place names and names for places


How do you refer to your genitalia? Not the greatest opening gambit I’ll grant you, but hey I’m not trying to chat you up here.  If I were trying to chat you up then you’d be forgiven for wanting to back away slowly before scanning the room for either my carer or a policeman.  Deciding on the word or words with which to refer to genitalia can be tricky for parents.  When I was a child, Peter or Mary were commonly used since neither of my parents had the ability to say the words penis or vagina due to an affliction commonly known as acute embarrassment.

Strictly speaking, vulva is the word for [external] female genitalia but euphemisms can range from the twee (lady garden, mary, flower, fairy) to the unsavoury which I won’t bother listing here. Similarly penis, willy, dick, noodle and so on.

We decided to be as open and straightforward as possible with our children so we never attempt to hide our bits from them and use the words vagina and penis respectively.  Despite our efforts naturally the little darlings have their own words to supplement the ‘proper’ words so Carwyn’s penis is a ‘peanut’.

Eleri on the other hand has evolved her own unique word – London.  I’m guessing this is a new one on you too!  Let me explain…

We had already given Carwyn the word vagina once he’d noticed his younger sibling didn’t own a peanut like him so once she started to talk and ask questions we taught her the same word.  Her first attempts came out as ‘gina’ (sounds like vagina without the ‘va’) which was fine by us.

During her next nappy change Eleri was happily instructing me to make sure that both her bottom and her ‘China’ was wiped.  Not a million miles from ‘gina’ and Eleri was evidently proud that she had learned another word so we felt there was little reason to correct her providing we continued to use the ‘correct’ word.

The next morning Eleri came wandering into our bedroom to provide her daily early morning call service.  She was carrying a new nappy and informed us that she had done a wee and will we clean her bottom and London.   “London?  What’s a London Eleri?” we enquired.  She sighed, gave us a withering look and pointed at her crotch. “London!”.

The penny finally dropped.  She’d forgotten the word she’s learned yesterday but remembered that is was a place.  Vagina – Gina – China – London.  At this point we learned a crucial lesson.  Never, ever, laugh at something a child says unless you want that something repeated ad nauseum. Sigh.

157 miles? Seemed longer…


Ever noticed that the smell of vomit on upholstery never completely goes away?  No?  Perhaps it’s just me then.

Recently we decided to make a long delayed trip to South Wales to visit my family.  All of my immediate family live in the same county.  In the same parish.  OK within a 200 metre radius of each other which might be clue as to why I live 157 miles away.  To paraphrase Woody Allen, “Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close knit family in another city”.

Travelling more 15 miles in a in car with our small children generally goes like this:

Having obliterated the last journey from their memory, we will have concocted an impossibly rosy narrative for the anticipated sojourn.  Usually we pack a picnic, plan some stop off spots, ensure the children’s gadgets have some films and games downloaded and we always take some cryptic crosswords to solve.  All of these preparations are of course futile.

Our car isn’t big enough.  It will never be big enough.  Ever.  This is simply the natural law that you will always have more stuff than storage. Once all of the luggage space has reached critical mass we strap the children in and continue packing around them which leads to frustration and our loading of the car will get progressively less ordered.  This fact is important later.

Almost immediately after starting the car and our 5 year old will need to go for a pee so we unpack him take him to the toilet.  Once safely re-packed with an empty bladder our 3 year old will also need to go.

During the remainder of the journey the children’s ability to wind us both up will get progressively greater until one by one they finally succumb to sleep, typically 30 minutes before we arrive at our destination thus ensuring they will be at their worse when they are woken.

At some point at least one child will be violently ill and cover themselves with vomit but we will be unable find any wipes or clean clothing due to the hasty, disordered final 10 minutes of packing earlier.  Cleaning up sick with baby wipes and t-shirts whilst trying to comfort a shivering, still purging child is a lot less fun than it sounds.

We usually arrive at our destination with grumpy, sick smelling children and an icy silence.

Did I say this journey was long delayed?

time dilation, shopping and semantics

e=mc squared

How long is 24 hours? It’s not a trick question. How long is 24 hours? 1 day? 1/7th of a week? 1140 minutes? Typically, the amount of time with which sheriffs of small frontier towns require to see off the guys in black?

Ok, perhaps the last one is a definition too far, but you get my meaning – same duration, different units.

Apparently not. An answer I hadn’t previously considered was ‘it depends’.

Perhaps I should explain where I’m headed here. A few days ago I purchased a light saber. I want to spell it ‘sabre’ because that’s how to spell sabre but george lucas is american and therefore cannot spell.  So why not lite saber?  Anyway, I bought the sabre on-line.  It’s a blue one.  I will use it to battle my 5 year old son.  His is red.

So where does all this fit in with my original question? The delivery time is where.

Now, call me cynical, but most courier services do not travel at a speed near that of light. If one did, then to be fair, I’d agree with the answer ‘it depends’.

I am aware of advertising and its ability to deceive and actually I’m pretty bright (besides there was a picture on the website and everything) so I didn’t expect the item to be an actual light sabre with which I could chop bits off furniture, aggressive alien barflies and 5 year olds who have turned to the dark side.

The bit that sneaked in under my bullshit radar was the phrase ‘ships within 24 hours’. My brain replaced that phrase with ‘arrives at my house within 24 hours (i.e. tomorrow)’.

Which of course, it didn’t.

On-line shopping is great because you can browse products and easily compare prices with no assistant to hassle you. Of course, the problem with on-line shopping is that there’s no assistant to shout at, intimidate and most importantly to direct complaints …so I rang the ‘helpline’ (hah!).

Having navigated through the gordian knot of the phone system’s sub-menus I sat and seethed whilst a charming, patronising and obviously well trained Irish chap explained that the item was guaranteed to be shipped with 24 hours. I conceded through clenched teeth that ‘shipped’ does not mean ‘delivered’ and that I was indeed a little optimistic to expect to be in receipt of my goods just yet so I politely enquired when that might be.  He proceeded to enlighten me with the definitions of ‘shipped’, ‘in transit’, ‘e.t.a. ‘ and ‘delivery’.

‘Shipped’ of course meaning ‘the paperwork has been sent to the delivery company’, not, ‘the product has been sent to me’, and so by their definition my sabre had been shipped yesterday – on time. It transpires that e.t.a. does indeed mean estimated time of arrival. It’s just that the destination varies. I asked when my light sabre (I’ve had to say light sabre so many times I’m starting to feel foolish) would be shipped, trucked or failing that cabbed to my home. “Your order has just been updated sir. It’s now in transit.” explained the Celtic charmer. “What? Since we’ve been talking?” I peered through the curtains in anticipation. “A bit convenient don’t you think?” I asked in a passive/aggressive ‘I’m being fobbed off here’ sort of way.

It turns out ‘in transit’ means on its way from the warehouse to the delivery company. Not in transit to my house and no, they can’t ‘drop mine off on the way’. When it gets to the delivery company warehouse it can then be delivered to me (wait for it) within 24 hours.

I foolishly thought that the 24 hour countdown began the very picosecond I clicked ‘buy now’.

Yes. I know what you’re thinking. I must be a dry stone waller or an experimental flint tool maker. Nope. I’m a software developer. The problem is my brain grew up in 1970s when the word ‘service’ was a simile for, well, ‘service’ and ‘orders delivered within 28 days’ were, well, were.

The long and short of this is my mock lethal weapon will reach it’s intended recipient any time soon. It’s in transit and my order is being processed. I can track my order on-line and find the constantly updated e.t.a. is very accurate but doesn’t tell you where (it won’t be where you think). It’s all a bit kafkaesque. Nothing is certain. Well, not as certain as the money leaving my account the very picosecond I clicked ‘buy now’.