Swings and RoundaBlogs

I grew up in a village called Poynton, which is roughly equidistant between Macclesfield and Stockport, in the County of East Cheshire (in case you aren’t familiar with this part of the country, and were desperate to place it geographically).

In terms of East Cheshire (bear with me here, this is going somewhere), Poynton is very much in the Far East of the County – which is interesting, because like the Far East, we also have a number of Chinese eateries, a stockpile of biological weapons, and, until a few years ago, parents were restricted to having just one child to combat our chronic over-crowding*

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*only one of these facts is actually true.

Anyway, I spent the first eighteen years of my life growing up in Poynton, returned for a year after Law School, and, despite now living in Sandbach, I commute back to the village of my childhood every day for work. In short, I have spent more time in Poynton than anywhere else on Earth.

I therefore feel suitably qualified – no, entitled – to state that Poynton is, for want of a better phrase, a bit peculiar. And this comes from someone who lives in Sandbach, a town with plenty of its own quirks (and nutcases); so when I say that Poynton is ‘a bit peculiar’, I mean it’s really fucking peculiar.

Now, I need to be careful, since I plan to work in Poynton for the foreseeable future (until I win the lottery or secure a lucrative book deal – and the odds of each happening are roughly the same), plus half of the office lives here; but, so long as I choose my words carefully, it should be fine. Besides, it’s not like anyone reads these blog entries anyway.

So, while Sandbach and Poynton have many similarities (the most obvious of which being that both are clearly desperate to be the next Alderley Edge, such is the current upsurge in trendy wine bars and restaurants); the main difference between the two is that Poynton also ‘boasts’ what must be one of the most bizarre traffic systems in the country.

In 2011, Poynton was the subject of a major redevelopment, partly to deal with the terrible congestion caused by our position on the main road between the northern powerhouses of Stockport and Macclesfield (there was a time, in the not too distant past, when you couldn’t buy a fancy armchair and a hat in the same day, without travelling between the two), and partly for aesthetic reasons because, well, Poynton was fucking ugly.

If you don’t believe me, here is a picture of Poynton taken shortly before the redevelopment, c.2009:

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And this is what Poynton looks like now:

Quite the change, I am sure you will agree.

Ok, the first picture is actually of war-torn Syria, but I decided to use that photograph instead, partly for comedic purposes (not that there is anything even remotely amusing about the situation in Syria), and partly because the Poynton Illuminati appear to have erased all images of the village pre-2011, so I couldn’t find anything online to illustrate my point (if you have ever seen the film Hot Fuzz, it’s a little like that here).

In truth, Poynton didn’t look that bad before; but, aside from some pretty shoddy paving work (which looks like it was installed by The Chuckle Brothers – RIP, Barry), I have to admit it’s actually quite pretty now.

The problem, however, is that part of the redevelopment was to turn Poynton into a ‘Shared Space Village’, which is hippy-lingo for ‘hey, let’s all just get along, man’. Essentially, it means that cars, pedestrians, wildlife, and even Manchester United fans all have equal rights, so everyone is expected to be thoroughly British and simply ‘give way to all’. 

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The problem, however, is that whilst the intention was to create a pleasant, friendly traffic system based on mutual love and respect, if absolutely everyone adopted the ‘no, please, after you’ approach, then no one would move for fear of being the first to do so (because, if you ignore the traffic rules in Poynton, you are immediately chased from the village by an angry mob wielding pitchforks).

As it happens, because the system is so poorly explained to outsiders, they don’t tend to give way when they ‘should’, which makes the locals very angry indeed. Rather ironically, therefore, instead of introducing a friendly shared space, Poynton now features one of the angriest junctions in the world. I should know, because my office overlooks it, and there is an incident of road rage every four to five minutes. And, when all is said and done, there is very little shared space about a white van driver screaming ‘FUCKING IDIOT!’ at a pensioner.

Apparently, the system is based on a Swedish design, and this is often used to justify its introduction, as if the Swedes are the envy of the world when it comes to traffic layouts. Admittedly, I’ve never been to Sweden, so perhaps they are, but when the only other Swedish creations that spring to mind are ABBA, Ikea, and, erm, Stockholm Syndrome*, I’ll reserve my judgment for now.

(*Oh, and Volvo. I do quite like Volvo.)

Anyway, whilst shared spaces might be fine for the likes of Björn Borg and Ulrika Jonsson, in my humble opinion the traffic system of Poynton is fundamentally flawed in three distinct ways:

Firstly, I do not know many Swedish people, but they have always struck me as a rather amiable nation, less inclined to drive angrily at pedestrians while beeping their horn and screaming obscenities. In fact, I suspect the only time a Swede has ever given someone the horn, was when I last watched Britt Ekland in The Man with the Golden Gun.

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In contrast, just in case I haven’t made it clear already, Poynton is generally filled with angry drivers, beeping their horns and screaming obscenities. I’m not suggesting all of those drivers live in the village, but one of them will certainly pass through it every few minutes.

Secondly, whilst everyone is supposed to give way, the opposite actually happens; because if the drivers assume pedestrians will wait, but the pedestrians think they have right of way and can simply walk into the road, no one even pauses. They just go. As a result, not a day goes by without someone either very nearly being hit, or very actually being hit.

Thirdly, and perhaps most uniquely to Poynton, we have the pièce de résistance of our ridiculous shared space scheme, the ‘double roundel’:

Now, this may look like a double roundabout, where everyone could quite safely negotiate their way through the village by simply always giving way to their right (as with every other roundabout in the country), but the Poynton powers that be decided our ‘roundels’ would work differently, with everyone giving way to everyone else.

Again, I suppose this could work wonderfully in practice, if all drivers were indeed courteous and patient, but aside from the fact most drivers are anything but courteous and patient, the main problem with our system is that no one from outside of Poynton has the first fucking clue how it works.

So, unless they happen to have studied our unique traffic system in advance (and, I don’t know about you, but if I am driving somewhere new for the first time, I almost never Google ‘do they have any weird traffic systems I should know about?’ beforehand), they arrive expecting motorists to give way to the right like they do everywhere else. Again, this works fine if they only encounter fellow outsiders doing the same thing, because everyone is giving way to their right, but it only takes one self-righteous Poyntonian to royally fuck everything up and cause a scene.

What I witness several times a day, is an outsider (and I use the term ‘outsider’ endearingly, because I happen to sympathise with them) approaching the first roundel (let’s pause here, to acknowledge what a truly ridiculous word ‘roundel’ is), expecting the traffic from their right to stop. Unfortunately, if the driver to their right happens to be a local, they will approach the roundel with an indignant ‘EVERYONE MUST GIVE WAY TO ME!’ attitude, and will simply drive out, beeping their horn at anyone who gets in their way.

The conversation which follows usually goes like this:

Outsider: “It’s my right of way, dickhead!”

Local: “Not here it’s not! This is a shared space! Read the signs!”

Outsider: “What does that even mean?!”

Local: “It means you don’t have to give way to the right!”

Outsider: “What, unlike every other roundabout in the country?!”

Local: “Ah, but this isn’t a roundabout, it’s a roundel!”

Outsider: “A what?!”

Local: “A roundel. It looks like a roundabout, but it works differently. In fact, if there’s no traffic, you can just drive straight over it, there’s no need to go round it.”

Outsider: “But can you always see if there’s traffic coming?”

Local: “No, most of us just drive across them anyway, then beep and swear at people like you who don’t understand.”

Outsider: “Of course we don’t understand! How can we possibly be expected to know all this from a sign that just says ‘Shared Space Village’?”

 Local: “You just should. Shared space means give way to all.”

Outsider: “But you didn’t give way to me!”

Local: “Because I live here!”

Outsider: “So the sign should say ‘Give way to all, unless you live here, in which case just drive’?”

Local: “It’s a shared space!”

Outsider: “Stop saying ‘shared space’!”

Local: “Roundels!”

Outsider: “You’re a fucking roundel!”

Of course, the conversation is never that lengthy, because the drivers have usually moved on after the initial ‘dickhead’ exchange, beeping their horns angrily as they zoom away, both adamant they were in the right.

Then, because they are so incensed, they speed away from the junction – at the precise moment a pedestrian steps out into the road without warning (expecting all vehicles to stop for them), and they promptly end up thirty feet away from their belongings.

Still, so long as it works for the Swedes….

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Thanks for reading x

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Charlie and the Blogolate Factory

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the recent trend of giving up vices in aid of charity, such as last months’ ‘Dry January’ (no alcohol), ‘Veganuary’ (no meat, fish or animal products) and ‘Januhairy’ (women not shaving their legs and unmentionables).

I also mentioned how myself, my wife, and our two boys are taking part in the British Heart Foundation’s ‘Dechox Challenge’ this year, which means we are giving up all forms of chocolate for the entire month of February.

Originally, this was the boys’ idea, but my wife and I have decided to participate as well, for a few reasons:

  1. To support Ollie and Isaac in their month-long challenge, because neither will find it very easy, and if they are making the sacrifice, so should we;
  2. To see whether we too can make it through an entire month without chocolate; because my wife is a self-confessed chocoholic, I cannot be apart from chocolate hobnobs for more than a few days without developing an embarrassing twitch, and those fuckers at Tesco currently have Terry’s Chocolate Oranges (the very pinnacle of confectionery, in my opinion) for just a quid;
  3. To see if we lose any weight, or notice any other health benefits;
  4. To raise money for a very good cause (and, should you feel like chipping in, the boys have their very own Just Giving page: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/ollieandisaac);
  5. If my wife and I continued to eat chocolate throughout February, not only would that be unfair on the boys, but the little gits would no doubt discover our stash and devour it. Far better that we banish all chocolate from our home, to avoid any temptation.

Unfortunately, however, we are just one week in to our challenge, and it’s already going to shit. I must stress that none of us have caved in and eaten any chocolate (I would be far too embarrassed to blog about our failure, if we had lasted less than a week), but there are certain signs already which indicate the impact on our family could be devastating by the end of the month.

Let me explain.

Me

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Firstly, as the patriarchal head of our family unit (even if my wife is the actual boss), I feel it is incumbent on me to set an example to our boys, and maintain a façade of chocolate defiance* – even if I am secretly thinking about chocolate hobnobs every six seconds (thereby relegating thinking about sex into second place, in the old ‘what men think about’ league table).

*note to self: consider ‘Chocolate Defiance’ as a potential band name, if you ever get around to learning an instrument.

The problem, however, is not that I fear my resolve will waiver, and I will succumb to the temptations of chocolate by the end of the month, but more that I have the worst memory, and may consume some purely by accident.

For example, on Sunday, just three days into February, I went to buy a nice breakfast for the family from Waitrose, and, having picked up croissants for Ollie (his favourite), I then – without thinking – grabbed some pain au chocolat for Isaac (his favourite). It was not until I got home that I realised my mistake, much to the amusement of my wife, who may or may not have called me an ‘epic bellend’.

This was just three days into the challenge. As one of my more sarcastic colleagues informed me when I told them what I had done the following day (whilst offering around the unopened pain au chocolat), ‘the clue is in the name – it even has the word chocolate written on the packaging’. Of course, I tried to pedantically argue that, actually, it has the word chocolat on the packaging, and since I don’t speak French, I had no idea what this meant when I bought them, but no one was falling for it. I was a laughing stock.

I am therefore extremely concerned that I will inadvertently find myself half way through a delicious brownie, chocolate doughnut, or some other delight by month end, before realising my mistake and spluttering the contents of my mouth everywhere.

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My Wife

Now, I need to point out here, that this is the next part of the blog dealing with my wife’s love of chocolate, hence the heading ‘My Wife’ (which, in hindsight, might look a little like a caption to the gif above it, but that was never my intention – mostly because I value my genitals too much).

I don’t think my wife will mind me saying (which almost certainly means she will), that her love of chocolate is only matched by her love of shopping, Dick Van Dyke, and me injuring myself in the most ridiculous of ways.

I have no doubt that she will remember to avoid eating chocolate (because her memory, common sense, and knowledge of French is far better than mine), but I do worry that the lack of snack options of an evening may have an adverse effect on her mood – which, after a day of dealing with brat children (she is a school teacher at an all-boys secondary school), followed by an evening of dealing with ours, usually means she often craves Prosecco, chocolate, or both.

Ollie

 

Next, we have our eldest son, Ollie, who isn’t as bad when it comes to chocolate addiction as his younger sibling (we’ll come to him in a second), but the only dessert he will eat when we go to a restaurant is either chocolate brownie or chocolate fudge cake, both of which he is currently forbidden from. Which means our family meal on Sunday (for my birthday) will be a complete disappointment to him, the poor lad.

Isaac

 

Last, but by no means least, is the feral wolf child we refer to as Isaac.

To say Isaac adores all forms of chocolate would be an understatement, and the fact he even agreed to this challenge in the first place, is down to one of two factors:

  1. He didn’t realise it meant all chocolate, so he is not only denied chocolate bars until March, but also chocolate cake, chocolate ice cream and hot chocolate (which comprises his four staple food groups);
  2. He wasn’t listening properly.

Whatever the reason, if I was concerned about the lack of chocolate affecting my wife’s mood, this is nothing compared to the change in Isaac since last Thursday. He cannot sleep, he is (even more) confrontational, and he cries a lot. Admittedly, he was like that before, but never as bad as he is now, and his behaviour is like that of a withdrawing junkie going cold turkey. I swear I saw him shaking uncontrollably on Tuesday evening.

I have come to realise that chocolate is like Valium to Isaac – it keeps him sedated and able to function as a part of normal society. Without it, we might as well release him back into the wild woods from whence he came. And we still have three weeks to go.

I’m just grateful February is three days shorter than most of the other months to give us that little fighting chance of seeing this thing through.

Thanks for reading – wish us luck x

 

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Blog Satisfaction

Earlier this week, I had my annual ‘performance appraisal’ at work, which, having been with my current employer for a little over twelve years, meant two things:

  1. This was the eleventh appraisal I have participated in, since I started working here in the latter stages of 2006 (we missed a year);
  2. It was the eleventh time I have been asked to fill out the same cringey appraisal form in advance of the meeting, and therefore the eleventh time I have offered almost exactly the same responses as a result.

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It’s not that I am necessarily averse to performance analysis, and I do acknowledge that it can be beneficial for some employees to assess both themselves and their role within a company – as well as offering feedback to their employer – but I just find the whole process extremely awkward and uncomfortable.

This is by no means a criticism of my boss, as I suspect he sometimes finds the appraisal process as tiresome as I do (particularly now that our firm has grown in size, and I for one keep offering the same tedious responses every year), but the only thing I detest more than discussing my strengths – I’m not really one to blow my own trumpet – is airing any issues I might have.

I hate any form of confrontation at the best of times (just ask my wife), so even though my boss would never see a grievance as anything other than an opportunity to address and resolve the issue (well, within reason), I would personally find it very difficult to raise and discuss, and I much prefer to bottle things up and stay quiet instead. I’m extremely passive like that, so even though it means I rarely get what I want, and my career hasn’t progressed much in over a decade, I do tend to avoid any unwanted disputes (which makes my chosen profession as a litigator all the more confusing).

I am like this most of the time anyway, so it’s not necessarily a work-related issue, and I accept it makes me sound weak; but I’m nearly 39 now, and too old to change my ways by suddenly becoming opinionated and vocal. If anything, it’s sheer laziness on my part, as I just want an easy life, and have very little ambition left these days. Well, apart from writing, which – as you may have gathered – is my main passion.

Anyway, partly because I never really express my true feelings or concerns; partly because I often see this blog as an opportunity to vent my spleen at you fine people (many of whom are strangers and can’t answer back); but mostly because I hope it will be somewhat amusing and I have fuck all else to write about this week, I have decided to repeat some sections of my recent appraisal form below, with what I wish I had said at the time. Just don’t tell my boss.

Enjoy.

Appraisal – 22nd January 2019

Date of last appraisal: How should I fucking know? It’s not like I keep a record of this. I can barely remember what I had for dinner last night.

State your understanding of your main duties and responsibilities:

  1. I think I often provide light relief for my colleagues (not sexual relief, mind);
  2. Tea and coffee making;
  3. Organising work nights out;
  4. Legal stuff.

Has the time since your last appraisal been good/bad/satisfactory for you, and why?

Hmm, that depends really.

Some days I get bogged down in the sheer futility of it all, and question my place – not just within the firm, but in the universe as a whole.

I only really like three of my clients, which means I dislike 97.3% of my current caseload, and that makes waking up in the morning a struggle to say the least. Which is odd, because Isaac usually has us up by 5.30am anyway.

I hate my commute, and I have more chance of finding Lord Lucan each morning than a fucking parking space, but I do like most of my colleagues. I’m not saying which ones I don’t like, as you’ll probably get us all together to discuss the issue, and I’d rather shave my gentleman’s area with a breadknife.

Looking back, what do you feel you have done well?

My tea making is impeccable, and I honestly believe my coffee is getting better by the day.

My organisation of work nights out is pretty impressive (if we forget that time I spent the drinks kitty on Jagerbombs, because I was so pissed I forgot everyone’s order when I got to the bar).

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I now have a better understanding of which ties go with which shirts, and that it is ok to sometimes mix colours up a bit.

What would you like to improve upon?

I would like to be a better husband and father sometimes.

If I could shave another minute off my 5k time at Parkrun, that would be nice.

I need to eat slower, as I often find that I get indigestion and heartburn after meals.

I could probably recycle more and use less plastic (as could we all).

What elements of work do you find most difficult?

Just getting through each day, frankly.

Also, I could do without Julie’s constant sexual advances*

*I’ve disguised Linda’s real name to preserve her anonymity.

What could be introduced to improve your day?

We could turn the meeting room into a bar?

Nap breaks

‘Strippers Friday’

What do you see as major challenges to our profession?

The Government

Brexit

Do you have any idea about how we can overcome those changes / challenges?

If I knew that, I’d be running the country (which, incidentally, I think I would be fucking awesome at, and I’m not ruling it out).

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What training do you think would benefit you over the next year?

Mostly cardio-vascular, but a little weight-training on the arms wouldn’t go amiss. They look like two matchmakers (white chocolate, obvs).

And finally, what do you consider to be your biggest achievement in the past year?

That one time I ‘almost’ fit in the tea/coffee cabinet 

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***

NOW do you see why I don’t give my honest opinion (or even the first thing which pops into my head) when I have an appraisal?

Thanks for reading x

 

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Bloggy Kids

‘THE SCHOOL RUN’

A Short Play

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Dramatis Personae:

‘Daddy’ 

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A tall, good-looking man, who is struggling with the pressures of early middle-age, and who regularly overuses the word ‘fuck’.

‘Ollie’

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An eight-year-old boy, wiry, over-emotional at best.

‘Isaac’

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Ollie’s younger brother, four. A feral wolf child, with the face and hair of a pretty little girl, but the empty black soul of a malevolent demon.

***

Narrator:  The following play is based on real-life events, which occurred in a small town called Sandbach, in January 2019.

 

ACT I

[The lights come up on a Living Room. Daddy enters stage right, wearing nothing but an ill-fitting towel. He is wet, and the impression is that he has just exited the shower. He looks harassed and hurried]

Daddy:  Why are neither of you ready yet?!

Ollie:     I’m ready!

Daddy:  You’re not wearing socks.

Ollie:     Oh, yeah.

Daddy:  And you’re still watching that idiot play FIFA on YouTube. For the final time, turn it off. I said I wanted you both dressed and ready by the time I got out of the shower. Don’t do this to me again!

Isaac:     Do what?

Daddy:   Get me stressed and make us late.

Isaac:     Can I have more cereal?

Daddy:  No. You’ve already had two massive bowls and we don’t have enough time or milk. We’re leaving the house in less than ten minutes and I have no clothes on yet. Do you want me to do the school run in just this towel?

Isaac:      YES!

Daddy:   Shut up. I’m going for a shave, and I want you both ready to walk out of the door by the time I come back downstairs.

Ollie:       Ok.

[Daddy quickly exits stage left, clutching the small towel at his waist to save exposing himself as he takes the stairs three at a time. Both boys remain motionless, with Ollie staring at a laptop screen, and Isaac watching Scooby Doo on the television]

***

 

ACT II

[The lights come back up on the Living Room. Both boys are in exactly the same position as they were at the end of Act I. Daddy rushes in stage left, now wearing a suit, and hurriedly straightening his tie]

 

Daddy:  What the HELL?! Ollie, turn that laptop off NOW. Isaac, turn the television off and find your hairbrush. Ollie, put some fu… put some socks on NOW.

Isaac:      I can’t find my hairbrush.

Daddy:   Get Mummy’s instead then.

Isaac:      Ok, Geoff.

Daddy:   Stop calling me Geoff. Ollie, why are you crying?

Ollie:      You shouted at me.

Daddy:   Do you know why?

Ollie:      No. I’ve not done anything wrong!

Daddy:  Really? How about ignoring me and making us late for school yet again? How about not getting dressed before watching those stupid videos on YouTube? How about leaving your cereal bowl there for Isaac to trip over? We have the same conversation every fu…. We have the same conversation every morning, and, for once, I would like to arrive in the school playground without worrying that I might collapse at any given second. Go and get your bags, brush your teeth, get your shoes and coat on, and wait by the front door. We’re leaving in two minutes.

[Ollie runs off stage left, sniffling loudly. Daddy quickly brushes Isaac’s hair, then struggles with an orange ‘bobble’ as he tries to put it into a ponytail. At one point, when Isaac isn’t looking, he silently screams ‘FUCK!’, then punches the sofa next to him. He rubs his knuckles, evidently in some pain]

Daddy:   Right, that’ll have to do.

Isaac:     Does it look ok?

Daddy:  Sure. Now, go downstairs, put your shoes and coat on, brush your teeth, and wait by the front door.

Isaac:     Ok, Geoff.

[Isaac leaves stage left, followed shortly after by Daddy, who is still rubbing his knuckles]

***

 

ACT III

[The lights come up on an entrance hall and front door. Both boys are now wearing coats. Daddy is putting his shoes on]

 

Daddy:   Right, have you both brushed your teeth?

Boys:      Yes

Daddy:   Both of you?

Boys:      Yes!

Isaac:    Actually, I haven’t.

Daddy:  Do them. Now.

[Isaac dashes to the side of the stage]

Daddy:   Ollie, have you got your swimming kit?

Ollie:      Yes.

Daddy:   And your £1 for swimming?

Ollie:     Yes.

Daddy:  Guitar?

Ollie:      Yes.

Daddy:   Drinks bottle?

Ollie:      Here.

Daddy:    What about the permission slip for your school trip?

Ollie:      Hey, that rhymes!

Daddy:   Shut up. Do you have your permission slip?

Ollie:       It’s in my pocket.

Daddy:    Is there anything else you need?

Ollie:       My Match Attax.

Daddy:  Balls to your Match Attax. Is there anything else you actually need for school?

Ollie:       No. I have my Match Attax anyway, I was just saying.

[Isaac returns from the side of the stage]

Daddy:   Isaac, have you got your school bag?

Isaac:     Yes, Geoff.

Daddy:   I asked you to stop calling me that. Do you have your drinks bottle?

Isaac:     Yes.

Daddy:   Have you both got your snacks for breaktime?

Boys:      Yes!

Daddy:   And do you remember what you’re having for lunch?

Ollie:      Roast chicken dinner!

Daddy:   Correct.

Isaac:     I’m having a packed lunch.

Daddy:   No, you’re not.

Isaac:     I AM!

Daddy:  No, you’re fuc… you’re having chicken dinner, remember? I asked you half an hour ago and you agreed. You said you love chicken dinner.

Isaac:     I hate chicken dinner! I want a packed lunch!

Daddy:   Tough. We’re late, and I haven’t got time. You’re having chicken dinner.

[Isaac now starts to cry]

Daddy:    Please, Isaac, we discussed this. I don’t have time to make a packed lunch. You told me you love chicken dinner. It’s just chicken, potatoes and veg.

[Isaac suddenly stops crying]

Isaac:     Yay! I love chicken dinner!

Daddy:   You little f-

Ollie:      Can we play a game?

Daddy:   What?! No! We need to leave, NOW.

Ollie:      Can we play a game on the way?

Daddy:   No. Look, I have a splitting headache, I’m stressed, and you two have again been no help whatsoever. He’s been up since 5.45am, you’ve both spent the past hour fighting –

Both:      He started it!

Daddy:   – I don’t care. You’ve both spent the past hour fighting, and I’m sick of it. We’re leaving the house and you’re going to have to run because we’re VERY late.

[Ollie opens the front door]

Ollie:      Erm, Daddy….?

Daddy:   What now?

Ollie:       It’s raining.

Daddy:   Oh, for fu….. right, put your hoods up. I’m just going to swap my coat for the waterproof one.

[Daddy quickly changes coats]

Daddy:    Ok, now can we leave?

Ollie:        Hang on. I can’t find my pound.

Isaac:       I don’t have any shoes on. And I need a wee.

[Daddy starts to turn purple, and the stage lights fade to the sound of a scream]

Daddy:     FUUUUU-

THE END

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Blog Habits

Now that Christmas is well and truly over, and the unadulterated gluttony of the festive season is but a fond memory, everyone appears to be making the same mistake they made this time last year (and the year before that): trying to better themselves.

Very rarely do we stick to our New Year’s Resolutions, unless we set our targets extremely low (for example, I could vow to avoid eating tuna for a whole year, but bearing in mind the mere thought of it makes me want to retch, it’s hardly worth the gesture), and unless the resolution is something meaningful, well, what’s the point?

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Don’t get me wrong, if you have personally set yourself the challenge of losing weight, or giving up smoking, or learning a new language this year, then fair play, I hope you achieve your goals, but experience tell us that the majority will fail long before Easter.

For this reason, it seems many people are being drawn towards month-long gestures of betterment instead, led by a number of different charities up and down the country.

In recent years, we have seen the growth of campaigns like ‘dry January’ (which, having just checked online, now appears to have been adopted – rather appropriately – by Alcohol Change UK, although I’m certain it wasn’t their idea in the first place), but research indicates that a one month change to your alcohol intake has limited health benefits (particularly if you then spend the whole of February pissed to make up for it), and a more long-term alteration to your drinking habits is required.

Whilst I am all for these events in aid of charity, it seems you could now go through an entire calendar year of giving something different up each month, and the nation runs the risk of being swamped with novelty gestures – with the result that they could lose some meaning and significance.

For example, in just this opening month of the year, we Brits can choose to give up booze for ‘Dry January’; all meat, fish and animal products for ‘Veganuary’; and now women are being encouraged to stop shaving their body hair for ‘Januhairy’ (to name but three). As if January wasn’t depressing enough as it is, I’m now expected to make it through to February without any alcohol or meat, while married to Chewbacca*? No thanks.

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*for the record (because I value my genitals) my wife isn’t taking part in Januhairy, and even if she did, I’m sure she wouldn’t have that much body hair, and would still look lovely.

Anyway, that’s just January. We have eleven more months of this shit to get through.

My wife and children informed me the other day that our family will be taking part in ‘Dechox’ next month, which is the abstaining of all chocolate consumption for the whole of February in aid of the British Heart Foundation, and whilst they did say I didn’t have to join them (it is my birthday next month, after all), I have chosen to participate for a few reasons:

  1. I love a bit of chocolate, but feel I can realistically give it up for 28 days without too much trouble;
  2. I would far sooner give up chocolate throughout my birthday month than, say, alcohol (I don’t drink heavily, and not at all during the week, but turning 39 is going to require more than just a glass of wine or two, if I am to going to endure getting older without crying);
  3. The fact that the boys have agreed to take part makes me a very proud father; not least because Isaac, in particular, loves chocolate more than he loves me.

In truth, I don’t think either child fully understands the implications of going an entire month without any chocolate whatsoever; because I have since had to explain that this means no Jaffa Cakes for Isaac (he cried), and Ollie won’t be allowed brownies for dessert when we go out for my birthday meal (his immediate expression was very much one of ‘What the fuck have I agreed to?’)

Still, we have vowed to take part as a family, and complete the month we shall, because it is all for a very good cause: punishing Isaac (oh, yeah, and the British Heart Foundation).

That said, I do feel that some charities are perhaps jumping on the bandwagon slightly, and whilst I cannot deny their intentions are honourable, certain campaigns do strike me as, well, a bit shit frankly. For example (and because I would not want to upset any UK charities who may happen to read this), America is currently in the midst of ‘Walk Your Dog for January’. Now, call me old-fashioned, but shouldn’t most responsible dog owners be walking their pet every month? What’s next, Feed Your Cat for February? Don’t Kick Squirrels for September?

Anyway, because the situation with these ‘novelty months’ is – in my opinion – getting a bit silly, and since I do enjoy a bit of silliness (you may have noticed), I have decided to come up with my own twelve-month plan for the year, in addition to the current Dechox the family and I will be embarking on next month. Feel free to join me for any or all of the following, should you so wish.

‘Jamuary’

I shall be giving up all jam products this month (including doughnuts and cream teas), to raise awareness of underpaid fruit pickers on their ‘gap yah’ from studying the History of Art.

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‘Webuary’

I can’t give up the internet, as I have a weekly online blog to write, but I can promise not to kill any spiders for the whole month (on top of giving up chocolate for ‘Dechox’), which will really piss the wife off, since she hates the hairy little bastards (which is also how we refer to Isaac sometimes).

‘Starch for March’

I originally contemplated omitting all starchy foods from my diet, but then I Googled ‘What food has starch in?’ and, frankly, there’s not a fucking chance. So, because little else rhymes with ‘March’, I have decided to only eat complex carbohydrates for the entire month, in a sort of low-budget Super Size Me remake. In hindsight, I could have just ‘marched’ everywhere, but my commute is a fifty mile round trip, so that’s not an option either.

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‘April Showers’

I shall be giving up all bathing and personal hygiene for the month of April, to save water in aid of Africa (wildly generic, I know, but I’m sticking with it). I would like to place on record that I am personally hoping for an unseasonably inclement April, because if it does start to heat up ready for a glorious summer, I will become highly unpopular (well, more unpopular) at work.

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‘Theresa May’

Throughout May, I shall dress as our Prime Minister and insist on being called ‘Theresa’. Bearing in mind both our boys have their birthday in May, and we have just booked a short city break as a family, this could prove interesting. I am also very aware that Mrs May is not exactly popular of late (or ever), and I may need to hire a bodyguard. Hopefully I can dance my way out of any potentially volatile situations, with some of her signature moves.

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‘No Prune in June’

Rather self-explanatory, I suppose, although I should reveal that I don’t like prunes, and cannot remember the last time I ate one. Essentially, I have decided to give myself an easier month in June, having giving up bathing and then dressing as an elderly crone in the two months prior.

‘Pie July’

To make up for going entirely without prunes the month before (yes, I am well aware that I have just admitted this isn’t really a sacrifice), I will be rewarding myself in July by eating at least one pie per day. To promote a balanced diet, I will try to alternate between meat and fruit fillings.

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‘Auguffs’

I was struggling with an idea for August, so my wife has suggested ‘Auguffs’ – an entire month without breaking wind. To be honest, this one might be my toughest challenge yet.

‘Selltember’

On the basis my wife usually commences Christmas shopping around this time of the year, I vow to sell one item from the house every day throughout the month, to make space for the imminent invasion of toys. I can’t promise any of the items sold will belong to me, however, and a fair proportion of my wife’s shoe collection may mysteriously vanish (as revenge for ‘Auguffs’, and for dismissing my original ‘Sextember’ suggestion).

‘Frocktober’

Not content with spending May disguised as our wizened Prime Minister, I shall once again be embracing my cross-dressing curiosity, by only wearing frocks. Interestingly, this was my wife’s suggestion for the month, which I think says more about her than it does me.

‘Mowvember’

To save electricity, and therefore the planet, I will refrain from mowing our garden for the penultimate month. Admittedly, grass doesn’t tend to grow much by this stage of the year, and in fact ours doesn’t grow at all as we have an artificial lawn, but I think the gesture will be well received.

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‘Deafcember’

To raise awareness of local and national deaf charities, I will spend the final month of the year ignoring anything anyone says to me (my wife believes I am well practiced at this, as I apparently ignore most of our conversations already).

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Feel free to drop me a line if you take part in any of my campaigns, by e-mailing the following address: thisisalljustajoke@middlerageddad.co.uk.

Thanks for reading x

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Blog Relatives

Well, it’s now officially 2019 (not that anyone was claiming it was unofficially 2019 prior to midnight on 31st December, mind), and I would like to wish you all a Happy New Year.

I don’t have many wishes for the coming twelve months, but I would like to increase my audience, to edge me nearer to that lucrative book / film / YouTube / adult entertainment deal. Seriously, I’m not that fussy (except, perhaps, in the last category), just so long as I can earn enough to bid farewell to my shitty commute.

To put things into perspective, I now have nearly 700 followers on Facebook, so it would only require each of them to encourage 100,000 of their friends to sign up, and I would then have a fan base roughly equivalent to the population of the United Kingdom. I’d be content with that.

I am less popular on Twitter, however, where I have approximately one-tenth of the followers (so each would need to recruit 1,000,000 friends to achieve the same result, which I accept is a bit of an ask), and don’t even get me started on Instagram. No, seriously, I haven’t got started.

I wouldn’t mind so much, as I am hardly active on Twitter, but I’ve just checked and the three most followed people are seemingly Katy Perry, Justin Bieber and Barack Obama. Really? Sure, they can all dance, but two of them are as thick as mince (and if you can’t decide which is the odd-one-out, frankly, so are you).

Anyway, the main thing is, you are here – which makes you very special to me. And, until someone tells me otherwise, I’m still here too, so let’s crack on, shall we?

I have said before that my family – particularly our two boys – are an almost constant source of comedy material, and the Christmas period was no exception. If we add in my wife’s family (of which there are frankly dozens), it is no exaggeration to say our festive period was a smorgasbord of hilarity.

Here are my six comedic highlights of Christmas 2018:

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With three adult children, two daughters-in-law, and three young grandchildren all invading her house for Christmas, it was inevitable that Mum was going to struggle to keep everything pristine for the few days were we there.

Our mum is so house-proud*, but she dealt with the shit-storm of wrapping paper with her usual aplomb (and massive bin bag); however, later in the evening, she was clearly agitated as she dashed to gather cleaning products from her kitchen.

*©Madness/Sony/ATV Music Publishing (not that they will read this)

It transpired that, in the corner of her lounge, there had been a spillage – which had lightened her beige carpet to a shade between ‘Barley Twist’ and ‘Desert Wind’ on the Dulux Paint Scale (the latter not to be confused with ‘Dessert Wind’, which is something I suffered with following my second helping of cheesecake an hour earlier).

As the scrubbing intensified throughout the evening (occasionally interspersed with brief periods of ‘letting it dry’), it became clear the stain was not shifting, and the carpet had apparently been bleached.

This, naturally, was terrible news to everyone (although it did at least mean Ollie, Isaac and I were innocent, as none of us possessed anything likely to cause such damage), and Mum was obviously upset. Christmas was on the brink of being ruined.

Enter my wife (wait, I’ll rephrase that), who nipped to the kitchen shortly afterwards, and on her return burst out laughing. It transpired that, when she placed her foot in a particular spot near to the affected carpet, the ‘stain’ vanished. Yes, mum had spent at least an hour – and several litres of Mr Muscle – scrubbing what was nothing more than a patch of light reflected off a nearby shiny gift.

Isaac: Child Genius?

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Christmas would not be complete (for us, at least) without a family quiz, and since I forgot to bring anything with me this year, I had to search online for something suitable instead.

Unfortunately, we were already well into my choice before I realised it was clearly created by – and aimed towards – Americans. I know this because:

  1. The ‘Football’ round referred solely to the NFL;
  2. The ‘England’ questions all related to our royal family and Harry Potter, as if we have nothing else;
  3. The ‘History’ round only dated back a couple of hundred years, and refused to acknowledge any major event outside the US.

Nevertheless, we persevered, and eventually stumbled across a geography section which featured countries other than America (and I’m talking actual Europe here, not just Canada and Mexico).

One of the questions was ‘Which country hosted the first Winter Olympics?’, and after a few mutterings around the room, Isaac burst in from the kitchen, shouted ‘France!’ and then buggered off again triumphantly. I still don’t know how he got it correct, but have a feeling it’s the only country he knows other than ours.

Stockport: Capital of Indulgence

I was born in Stockport, have spent half my life living and working in the area, and I’m an avid supporter of Stockport County – all of which makes me suitably-qualified (and perfectly entitled) to admit certain parts of Stockport are rough.

For example, Edgeley (the home of Stockport County), does have some nicer areas, but these are largely surrounded by a desert of shit (not to be confused with a dessert of shit, which is also something I suffered with following my second helping of cheesecake).

Castle Street, the main shopping area in Edgeley, is honestly so run down and nasty, you could be mistaken for assuming the American military had recently swept through looking for WMDs.

To illustrate my point, here is a picture of war-torn Iraq:

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And here is a picture of Castle Street, in Edgeley:

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See?

Anyway, whilst walking down Castle Street on Boxing Day, prior to County’s victory over neighbours Altrincham (which, conversely, makes Kensington look a bit dodgy), I encountered the greatest vision of couldn’t-give-a-fuck indulgence I have ever seen.

A young-ish woman (I say young-ish, because it’s often hard to tell in Edgeley on account of the fact most women are grandparents by their late thirties), resplendent in fluffy white dressing down and slippers – which she presumably received from one of the fathers to her children at Christmas – was drinking, I shit you not, a large pot of double cream like it was a can of coke.

Bearing in mind this was around 2pm, and she appeared to still be in possession of her senses, there is no other explanation than she had effectively abandoned what little etiquette remained – and couldn’t care less. I had to applaud her (albeit mentally, as she was probably armed under that fluffy exterior).

‘Explicit Cooking and Other Stories’

This Christmas my wife and her siblings (together with the three of us daft enough to marry them), agreed to swap gift ‘hampers’ per couple, rather than individual presents.

However, when it came to exchanging them a few days after Christmas, my direct sister-in-law (by which I mean my wife’s sister, as opposed my wife’s brother’s wife, who is my wife’s sister-in-law, but I still refer to as my sister-in-law too – clear?) immediately apologised for one of the gifts in our hamper, warning that it was intended for me, and should not be opened in front of the children.

Here it is:

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As a keen cook, and purveyor of all innuendo, this book is a joyous gift to me, and I very much look forward to gobbling…. nope, can’t do it, sorry.

However, the anecdote does not end there. Whilst discussing the book between us all a few hours later, and immediately after someone had joked “I do enjoy a bit of cock”, my mother-in-law entered the room (following an entirely unrelated conversation she had just finished with my father-in-law in the kitchen), and announced ‘….to quote your father….’

I laughed so much, I swear a little sherry escaped out of my nose.

Isaac: Child Model?

Whilst shopping in Norwich’s Chapelfield Mall a few days after Christmas, Isaac asked whether he could go into the Norwich City FC store; and so (despite the fact he has no interest in football – and if he did I would far rather he support Stockport County) my wife took him in while the rest of us waited outside.

A few moments later, we all heard the tapping of glass, and turned round to see that Isaac had somehow managed to break into the window display, and was proudly stood with all the mannequins waving at passing shoppers. He, naturally, found this hilarious.

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The Unorthodox Mixer

Shortly before midnight on New Year’s Eve, I announced to the room that I was going to the kitchen, should anyone want their glass filling ready for Big Ben.

My mother-in-law, having initially declined, then decided she would like a glass of port – in a particular glass (which was kept in the conservatory), with a splash of the ‘cloudy lemonade’ she informed me was in the fridge in the utility room.

Already on my way to inebriation, and conscious that my in-laws have a tendency of using the words ‘conservatory’, ‘dining room’, ‘kitchen’ and ‘utility room’ interchangeably, I tried to memorise my instructions and set off, like a shit episode of Challenge Anneka.

Having located the glass and port, I then searched both fridges for the ‘cloudy lemonade’, and having found nothing more accurate based on that description, returned triumphantly with this jug:

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In hindsight, I can see this is less ‘cloudy lemonade’, and more ‘you’ll be needing a course of antibiotics’, but bear in mind I was slightly drunk, in a hurry to make it back to the lounge for midnight, and I only had the light of the fridge to guide me at the time, you can hopefully understand my error.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is that lesser-known mixer, ‘gammon fat’.

Fortunately, I queried my decision before pouring a healthy splash into the port, and was promptly ridiculed by all in attendance.

Thanks for reading x

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‘Twas The Blog Before Christmas (2018)

‘Twas the Blog before Christmas, two thousand eighteen

Another year writing things rude and obscene

So, as is tradition, here’s my year in review

Twelve months of bollocks for you to sift through

 

JANUARY

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‘The Twelve Blogs of Christmas’ kick started our year

My talents with Photoshop instantly clear

To all, that is, apart from my wife

Who said ‘Eight Maids a Milking’ will haunt her for life

Then in ‘Bloggy Useless’ I expressed some concern

At trying to fill out my tax return

Just logging-in requires a degree

So my password is now ‘fuckyou123’

While in ‘Goldiblogs and the Three Bears’

I wrote about Isaac and his lovely long hair

How Daddy bear put up with all of his shite

Because he insisted that everything must be ‘just right’

To round off the month, my first 10k run

In wintry conditions would not have been fun

But the organisers decided that it would be smart

To cancel the run with us stood at the start

 

FEBRUARY

In February my training suffered a blip

When I started to notice a crunch in my hip

And since it persisted, despite a long bath

A friend recommended his osteopath

The problem, however, is for most of my life

I’ve enjoyed innuendo and here it was rife

But the lady who treated me sighed and just smiled

When she said I was stiff and I laughed like a child

In the next instalment I thought I’d endeavour

To watch a Superbowl for the first time ever

Despite being late, I gave it a go

And tried to at least see the half-time show

But I got quite confused and fell asleep for a bit

(at least Janet Jackson didn’t pop out a tit)

Which leads us nicely to ‘Airblogs as Standard’

Where Fords of Winsford were borderline slandered

For once again lying ‘bout my car’s valuation

I hope their engineer suffers castration

 

MARCH

Poynton 10k Clare

We drove down to Norwich for our half-term break

Met a kid called Starsky (I mean, for fuck’s sake)

Ollie was poorly, lay on the settee

While Isaac turned Dutch when his bum was ‘schwetty’

My 10k challenge then got off the mark

When I ran in the cold around Oulton Park

And in ‘Best of Bloggish’, a long list was written

As some experts determined the finest in Britain

Their own A-Z for a new coin collection

(although I’m not sure why oak trees gave them such an erection)

In ‘The Fresh Prince of Blog-Air’ I mused about how

Events in my life got me where I am now

I went off to Uni, met my perfect match

And we both settled down to a life in Sandbach

The month then concluded on a grueling Sunday

As I ran around Poynton for my second 10k

 

APRIL

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As we moved into April, a fairy appeared

Isaac’s dummies were gathered and then they were cleared

But if you stare very closely, you might just agree

That the Dummy Fairy looks a little like me

I then did more running, when I went to Whitchurch

But as I got to the line, with a stumble and lurch

I collapsed on the ground, was dragged ‘cross the line

They didn’t believe me when I said I was fine

In truth, for a while, everything had gone black

And they started talking about heart attacks

So, in the end, I had to agree

To go via ambulance to A&E

A day spent in Telford, then Leighton (near Crewe)

Where, throughout the night, I gave my review

Of my elderly roommates, all wizened and curled

Each of them poorly, not long for this world

I met George and Freddie, Joseph and Roy

Not to mention old Robert, bereft of all joy

I became ‘squadron leader’; I led the fight

Determined my ‘boys’ would get through the night

Each one of them made it, and I’ll say it again

It was truly an honour to spend time with these men

Then something lighter, as I published my verses

About Princess Kate, surrounded by nurses

Swearing her way through delivering a child

A third royal baby – the press had gone wild

But as she lay there, all painful and tender

Did she threaten to put William’s dick in a blender?

 

MAY

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More car trouble in May, as I suffered a crash

When a prick in a van got too close and then smash

My wing mirror destroyed, and to rub in some salt

The lobotomised gibbon now holds me at fault

My insurers were crap, took an age with my car

Were about as supportive as a wet paper bra

The Tatton 10k was next on my list

But I ran far too slowly, my target was missed

Then ‘Some Like it Blog’ explained with some wit

The ten simple reasons why summer is shit

Sunglasses and hayfever among my picks

(plus don’t forget wasps, the vile little pricks)

And if that was depressing, I bid May goodbye

With a cheerful poem about how I might die

The message was clear though – make the most of each day

Because none of us know when we’re going away

 

JUNE

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In ‘Blogs and Girls’ I discussed Isaac’s hair

How he plays with his dolls and has dresses he’ll wear

But why shouldn’t boys like princesses in pink?

I’m pleased he ignores what some people think

Then, as a test, I gave Love Island a try

But felt my brain cells wither and die

Just one episode in I had to give up

And turned my attention to this summer’s world cup

Gave my own unique run down for each of the teams

Heading to Russia with their own hopes and dreams

Next, Colshaw Hall, a 10k to complete

But despite an injury to one of my feet,

A cobbled path and one hell of a climb

I completed the course in respectable time

Lastly, I tried my best to be nice

By offering Mark Zuckerberg some advice

On how Facebook might be improved

(he hasn’t replied, so I assume that he’s moved)

 

JULY

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First up in July, another 10k

In Alderley Edge, on the year’s hottest day

I crossed the line sweating, but I didn’t care

As I’d beaten my target with seconds to spare

The following week, I tried to cheer up

As England crashed out of another World Cup

Then ending the month, I wrote ‘Mr Blog’

Describing my clients in coarse dialogue

Some of them rude, most of them needy

I’m compared them to Messrs Nosey and Greedy

 

AUGUST

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July was cut short, as we went away

So I gave an account of our holiday

Each day of our trip, a witty postcard

On visits to Evesham, and the home of the Bard

Then travels once more as we had to contend

With a ferry to Ireland to see an old friend

A busy four days with no time to rest

I took photos of girls like a rampant sex pest

I thought it was nice to offer a pic

But their mum was behind me and I looked a dick

In ‘Vocablogary’ I thought it a gas

To mispronounced words, like Fadge-It-Ass

Or Modge-Itt-Oh and Jal-App-Ah-Noss

(try it yourself and watch people get cross)

Then, yet again, I ran through the pain

Completing the Birchwood 10k in the rain

Struggled back home to a nice warm tipple

And soothing cream to nurse my sore nipple

 

SEPTEMBER

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A busy September, with an entry that you’ll

No doubt remember, as Isaac starts school

It turns out that entry was read by some staff

But they all seemed to like it and it gave them a laugh

Then to our eldest, and I was delighted

To have Ollie sign up for Sandbach United

Just a shame their away strip is like Burnley’s kit

It’s hard to support him in colours that shit

Then back to running, no time for a rest

But the Sandbach 10k was a personal best

(if we discount Whitchurch, but I think that’s fine

as I was technically carried across the line)

Some father-son camping, on Ollie’s school field

But my brand-new tent was not much of a shield

To the rain which came down, and the strong winds that blew

I chose to get pissed, while sat piss-wet through

Then trying to sleep, a crash by our tent

As some dickhead went flying and my tent peg got bent

Not to mention our ‘porch’ getting covered in beer

I’m not sure we’ll bother if they run it next year.

 

OCTOBER

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Another short month, and it starts with an app

For mobile banking, which was frankly crap

It turns out Barclays are useless at tech

(all I wanted was to pay in a cheque)

Followed by ‘Don’t Let The Bed Blogs Bite’

Where a moth terrorised me all through the night

Hairy and black, this thing was obscene

It was the largest moth the world’s ever seen

Then moving on from a massive insect

While staying with terror, ‘The Blog Witch Project’

Outlined why Halloween is so very shit

Delinquent children and grown-up outfits

Terrible tricks, and even worse treats

Pumpkin carving and cheap crappy sweets

 

NOVEMBER

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A healthy month next, where I watched what I ate

And MyFitnessPal helped me lose weight

Not to mention more running, my final two runs

Cheered on by my wife and both of my sons

First Arley Hall and later Wilmslow

All in the name of raising some dough

A fantastic amount, my challenge was done

(and until next year, no need to run)

Healthier eating, and cutting back beers

I could see my penis for the first time in years

Then, for a change, I spoke to the youth

Wrote about bullying and told them the truth

Whether you’re black or white; straight, bi or gay

We’re all amazing in our own unique way

Just look at me, I’m gangly with specs

But I’m married with kids, which proves I’ve had sex

 

DECEMBER

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To end the year, we looked at Christmas

Mariah Carey and brussel sprout gas

All of the things that are suddenly fine

Including eggnog, and fucking hot wine

Then this time last week, we’d packed up our bags

Spent a night at the theatre, surrounded by slags

The women behind us were slaughtered and rough

One had her legs spread, to cool down her chuff.

 

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And that, dear reader, brings us to date

Twelve months of rants, the things that I hate

Forty-six entries, another year done

Thank you for reading, I hope we had fun

 

But don’t get upset, and don’t shed a tear

I’ll be back with more bollocks early next year

May your glasses be full, may your Christmas be white

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

 

x

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