It was definitely a fun weekend…something of a busman’s holiday for me, as I managed to combine taking part in and writing about Bristol Pride professionally with a day out in my old stomping ground of Bath and Bristol with the boy.
It was, too, a beginning to a conversation with him that has been long brewing …around tact and secrecy and discretion and lying and just where the boundary lies between those dreadfully adult ideas.
Let’s start with some fun. The boy loves hotel stays and, as always, quickly made friends with the household crew, running up and down stairs last thing at night and first thing in the morning to bid the receptionist good night (and good morn).
Pride he wasn’t so sure about initially. It was cold, grey, damp and very crowded. Still, an opportunity to be helpful – handing out badges for the Gingerbeer contingent – cheered him up, as did making the acquaintance of a very friendly, exceedingly fluffy German Shepherd decked out in the rainbow flag. The latter certainly impressed him rather more than a brief encounter with Bristol’s Lord Mayor, who I interviewed later that morning – or the dinosaur exhibition we found in the museum in the afternoon.
Still, he perked up rather more when I decided to head over towards (but not into) the English Defence League demo to see how that was going down. Much as expected: hundreds of police cordoning off the docklands area and a cheery but firm Inspector, who informed me that I wasn’t going to be allowed thru to the press point with the boy in tow.
Fair do’s, I guess, though I argued the toss briefly just for practice. Then a chat with a couple of legal observers from NetPol, who warned us that there was every likelihood the police were about to kettle anyone in the vicinity: so back up to the top of Queen Square, where we chatted in friendly fashion to some coppers from the West Midlands.
The boy didn’t quite live up to his previous triumph – pretty much informing the local PCSO that it was a good thing I was a journo, since I wrote articles about police when they did bad things – but he did throw in a line or two about how we’d just avoided being “kettley-ed” (sic) AND how we’d nearly been arrested…which is not quite the sort of thing that I would usually throw into casual conversation with police officers I’ve only just met.
And after he very enthusiastically volunteered the same tale to other folk that we chatted with that weekend, a discussion ensued. A difficult discussion, but a necessary one, since it has become quite clear of late that the boy has been over-hearing a fair few conversations that touch on issues of journalistic confidence and which, with or without embellishment, simply should not be repeated, willy-nilly, to all and sundry.
And yes: before peeps conclude this was a (verbal) beating up on a naïve seven-year-old, the responsibility here is four parts on us grown-ups, one part on the boy. We – and I especially – need to be that much more careful what gets discussed in his earshot, with the presumption now being that he is tending to hear, understand and on occasion repeat whatever gets heard.
That apart, twas from the boy’s perspective, I suspect, a grand weekend. Quite apart from the Pride festival (at which he indulged his latest obsession of collecting random leaflets, gyrated along with the Lady Gaga Experience, and played with a bubble machine), there were some wonderful music shops on Bristol’s Park St, in one of which he got to play a dulcimer: there was the museum at the top of Park St, where he declared his non-belief in the dodo; and there was Forbidden Planet…maybe not a patch on the London store, but still a great place for a small boy to indulge his fantasies.
Then there was the best chips in the world ever (from a chip shop in Clifton), a sweet shop where he purchased Harry Potter jelly beans (which feature such gross flavours as vomit, ear wax and dog food), and fireworks.
Next day, twas over to Bath where he walked the maze, chased seagulls and was duly impressed by a busker simultaneously playing a violin and a pedal-driven guitar. He tasted the foul swill that is Bath spring water – and helped a juggler perform his act by putting on rabbit ears and handing knives up to him.
Oh…and there was the “best prawn fried rice in the world”, with which he over-faced himself come lunchtime.
All told, a boy’s own adventure sort of weekend which I think he’ll remember for some time to come.