Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Doing It For The Kids

Two huge cliches have hit me in the face today. One being that children are exhausting. I have experienced this many a time, having worked tirelessly on a children's summer playscheme at the age of 18, endlessly flitting between keeping the kids entertained and at the same time stopping them from electrocuting themselves or smashing their faces on hard surfaces. It used to amaze me just how these two possibilities of 'fun' and 'death' would sit hand in hand in the minds of 6 year olds who would happily run into walls at high speed without a second though. I'm often curious to know if people who partake in extreme sports are missing the gene that allows them to grow out of such a mindset, allowing them to parachute off buildings or whatever else it is they do. I, for one, have never even considered doing extreme sports. As far as I'm concerned I'd have no need to walk a slackrope between two skyscrapers if the pub is open. Hmm, possibly plummet to my death, or get a round in? Always the latter. Ironically, the frequency with which this thought happens in my life, despite the lack of extreme sport possibilities to balance it out, means I'll probably die at the same age as most mountaineers / parachutists etc anyway. Just in a far less exciting way ie with my face in a pint, not a cliff side.

When I was 18 though I did have far more energy to be able to deal with such things and I remember the other workers often tutting at the fact that I was as keen to hoist myself up the climbing frame and play Spiderman with the kids while they stood there taking people on loo runs and generally having less fun. Whereas taking three guided tours of children aged 4-12 round the Valentine's Mansion in Gants Hill today was far harder work. No climbing frames, kayaking or other activities in site. Merely some stairs and more of the 4 year olds than the 12's to ensure that telling them any jokes or infact information at all, would take serious work to keep their attention for more than 5 minutes. I found myself, in a less fun fashion than a summer playscheme ever would be, jumping between riffing on jokes about Victorian dairies, whilst simultaneously trying to stop them from climbing and getting stuck inside old milk jugs or fire grates.

Don't get me wrong. It was indeed fun. Especially due to the other wonderful stereotype that reared its highly enjoyable head today - that kids say the funniest things. Oh god, I know. I hate myself for saying it, but they really smash down the hardest work a comedian can do by simply uttering some proper bonkers batshit nonsense from their heads. I repeatedly today was told that 'eating carrots turn you into Ben 10', ' I wee in soup', 'my camel doesn't have a name but he had a bell and now he doesn't have a bell' and so on and so forth. I found my mind regularly being put through the works as I tried to decipher a small boy called Teddy's random rants that were done with so much excitement the words would stream into a mush of madness. Particular highlights included me asking how Victorian cooks used to test if the bread oven was hot enough and gaining a chorus of 'they stuck their arm in it' or 'stuck their head in it' or 'stuck their bum in it'. There was also 'wee'd in it' from the same small boy who when I asked him what he did he simply replied ' I wee.' The other was a small 4 year old girl called Lana telling me she had a favourite joke, which went along these lines:

Lana: 'Knock knock'
Me: 'Who's there?'
Lana: 'DragonFly.'
Me: 'DragonFly who?'
Lana: 'DragonFly ooooooohoooooohooo DragonFly ooooohooohooohooo DragonFly oooohoooohooo' etc etc while her mum rolled her eyes as though this wasn't as funny to her as it clearly was to me and Lana.

One day I will write a joke that good. One day.

Despite knowing full well that had I just left them in the same room without ever doing any comedy or tours at all, they would have happily entertained themselves with the donut cushions on the floor that they were using for armour, beds, hats and wheels, there's a nice feeling knowing that you can keep 30 kids entertained for 30 minutes without much preparation. Though I do now feel like I need a lie down and several different cups of tea on a constant rotational basis. Not that this will happen. Instead the day is rolling on with an epic Fat Tuesday with two awesome special guests and then no doubt another eve of very little sleep. I just hope that dragonfly gag works with tonight's audience or I'll actually have to write something. Bah.

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