Sing & Sign - can I really endure this come the autumn, even with the fit young mums and for you darling Joshua?

Tom Winnifrith Friday 14 July 2017


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Sing & Sign is not to be confused with politically correct poetry. The latter is on a Wednesday at our local library or will be until, that place is shut down. As the Po faced poetry dominatrix explained this week, Bristol City Council is being forced to make big cuts. Well of course there is no cut in its donation to the Pride festival, the City council can afford a fully staffed press office, to fund Chess Tournaments and to make donations to very rich charities such as the Terence Higgins Trust as well as Womankind Bristol Women's Therapy Centre Ltd, Independent Sex Workers against Violence, the Hype Dance Company, the Bristol Zimbabwe Association and a whole raft of other valuable causes. But it must close down our library here in the white working class district of Brislington because of the wicked Tories. Whatever.

At these meetings the babies are given a paper badge with their name on it. Joshua usually eats his before we are too well advanced. We then sit in a circle and sing PC rhymes. So there is no drunken sailor but we now talk of lazy Katie which seems a bit sexist to me but what do I know?. Natch we are not catching anything by its toes. We mums are meant to make signs now and again to represent stars, or bobbins in a sewing machine or whatever. It is harmless enough even if the library gives us pro foxy woxy propaganda on the rates to take home with and to brainwash our offspring.

Afterwards we mums take our children to the cafe next to the Conservative Club for a coffee. I have been doing this for a few weeks now and with the Mrs back at work I really don't mind this aspect of Primary caring. I am on first name terms with a couple of the other mums but not yet having earnest discussions on mothering woes.  That will come.

Joshua enjoys eating his badge and we sing rather less politically correct versions of the songs together as we walk home. The word crocodile in row row row your boat becomes feminist in our private version. Joshua's mother has not banned that and, to her credit, laughs along with us.

Sing and sign is several miles away and I attended ny first session yesterday with the Mrs who has - like the other mums there - enjoyed a whole term. Other than the Mrs, there were six mums who were all at least 15 years younger than me and half of whom really could have been a daughter sired after University. But I was not there to oggle but to decide whether to sign up for another term.

The idea is that babies learn the signs for objects. Joshua now has a certificate saying he has learned 176 signs. Dog, cat, tortoise, fox, toothache, stop! The list goes on and on. The mums sing utterly inane songs making a sign to represent key words in them. The babies sit there not having a scoobie what is going on. They are now crawling around looking, I assume, for a way out while the mums sing along with the dull tunes and make daft signs. The truth is that the Mrs and the others now know 176 signs and the babies know sweet FA.

Afterwards I suggested to one of the mums that by the time our offspring had learned the sign for a dog they might actually be saying dog. Might it not be better to focus in on teaching them , you know, er, English as my mother taught me. Of course I was put firmly in my place. Times have moved on and it has been shown that signing stops tantrums and advances your child's learning. Hmmm. In double blind studies with a statistically large sample? I somehow doubted it but have learned not to argue with the mumbo jumbo of the birthing industry.

So come September will I sign up or will I take Joshua elsewhere on a Thursday?. On the one hand a couple of the mums were really pretty acceptable eye candy but on the other hand, I know - like all of the little babies present - exactly zero signs. Do I really want to sit on a mat, take my shoes off and learn from the beginning to chant this vacuous nonsense and make daft signs?

It is sweet that the mums believe this clap trap and I sense they get a social kick out of it, all heading off for lunch afterwards. But they do not even hand out name labels for Joshua to eat so I think we may be passing on this one, in favour of some quiet father and son reading of Ayn Rand instead.

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About Tom Winnifrith
Tom Winnifrith is the editor of When he is not harvesting olives in Greece, he is (planning to) raise goats in Wales.
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