Doomed. We’re All Doomed, I Tell You

Emergencies have been on my mind a bit, lately: there have been the terrible floods across the country; there’s been the ongoing Middle East refugee crisis; I’ve had 3 near-misses on the roads with crazy, swerving, speeding drivers in the past 2 weeks; and we’ve been burning candles at home this past fortnight, which the minxes seem determined to either knock over or burn themselves on.

I was quite disparaging of the hysterical headlines about Storm Frank and it being allegedly ‘the storm of the century’, as one outlet gasped. Pah. Standard winter weather, but with a label on it! Then a friend of mine was flooded suddenly out of his home – his Facebook posts were heartbreaking. Today, too, I saw a photo on Facebook of the 105 year old Cambus o’ May bridge that spans the River Dee that we visited in September:

Now that is a LOT of water! Also today I saw photos of the village just the other side of the main dual carriageway from us: it’s under water. I think when disaster is close to you, whether in terms of physical distance or because it’s happening to someone you know, it makes you think and feel more.

So: whilst Family Trout is lucky enough to live somewhere where we’re unlikely to be flooded (though never say never), it made me think. The Troutlings are 5, 7 and 9. When was the last time we talked about emergencies? Over a year ago. What a wonderful opportunity! I thought.

Spoiler: this is probably how NOT to teach your kids Emergency Action drills.

I explained to the kids that we were going to agree a couple of Emergency Action drills that each family member would be able to carry out without thinking if the emergency ever happened. We all agreed that the time to think and talk about drills was now, when there was no risk (though that didn’t stop little voices getting more screechy and loud as they started to get keyed up…). I stressed that the chances of any of these emergencies ever, ever happening was really unlikely. They’d probably live to 250 without ever being in any real danger.

We talked about floods first because we’d been looking at pictures of people being airlifted out of our favourite campsite (! In hindsight, the kids probably didn’t perceive that moment as being a perfectly non-risk time to talk about possible future emergencies..). I explained that if there was a flood and we had to leave the house, we’d not have much time to think about what to take and what to leave. We discussed possible actions for each person (kids: grab one teddy, put on wellies and jacket and get out. Adult 1: get kids, grab Go Bag and get out to pre-agreed Rendezvous Point. Adult 2: spend maximum 2 minutes while kids are putting on wellies and jackets moving 2 pre-agreed family treasures to a top shelf, then lock up, get out and meet up). Easy. Straightforward. I got ready to talk about smart RV points.

“What about Killer-Cat?” interrupted little Midi.

“If we left her outside, she might not ever, ever come back!” wailed Maxi. “She might not find any food or shelter and she might die…!” Maxi gulped back tears and her chin wobbled.

Privately, I thought my beloved Killer-Cat would just have to take her chances. Publicly, I explained to the kids that we couldn’t take her with us. How would we feed her? Where would we let her go to the toilet? How would she feel stuck in a pet carrier cage for a week? In the face of 3 upset daughters, I quickly suggested that maybe my drill could include sweeping all the living room pot plants to the floor and quickly sticking some cat food, water and a cushion on the top shelf for the cat. The kids brightened up. Maxi stopped crying. I felt no guilt at all about lying.

Mini: “But what about all my teddies?” she sniffled “I couldn’t choose just one!” I explained that she could only grab one or none at all; she’d have no time to think about it. Now she was crying. That set off Maxi again.

“Ok, ok!” I yelled above the din of 2 crying minxes, “The adult staying behind for 2 minutes will put food out for the cat on the shelf and move all your teddies to the top bunk bed”. I mentally crossed my fingers. I knew that explaining to the kids that there’s no way I’d ever countenance risking my life to save their 10 million soft toys would just end in upset and no lessons would be learned. Then again, were they learning anything now, anyway? I was just frightening them.

I decided to change tack. Let’s go for an easy one: fire! I asked them how they’d know that there was a fire in the house (fire alarm, smoke, flames, a parent shouting, “Fire, fire, fire!”). I stated that their individual Emergency Actions were really easy: drop everything and get out the house. That’s it. Simple. Memorable. Achievable. Perfect.

“But what if we’re in the shower when the fire happens?” pondered Maxi. Doesn’t matter; get out, even if you’re naked. “But what if it’s snowing?” Doesn’t matter; get out, even if you’re walking through snow. “But what if it’s only a little fire?” Doesn’t matter; get out, better to walk back in sheepishly than not get out at all. “But what if there’s no-one at [Neighbour 1] or [Neighbour 2] or [Neighbour 3]?” Doesn’t matter; get out, get out, get out.

Ah me… Maxi refused to accept that when it comes to fire, there are no ifs and buts and maybes: you get out the house, run to the neighbour across the street and get them to dial 999. The harder she argued, searching for possible loopholes and exceptions, the more exasperated I got. No-one was learning anything, here!

I decided to change the focus. Let’s actually DO drills! Yay! We all got excited about that. Instead of setting off the fire alarm to emulate a fire (too noisy), we agreed that I would shout ‘Fire, Fire, Fire, Get Out [insert a minx’s name]’. That minx had to immediately drop everything and actually get out the house and we’d time them from me shouting to when The Boss could see them outside the house. The Boss and I wanted to make sure they could physically do everything: not pause to think, or fumble with the unexpectedly locked front door, or hesitate on the soaking wet doorstep. I wanted them to properly learn by actually doing.

Maxi was great: 12 seconds from command to splashing on the front path. She barely registered that the front door was locked! Little Mini was next. The instant that I cried the magic words “Fire, Fire, Fire, Get Out Mini!” she was off out her seat like a rocket, little arms pumping. Then she hit the locked door. She looked confused. She wasn’t allowed to unlock the door. She wasn’t sure how to unlock the door. Which way did the lock turn? She burst into tears. She wailed and shouted at the door. She screamed against her confusion. The Boss calmly coached her on the door lock until she was finally standing on the doorstep. 43 seconds. She got lots of hugs and encouragement and Well Done, Good Efforts from us both. Midi struggled with the door-lock too, finally getting out in 32 seconds. We gave them all a few minutes to calm down, talking about how we were going to do more drills over the next few weeks, then when they were ready we tried again. This time Mini managed an excellent 13 seconds and Midi an amazing 7 seconds.

Phew, that’s better – end on a success!

But of course, I didn’t leave it there, did I? Oh no. Another big mistake. Instead I let Maxi engage me in conversation about emergencies in general. Somehow we ended up talking about what we’d do if we saw someone drowning in the burn behind our housing estate. Mini the Innocent said: “I’d find a rope and throw it to them”. She looked confused when I asked where she’d get the rope from, and when was the last time she saw a rope by the burn? Midi The Big Hearted stated that she’d jump in to save them. She refused to believe me when I said that she would be better instead running to a house with a car outside to get help and dial 999; she wouldn’t be able to save a flailing, panicking person. So I decided to demonstrate (hint: BAD parental decision…)

“OK, Midi, come save me!” I said. “I’m in the water over here by the cupboard. ‘Ooo, save me, Midi, come get me!” and threw my arms around melodramatically.

Midi pretended to swim up to me. I mimicked a panicking swimmer and grabbed her, pushing her little shoulders down in a mime of trying to pull myself out of water. She burst into huge sobs.

Aw, pants. Stupid Mummy.

Over a long hug on the floor, she explained that I’d not hurt her, I’d just given her a big shock. So we talked about what panicking people do. I related for the umpteenth time all the different reactions of people (some trained, some untrained), in an aircraft evacuation due to fire that I’d been in many, many years ago. She laughed (hey, it’s the way I tell ’em…) but I think I finally got through to her that when you’re a kid, the very best thing you can do in any emergency at all is get yourself safe first, then get someone else to go help.

It’s hard for children, isn’t it? We drill them relentlessly from when they’re toddlers into not being selfish or self-centred, then we criticise them when their first instinct in a life-or-death situation might be to think of others before themselves.

Those of you with children: how have you taught your kids how to get medical help if you were incapacitated? How did you teach them fire drills? What do you keep in your Go Bag? Share your top tips and help me dig myself out of this Pit Of Emergency Doom I’ve dug!

Star Wars: A Spoof Awakens

The Boss and I watched Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens on Tuesday morning, while the minxes were in school.

Photo: from

The night before, we’d watched all the Bad Lip Reading spoofs on YouTube. So as the film rose to its climax, tension built, regardless of whether you thought the film was brilliant or not. The lady in the seat next to me, who kept hiding her face at every space monster, gripped our armrest in anticipation. Seeing Admiral Ackbar brought out the minx in me. I leaned over to The Boss’s ear and made a ‘puck-puck-puck’ kissing sound from the Bad Lipreading Return of the Jedi spoof. He started giggling. Which made me snigger, too. The more his shoulders shook, the more I laughed. The more Admiral Ackbar’s big fishy face came on the screen, 10 foot high, the more hysterical we both got. I couldn’t see; The Boss’s glasses misted over; I started to consider my pelvic floor muscle tone; The Boss made strangled noises. The lady next to me looked at us in puzzlement and edged a little further away.

Ah, I think you just had to be there…

I don’t use Twitter much (I’ve only just got to grips with posting quick photos on the Grumpy Old Trout Facebook page), but there’s a fair few enterprising comedians who’re posting as Emo Kylo Ren. The wittiest by far is KyloR3n – Emo Kylo Ren. His (her?) tweets are going to provide hours of electronic entertainment for me this Christmas. I, too, am going to find a Vader breathing sound to set as my text message alert.

Return of the Elves: Dec 20 – 23

The 2015 Elf visit is coming towards its end. And there’s a new little elf in town

Dec 20



Dec 21: like all new families everywhere, Mummy Barbie falls asleep decorated in baby sick, Daddy Edward crashes out with the baby on him, and everyone else just groans and wants the non-stop crying and puking to stop.

Dec 21



Dec 22: I know elf babies grow fast (s/he’s more than doubled in size since yesterday!); I know elves eat different food from the rest of us… But weaning a baby elf on iced donuts?!!!



Dec 23: I see Baby Elf is a chip off the old block. Hiding in the minxes’ chocolate advent calendar indeed! (Unless… are they dooking for chocolate?!) Barbie: well, a Mummy’s got to grab those zzzzzzs whenever she can, y’know?

Dec 23: chocolate bounty hunters

Dec 23: chocolate bounty hunters



Return of the Elves: Dec 15 – 19

Mr and Mrs Elf returned on Dec 15 with these photos to go in their album of their time on honeymoon…

Good, eh? (!) So they recreated their holiday on Dec 15:

Dec 15: good, wholesome, innocent fun

Dec 15: good, wholesome, innocent fun

Dec 16: Barbie's gone psycho! Poor Olaf!

Dec 16: Barbie’s gone psycho! Poor Olaf!

Dec 17: all is not well in Newly-Wed Paradise…


Edward and Edwinn, gubbed on marmalade cocktails; Barbie drinking pickled onion vinegar like a lady. ... ...pickled onion vinegar?! ...!... Congratulations on your impending arrival, Mr and Mrs Elf!

Dec 18: Edward and Edwinn, gubbed on marmalade cocktails; Barbie drinking pickled onion vinegar like a lady.

…pickled onion vinegar?!
Congratulations on your impending arrival, Mr and Mrs Elf!

Return of the Elves: Dec 12 – 14

Countdown to Elf Wedding of the Year!

Dec 12 - I know weddings are expensive, but nicking from the kids' piggy bank is just shameful, Edward!

Dec 12 – I know weddings are expensive, but nicking from the kids’ piggy bank is just shameful, Edward!


Dec 13: awwwww! Good luck

Dec 13: awwwww! Good luck

Dec 14: what the kids woke up to! Contents of the photo album below. Though the photos still don't reveal why the bridesmaids have swapped dresses...

Dec 14: what the kids woke up to! Contents of the photo album below…

The photo album from the wedding of E and B Elf:

Return of the Elves: Dec 6 – 11

You know, these antics are starting to worry me… I’m also concerned with how much I laughed at Dec 11 – so juvenile 😀



Dec 8: bubble bath party. Mucky lot!

Dec 8: bubble bath party. Mucky lot!


Dec 9: Hide and seek! Or as one witty friend said: forking or spooning? ... And who the hell is that second naked Barbie?!

Dec 9: Hide and seek! Or as one witty friend said: forking or spooning? … And who the hell is that second naked Barbie?!

Dec 10: EEK! Will she say yes? Will she disappear to the North Pole with him on Christmas Eve? (Yayyyyy!) Will he stay here with her? (Noooooo!) And why are Edwinn and Chelsea holding hands?

Dec 10: EEK! Will she say yes? Will she disappear to the North Pole with him on Christmas Eve? (Yayyyyy!) Will he stay here with her? (Noooooo!) And why are Edwinn and Chelsea holding hands?

Dec 11: bum-shots - oldie but goldie. Glad to see Barbie's wearing her big purple gem (she must have said yes)

Dec 11: bum-shots – oldie but goldie. Glad to see Barbie’s wearing her big purple gem (she must have said yes)

Grumpy McGrump From the Land Grump

The Good

Essential item on The Trout’s list to Santa

Midi coughed at dinner and sprayed me and the wall and my food with a mouthful of snot-streaked milk. Mini rubbed her eczema-covered flaky face and hands over my jumper to scratch it, and left a few million flakes of skin on me, like a leper. Maxi howled over me after swimming, wailing that she’d failed her assessment because she’d not done half of it.

“I couldn’t hear what they asked me to do!” she wailed. Why not? “Because I was still halfway down the pool!”

Over a river of snot (hers) dribbling down my jacket, I repeated the monologue I give her every single week: if she’s too slow or distracted or absent-minded to do what they want her to do, in the time they give her, then she absolutely has not met the criteria to progress. There is no blame or fault. I will not ask her instructors to make allowances. They do not have to bend to her need to set off in her own sweet time, 3 minutes after everyone else.

I feel sorry for the poor child, as I’m only properly realising now that she honestly doesn’t have the ‘hurry’ or ‘time aware’ software uploaded in her brain that everyone else has, and also that I don’t have the skills to teach her. I just don’t. I’ve given up. It causes us all too much distress. I also fully understand the frustration and anger on the part of adults dealing with her in time-important situations. It’s easy for me to tell them that she’s not actually being selfish or precious or naughty, but it’s not easy for them (us!) to really, properly understand what’s going on in her head and cut her some slack.

The Bad

In tonight’s 30 minute journey from one small town on the east coast of Scotland to the next, I think I ran the gamut of the aggressive eejits who think the speed limit is a minimum limit. I ignored the white van towing a ride home on my rear bumper. I also restrained myself from shouting more than ‘Dickhead!’ at the moronic Jaguar driver who finally overtook, but on a solid white line in a known accident blackspot. I finally had a very petulant outburst at the BMW driver who tried to shunt me onto the dual carriageway, before he doubled-up in the central reservation and blocked my view out, then tried to undertake me on pulling off: I drove the remaining half-mile into town in 2nd gear, just for shits and giggles (mine). I wondered if the aggressive walrus would have a heart-attack? Obviously I hoped not. Ish.

I'll either send it to him as a Christmas present, or just use it as shower gel...

I’ll either send it to him as a Christmas present, or just use it as shower gel…

The Ugly

This morning I walked to the local shop with a pile of parcels to post. It was bitterly cold, but I took the time to look around at the beautiful winter sky. I watched a man open the main dog poo bin and remove the full poo bags with his BARE HANDS and sling them into the back of the Council wagon he was driving. While I repressed a bit of vomit, he drove past me and up to the shop, where he emptied their outdoor litter bins into his wagon, too, giving them a good old scoop out with his (still bare) hands. He then went into the shop, where he had a lovely big chat with the people in there. As I walked out, parcels posted, he made a joke that I stiffly replied to. “Awwwww, are you tired?” he chuckled and enveloped me in a big bear hug. He patted my jacket with his big rubbish- and dog-poo-touching hands. I detached, smiled that very icy smile that you need to have about 100 generations of British in your genes to properly do instead of punching someone in the face, marched home in a seething rage, and put the jacket straight in the washing machine. OCD? Maybe. But at least I can sleep tonight. Ewwwwww!

And that, children, is why we don’t touch our faces after shaking the hands of strange men. Or being shaken by strange, touchy-feely men.

Not a hand basin

Return of the Elves: Dec 1 – 5

Are we going to do our usual modified Elf on the Shelf this year? Was there really any doubt? Edwinn and Edward arrived late on the afternoon of Dec 1, tucked in a shoebox with a letter from Santa, right beside where the minxes had to stand to turn on the outdoor Christmas lights on the way back from school.

For once this year, The Boss and I know where we’re going with this story. I’m not letting on – just watch and see…










Dec 4: I think shes forgiven him - Movie Night it is, then

Dec 4: I think shes forgiven him – Movie Night it is, then