Penguin army

Good Enough ?Good Enough!

“You know feelin’ good was good enough for me
Good enough for me and my Bobby McGee”


When the kids were kids we regularly visited their cousins in North Wales and were equally visited in turn by them here, in the True Centre of The Universe. Having 6 kids all under 10 years of age running around was magical…mostly. The magic sometimes evaporated when we were trying to get them to go to sleep. We made this task next to impossible by allowing them all to share a room. My Soulmate, Ger, Dave and I took turns reading them stories and waiting in the room for them to fall asleep. It seemed to take forever…especially when you knew that the other adults were all downstairs quaffing the Rioja and munching on handfuls of cashew nuts.

                                                                                        In my wisdom, on one occasion, possibly after we’d run out of all the books in the house, I decided to make up stories featuring the kids, which they loved, and then insisted that I alone put them to bed each evening.

For some bizarre reason that I can no longer recall, one summer visit to North Wales featured stories involving the kids and penguins, a number of comically inept polar bears and, I think, a duck called Alice. I came up with another brilliant idea, we’d make a game the next day featuring a hoard of heavily armed  penguins. I promised this to them as they fell asleep…in order to get them to fall asleep.

I went downstairs, chuffed with myself. This lasted through half a glass of Rioja.

“Where am I going to get a hoard of heavily armed penguins ?”

Luckily Ger was a primary school teacher with a Spanish Inqusition-like devotion to arts and crafts, so I had access to boxes of colour markers, crayons, lollipop sticks, double sided sticky tape and array of tiny safety scissors.

I started drawing penguins on the cards, arming them with bombs, grenades or machine guns. I was trying to make each one look different. I had a hierarchy of penguins, based on chess, Galapagos Penguins were the pawns, Rockhoppers were the knights, Yellow-Eyed’s were the bishops, Gentoos were the rooks, and , oddly, a King Penguin was the Queen, and an Emperor Penguin was the king.

I’d draw one on cardboard, colour it in, cut it our and stick it on a lollypop stick and move on to the next one. Ger and the Soulmate started to help , aided by gin, and we finished our penguin army at 1.30am., all 100 of them.
The next morning I set them all up in the garden, facing the treehouse, and we then filled up water balloons for the kids to throw at the penguins to knock them over. This too took forever, those little buggers are damn hard to tie a knot in…the balloon, not the kids.

And so , after painstaking hours of drawing individual penguins, colouring them in , cutting them out, sticking them to lollypop sticks, placing them all in the garden,  and filling hundreds of tiny , finger shredding tied, water balloons, how long did this unique spectacle amuse the kids for ?


Yes , it took the kids 120 seconds to destroy every single penguin, and then a minute after that they asked if they could go to the playground in the village.

I had gin for elevenses that day.

A couple of years later, I think it was the day of Robyn and Eimear’s First Holy Communion, and all of the North Wales gang were in our house. Because there were so few Catholics in North Wales, the cousins all made their Communion and Confirmations with our kids in ThreeMileHouse. So everyone was very well dressed for the occasion, all my family and the Soulmate’s family were there, and I just happened to come across a single tiny water balloon in the kitchen, as all of the kids were sitting outside… I couldn’t help it. I filled the water balloon and was determined to throw it at the kids from Robyn’s bedroom window. But it looked so tiny, so I filled a jug of water as well, and crept upstairs, giddy with joy, carefully opened the window and drowned the two girls in their lovely guna deas’s, as well as the boys.

I tried to stay quite and hide, but I was laughing too much.

The kids demanded that I come out for a water fight, but I simply did a twirl in my lovely suit from Wilsons and said “In this ? I think not !”, the kids were incandescent. They complained to my Soulmate and Ger who promptly frogmarched me outside and locked the back door. There then ensued what can only be described as a melee.
The kids had filled water bottles, watering cans, buckets, flower pots, paper cups, literally anything that could hold water, with water and proceeded to chase me around the house and garden , drenching me. I retaliated by turning the garden hose on them, and then the cycle repeated. It started to rain, we didn’t care, we were now wet and muddy, and laughing our heads off. At one point , trying to run away through the garden I slipped and my two day old suit from Wilsons was covered in mud, the kids were surrounding me, laughing, emptying water over me, so I did what any responsible adult would do in my situation. I grabbled two of them by the ankles and dragged them into the mud, and then I got up and grabbed Robyn and threw her into the paddling pool. And then we all jumped into the paddling pool.

The kids and I agreed later that it had been one of the best days EVER !

This then set a precedent for all future birthday parties and celebrations in our house. Birthday party invites came with a P.S. advising the parents to send a change of clothes.

I recently mentioned the penguin army to one of the kids and they’d no recollection of it at all, but they could quote chapter and verse on every water fight we’d ever had.

So , on one occasion I completely overthought what I had to do to entertain and amuse the kids , and on another , it just happened.

Is there a lesson in this ?

Apart from the practical advice of don’t wear a brand new suit from Wilsons to a water fight…not to mention the brand new leather soled shoes that curled up in contempt at their treatment that day and were never worn again, possibly not.

I just think that if your heart’s in the right place that’s good enough.


P.S. I had that hat ! For Joe, Kamala, us and hope 

Author: paul

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