Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Step away from the stripy sock, punk

Tonight I will be mostly venting one of my vile prejudices. If you know what "poi" is, and the thought doesn't fill you with a combination of nauseous hysteria and rage, this is probably not the post for you.


I am feeling a thoroughly unusual sense of parental guilt at the moment. Not because our household is in apocalyptic, irretrievable meltdown. Not because the spawn watch too much tv or eat Frosted Shreddies, or have dirty fingernails or cannot tell me the square root of 85. Nor even because they are learning low anglo-saxon terminology from my bakery products or because I am parading their childhood across the interwebs without scruple.

No. I am feeling guilty because having chosen this week's activity programme at the last minute on the basis of what was still available in the greater Brussels area, I discovered on going to collect them yesterday evening, that it includes, whisper it, circus skills.

Now. I love circus. Proper circus. There are some circus skills that are excellent, death-defying and thoroughly wonderful. I would love to see them ride motorcycles round a large hamster ball, or throw knives at each other, or goad tigers. I would be proud to see my children fired from cannons. But there is this very particular subset of "circus skills" that are only ever practised by people in loon pants with lengths of sludge coloured jersey wrapped around their heads, or large rasta caps, only partially capturing their disgusting white person dreads. You know EXACTLY what I am talking about. It's the ones with diabolos, and those beanbag juggling balls, and hoops and ridiculous hats and clubs and unicycles and aaaaaaargh. Sorry, I was overcome with spitting apoplexy there for a moment.


I have a Thing about this kind of circus skills. A mad, rage-filled thing, probably closely related to my own total absence of coordination. My top lip is curling with the horror of it all. You look like giant infants in your hemp babygros, playing with pointless coloured detritus! It is NOT CLEVER waving that, that, THING on a piece of string around and launching it into the air where it will invariably land on my head. Do NOT look so smug as you demonstrate your ability to look like a tit on a bicycle missing one wheel, you are not curing cancer! And wrap that turban tighter, you could give someone tetanus thwacking them in the head with one of your smelly white dreads. Tsk.


Let me give you an example. M and I stayed up late into the night yesterday laughing until we cried, and in my case, nearly vomited, at these videos. This thoroughly ridiculous activity is Poi. It is basically swinging a ball in a sock around, but if you listen to the fey, sagging loon on this video, you would think it was equivalent to Sylvie Guillem performing The Rite of Spring (BALLINASOCK). Or if you watch this one, constructing a poi (Ball. In. A. Sock. ) is a creative process on a par with Proust composing A la recherche du Temps Perdu from his cork-lined bedroom.


And now, horror of horrors, my children are being draw into this sinister universe of lameass juggling and it is ALL MY FAULT. In fact, the problem is perhaps wider than strictly circus skills. I have found, to my horror, that I have enrolled them in precisely the kind of ghastly hippy-led summer activity I used to be repeatedly subjected to in York. I arrive to collect them, picking my way through a small encampment of teepees and camper vans, to find them sitting huddled in a shagged-out looking circus tent, whey faced and glaring, as a small pixie of a woman in boiled felt overalls and a jaunty cap shakes a tambourine joyfully in the background to the faint droning sound of dub reggae. From their pinched expressions I can only surmise that they have been forced to play NON-COMPETITIVE COOPERATIVE GAMES, probably involving rival tribes who are forced to get along by a flood, or famine, or some such nonsense, and realise that sharing is better than fighting. I would not put it past this devil woman to have forced them to run aimlessly under a parachute until life seems a meaningless one way street of unending pain. The whole of my Woodcraft Folk past comes at me in a dizzying, nauseating rush - green shirts, protest songs, "playleader" Mark Gladwin and his guitar, giant vats of porridge. I clutch my poor babies to my bosom, rush them home and fill them up with trans-fats and pop, and loud, violent cartoons.


Guilt is consuming me. What have I done? Will any amount of therapy be sufficient to make up for the pain I am causing them? Worse, will they LIKE IT? And at the end of the week, I am invited to see them in a Performance. I can scarcely sleep for terror at the thought I may see my own flesh and blood swinging a handmade Poi. Are they strong enough to bear it? Am I? I will tell you on Friday.

36 comments:

Julia Ball said...

Now, you need to step away from the hysteria for just a second to take a clear look, are Lashes and Fingers enjoying it? If so, then leave them to it, they are having fun. :-)

Jaywalker said...

No no no Julia, this has been a major parenting failure on my part. Circus skills are like crack cocaine. You must never let them start or when they are 20 they will have moved to Canada to learn advanced "looking like a dickhead" skills. NO. Sometimes parenting requires DISCIPLINE. Pfff.

Julia Ball said...

Discipline? Is this where I have been going wrong? and they actually dont need to go to Canada to look like a Dickhead, they can go to Chav central, which can be found on most high St's in GB so rest assured, your beloved Spawn, wont need to travel to far to look like idiots :-)

expateek said...

Well, I can see our relationship is over. That's my 26-year-old son, in that Poi Crossers video. Years of homeschooling. The sewing of costumes. And it all comes down to this: being mocked in Belgium.

ha ha, kidding, kiddddddddinnnnnngggg.

pellegrina4 said...

You said 'Woodcraft Folk' and sinister goings on in green return to my memory. I thought it was a dream, but perhaps it wasn't, and now you mention it - Poi?! OMG, this is all too much...

What about Drum Majors/Majorettes for your offspring? My dear parents sent me to Woodcraft Folk as the liberal parent riposte to baton twirling and anything Baden-Powell . Just a thought. They have nice epaulettes.

(Why oh why is my verification word 'fleas'?)

Mwa said...

I think you need yourself a kid rescue plan. Or you may end up having to sit through card tricks and amateur clowning after dinner from now on. Perhaps fill their heads with revolutionary conformist thoughts at night?

jonathan said...

Ah yes. And then there are those bloody silly bikes where you turn the handlebar one way but the wheels head off in the opposite direction than what they are supposed to. I mean, for the love of Christ...

(my verification word is 'suctack' which sounds vaguely obscene. Are you by any chance surrepticiously dripfeeding us Flemish swearwords?)

redfox said...

I in fact have a THING about actual circus people. I thought proper fancy professional circus skills were pretty excellent, but now I have met too many professional circus people, and I would like to shoot almost every single one of them out of a cannon my own self. And then between circus seasons they are often street performers and have Serious Theories about street performing, which I think is the very worst of all. Beware!!

But I think there is at least some hope that being exposed at a young age to the shit version will inoculate F & L against more serious dickhead possibilities in the future.

Gina said...

What if, say - purely hypothetically - one juggles as a means to shock jaded inner city youth into astonishment and fear and thus attention? Might one be forgiven? Consider that - of course, only hypothetically - one juggles without any costume-like accouterments. Or music. Or accomplices.

Jaywalker said...

Gina - is the hypothetical person wearing very wide trousers made from hemp? Does it do "poi"? If not, the hypothetical person is probably ok. Because I am of course the arbiter of ALL that is ok in this world. Yes.

Red Shoes said...

EW! DISGUSTING FILTHY DIRTY HIPPIES! I can't believe you let it come to this, Jaywalker. You're going to have to fix it. Those boys just CAN'T be allowed to swing balls in socks and do "silly walks", for crissakes! Repulsive. Completely repulsive. And stinky! Did I mention stinky?! STINKY!

P.S. I'm a hippie hater. Uuuuugh, disssguuuuustinggggg.

Brenda said...

Oh my god. Coming from New Zealand, where poi actually originated, I find that version you linked to almost offensive. You should see the real stuff like we do it here. My daughter could show that white boy a thing or seven. Plus he should be wearing a grass skirt and have a moko. Oh, and be Maori.

Gina said...

There is much hypothetical relief.

tragicanon said...

ahhh! what is wrong with me?!!?!?
is it awful that i found the poi-wielding maniac's smile offensively charming and deliciously cheeky!?!?!?
i feel goose pimply all over, a bit like how i imagine discovering you are a zoophile would feel like to ordinary human being... i've always harboured a long time aversion to these glasto-types...

A Woman Of No Importance said...

JW, coming from hippy stock - We know you do! Look at Progrock Dad as one example... And he is endearingly loveable and well-adjusted - You have to relinquish control of the Fingers and the Lashes, and enable them to be drawn into the diabolo fever, the bounce-juggling, the unicycle mania...

All of which will keep them in croissants when they are out of your hands at University, and juggling their way through that summer, in Paris, via the Blvd St. Germain, setting their hair on fire with flaming swords - I swear! I do...

Jaywalker said...

tragicanon - oh no. Do you need me to come round with the humane killer? Because I really don't think there's any way back to normal society once you're that depraved. Shall I come put you out of your misery?

Rest of you, as you were until tomorrow. I have more to say, obviously.

Iheartfashion said...

Oh Emma, my husband and I laughed until we cried, really cried with hysteria, reading this post. Having travelled in a Grateful Dead/Burning Man crowd for a number of years in my wasted youth, I know exactly the sort you describe. Although I mastered the hacky sack, thankfully it never came to poi.

DameEmma said...

Here in Canada, we SET OUR POI ON FIRE. Or at least the Vancouver burningmantheatrehippies who organize the "lantern festival" do. Once you add the element of danger, it becomes less ballinasockish. But not much.

The only things people ought to juggle for my entertainment are chainsaws.

Stacy said...

I once heard poi referred to as "the blood crime."
Astonishingly accurate.
And I live in San Francisco where I have to behave as if I...tolerate such nittery. Ugh.

Jen Anderson said...

1. The ball in a sock poi are actually practice poi. Real poi involve chains and kevlar wicks and FIRE. So consider yourself lucky.

2. My brother can throw fire poi and is, in fact, a Burning Man hippie. (He says they're artists, but who are we kidding, right?) Despite this, he has turned out reasonably OK. He still builds giant wood things and sets them on fire in the name of performance art, but he gets paid for it now, owns a house and has a lovely fiancee.

In other words, the worst that can happen is something I'm related to and as long as you're never expected to attend a wedding in a desert in Nevada in August, then you are WAY ahead of me.

Mickle in NZ said...

I'm another Kiwi and like Brenda I find it pretty much offensive.

That they use socks would be extremely offensive to Maori - some thing that goes onto a foot is not okay to use.

You lads will miss out on the truely confusing delight of how to do a 4 threaded plait( trad used for Poi). Look up Kapa Haka on Youtube and see what the blokes really do.

All sympathy, and cringing understanding for anyhting kiddy- circus like.

Estelle said...

Oh yeah, circus street-performing hippies... hide your children. I just got back from Amsterdam where I saw some of my countrymen in rags and dreds eating swords performing in the town square. I watched the performance wondering if their mothers knew what had happened to their university educated darlings. Totally tradg.

Bathbun said...

Jaywalker you're a disgrace. You are not really trying are you? I know you have stuff, but really, this just isn't good enough. How could you let your brood do this, this, words fail me, when there is a perfectly good character forming activity just minutes away from your house. They can dodge drowning climbing into an extremely unstable boat, come close to death when a barge the size of a 20 floor appartment block bears down on them, and if they survive that, they then have the challenge of the 6ft wake left by the boat tipping them out into a lovely canal filled with dead fish, old bikes, and yesterday a particularly attractive abandoned chemical toilet. Obviously there are some age restrictions on this activity, but this being Belgium, a discrete smile, a €50 note and wheyhey, the kids are away for the day. Should they survive all that with their innocence intact, the sunburn from the reflections of the water and hanging out with the older kids in the bar before being picked up by parents should complete their education. I've put the boys names down for next week – rendez-vous the filthiest part of the canal in Anderlecht.

Jaywalker said...

Bath Bun I am ASHAMED. I am hanging my head in disgrace. Provide me the details for liver fluke and dysentry week and I will sign them up forthwith.

Simon said...

Up to this point I was blissfully unaware of the existence of Poi.
Thank you. Thank you so very much.

Jaywalker said...

It is my very great pleasure Simon. If we are to stamp out this pernicious menance we must raise awareness of the dangers of Poi.

justarabbit said...

Oh dear, it's all about getting your kids into the right poi crowd. Steer them towards the fire poi people or the traditional Maori poi people, they're far cooler than the hemp-wearing carbon-conscious poi folk. The HWCCPF may lead to your children learning contact improvisation. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KMeTjAoa9QA&feature=related Just say no to contact improv.

Z said...

Before the final day, ask them if they want to go and do the performance. If they do, then your penance, initially, is to watch them and your purgatory is to spend the rest of their childhood undoing the work that has been done to deprave and corrupt them.

If they don't want to go, don't send them. Tell them they don't have to do it because it was only meant to be fun and if it isn't they can Do Something Else.

CPMatthew said...

Cubs was ok. Hippies were banned and at the 23rd Willesden we just beat each other up and played knock down ginger until the police arrived.

Move from Brussels to Camberwell and your children will develop better habits. (IE real crack addiction, stealing mopeds and happy slapping each other)

Then they will steal your rude biscuits and sell them at school to fund their "grown up" vices...

reen said...

My ex husband spins the flaming poi burningman-style and has more than once lit himself on fire. I did say EX husband...

mountainear said...

Perhaps if they do it now - get it out of their systems (like visiting all those tourist grot spots, eg who as an adult would want to visit the Eiffel tower?) they will never ever have to do it again?

or something.

Nick Simmonds said...

The "Secret of Poi Flowers" video (in the related vids on YouTube) is precious. Apparently it takes a long time to be able to do "compound circles".

Jaywalker said...

Expateek - pff, that would be reason enough to BAR you from these pages.

Pellegrina - you too? Did it inspire you with blood lust and a demonic competitive streak?

Mwa - I will slip into their bedrooms at night and read them leader columns from the Torygraph. Well, I won't. But you know.

Jonathan - get that sucktack out of my krullekes, you witloof.

redfox - I think I need to understand how you have come to associate with so many of these degenerates.

Red Shoes - I know, I KNOW. Shame on me.

Brenda - ah, you see in my utter ignorance, I did not realise that Poi had a valid cultural origin. I had assumed the hippies had made it up, but no! Of course they didn't. Their brains are made of skunk and tofu.

Woman - simply, no. It is my duty as a parent to protect them from the many merciless beatings they would receive if they became 'street performers'. I cannot simply stand back and let this happen.

IHeart - Thank NATHAN you saw the light. Brrr. Hacky sacks. I am getting goosepimples typing that.

DameEmma - as M can testify, I said several times whilst watching these videos 'I BET they are Canadian'. And look, you have proved it.

Stacy - it is, it truly is. The blood crime. Sympathies.

Jen - hmm. I am trying to take some comfort from that, and failing.

Mickle - damn hippies. Cultural imperialism on top of their other crimes!

Estelle - yes. So true. Cruel, cruel fate.

justarabbit - I think - I hope! - you can rely on me to say no to contact improv.

Z - oh, they want to do it alright. BRAINWASHED.

CPMatthew - in the interests of cultural diversity I was allowed to do Brownies AND Woodcraft Folk. I sucked at both. The happy utopian vision of Camberwell youth you paint is one I aspire to for my offspring.

reen - burning husband! Oops.

mountainear - probably, if I could get the reverse psychology right, I could put them off such nonsense for life. But it's a dangerous game...

Nick - Oh, I know. It's like astrophysics or something. Gah.

J. said...

I'm at work, so I can't click through to watch the videos. But am I right in presuming that white people doing poi is what Tash, the hippie daughter in the TV show "Jam and Jarusalem" was doing when she was twirling balls of fire around her father's coffin at his funeral when she lost her grip and set afire the "Eye of God" wall hanging manufactured by crazy old ladies? That was hilarious, but I shudder to think you're subjecting your children to it in real life, Jaywalker.

bonnie-ann black said...

JW, just be grateful that the Circus Skills of Hell school you've sent your two innocents off to, doesn't include actually have to *make* poi:

Poi were once most commonly made from harakeke (Phormium tenax) and raupō (Typha orientalis). Flax was stripped and scraped to provide the muka (the inner flax fibre) which is twisted into two strands to make the taura (cord) as well as aho (ties). A large knot was tied at one end of the cord, around which the core was formed from the pithy middle of the raupō stem. Dampened strips of raupō stems were then wrapped around the ball to form the covering and tied off around the cord. The other end of the cord was often decorated with a mukamuka- a tassel made from muka formed around a smaller knot. Poi piu were smaller tassels occasionally affixed to the base of the poi ball.

imagine if you had to put up with *that*!

PS: my wv is "pulas" which sounds like one of the CFO's curses. i like it. i shall use it in the future: who do you think you are, a poi entertainer? bah! you are nought but a pulas!

GingerB said...

Anything that can be done to stamp out the white people with dreadlocks horde must be done. Anything. I might even retract my minimal violence only policy.