Ernst Stavro Blogfeld

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This week’s entry has been inspired by my eldest son, Ollie.

Admittedly, my blog is often inspired by our boys, it’s just that they don’t usually know about it. They are an endless source of comedic material, as they each stumble from one inadvertently-hilarious situation to the next (very much like their father).

On this occasion, however, whilst Ollie didn’t necessarily come up with the idea I have moulded into this week’s entry, he certainly ignited the spark in my twisted little mind.

On Wednesday morning, as he got ready for school, Ollie randomly starting talking about James Bond, and asked me whether I thought a good replacement for Daniel Craig would be Sean Connery. I immediately laughed at this suggestion, and his little face dropped.

“But you said Connery was the best Bond ever!”

I had to explain to Ollie that, whilst that is indeed the case (and anyone who suggests otherwise is mistaken), there are two very good reasons why, when Daniel Craig does eventually hang up his Beretta, and trades in that Aston Martin for a Honda Jazz (the vehicle of choice for the modern pensioner), Sean Connery is not really a feasible replacement.

Firstly, and surely the main reason why Connery is no longer suited to the role of James Bond, is that he is really fucking old. Hang on, let me check…. Yeah, he’s 87. Even the most die-hard Connery fans must now accept that his age effectively rules him out of an unlikely return as 007. I guess he could perhaps make a cameo appearance somewhere, but I get the impression Sean might not be up for that, as, by all accounts, he was a miserable git forty years ago, and his mood has seemingly deteriorated with each passing year.

Secondly, Connery has already returned to the role of Bond twice – officially, in 1971’s hugely disappointing Diamonds Are Forever, and then unofficially, in the 1983 abomination which was Never Say Never Again.

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If we were to plot those two films on a ‘Disappointment Graph’, and continue the ‘Curve of Failure’ as it descends down past Stockport County’s start to the 2017-18 season, every Radiohead album since Ok Computer, and the KitKat Chunky with Peanut Butter, Lord only knows how dire a Connery-led Bond film would be now. It might even be worse than Battleship *shudders* (seriously, if you haven’t seen it, just imagine Rihanna – yes, that Rihanna – battling alien sea-monsters in order to save the planet… then lower your already rock-bottom expectations by 80%).

As ever, I digress.

Once I had explained to Ollie that Sean Connery was not a viable replacement for Daniel Craig (who, for what it’s worth, has been an excellent Bond, and I for one am delighted he has agreed to do another film), the conversation went thus:

“Well, what about George Lazenby then? He looks young.”

“No, Ol. He already looked middle-aged in OHMSS, and that was released in 1969. He’s nearly as old as Connery.”

“Timothy Dalton?”

“Also too old.”

“Roger Moore?”

“Too dead.”

“Pierce Brosnan?”

“I still haven’t forgiven him for Die Another Day.

The conversation got me thinking, however, that if any of those actors were to return as James Bond (with the exception of the late great Sir Roger, may he Rest In Peace), the film titles and plot lines would need to be adapted to suit their advancing years in life.

Just imagine, if every Bond film had featured older versions of the actors….

Dr, No, Please (1962) – Following a week or two of suffering with a burning sensation whilst urinating, Bond attends his local GP surgery and undergoes a prostate examination.

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From Russia For Love (1963) – An ageing 007 struggles with erectile dysfunction, so purchases some mail order Viagra pills from the Soviet Union.

Coldfinger (1964) – After decades of repeatedly pulling the trigger on his Beretta and Walther PPK, James Bond develops Reynaud’s Syndrome in his right hand, and starts a prescribed course of Nifedipine.

Thunderball (1965) – Bond wins £500,000 on the National Lottery, by successfully guessing five numbers plus the Thunderball. He then wastes the money on pointless things that he doesn’t need, because it’s always old people who seem to win the lottery, when they no longer need the money.

You Only Live Twice More (1967) – Having cheated death on countless occasions – sometimes in extremely unlikely, and physically impossible, circumstances – Blofeld (a relentless cat lover) informs Bond that he has now used up seven of his nine lives, and will shortly run out of luck. He then leaves him in an easily escapable situation.

At Her Majesty’s Secret Pleasure (1969) – Bond inappropriately slaps Moneypenny on the arse, following a meeting with M, and is charged with sexual harassment. Following a public announcement of the charges, 2,453 further women come forward with their own allegations, and Bond is sent to jail. His incarceration is, however, kept secret by the Government.

Diamond Weddings Are Forever (1971) – In a highly improbable alternative universe, Bond actually settled down with Moneypenny at the age of 24, and they now celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary at a swanky hotel in London.

Live A Bit Then Die (1973) – Now in his late 80’s, Bond reflects on a lifetime spent in the world of espionage, and ponders his own mortality.

The Man With The Older Gums (1974) – After decades of smoking, Bond visits the dentist, and is diagnosed with periodontal gum disease.

The Spine Who Loved Me (1977) – 007 undergoes back surgery, to have two discs in his lumbar spine replaced, following which he has a new lease of life, playing golf twice a week with Q, and attending local Council meetings about all the dog poo and litter in the streets.

Manraking (1979) – Roger Moore spends a delightful summer’s afternoon in the garden, something he wouldn’t have been able to enjoy, had he not undergone spinal surgery just two years earlier.

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For Your Eye Test Only (1981) – Having written-off a very expensive Aston Martin prototype for the third time this year, and following an unfortunate incident where Bond mistakes a hat-stand for Moneypenny, and is caught indecently exposing himself to it outside M’s office, Q-branch insists 007 undergoes an eye-test.

Octogenarianpussy (1983) – Bond moves into a retirement village, where he meets 86-year-old Maud Adams, who, like all single women in their eighties, is surrounded by hundreds of cats.

A View To A Kilimanjaro (1985) – Following the passing of his fourteenth wife, Bond’s children insist he should ‘get away for a bit’, so he books a Shearing’s Coach Tour of Tanzania.

The Living Room Lights (1987) – Having nagged him for weeks, Bond finally succumbs to Moneypenny’s demands, and fixes the two blown lightbulbs in their lounge.

Licence to Grill (1989) – Timothy Dalton organises a BBQ for the residents of his retirement village, which ends in disaster when one elderly neighbour chokes to death on a spicy chicken wing. Bond immediately assumes foul play, and breaks an ankle whilst trying to vault over the retirement home wall, after he spots a white cat on the other side, and assumes Blofeld has returned once again.

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Goldeneyes (1995) – Pierce Brosnan faces his most terrifying enemy yet, after it transpires Sean Bean’s character, Alec Trevelyan, did not in fact die when a 1,500-tonne satellite dish landed on his face in Cuba. Now in his late-sixties, Alec has developed cataracts, which, due to a quirk of nature, have turned his eyes gold.

Tamara Never Dies (1997) – 007 befriends his 102-year-old neighbour, Tamara Titsworth, who claims to have cheated death even more times than he has. Rather inevitably, they sleep together, before enjoying a delightful game of Bridge with Frank and June from across the corridor.

The Waltz Is Not Enough (1999) – Despite a moderately well-received Tango in the first round of their retirement home’s dancing competition, Bond and his partner, 82-year-old former model Betty Bangzer, fail to win a prize after she slips during their Viennese Waltz in the final.

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Dine Another Day (2002) – Bond goes on hunger strike in his retirement home, after his carers refuse to allow him to sleep with a gun under his pillow, ‘just in case’.

Chicken Royale (2006) – A decrepit Bond is clearly confused, and increasingly agitated, whilst trying to order lunch at a busy Burger King in the heart of London.

Quandary of Solace (2008) – Having witnessed yet another lover murdered before his very eyes, Bond finally decides that enough is enough, and he would be better off seeing out his remaining years without any female company.

Skyfall (2012) – Bond breaks a hip falling from an unstable ladder in his front garden, whilst trying to re-position his satellite dish in order to watch Bargain Hunt.

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Spectacles (2015) – Thirty-four years after failing his eye test in For Your Eye Test Only, Bond finally accepts that it is time he started wearing varifocals, but insists it will only be for ‘close up reading, and the occasional assassination’.

Thanks for reading x

Credits:

Blog inspiration – my son, Ollie

Blofeld picture (and title) – my good friend, Ant

Everything else – me.

 

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It’s a Blog’s Life

SOMETIMES…

 

Sometimes it’s one of those weeks

Sometimes nothing goes right

Sometimes the world is against you

Sometimes you’re losing the fight

 

Sometimes the weather turns freezing

Sometimes your drive home gets dark

Sometimes each part of you aches

Sometimes you’re missing that spark

 

Sometimes your children are feral

Sometimes they leave you in bits

Sometimes you’re constantly shouting

When they take it in turns to be shits

 

Sometimes your job becomes manic

Sometimes you can’t see an end

Sometimes you crave time alone

Sometimes you can’t face your friends

 

Sometimes your house is a pigsty

Sometimes you just want to nap

Sometimes the kitchen gets ruined

And all that you cook turns out crap

 

Sometimes your hair looks appalling

Sometimes your suit starts to rip

Sometimes you plan something special

Then an airline fucks up your trip

 

Sometimes your car is plain filthy

Sometimes you scrub off the grime

Sometimes it rains shortly after

So the whole thing was a waste of time

 

Sometimes your car starts to smell bad

Sometimes you’re ashamed that it’s yours

Sometimes you buy an air freshener

But it smells like an old lady’s drawers

 

Sometimes your car hits a pothole

Sometimes you wish you’d got rid

Sometimes you need two new tyres

That cost over two hundred quid

 

Sometimes your headache lasts ages

Sometimes it hurts just to stand

Sometimes you sneeze while you’re driving

And you get it all over your hand.

 

Sometimes your football team hates you

Sometimes they’re especially bad

Sometimes you wish you could dump them

Because they make you so angry and sad

 

Sometimes you miss your grandparents

Sometimes you miss your old dog

Sometimes it helps to share feelings

(Well, there was bugger all else for this blog)

 

Sometimes you think no one’s reading

Sometimes the words will not flow

Sometimes you think about stopping

Because surely no one would know?

 

Sometimes everything’s rubbish

Sometimes you slump and ask ‘why?’

Sometimes it hurts just to think straight

When it’s all you can do not to cry…..

 

… But sometimes there are terrorists shooting

Sometimes an island’s destroyed

Sometimes there are massacres and hurricanes

That kill men, women, young girls and boys

 

Sometimes you need some perspective

Sometimes you need a deep breath

Sometimes life could be worse

When there’s hunger, starvation and death

 

Sometimes that trip is just money

Sometimes the car doesn’t matter

Sometimes your team may improve

Come what may, you’ll still be a Hatter

 

Sometimes the house can stay messy

Sometimes ‘fuck it’ is the best thing to say

Sometimes just look at your children

Be glad they’re healthy and happy each day

 

Sometimes when life gets you down

Sometimes when your outlook seems bleak

Sometimes just forget all life’s worries

Because one day, there’ll be no ‘next week’…

 

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Blog It Like Beckham

Last Saturday afternoon, Ollie, our eldest son, was one of the matchday mascots at my (our) beloved Stockport County.

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As part of the mascot package that I treated him to, he received the full home kit (see above), went on a tour of the ground, and then got to meet the manager and players, before walking out with the team prior to kick off.

The tour included the Directors’ Box, Boardroom and Sponsors’ Lounge, not to mention a visit to our brand-new museum, and a glimpse – for that was all that was required – of County’s trophy cabinet. I would love to say it was a trophy room, but we barely have enough silverware to fill a small cupboard, so a whole room would have been entirely unnecessary, and as sparsely populated as Kim Jong-un’s imminent funeral.

In the changing room, Ollie got to meet the entire squad, add to his collection of autographs (which included telling certain existing – and rather despondent looking – players, that he didn’t want their autograph, without going on to explain that this was because he already had them from last season), before posing for photos.

Admittedly, there was an element of being somewhat star-struck, tongue-tied and shy, but once I got over that, I managed to speak to some of the players (and our manager, Jim Gannon) with a moderate amount of composure and decorum.

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Just look at his little face (Ollie seems quite chuffed too)

Following the tour, Ollie was then allowed to warm up with the players on the pitch, before being ushered (along with the other mascots) down the tunnel shortly before kick-off, so that he could walk out with the team alongside his favourite player – and County’s current top scorer – Jason Oswell.

In Ollie’s words, it was epic. It really was.

Look, I know what you are thinking, and no, this was not some pathetic attempt to re-live my childhood through my son. Ok, sure, I wouldn’t mind being a mascot myself, but at 37 I rather feel my opportunity has now passed, and it would almost certainly look like I was leading the player out onto the pitch, rather than the other way around.

I assure you, Saturday was entirely Ollie’s idea, and something he has wanted to do for a long time – much in the same way that (although he perhaps doesn’t know it yet), he really wants a Lego Millenium Falcon for Christmas.

I don’t really understand why Ollie was so desperate to walk out onto the pitch with Jason Oswell, though. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve met Jason twice now, and a nicer bloke you could not wish to meet, but he only signed for County a couple of months ago, and there were players in that changing room on Saturday who have been tremendous servants to the club over the past few years.

Had I been the mascot (ah, if only), I would have almost certainly wanted to walk out onto the pitch with our goalkeeper, Ben Hinchliffe. Please don’t think for one second that this is because I am in some way attracted to him (although, like myself, he is quite the dish), but I was a goalkeeper throughout my playing days (after school, 4-6pm, Deva Fields, Poynton, jumpers for goalposts, isn’t it?, marvellous), and so I have always felt an affiliation to ‘the man between the sticks’.

I think this is because the goalkeeper is often the understated hero. The rock at the heart of defence. The last bastion of the team. In much the same way, I have always fancied being a drummer, rather than a lead guitarist or singer. This is because I enjoy being a leader from the back, commanding my troops into battle (whether in a sporting or musical arena).

Ok, that’s a lie. The truth is, I have always fancied being a drummer, because I really want to be in a band, but can’t sing, and have no musical ability whatsoever (apart from a surprising amount of rhythm). Equally, the only reason I was ever a goalkeeper, was because I was shit at football, but freakishly tall.

Sadly, when you are seven years old, being a goalkeeper is not always considered the most glamorous position on a football pitch, because you want to be the player scoring all the goals. The star. You are drawn to what excites you, and for some inexplicable reason, that means you would rather scuff the ball home, off your shin from two yards out, than pull off a fingertip save in the final minute of the match, to preserve your team’s 1-0 lead.

Being a seven year old boy (or girl for that matter) is usually about three things: scoring goals, dinosaurs, and space. Often, because of those obsessions, you make some questionable life choices (like when Ollie recently had the chance to watch any Bond film of his choosing, and he selected Moonraker, purely because it is set in space – he soon realised his mistake). In time, he will learn to appreciate the finer things in life: a good red wine, mid-afternoon naps, goalkeepers, and Holly Willoughby (for I feel certain she will still look good in around ten years’ time, when he realises all girls do not, in actual fact, ‘smell’).

Anyway, I digress.

County normally only have four or five mascots for most home matches, for but some unknown reason our fixture against North Ferriby proved extremely popular with the younger fans, to the extent there were no fewer than thirteen of them on Saturday. This was, in itself, quite impressive, but made even more amazing (or amusing), when you discover our opponents attracted just eight travelling fans.

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Ok, North Ferriby is some distance from Stockport (for those unaware, it is near Hull), and the village – yes, County play village teams these days – has a population just shy of 4,000, but their away following was outnumbered by our mascots. So, whilst County had too many children walking out onto the pitch to ensure they could each have a player to themselves, if North Ferriby’s entire away following had decided to walk out with the players prior to kick off, they would have been three fans short.

Look, I accept they are very firmly rooted to the bottom of the league, and a two-hundred-mile round trip to watch your team almost certainly get beaten (which they did, 4-1) is never appealing, but then again neither is Hull. I have been to Hull (just the once – and I think it was shut), and whilst North Ferriby happens to be a quaint little village, nothing like it’s larger neighbour, I would stop at nothing to get as far away from Hull as possible – even if that meant traversing the country to watch my football team get humiliated, and even if it meant going via Bradford to do so.

As such, I think the eight poor souls who made the journey should be applauded. In fact, there were only seven of them as the game kicked off, since the eighth fan was evidently caught in traffic, and he arrived shortly before half-time, by which point his team were already trailing two-nil.

There is nothing quite so heartbreaking (read: secretly hilarious), as watching a stressed man hurry into a football ground, upset that he has missed half of the match due to traffic, only for him to glance expectantly up at the scoreboard, notice the score, and slump into one of the many vacant seats, completely dejected. I shouldn’t have laughed, I know I shouldn’t, but I swear a little wee came out.

I instantly felt bad for finding the situation funny, but in my defence it is extremely rare for Stockport County fans to have the opportunity of looking down on another team these days, and we have suffered more than our fair share of jibes and jokes in recent years. In fact, I seem to recall some North Ferriby fans bragging when they got promoted at the end of the 2015-2016 season, only for them to come crashing straight back down after just one year. Karma, it seems, can be a bitch sometimes.

The main thing is, I had a great day (and, of lesser importance, so did Ollie). Even my mum and sister, who have not been to Edgeley Park in years, but wanted to watch Ollie on his ‘special day’, seemed to enjoy it – despite paying so little attention to the actual match, that they missed at least one of the goals. In fact, my dear mother informed me part way through the second half, that the last time she had seen County play, she was pregnant with me. That would have been during the latter stages of 1979, or very early 1980. Let’s hope it’s not another 37 years before her next visit.

Watching the game last weekend, which admittedly County won quite comfortably (without actually playing well), Mum could be forgiven for wondering what the appeal of our little team is, and why Ollie and I still get giddy with anticipation every other Saturday morning. The truth is, I’m not entirely sure.

I suspect, once you fall in love with a football team, it’s like hard drugs (not that I have ever tried drugs) – you know it’s bad for you, potentially harmful to your health, and seriously bloody expensive, but you just can’t help going back for more, week in, week out. It’s an addiction.

This is no doubt easier to understand, when you look at fans of successful Premier League teams, compared to a club currently residing in the sixth tier of the English game, but that doesn’t mean our passion is any less. If anything, our fans are even more committed (or, from a psychiatric perspective, probably should be), because the appeal of watching County is, in theory, a lot less.

Thankfully, Ollie gets it. He understands that his football team is utterly crap right now (albeit not quite as crap as North Ferriby), but they will still always be his football team. My only hope is that, one day, Isaac will also become infatuated, because at the moment he doesn’t seem to quite grasp the (not so) beautiful game.

How do I know this? Well, during the second half on Saturday, he firstly announced to everyone around us that ‘football is boring’, then decided to ‘rest his eyes for a bit’, before finally asking Ollie which one of our players was Messi.

If only.

 

 

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Every Blog Has Its Day

This week’s entry is being hurriedly typed the day before, because I feel the need to tell you about the legal conference I attended on Wednesday.

I know what you are thinking, and, yes, finding the humour in a legal conference, is about as likely as finding an immigrant at the UKIP Christmas Party; but I found it, and I want to share it with you. Besides, I had bugger all else to write about this week.

I only found out that I would be accompanying my boss to the annual *firm name removed* Conference that morning, by which time I could not make any alternative arrangements for getting there and back – I had no choice but to drive into Manchester.

This wouldn’t normally bother me, but I knew there was a drinks reception and meal later in the evening, and if there is one thing you need to survive a stuffy legal conference, filled with sinfully boring lawyers (I feel justified in making this generalisation, for I am one), it is the numbing properties of alcohol. If you can imagine undergoing root canal surgery without anaesthetic, then attending a legal conference without booze is very much the same: it is always preferable to be completely numb (and, if possible, unconscious).

As I parked up outside the rather lavish hotel, desperately trying to avoid hitting the very expensive-looking Bentley and Audi on either side of my filthy went-to-Norfolk-at-the-weekend-and-the-kids-destroyed-it VW, I decided this was not going to be a fun day.

Having signed in, I attached my hastily-prepared name badge (they had to re-write it, when I explained that my surname is not, in actual fact, ‘whore’), and was then told of all the excitement the organisers had planned, starting with the opportunity to ‘network’ (verb: to walk around talking to boring people you don’t like, whilst trying to sound interested).

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Better still (sarcasm), each time you visited one of the twenty or so businesses dotted around the room – and, by way of illustration, the most interesting (by some margin) was the company selling photocopiers and office furniture – you got a little stamp in your book. Then, at the end of the day, the person with the most stamps would win a prize. Hooray, we were back at school.

Adopting my very finest fuck this attitude, I did eventually (and reluctantly) go and speak to a few businesses, but only because there is a limit to how much Facebook you can check on your phone before people start to notice, and also because I was drawn to their shiny freebies, like a kleptomaniac magpie.

I collected a power pack and plug-in fan for my phone (for those times when you need to make an important call, but find yourself both low on battery and warm of chin), only to discover that the various ‘universal’ connectors didn’t apply to my particular Samsung.  Silly me for having only the second largest selling phone on the planet. Ah well, it was probably for the best, as the fan would have lacerated my face at some point anyway.

Despite succumbing to their enforced business socialising, I did however manage an uncharacteristic act of defiance, by refusing to secure a single stamp in my little book (only to rue my rebellion later on, when I discovered the prize for collecting the most stamps was £100 of Amazon vouchers).

As an additional dollop of salt, into the fresh wound that was my increasingly disappointing day, I then discovered that the Manchester United squad (plus Jose Mourinho) were apparently having a pre-match get together in the next room, and the Bentley I had carefully avoided in the car park, probably belonged to one of them. Opportunity missed.

Having survived the hour-long networking session – which, in my opinion, was 59 minutes longer than necessary, but improved slightly by a buffet lunch that was not only tasty, but which offered the perfect excuse to become temporarily mute – we were then called into the large conference space.

The layout immediately struck me as ‘Wedding reception meets Tory Party Conference’, as there were several white linen tables, encircling a stage adorned with glass podium, pale blue uplighting, and the overwhelming stench of snobbery.

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Once we had taken our seats, and following some rather awkward introductions from the host firm – which involved no fewer than four people, who took it in turns to introduce one another, and then say the same thing, amid short blasts of music between them – it was time for the main event.

Following a brief cacophony of what I believe was Coldplay, the first session involved one lawyer ‘interviewing’ another, in a Parkinson-esque chat show format. This was actually quite entertaining, but only because the interviewer didn’t care what he said – although even I winced at the Fred ‘The Weatherman’ Talbot joke, which alluded to his extra-curricular activities with boys, during his time at Altrincham Grammar School in the 1970’s.

Next, after some deafening R&B, came a Q&A session – which was set up like a ‘Comic Con’ film panel, only without any interesting guests, subject matter, or questions. In fact, all the panel really achieved, was taking it in turns to talk about their own achievements, to try and seem more successful than the speaker before them.

“Everyone says how down to earth I am.”

With me, what you see, is what you get.”

“Yes, well, I made Partner at 27, something which is unheard of at our firm.”

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What made this even more unbearable, was the irritating woman sat next to me (you should never judge a lady by her age or size, so let’s just say she was mildly old, and mildly fat), who kept making inaudible comments under her breath, then chuckling away to herself.

To her right, were a couple from the same firm, and the sexual tension between them was frankly nauseating. Not only that, they had decided it would be appropriate to go to the bar beforehand, and bring cocktails in with them (honestly, he was drinking something with fruit in it, and she had a fucking Mojito). They then proceeded to chat loudly over all of the speakers, to the point everyone began staring.

Just when I thought our table could not get any worse, a *lady* arrived approximately 45 minutes late, made a very loud entrance (in a red dress that was way too short for someone clearly flirting with the menopause), and decided to plonk herself directly opposite me.

No sooner had she dropped her suitcase – yes, suitcase – under the table (by this point, I was certain she was a travelling prostitute), she stood back up, walked to the side of the stage in front of the entire audience, and plugged her phone into a socket to charge it.

Our table was honestly so embarrassing, I started looking for the hidden cameras, to see which prank show I was about to be a part of, and which of the characters around our table would turn out to be Ant and/or Dec in prosthetic make-up.

Shortly after 6pm, the conference was brought to a blessed close (despite an advertised finish of 5.15pm), but I still had the *pleasure* of the drinks reception and three course meal. Normally, I would have attacked the free bar with reckless abandon, to forget the horror of the previous three hours, but a free bar when you have to drive home, is like an all-you-can-eat buffet when your jaw has been wired shut.

Thankfully, after an hour of bonus networking (“I don’t feel I adequately explained how brilliant I am earlier, so I must find new victims to impress…”), we were called back into the conference room for dinner.

Then, when I thought the evening could not possibly get any more excruciating, the organisers had decided it would be *fun* to implement a seating plan and mix everyone up, separating those from the same firms.

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As a result, whilst my boss was on Table 7, I ended up on Table 10, with people I did not know, but felt sure I would instantly dislike.

As it happens, my dinner companions were all a vast improvement on our earlier table (lump was on the other side of the room, the cocktail couple were almost certainly naked somewhere, and red dress had presumably moved on to her evening job), but I was sat with people who all appeared to be in the mood for drinking, while discussing such enthralling topics as ‘so, what does your firm do?’

Fortunately, the lady to my right, who took no time in informing me she was on her first night out following the birth of her daughter three months earlier (at a legal conference – she knew how to party), was pleasantly entertaining. I’ll admit she lost me slightly, when she revealed the rather pretentious name she had given her daughter, but compared to Mr Stuffy (of Stuffy, Dullard & Boring), she was an increasingly drunken source of amusement.

My slightly-improved mood was then promptly ruined again, when the starter arrived. Look, I shouldn’t be ungrateful for a three course meal I hadn’t paid for, but who on earth thinks ‘Smoked Trout Mousse with Cucumber Jelly Cubes’ is appealing? Ok, lawyers can be pompous arseholes at times, but it takes a particularly obscure palate to salivate at what was essentially Fishy Porridge.

The main course, whilst a little cheesy for my own liking, was at least geared to the masses, as was the chocolate dessert, but nothing went down quite as well as the complimentary wine. Since I was obviously not partaking, I grew weary of the evening quite rapidly once the meal was over, and made my excuses to leave.

Even the entertainment of the prize draw (which saw one thoroughly-unimpressed man win a huge teddy bear), and the fact the two ladies hosting the evening had inadvertently worn exactly the same dress (much to their obvious disgust), was not enough to retain my interest, so I headed out to retrieve my runt-of-the-litter VW, from a car park that looked like a particularly extravagent episode of Top Gear.

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As a final insult, I knew United had already kicked off, which meant none of the remaining cars belonged to any players (they don’t strike me as the sort to car share), so I couldn’t even key one of the doors as I left.

And they bloody won.

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On Your Marks, Get Set, Blog!

Run Fatboy Run

Last Sunday, I (stupidly) took part in the annual ‘Sandbach 10k’, despite the fact that, not only had I never run a 10k race before, but I had never run 10k before.

When I first signed up for the event a few months ago (following a nudge from my darling wife), the furthest I had managed to run was around three miles. Nevertheless, in a moment of bold impetuousness one morning, I suddenly found myself forking out £16, for the privilege of attempting to run more than twice that distance (10k = 6.2 miles), without embarrassing myself.

So, over the last few months, I have tried to run at least twice a week, gradually increasing my distance on each occasion, whilst honing my physical fitness (from ‘very out of shape’ to ‘mildly out of shape’).

I’d love to paint the picture of a Rocky-esque montage, culminating in me running up some steps and celebrating at the top, but the truth is I spluttered my way through four miles, then four-and-a-half, and finally five miles, before eventually running out of time (excuse the pun).

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Still, I kept telling myself that it was ‘only another mile’, and I slowly began to believe that I could at least complete the distance – the problem was, I had no idea whether I would also achieve a respectable time.

I therefore decided to grade my expectations of the race, by creating a list of possible outcomes – ranging from most pleasing, to most disappointing (whilst all remaining realistic, since there was no point expecting to finish anywhere near the front):

Level Outcome Satisfaction
1 Run it all – under 45 minutes Ecstatic
2 Run it all – under 50 minutes Delighted
3 Run it all – under 55 minutes Pleased
4 Run it all – under an hour Relieved
5 Run it all – over an hour Acceptable
6 Have to stop and walk for a bit Disappointed
7 Get a stitch, walk majority Gutted
8 Fail to finish Devastated
9 Fail to finish and require paramedic Embarrassed
10 Develop stomach cramps, have to ‘Paula Radcliffe’ it by the side of the road, end up stretchered past crowds, crying, covered in own shit Mortified

Before I knew it, race day had arrived.

Feeling incredibly sick with nerves, I collected my running number, delicately attached it to my top (the last thing I needed at this stage, was to reveal my 10k virginity by lancing my nipple with a safety pin), then joined the other three hundred runners at the start.

I decided that, if I (optimistically) wanted to finish in the top one hundred, I should place myself about a third of the way back in the crowd, and then make sure I stayed in roughly the same position throughout the race.

However, as I stood there, two lithe gentlemen to my right began discussing their own personal targets, and when one said he was hoping to finish under forty minutes, and in the top twenty, I realised I was out of my depth. So, whistling under my breath, I took several steps backwards through the crowd, until I overheard a couple of middle-aged ladies discussing how they hoped they wouldn’t throw up. Ah, these were more my people.

When the race started (somewhat haphazardly, because the Mayor couldn’t get the sodding airhorn to work), I set off at what I hoped was a decent pace. After all, I didn’t want to be immediately left behind, but I also didn’t want to exhaust myself, by trying to keep up with the leaders.

Thankfully, the organisers had marked each kilometre with a bright orange sign, so when I got to the ‘1km’ post, I quickly checked my trusty Casio (look, it’s a classic, and a steal at £7) – it was showing a little over four minutes. Shit. I mean, I was pleased with that time, but I was aiming to do each kilometre in around five minutes, and felt pretty certain I couldn’t keep that sort of pace going for another nine kilometres.

Sure enough, by the time I reached 2km, my legs were already hurting, and I was breathing hard. I had fully prepared myself to ‘hit a wall’ at some point (metaphorically speaking), but didn’t expect it to be so pathetically soon. I’d screwed up, and was worried I would have to drop out before I’d even reached half-way.

I slowed down, got my breathing under control, and told myself it was just the initial nerves which were causing me to struggle. Then, shortly before the 3km marker, I was faced with this railway bridge:

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It doesn’t look much now, but when I was already struggling to comprehend running more than three times the distance that had damn-near killed me so far, it looked like bloody Kilimanjaro.

Sure enough, once I had completed it, my breathing was again laboured, and I had to persuade myself to just focus on the music I was listening to, and take it one marker at a time.

When I passed ‘4km’ in around 19 minutes, then ‘5km’ – or half way – in 24 minutes, I started to wonder whether I could possibly keep that pace going after all, particularly since I was beginning to feel slightly better and, at that rate, I could still finish in under 50 minutes. Plus, the route had just taken a long turn to the right, so I knew I was on my way back, and this was a huge psychological boost.

My next challenge (although I felt sure none of my fellow runners would see it as such), was the ‘water stop’ shortly before 6km.

As I approached, I could see a number of volunteers handing out plastic cups, but couldn’t decide whether to take one. I didn’t want to be carrying an empty cup for the remainder of the race, but equally hate littering. More importantly, I wasn’t sure that having water sloshing around inside my already turbulent gut was the best move.

Nevertheless, I was extremely dry-mouthed, so I decided to risk it. After all, what was the worst that could happen?

I therefore approached the volunteer who was also a paramedic (I figured there was no harm in acquainting myself with the medical team now, to save time-consuming introductions later), and went to grab the cup she was holding out.

Unfortunately, I must have grabbed a little too hard (through fear of dropping it), because, well, I crushed it – and soaked her. I tried to apologise as I ran away, and think I heard her shout that she was fine, but I still felt bad. I made a mental note to try and collapse in front of a different paramedic later on.

In the build-up to the race, I had gathered as much advice as I could, and one tip which had stuck with me throughout, was that it can often help to focus on something, to take your mind off the pain.

I don’t think the lady with the nice bottom, who overtook me between 6k and 7k, will perhaps ever know how inspiring (and timely) her derrière was, but by focusing all my attention on its glorious pertness, I managed to struggle my way past the 7k and 8k markers, and by that point I felt confident of at least finishing.

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Bottom watching

In fact, when I reached the 9k milestone, and a cursory glance at my watch informed me that I was still – just about – on course for a sub-50 finish, I suddenly became all (uncharacteristically) confident.

No sooner had I thought this, however, it dawned on me that I still had to go back over the massive bloody railway bridge from earlier (the route having looped around Bradwall, to finish almost back where we started). If I thought the bridge had been daunting from the other direction, now it was positively terrifying:

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Look, it seemed steeper at the time.

All I could think of, as I approached it with my gangly legs of sponge, was the ‘Travelator’ from popular ’90’s show Gladiators, and I just prayed that I wouldn’t face-plant mid-climb, then slide my way back down – as so many contestants had done. When I had compiled my ten-stage list, I had never factored ‘facial road rash’ as a potential hazard. Damn.

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Thankfully, there were some marshals stationed on the bridge, offering words of encouragement, and once I had plodded over the crest, I knew it was a straight run to the finish line – where my family were hopefully waiting to greet me. I didn’t dare risk another glance at my watch, so I just gathered together what little energy I had left, and went for it.

Then, continuing my delirious ‘90s flashback, I started thinking of the film Memphis Belle, and that final scene where John Lithgow (and some other actors I don’t remember), are waiting for the heroes to return, but the longer that time passes with no sign of the plane, the more their hopes dwindle. Would my wife and boys be at the finish line, with binoculars, wondering if I had enough fuel to get me home, slowly accepting with each passing second, that Daddy might never return?

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Then, there I was. There it was. The gloriously camp inflatable finish line (sadly, not the only squidgy yellow monstrosity on display that day), and a crowd of people cheering me home. I couldn’t make out any of my family, but to be honest I was too busy concentrating on not tripping up and making a complete tit of myself in front of a few hundred people.

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I am delighted to confirm (for those who don’t already know), that I finished the race in 81st place, and with a time of 49:16, which puts me very firmly in the ‘Delighted’ category.

I wearily – but gratefully – collected my medal and goodie bag (which bizarrely included a drinks bottle, bandana, and a loaf of bread – no, me neither) and posed for a celebratory photograph with my beaming boys.

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I know many ‘serious’ runners may well scoff at my achievement, and perhaps rightly so, but I am incredibly proud of completing a 10k without any major incident, and in a respectable time to boot. It was exhausting, painful, gruelling, horrible, and I hated every damn second of it.

Which makes it all the more confusing/frustrating, that I quite fancy doing it again.

 

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Blog In Play, Now!

Ok, this week’s entry is about football, but not in the way you might expect, and certainly not in a way that should discourage those who don’t like football from reading on.

Essentially, whilst wondering what this week’s blog could be about (I had a few ideas, but the kids haven’t provided any comedic material of late), I noticed something of potential online.

Then, when I’d finished watching that, I spotted a post on the Facebook group ‘The Football Conference North’ (the league my beloved Stockport County appear to now be trapped in for all eternity), and it really made me chuckle.

Essentially, this Facebook group is a vehicle for fans of teams in the Vanarama National League North (sounds prestigious, doesn’t it?) to rip the piss out of each other as much as is humanly possible. That may not have been the original intention of the group’s creators, but that’s certainly what everyone seems to use it for – often with hilarious consequences, but for all the wrong reasons.

This form of online abuse is widely referred to as ‘banter’ (or ‘bantz’ for the fully lobotomised), and generally involves some window-licker posting an inflammatory comment, with the sole intention of getting a rise from fans of opposing teams. Such behaviour is known as ‘fishing’, or, more commonly, ‘being a twat for the sake of it’, and there are usually dozens of people queuing up to take the bait.

Unfortunately, being as anally retentive about spelling and grammar as I am, reading posts in this group can sometimes be a struggle (there are actually people out there, who wouldn’t know an apostrophe if it came up and clamped itself firmly onto their ball’s – yes, that was deliberate), but the same can be said for most of the communities on Facebook, and this particular group’s one saving grace, is that it is just so damn entertaining at times.

Anyway, the post which made me chuckle earlier this week, was from a Tamworth fan (who, in fairness, seemed a decent enough chap), and was along the lines of ‘Watch out Brackley, the Lambs are coming to get you Tuesday night…’ – this being a reference to Tamworth (The Lambs) travelling to play Brackley on Tuesday evening.

Now, it wasn’t the prospect of Tamworth beating Brackley away from home which tickled me so much (although, invariably, whenever someone shares a pre-match boast like this, it almost always comes back to bite them firmly in the arse – and, sure enough, the game ended 0-0), but more the mental image of a lamb being used as an instrument of terror.

Of all the football club nicknames, surely ‘The Lambs’ is one of the least frightening? For the same reason, you tend to find that supporters of clubs like Norwich City (‘The Canaries’), Bournemouth (‘The Cherries’), and Morecambe (‘The Shrimps’), avoid using their nicknames to intimidate opposing fans of teams like Sheffield United (‘The Blades’), Hull City (‘The Tigers’), and Millwall (‘The Fucking Lunatics’).

Which got me thinking – if tomorrow afternoon’s fixtures in County’s league, were decided purely on the respective nicknames of each club, which teams would come out on top, and would it be worth sticking a few quid on? So, without further ado….

VANARAMA NATIONAL LEAGUE NORTH FIXTURES

SATURDAY 9th SEPTEMBER 2017

               AFC TELFORD             v           HARROGATE TOWN

Telford: Here come the Bucks!

Harrogate: Your nickname is ‘The Books’? Like in a library?

Telford: No, B-U-C-K-S. As in the male of certain species, like deer, and rabbits.

Harrogate: Hardly intimidating though, is it?

Telford: Well, deer have antlers, so they can do some damage. Why, what’s your nickname?

Harrogate: Town.

Telford: Town? Not very imaginative. Besides, there’s nothing scary about a town.

Harrogate: You never been to Blackpool then?

Telford: Fair point.

RESULT: HARROGATE WIN

         ALFRETON TOWN       v       GAINSBOROUGH TRINITY

Alfreton: Hi, we’re the ‘Reds’.

Gainsborough: Boring. We’re the ‘Holy Blues’.

Alfreton: Ah, so a battle of the colours. Well, clearly red is more menacing than blue.

Gainsborough: Why? Blue can be scary too. It’s associated with cold things.

Alfreton: And Smurfs. Besides, red is associated with heat and danger, and look how menacing the bearded fella on our badge is. That’s some scary shit, right there. Plus, ‘Holy’ Blues? Where did you get that from – Robin?! ‘Holy Blues, Batman, it’s Gainsborough!’ 

RESULT: ALFRETON WIN

          BLYTH SPARTANS          v            BOSTON UNITED

Blyth: Behold, the mighty Spartans! One of the most feared armies throughout the whole of history! 

Boston: Shit. 

RESULT: BLYTH WIN

BRADFORD PARK AVENUE     v    NUNEATON TOWN

BPA: Ok, before you say anything, we’re well-aware that our nickname isn’t very original.

Nuneaton: Why, what is it?

BPA: The Avenue. What’s yours?

Nuneaton: The Boro.

BPA: Oh. Equally unoriginal then. Hey, why does your club badge have a bear slow-dancing with a cactus?

Nuneaton: Piss off.

RESULT: DRAW

          CURZON ASHTON   v   FC UNITED OF MANCHESTER

Curzon: No doubt about it, we win the most original nickname – ‘The Nash’ – beat that!

FCUM:  Might be original, but it’s not exactly intimidating, is it?

Curzon: Kate Nash was pretty scary. Why, what’s your nickname?

FCUM: ‘The Reds’.

Curzon: Like Man United?

FCUM: Not really. They’re the ‘Red Devils’. We dropped the devil part.

Curzon: At least devils are evil.

FCUM: Go on then, what’s a Nash?

Curzon: It harks back to a third team that used to play in our town.

FCUM: Your nickname relates to a different team?

Curzon: …..

RESULT: DRAW

               DARLINGTON              v              LEAMINGTON

Darlington: Darlo, Darlo, Darlo!

Leamington: Is that your nickname?

Darlington: Well, no. It’s ‘The Quakers’ really.

Leamington: Like the oats?

Darlington: Spelled the same, but the nickname actually comes from our original links to the ‘Religious Society of Friends’.

Leamington: Boring. We’re the ‘Brakes’ – named after the Lockheed brake manufacturing company. That’s more exciting.

Darlington: Does that not imply you’re slow, though? You should have paired up with the company that makes accelerator pedals. Or horns. Or spoilers. It’s hardly intimidating.

Leamington: What, and a religious organisation dedicated to equality and peace is?

Darlington: Touché. But why is there a windmill on your badge?

Leamington: It refers to the 17th Century Chesterton Windmill, which is actually a Grade I listed building on the outskirts of Leamington, just off the M40. Depending on whether you’re travelling Northbound or Southbound, you’ll want to come off at either junction 13 or 14…. 

RESULT: DRAW

    NORTH FERRIBY UNITED          v         CHORLEY

Chorley: Ha! The Villagers?! Really?!

North Ferriby: And what’s so intimidating about a fucking Magpie?

Chorley: They steal stuff – like three points.

North Ferriby: That’s just a myth.

Chorley: Plus, they bring good luck – like three points.

North Ferriby: Also a myth.

Chorley: Magpies! Magpies! Magpies!

North Ferriby: Oh, what’s the point….

RESULT: CHORLEY WIN

              SALFORD CITY          v             BRACKLEY TOWN

Salford: Go on then, give us a laugh.

Brackley: The Saints.

Salford: Isn’t that Southampton’s nickname?

Brackley: Hang on, Chorley were here a minute ago, and they’re called the Magpies.

Salford: True, but we’re not playing Chorley. Anyway, our nickname is definitely unique: ‘The Ammies’.

Brackley: Surprised it’s not ‘The Beeb’, to be honest. What does ‘The Ammies’ even mean?

Salford: It comes from our old name of ‘Salford Amateurs’.

Brackley: Amateurs aren’t intimidating.

Salford: And Saints are?

Brackley: You should have gone with ‘The Lions’. At least then your badge would have made sense.

RESULT: DRAW

                SOUTHPORT     v      KIDDERMINSTER HARRIERS

Kidderminster: Harriers are deadly birds of prey, or fighter jets. Either way, we win.

Southport: Thought you called yourselves ‘Kiddy’?

Kidderminster: Not for the purposes of this, we don’t. Remind us of your nickname again?

Southport: ‘The Sandgrounders’.

Kidderminster: Ooooh, we’re quaking!

Darlington: Huh? What?

Kidderminster: Never mind.

RESULT: KIDDERMINSTER WIN

                TAMWORTH           v           SPENNYMOOR TOWN

Tamworth: Ok, let’s get this over with, shall we? Yes, we’re ‘The Lambs’, the least intimidating of all the nicknames in this league.

Spennymoor:  Hahahahahahahahaha! I mean, ours, ‘The Moors’, is pretty shit, but….. hahahahahaha!

RESULT: SPENNYMOOR WIN

                  YORK CITY           v            STOCKPORT COUNTY

York: They’ve saved the best until last – the battle of the giants!

Stockport: Only by Conference North standards. Our big crowds aren’t going to help either of us here.

York: Rubbish. We’ll piss this tinpot league.

Stockport: Yes, so your fans keep reminding us every few minutes. We used to say that, too, and we’ve been in this league a few years now.

York: Not us – we’ll be up by Easter! Anyway, this is all about nicknames, and ‘The Hatters’ is a rubbish one.

Stockport: Coming from ‘The Minstermen’?! Ok, which of the Minstermen are you – Mr Tickle? Mr Bump? Mr Might Realise How Tough This League Is By Christmas?  

RESULT: DRAW

So, there you have it – Eleven matches, eleven predictions. Normally, when I try to predict County games, I’m woefully inaccurate, so let’s see if this system is any better – might even stick a tenner on it, just in case…..

What do you think, Ray Winstone’s massive floating head?

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Now, that’s intimidating.

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Blog Cabin – Part II

Previously, on Confessions of a Middle-Raged Dad….

… erm, this: https://middlerageddad.com/2017/08/18/blog-cabin-part-i

Stop being so fucking lazy, and read it.

 

Tuesday 8th August 2017

Dear Diary,

We had a relatively quiet day today, following the excitement of Warwick Castle, and stayed in the local area.

After a lazy morning, during which the boys were uncharacteristically pleasant to one another whilst sat watching a film, we decided to get some fresh air, and drove to a playground we spotted yesterday in Bidford.

After some fun on the swings with Isaac, and a failed game of ‘Hide and Seek’ – look, it’s difficult to hide a curvaceous 6’3” behind playground equipment – the boys and I then played ‘shop’ on one of the climbing frames. If there was ever any doubt as to which is the more ruthless businessman, Isaac managed to fleece me out of £40 for an imaginary ice cream, after Ollie had served a full meal (including pint) for under a fiver.

However, like all make-believe food, it left me feeling rather hungry, so we came back for dinner, and I’ve just finished washing up – while trying not to look at Broken Britain out of the window, who appears to be sat there, having a fag and scratching her balls.

 

Wednesday 9th August 2017

Dear Diary,

This morning, Isaac took it upon himself to get his own breakfast, which – as you might imagine – consisted of some fresh fruit and a granola bar (otherwise known as a bowl of coco pops, four cookies and several jaffa cakes).

Like all summer holidays in Britain, we had the fire on during breakfast because it was so cold – and then the rain started. Nevertheless, we had already made plans and were not going to be discouraged, so we loaded the car with all the wet weather clothing we could find, and set off for Hatton Country World (which is far less ‘flower show’, and far more ‘adventure playground’, than the name suggests).

We saw some unusual creatures (well, this is the Midlands), and the boys got to hold a big snake – which, because they take after their father, didn’t phase them. Then, after some lunch, they burned all remaining energy in the soft play area, which contained a slide even I didn’t dare attempt.

Despite being exhausted, both kids remained in good spirits, so tonight we risked dining at a nearby pub I had spotted. It was only half a mile away, had a great menu, and dates back to the 13th Century (my general rule for pubs is ‘the older, the better’).

I would say it was nice to get away from ‘meat-head and the two veg’ next door, but it turned out they were in the adjacent room (which I only realised, when full-kit-wanker walked in to ask the waitress – who was taking our order – where he could ‘get beer’, seemingly oblivious to the bar not five feet away).

 

Thursday 10th August 2017

Dear Diary,

This morning, as I washed up our breakfast dishes (Isaac was coaxed into normal cereal today, to avoid the onset of diabetes), I glanced across – out of nothing more than morbid curiosity – to see that next door are now fully embracing their trailer-trash image.

Not only have they sourced a flower pot from somewhere, which they have turned upside down to stub out cigarettes on, but this is surrounded by several cans of cheap lager, and there is a stained duvet hanging over the steps. I bet it wasn’t one of the kids who pissed the bed. To make matters worse, they either brought the flower pot with them, or nicked it from another caravan (I’m not sure which is worse).  They have now achieved the perfect landscape garden for the modern chav.

We popped to Evesham today, which started out nicely with a spot of lunch, before deteriorating into another example of people spoiling a beautiful part of the country. Not only did I walk past a topless man spitting in the street (which, unless tuberculosis is still rife in Warwickshire, was entirely unnecessary), I then witnessed the very best and worst of society in one incident.

There was a mob of unwashed skanks (for there is no alternative description) sat on a bench eating pasties, with an army of children between them. The one I assumed to be Lead Skank, was the sort of mother who has five kids from twelve different fathers.

Suddenly, a smiling lady (who stood out from the crowd, because she seemed happy and pleasant), spotted the youngest of Lead Skank’s brood, bent slightly as she passed, and tickled the baby’s foot while making cooing noises.

Now, unless a stranger tickles your infant with some form of sharp weapon, or their genitals, I would suggest barking ‘Fuck off!’ is somewhat extreme. I was tempted to go over and tickle Lead Skank’s foot, just to see what her reaction would be, but didn’t fancy contracting rabies (even assuming she wasn’t ‘packing heat’).

Since today was easily the best weather so far, we decided to brave the swimming pool when we got back to the campsite. The brochure claims the pool is heated, which is certainly not how I remember it from my youth, but I decided that this was perhaps the one improvement the owners had made, in the intervening twenty-five years.

All I can say is, if they have installed heating, it was either switched off or broken, because in the same way the football pitch had taken me back to the early ’90s a few days ago, the same thing happened the instant my scrotum made contact with the water.  In fact, it wasn’t just my memories, but also the size of my testicles, which were transported back two-and-a-half decades. Think Cadbury’s Mini Eggs, and you’re close.

Through chattering teeth, I tried to persuade Ollie that the water was lovely, and ‘isn’t as bad once you get in’ (because you lose the feeling from your waist down), but I think even he could tell I was lying. Sure enough, while he eventually got in, he managed about three widths before crying to get out.

Isaac, on the other hand, was initially apprehensive, but quickly became fearless, and insisted on jumping in from the side. Something which seemed like a great idea (and photo opportunity) at the time, until his third jump ended with a knee to my throat – meaning that I now had a larger lump in my oesophagus, than I did in my shorts.

 

Friday 11th August 2017

Dear Diary,

For our last day, we decided to visit Stratford-upon-Avon – and what’s the first thing you associate with Stratford? That’s right – the beach! Based on a recommendation, we parked our car at a Recreation Ground on the outskirts, and, sure enough, they have built a beach. Presumably, this is so the locals don’t feel they have to travel seventy-odd miles to their nearest coastline, to experience the ‘joy’ of getting sand in every crevice.

In truth, one of the main reasons I pushed for a holiday in the Cotswolds, was not for the nostalgia of re-visiting my childhood, but because the one thing you are sure to avoid in the middle of the country, is fucking beaches.

Nevertheless, I managed to enjoy watching the boys play in the sand (from a safe distance of fifty feet, with a cup of tea and a flapjack), and we then headed into Stratford itself – via a ‘foot ferry’ over the Avon – for a spot of lunch.

We also visited Shakespeare’s birthplace (because it’s obligatory), and I couldn’t help but wonder if maybe, one day, people will flock from all over the world to congregate at the site of my birth (although Stepping Hill Hospital, whilst perfectly adequate, is not quite as picturesque).

This evening, we decided to treat ourselves to a Chinese takeaway – but even this became a drama, when Ollie demanded sweetcorn with his dish, and the ‘Jasmine Palace’ didn’t have any.

I tried to reason with him (starting with the suggestion that he could perhaps cope without sweetcorn, and, when that didn’t work, progressing to the argument that sweetcorn is fucking pointless anyway), but he was adamant, so I phoned the nearby shop to see if they were still open.

The good news was, they were still open. The bad news was, in one minute they wouldn’t be (it was now 7.59pm). I quickly tried to calculate the speed I would need to drive at to reach them on the other side of the village, and, having arrived at the conclusion *fucking fast*, I persuaded the shop owner to stay open for just two minutes more.

I threw Ollie in the car (literally – this was his fault), and screamed there at *no more than the speed limit*, to be presented by the legs of a shop assistant showing under the shutters, and a hand offering a tin of sweetcorn. I laced her palm with gold, and placed a gentle kiss of thanks on each of her knees.

The worst part was, the whole bizarre exchange was witnessed by the queue at the chip shop next door, including – to my horror – full kit wanker. Perfect.

We raced back to the takeaway, to be greeted by one of the other customers smirking at me. I’m not sure why he found my stress and misery so amusing, but the Gods of Karma must have been watching, because shortly afterwards he collected his order and, while descending the steps to his car, promptly dropped everything. Everything. As the rest of the customers looked on in sympathy, while he forlornly scraped his dinner from the pavement, I waited for him to glance up, and then replicated his smirk.

When we finally got back, Ollie decided he didn’t really like sweetcorn after all.

 

Saturday 12th August 2017

Dear Diary,

The car is loaded, and it’s time to go home.

Part of me is sad to leave – as is always the case at the end of a holiday – but I have just looked over, and Jabba The Hutt is currently slithering around packing her own car, with a fag in her mouth, a crate of Strongbow under one arm, and at least three kids under the other (to be honest, there may be more stowed away among the folds of skin).

Perhaps going home isn’t such a bad idea after all.

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