Blog - Alan Dapré - Children's Author

Diary of A Stay At Home Author & Dad

A brush with the past.

Yesterday, I accidentally head-butted a tree branch while laying down garden gravel. A few days ago, I burnt my arm on the metal edge of my hot waffle maker. A month back, I smashed a lump hammer into my left thumb knuckle, while last year I mashed my little toe against a rendered wall. All rather painful and rather par for the course.

I have Clumsy Adult Syndrome. I wheel about like Matt Smith in Dr Who and end up bashing into things. I once cleared a table of full beer glasses with my flailing arms while dancing in a nightclub. I remember slicing down into my middle finger with a Stanley knife  at least a centimetre. When I tried to play guitar a few weeks later my split fingernail caught in the strings and ripped off.

I suppose the most dangerous clumsy thing occurred when I jumped off the steps of a bus. I cracked my head on the door lintel and fell onto the pavement, minus glasses. They were under the far side of the bus by a rear wheel. I shouted to the driver to wait and ducked under the chassis. I retrieved the glasses and scrambled back, head inches from the nearside wheel. As I sat up, the bus pulled away and a passenger said. ‘He didn’t hear you mate.’ I was lucky – just a heartbeat away from being roadkill.

Was I always this clumsy? Well, yes.

I never made it into the school first team for Football. I was a defender, big and stocky. Often too late in my tackles though to be any good. As for Rugby, I could bring down an ox but I was rubbish at getting into the right positions. I liked Cricket and could whack the ball miles – the few times my bat actually connected with the ball. I never made it into the reserves. I consoled myself by doing track and field events in Athletics. Shot Putting was a good choice, though I once dropped it on my toe. Very painful, but not as painful as Pole Vaulting a height of seven foot and landing on the rim of the concrete sand pit instead of the crash mat.

My fine motor skills are excellent and I can create oil paintings and sketches with a good level of skill. My gross motor skills are useless.

As a kid I fell off my bike, out of trees, etc.   I didn’t feel all that clumsy, though people would remark on it occasionally. Cycling into the back of a Black Maria police van got quite a mention. As did accidentally pulling the handlebars off my bike while on a steep hill…I rolled backwards down the slope and ended in a wheel-spinning heap at the bottom.

In my pre-school years I lost all the nails on one foot by opening a door onto them then pushing it away. The sight of five throbbing squashy toes is one I remember to this day. Falling off the top of a bunk-bed is another memory. Actually I have quite a few memories of doing that.

So what can I put all this clumsiness down to? Did I have Dyspraxia? – Clumsy Child Syndrome. Part of the condition is that children might have trouble speaking and I didn’t talk until I was two. Or maybe it was due to the fact that I wasn’t getting proper physical stimulation as a baby and toddler, left to one side in a large Foster family. My social worker often found me dumped outside in a pram unsupervised, regardless of the weather.

I don’t want to make excuses. but I would like to make it through the day without breaking things.  My wife has lost nearly all her precious mementos of trips abroad. I once picked up a Kenyan figurine and accidentally dropped it, breaking its neck. I balanced the head back on the body and apologetically offered to glue it on – whereupon it fell off and shattered into smithereens. Now our souvenirs tend to be plastic fridge magnets that will hopefully last the test of time.

I have heard that clumsy children can be helpedby a process called ‘Brushing’. A friend tried it on his child with good results. I am not sure if any scientific studies have taken place so it is all a bit hearsay. Apparently, brushing limbs and fingers stimulates the nerve endings and gets a child aware of their body and its place in space.

A similar touching technique is used on animals to get them aware of their bodies too. Look up ‘Tellington Touch’ – it worked on our bonkers dog. You place the fingertips of one hand lightly on the fur and slowly make circles clockwise – going round ‘an hour and twenty minutes’ then you lift off and lightly repeat nearby. This calms the animal and, if done on limbs, gets them aware of their limbs. Skye loves it – and will immediately go catatonic – or should that be dogatonic?

I was determined that my wee girl wouldn’t end up as clumsy as her dad so she received regular baby massage until she became a wriggly toddler. These days my daughter is encouraged to play outdoors in adventure playgrounds…(we went to three different ones yesterday!) Plus she goes to Gymnastics and is learning to swim. Today we’ll be in the local pool and I’ll try not to fall in.

Er, but that’s another story for another day…

The Author

Al Dapre

Alan Dapré lives in North Ayrshire, Scotland, UK where it rains a lot. He was a Deputy Headteacher and now is a radio and TV scriptwriter, published author, artist and very slow typist. He has had a few plays on Radio 4 and lots of stuff on the telly. His first book did not win the Pulitzer Prize. He loves long beach walks, sketching, crosswords and rhubarb crumble. He has written many books and plays for children that people have been quite nice about.

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