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Last week I managed to arrange time off/working from “home” so that I could go down to Kent for a few days. The reason? The girls had their school sports day and their summer concert last week and I desperately didn’t want to miss out – you can’t get these moments back once they’re gone, especially having missed a few things last year while I was walking.

Tuesday night I drove down to Val and Tony’s, which was to be home for the remainder of the week. I’d taken the work’s laptop with me and the aim was to use a mixture of holiday and working from home, so to speak, to give me the time to attend both events without driving to and fro round the dreaded M25. I cannot express how grateful I am to Val and Tony for putting up with me. Thank you. It really was appreciated and it was lovely to spend so much time with them.

This was the first year St. Peters had put on a proper sports day, one where the parents could attend. They don’t have a sports field at the school so they’d normally just do something in the school hall for each class, parents not being allowed to attend for health and safety reasons, i.e. the hall being so small! This year though they organised the use of Delce Juniors field to hold their sports day.

To get the children to Delce Juniors on Wednesday they walked each class. I’d offered to help out and I walked with Elisa and three of her friends. As you can imagine, they all found me hilarious what with my silly voices and the like. I think Elisa’s quite proud of the fact that her daddy’s ever so slightly silly. It didn’t take too long to walk with the children but the rain had threatened with a few spots but it looked to be holding off.

Once there the children all sat down and listened to their instructions for the upcoming events. This gave me a chance to pick a good spot, sort my camera out and wait for the fun and games to begin.

While standing waiting for the games to begin my wife came over to give me my ticket for the summer concert the next day. Obviously being completely oblivious to my feelings any more, she came over holding her baby, which was nice…erm…not! I guess it was beyond her mental powers to maybe think that waving her new child right under my nose might not be a good thing to do? I guess so because she certainly didn’t think about leaving her with one of the other mums for all of about 30 seconds while she gave me my ticket.

Anyway, that unpleasantness out of the way it was about time for the games to begin. As is normal in this non-competitive world our children grow up in these days, what took place was in no way, shape or form anything like sports days when I was growing up. After being divided into different coloured teams each team had to do an event, like walking to and fro balancing a bean-bag on your head, as many times as possible in the time allotted. Once done the team moved on to the next event, and so on and so on. At no point were any of the teams actually competing against each other, all they had to do was get as many points as possible. That being said, all the children seemed to be having lots of fun which is the main thing I suppose?

Once each team had completed all the events the points were counted up and then the winning team announced. Okay, there was a winner but it wasn’t like each child had a chance of being a winner in an event, or equally a loser. I don’t really like this idea as it teaches them nothing about the real world. We’re not all winners and we’re not all losers, most of the time we’re somewhere in the middle which is just fine for most people. I guess they’ll learn at some point that things aren’t as nice as they’ve been led to believe?

I walked back to the school with both Alice and Elisa as Ann (my wife’s mum) was picking them up for tea at her place. I had a chat with each of their teachers booked in so we could talk about their progress and ask any questions I had. I wasn’t expecting any surprises – and didn’t get any – as their reports were really good reading, both of them.

I did have a concern about Elisa starting school a few weeks after turning four and whether this had affected her learning compared to the rest of the class. As it happens I had nothing to worry about as she’s easily above average in pretty much all the competences the children are marked against. Okay, her reading a writing was about average but I was told this was nothing to be worried about. Great news! Both their teachers said they were sorry to see them go and Elisa’s teacher, having had Alice and Elisa in her class, said it was a shame there wasn’t another King coming along. I had to smile when I said that that wasn’t about to happen. Still, I guess there’s always Alice and Elisa’s sister to look forward to eh?!

One thing that was said, in all innocence I don’t doubt but put a sour taste in my mouth at the time, was being called and “absentee father” by Alice’s teacher. She didn’t mean any harm and was in fact praising me for all the effort I put in to be there for the girls when I live so far away, but I didn’t like being lumped in with all those other deadbeats who have nothing to do with their children or who left for pastures new. This was not my choice. I was forced into this position and I don’t like the association made at all. I guess I should have said something there and then but I didn’t want to get into an argument. If it comes up again though I will. I am not an absentee father, I am a father who has had his children taken away from him!

Sorry about that. I had to get that off my chest.

Thursday afternoon was the summer concert. I’d been looking forward to this as Alice has been singing in the choir this past year – the only one in her class to do so – and she’s been so proud of that fact. I guess knowing that daddy was in the choir from a very early age helped with her decision to join the choir but regardless, she’s been so excited about me seeing her sing.

Each class did a different thing, some singing, some reciting poems etc. Elisa’s class took turns with the microphone to say something they’d learnt that year. It was actually quite amazing that every child in the class said something. This was their first year at school and to stand up and say something in front of all the mums and dads was quite an achievement – well done the teachers! Of course I almost started to cry when Elisa spoke on the microphone. I got it on video and I’ve watched it, all 5 seconds of it, more times than I care to mention.

Alice’s class recited a couple of poems – which were great – but being in the choir meant she sang an additional three songs compared to the rest of the school. It was absolutely lovely to see. I was so proud of her.

As ever, I snapped away with my camera getting some great shots of the girls, which if you hadn’t noticed there are two new photo galleries from the sports day and summer concert. I also recorded a few of the songs as well. As someone said on Facebook tonight, the memories are irreplaceable and I will look back at all the photos and videos in years to come and be just as proud then as I was on Thursday.

I’m so pleased I was able to sort out the time off and also working from Kent, and I so grateful for Val and Tony’s generosity and my manager’s understanding to allow me to muck work about a bit to do this. I would have been devastated if I’d missed out. It’s so hard being so far away but I hope I can continue to sort out the time to be there for the girls in everything they do.