Busytown by Jolisa Gracewood

The pursuit of happiness

There's a Billy Connolly routine in which he describes seeing a child contestant in a talent show. The little fellow is warbling a love song, Jimmy Osmond style, with a chorus that goes something like "Oooh lady, I'm going to love you all night long." Interjects Billy, with deadpan incredulity: "Wha' wi'? His wee pointed willy?"

There's been a lot of wee pointed willy action in our house lately. Busytot has been a bit of a late bloomer in the self-love department. Oh, he loves himself plenty, but so far he hasn't really concentrated on any particular part of his lovely little bod to the exclusion of all the others. Nostril, ear, elbow, they're all fun to twiddle. But sooner or later we all discover our own little built-in pokie machine, and before you can say Gamblers Anonymous, it's all about the genitals. (I'm assured by mothers of girl toddlers that the phenomenon is not confined to little lads and their love-handles).

So Busytot is on a major penis kick at the moment, which coincides happily with a newfound interest in undoing the velcro straps on his nappies. Rrrrip, rrrip, and suddenly everyone's invited to a home showing of Puppetry of the Penis. With a twist (ouch). Whereas those Australian professionals impersonate everything from ostriches to the Eiffel Tower, Busytot specializes in one particularly eye-popping sleight-of-hand manoeuvre, a "now you see it, now you don't" routine, involving an index finger and a wicked grin. I call it Puppetry of the -- What Penis?!

If I can get him back in his trousers, we can return to the other main attraction of the moment -- the mint condition green German-made tricycle I scored at the op shop for a cool five bucks. Of course, I then went and quadrupled the price by tracking down the optional extra push-handle for the back. The handle looks like an avant garde chopper flag, but it's basically a parental overdrive for when those stumpy little legs run out of cookie-powered oomph, or when a drifting eye threatens to steer the small driver into the path of a garbage truck.

By far the coolest bike on the block, though, is the one Busytot's best friend brought back from his holiday in the UK. It's a Like-A-Bike, and as its name suggests, it's a lot like a bike. It's a two-wheeler, but with no pedals and is completely intuitively driven: you just hop on, start pushing with alternate feet, and coast rapidly off into the distance pursued by frantic parents and a Pied Piper-like trail of covetous children.

It means you can skip the whole three-wheeler/training wheels stage and go straight to getting the hang of balancing while moving forward on two zippy little wheels. What I love most about it is that it's made out of wood. I know, a wooden bicycle. It sounds like a chocolate teapot. But it does the job, and mark my words, this time next year everyone you know will have one.

While I'm mentioning ways to spend your discretionary dosh on those too young to have their own credit cards, let me plug a couple of lovely items we brought back in our suitcase that have already earned their weight in toddler satisfaction. Jive's Pipi Diggers, by Phillippa King with gorgeous illustrations by Gabriella Kreplatski, is the story of a little boy called Jive who, "once upon an island," goes digging for pipis with his Mum. Then his Dad cooks the pipis up on the barbie, and then they eat them. It's deeply satisfying and the pictures are deliciously kinetic and involving. The beach scenes are particularly well drawn, and I like it that the Mum and Dad are young and spunky.

Then there's Don Linden, who has been collecting all those old children's radio show favourites and re-issuing them on CD. There are several discs of the longer stories (Little Toot, Gerald McBoing Boing and co), but I grabbed a copy of Junior Requests Vol. 1. This one has tons of classic songs on it (The Teddy-Bears' Picnic, How Much is that Doggie in the Window, Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh) and some completely wacked-out ones too. Petula Clark trilling "I wuv you, I wuv you, said the Little Blue Man" and Tommy Steele giving voice to the little man in the fridge who "puts the lightie on" are two I'd recommend to readers looking for an aurally psychedelic experience.

Anyway, I figured there'd be enough variety on this disc – twenty-four songs -- to keep young ears entertained without turning older brains to jelly. I'd neglected to factor in "The Kiwi Bird," a appealing vintage number by The Knaves, which immediately became Busytot's favourite song in the whole world. When he's not bullying me into playing it on repeat (and sighing with relief every time the old-time radio intro kicks in, in a perfect echo of the way in which I greet a morning cup of tea or an evening G & T), he's wandering round the house singing it. "Got two wings. Cannot fly. Kiwi. Kiwi. Kiwi. Kiwi. Kiwi. Kiwi." If I never hear that song again it will be too soon, but if you buy the album you'll never regret it.

By the way, does this sound at all familiar?

Best New Web Site We want to recognise the most innovative or interesting new site launch of the past 12 months to October 19. It must be a stand-alone new site, not an add-on to an existing site. Nominations are sought for New Zealand Web sites that have launched during this time and have made an impact on a significant number of Internet users in this country.

Or this?

Best Personal Blog We’re looking for enthusiasts who have created their very own content-packed diary on the Web. The subject matter may vary from personal thoughts to daily life experiences written in a way to enthrall the reader, making us come back for more. Age or occupation is secondary; of primary importance is the interest factor created by the content.

Or, quite possibly, even this?

Site of the Year The winning overall site of the year must be local, it must have great design, excellent content, original ideas and a real Kiwi flavour.

And certainly, this:

Best Web Designer This award is for professional Web designers who are leading the charge in distinctive New Zealand Web design. We’re after a portfolio of sites that look good, are easy to navigate, are visually stimulating and keep visitors interested.

If so, the Netguide Awards 2003 are coming up, and you have exactly a month to nominate and/or vote for your favourite sites/writers/designers in the whole world. Just so's you know ... and hey, if you've got any babies that need kissing, I'm an expert.