection of unwashed children’s underwear in his basement, yet this discovery elicits only revulsion, not any particular surprise.


So, Creepy Dave turns up on Sunday morning just as I’ve volunteered to make my dad a nice latte, yet he doesn’t ask me to make one for Creepy Dave, which is fine by me as, much like girl cooties, creepiness holds the fear of contagion. Instead, my dad just makes him a quick cup of instant (an abomination in the sight of the Lord, assuming of course that the Lord lives in the suburbs and has time for sighting such things) and takes it out to him on the front porch, saying to me in answer to my query, ‘Don’t worry, the instant will do’.

I’m standing there, making my dad’s coffee, thinking about what I’ll say when I take it out to him. When I hand it over, owing to the beautifully crafted froth, Creepo will see that he got second class caffeine. It pops into my head that I could manufacture some sort of excuse on behalf of my father, ‘Treasure it Pops, it’s the last of the coffee after Psycho-cat widdled on the beans’, thus alleviating his social awkwardness. But it quickly occurs to me that, actually, it would be alleviating only my social awkwardness. My father feels no such awkwardness as Creepy Dave is, as far as I can tell, like one of those kids that follows another kid around because he likes/covets/envies them, tollerated and accepted by the object of their attentions with a mix of pity and narcisism. Just a guy he plays golf with who may or may not copulate with the dead off-spring of wildlife as a hobby. All this because my dad is an honest guy – had Creeply had the sack to ask why he didn’t get a flash coffee, my dad simply would have told him. He can be that kind of honest; honesty of a sort that disinclines one from asking questions one quite probably does not seek the answer to. This makes my dad sound like a bit of a part-time bastard, but he’s not. He always seeks to be kind, believing this to be an essential life practice, but also believes all actions, at base, are best conducted honestly.  So his kindness keeps Creepster turning up but his honesty affects his etiquette.

I wonder if I should aspire to that level of honesty. It may involve a level of emotional and social engagement that I’m not all that comfortable with. I’m honest with those I like, while those I don’t like I simply don’t engage with in a way that would necessitate communication where lying of any significance could be said to take place. Meaning that the lies that do take place are of the variety of head nodding when one might shake it instead, or feigning a certain level of comprehension simply so the talker wont attempt to explain it in any further, deathly detail. Not so much lying as social lubrication. I appreciate being lubricated that way myself. Is that prevarication? Am I creating subspecies of comfortable lies to make a higher level of honesty unnecessary? I don’t know. What I do know is that my particular genus of honesty and kindness wouldn’t lead me into a position of having Creepy Dave on my front porch every Sunday looking enviously at my damn latte.

It’s all on now, baby. (reprise)

My siblings are breeding like… like… rabbits? that’s probably not fair. They’re breeding like it’s a competition:



Cecil, teamed with Richard, is holding her own with one child, Henry (while a singular child with no immediate threat of pluralizing he makes up for it by being a giganti-baby, weighing in at 13kg as a 10 month old).

Slow Starter

Slow Starter

Hairy-boy, managed by Vanessa, is trailing the pack due to only being able to produce, until July at least, a fetus (male, currently unnamed) and this with a 3 year lead – quite disappointing, really.

I have things in my pants

I have bad things in my pants

Way in the lead is Johnny-Oops (oops by name, oops up by nature), ratified by Jen, with a son of 18 months, Leo, and a freshly minted punk baby (born with mohawk and facial attitude), Esme. Really, even if they were all tied up, I’d have to award the first prize to Leo & Esme. Those are names to be proud of, man.

Esme has more hair than me

Esme has more hair than me

I am filled with admiration for them all. I’m quite grateful I get to play uncle – most of the fun, little of the various excreta. And while I am technically coming last in this race, I am abdicating my position in order to adjudicate.

It’s all on now, baby.

(Originally posted 3rd November, 2007)

A few years ago, when I was living in London, I lived with a girl named Jen. I had lived with her twice before, both times in Christchurch. It worked well. There was much smoking, drinking of coffee and reading of Don Delillo. We would often complain about things in glorious synchronicity. Sometimes we would play the card game 500 or speed and wager things like coffee making duties, cigarettes or naming rights for either of our firstborn children. Such chuckling took place at the hilarity.
We had been flatting together for some months in London when my brother John moved in with us. They would frequently have sex. I was quite impressed and pleased with the fact that I never once heard them, considering the thinness of the walls. They soon decided to have sex and smoke and drink coffee together in a semi-professional way. It was at that juncture that I decided to move out and leave them to it as I didn’t want to screw up my record of never having seen or heard them rutting.
They moved to Australia and the coffee drinking and sex having continued, allegedly, but, to the annoyance and surprise of the rest of us in the heavily smoking Greville family, the cigarette smoking was given up. It seemed a lifestyle that suited them and a certain, possibly envious, amount of happiness followed.
My other brother married earlier this year, shortly followed by my sister. Jen & john, not to be out done, continued drinking coffee, having sex and not smoking. I saw them not smoking and drinking coffee, so I can prove that. The sex having is evidenced by the birth of their son, Leo, on this past Thursday, the 2nd of November 2007.
I have trouble imagining 2 people who will make better parents. I am awed and proud and amazed.
I can’t wait to meet him.
That said, I have the naming rights, won in a game of speed in 1997, to the child. I want this known. I’m not going to get pushy about it, though. In fact I knew, were the baby to turn out a he, the name was to be Leo. I really like the name. What I didn’t mention was that my star sign is Leo and so I choose to believe that he is named after me. I would appreciate it if no one challenged this view. It also allows me to formally renounce my naming rights; all I hope for, instead, is to be allowed to read some passages from Don Delillo. Weirdly, that would make me a happy uncle.
I declare and pass on my love and admiration to the newly crystallized family of Jen, john and Leo. I’m glad you guys kept on having sex.