BlogDay Cards

As I mentioned a couple of times on my Facebook page recently, my wife turned 40 at the end of November (although, in my humble opinion, she still doesn’t look a day over 39) and, aside from the gifts I bought for myself and the boys to give her (for which they – unfairly – took far too much credit), I decided to try and organise some rather special birthday cards for her.

Essentially, I thought it might be nice if she got a few cards from some of her favourite celebrities, and, having enlisted help from her siblings, a few months ago I compiled a list of famous people I intended to write to (via their PA or agency). I then set about purchasing as many different ‘40’ cards as I could lay my grubby little mitts on and began posting them out to the celebs on my list, with a covering letter explaining my plan and asking for their help. I also included a stamped addressed envelope, so that there was no expense involved to said celebrity (even though, I suspect, they were all in a far better financial position that myself to be paying for a stamp), in order to bolster my chances of persuading them to help me out.

In truth, from the list of ten famous people I created, I never expected more than a couple would even respond, let alone oblige (and – spoiler alert – they didn’t), but of the few I did receive back, they were most definitely the ones I had hoped for. From the remainder, most failed to get back to me at all, but that was still preferable to the two whose representatives did respond, but very firmly told me to go fuck myself*

*ok, they didn’t use those exact words, but was how it came across.

As a result, I have decided to publicly thank the famous people who took time out of their busy schedules to do something nice for a complete stranger’s 40th birthday, but also ‘name and shame’ those celebrities who were less than approachable.

In true ‘Middle-Raged Dad’ fashion, let’s start from the top and work our way down to the dregs, shall we?

Dan Snow

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Now, my wife doesn’t openly profess to having a celebrity crush like I do (Holly Willoughby, if you happen to read this, call me), but if she did, it would be Dan Snow.

Not only will I admit he a good-looking chap (although, as you will see further down my list, good looks count for shit if you don’t have the personality to match), he is – like my wife – a keen historian. And, if there is one thing my wife will surely find attractive in a man (other than his ability to produce a comedic weekly blog, and make repeated innuendo about his genitals), it is a man who loves a good castle as much as her.

Ok, this may be viewed by some as nerdy, but is it really any different to every heterosexual middle-aged man fantasising about Princess Leia in that gold bikini, Lois Griffin from Family Guy, or – dare I say it – Cheetara from Thundercats?*

(*shut up. Cheetahs are my favourite animal anyway, and she was a sexy one who didn’t wear much).

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Anyway, Dan was probably top of my list, as I knew how much she would love to get a card signed by him, so I was understandably delighted when his PA, Hilary, responded to say she would do her best to grab Dan when he returned to the UK from filming abroad.

And, Hilary didn’t let me down, because although it took a while to arrive, Dan not only signed a card, but took the time to write a personal message to my wife:

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Christ, get a room, you two….

All joking aside, I am very grateful to Dan for such a nice gesture, and if my wife does happen to run off with him in the future, at least she’ll have left me for a decent bloke.

Norwich City Football Club

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My wife is from Norwich, and is a big fan of the Canaries, so I decided to write to the club to see if they could perhaps get a few of the first team to sign a card for me.

Not only did they gladly oblige, with a card signed by most of the squad, they returned it to me within a few days (which was very good of them, as I did not get around to sending it until a couple of weeks before her birthday, so I was under a fair amount of time pressure by that point).

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I have no doubt that very few Premier League football clubs would have even replied to me, and certainly not so quickly, but having been to Carrow Road a number of times, this is indicative of what a friendly club they are. Well played, Norwich City.

Jason Manford

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My wife loves Jason Manford (although admittedly not in the same way she loves Dan Snow), so I was very pleased when a signed card returned from his people, particularly because he seemingly works around the clock on various television, radio and acting projects.

That said, he did only sign a card, with no additional message, so although I am grateful, it probably took a few seconds and he is therefore in third place (some way below the top two).

Still, he did better than….

Jason Donovan

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Jason Donovan and/or his team never got back me, but since he was a very late after-thought, with barely a fortnight until my wife’s birthday, I suppose I shouldn’t complain too much. Besides, I think he is on tour at present, which might also explain the lack of response. Jason is excused, and finishes 4th despite not actually doing anything to deserve it.

Eddie Izzard and Greg Davies

No, they have not suddenly announced themselves as a couple (although I would definitely go round for dinner if they did), but I have placed both of these gentleman in joint 5th, because although neither responded to my request, in fairness I again gave them / their representatives very little time to comply, only adding them to my list at a relatively late stage (albeit not as late as Jason Donovan). As such, they are (partially) excused for not getting back to me.

It also helps that I find both of them hilarious, and I don’t want that adoration tarnished in any way.

Graham Norton

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I have no doubt that Graham is an equally busy man, what with his own BBC1 show to prepare for and present, but I can’t believe he didn’t have time in his schedule to sign a quick card, and I gave him more than a month to get back to me, so he has dropped in my estimation now.

Ok, I highly doubt he even found out about the card, and he may very well have signed it if asked, so my gripe is probably with his team, but until I hear otherwise, I shall be holding him personally responsible.

7th place for you, Mr Norton.

Jamie Theakston

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Here we have an example of a good-looking fella (well, my wife thinks so – or certainly used to), letting himself down on account of his refusal to engage with fans. Again, it might be his publicity team who have taken the decision to block any requests for autographs, but is he really that busy/famous these days (Heart Radio’s breakfast show aside)?

Plus, he no doubt hired his publicity team in the first place, so when they responded with ‘Mr Theakston doesn’t do requests like this’, I took that to mean ‘Mr Theakston is an arrogant prick who thinks he is better than everyone else’. This may be unfair (which I will emphasise for libel reasons), but I doubt it (which I will also emphasise, because I think I am correct in my assessment).

John Barrowman

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In last place, rather surprisingly, is John Barrowman (my wife is a huge fan of musicals), who – until recently – I had a lot of time for.

Sadly, like Jamie Theakston, he is either extremely arrogant, or he has employed some particularly stand-offish people to represent him, because not only did I get a reply very firmly telling me to do one, but they went that bit further than Theakston & Co, by suggesting John would be willing to sign a book for me, if I bought tickets to one of his shows, and his book, then queued up after the show to ask him nicely.

I didn’t bother e-mailing back, as I felt ‘tell John to go fuck himself’ might have been poorly received. Last (9th) place for you, JB.

Honorary mention – Dick van Dyke

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The more astute among you will have realised that my list currently only numbers nine.

Step in (presumably with some assistance), Dick van Dyke.

Now, had I been able to secure a card signed by the owner of the single worst cockney accent in cinematic history, I think my wife may very well have lost her shit, but aside from the fact Dick is now well into his 90s, he also lives – to my knowledge – in America, and I had automatically discounted any overseas celebs (yes, Bryan Adams, that includes you), as being unachievable, not least because I couldn’t possibly cover their postage for sending the card back.

So, Dick features last in my list, but only because he is an after-thought, and not because I dislike him.

And, there you have it. If you take anything away from today’s blog entry, let it be this: Dan Snow is a thoroughly nice chap and, if my wife does run off with him, I can’t be too upset about it; while John Barrowman is a colossal bellend (or, at the very least, his representatives are).

Thank you for reading x

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Mary’s Blog Child

On Sunday, it’s December

Which means it’s nearly time

To start discussing Christmas

Without it being a crime

 

Guy Fawkes has been cremated

The fireworks have gone boom

It’s time to get your tree up

And decorate the room

 

Put on that wacky jumper,

novelty socks and, heck

While we’re fucking at it

Shove a mince pie down yer neck

 

For the first-time since last Christmas

It’s all right to drink sherry

In fact, have what you like, mate

Whatever makes you merry

 

That’s the best thing ’bout Christmas

The joy of festive cheer

It’s eating, drinking, doing stuff

You wouldn’t dare throughout the year

 

You wouldn’t eat sprouts in April

Have ‘one more choc’ when full

A dry turkey stuffing sandwich?

(“Nah, turkey’s fucking dull”)

 

If you heard Mariah in August

You’d want to punch her in the throat

But once we reach December

I’ll try to reach each note

 

I swear old Shakin’ Stevens

Must hibernate all year

And it won’t be long ’til Noddy

and Wizzard will appear

 

That first door on the Advent

First jingle of sleigh bell

“Would you like some sprouts, Sir?”

“Oh go on, what the hell.”

 

Look, sprouts are fucking awful

There’s little else I hate

But sitting down on Christmas Day

I’ll heap them on my plate

 

That first visit from the big man

When the Rotary come round

(We all know it’s just ‘Fat Tony’

but the kids are still spellbound)

 

It’s cold and wet and windy

But it’s ok, ’cause we know

If it’s cold and wet and windy

It might just turn to snow

 

Sat watching school nativities

When no parent will admit

They’ve lost all feeling in their arse

and the acting has been shit

 

The office Christmas Party

‘Dad Dancing’ with aplomb

Getting Janice from Accounts

To down a Jagerbomb

 

Now we’ve reached December

It’s the magic of Yuletide

When common sense and decency

Are quickly cast aside

 

You can eat until you’re queasy

and drink until you’re pissed

It’s your one chance to go mental

So why try to resist?

 

Make the most of next month, folks

For soon it will be gone

I wish you all much festive cheer

Merry Christmas everyone x

 

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Bloggy Image

Over the past few years, body image has been a popular topic for debate, particularly on social media, with many companies supposedly moving away from using the stick thin supermodels of the ‘80s and ‘90s, in favour of healthier women with curves (which happen to be my favourite bit, for what it’s worth).

While this is to be applauded, not least for raising awareness about eating disorders among women (and especially young girls) around the world, as they strive to achieve what society has historically deemed to be ‘attractive’, we as a species still have some work to do.

I know this for a fact, as I just Googled the word ‘model’ (with caution, as I’m in the office), and I had to scroll through a disappointing number of images before I discovered a lady even close to what I would consider to be healthy looking. Ok, some of those images may have been associated with stories highlighting eating disorders, but I didn’t click to find out – and the problem is, many young impressionable girls won’t either. They will search online for what a model should look like, and be immediately faced with images like this:

Now, it may be the case that these three women are naturally skinny, and happy in their own bodies, and if that’s true then I applaud them, but it does worry me that those images were in the first few rows of the Google search result for ‘model’.

Don’t assume we men have it any easier either, though. I have just done another search (again, with extreme caution), and within the first few results for ‘male model’ I was faced with the following:

Fuck right off.

The thing is, I have never been one for going to the gym (I have this irrational fear of merciless ridicule), and even though I have a weights bench at home (it’s buried under a mountain of crap in the garage), I guarantee I could spend an hour on it each day and still never look even remotely like any of these fine specimens of manhood. Ok, one of the men is black, but you get my point.

Would I like to have a body like that? Sure. Perhaps not quite so muscly – because my wife assures me that she doesn’t find a six-pack sexy, even though I feel sure she would prefer that to the current ‘keg’ I try to disguise each day – but a flatter, toned stomach would be nice. Together with some arm and leg muscles, perhaps, so I don’t resemble a twiglet. Oh, and you show me a man who wouldn’t like a bigger penis, and I will show you a dirty stinking liar.

Therein lies the fundamental difference between men and women (no, not penises, even though that is a major difference) – our attitudes to body image. Social media constantly reminds us that, if we want to be attractive, women ‘should’ be thin, and men ‘should’ be muscly. Bullshit.

Fortunately, our attitudes to body image are slowly but surely improving, and there appears to be an increasing trend for women – particularly those who have had children – to post pictures of themselves on social media, either without wearing make-up, or without wearing much full stop, to show that they are happy with how they look. Halle-fucking-lujah (for once, that was not typed sarcastically).

Ok, I still get annoyed when these pictures are accompanied by corny phrases like ‘your body is not ruined, you’re a goddamn tiger who has earned her stripes’; because, well, it’s all a bit fucking cringey, but I do understand what those people are trying to say, and I whole-heartedly support the message.

The thing is, though, women who have had children will often use their previous pregnancy(ies) as justification (or, worse, an excuse) for having a fuller figure, and this is inherently wrong for two reasons:

  1. Firstly, women should not feel pressured into explaining their image, whether they are happy with how they look or not;
  2. Secondly, and more importantly, the last time I checked men cannot give birth, so we are denied this justification (if, indeed, that is the right word) for our bodies not being at their best as we get older – even though, believe it or not, having children affects the way we look as well.

Next February, I will be turning 40, and like most people I have decided this would be an appropriate milestone to reflect on the ageing process, and what I can do to improve the way I look (or slow down the decline),

Admittedly, some aspects of my body are outside of my control, unless I consider surgery (my ever-deteriorating eyesight, and insecurities in the trouser department instantly spring to mind – although, there is at least some spring still in it), but there are parts I could take better care of as I approach my forties, because they have been badly destroyed by becoming a parent.

In fact, if we consider my body from top to bottom (although, that should perhaps read ‘head to toe’, as the problems most certainly do not cease with my bottom), there is very little which has not been worsened by fatherhood….

Hair

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I suppose I should think myself lucky that I have avoided grey hairs until my very-late-thirties, but not only will I need to give serious consideration to masking the ageing process with hair dye in the next year or so (something I have not had to consider before), but I recently had my hair cut shorter than normal to save money, and if my wife mentions my apparent bald patches one more time, I may have to kick her in the shin.

Forehead

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Not only is mine getting larger as my hairline inevitably recedes, but wrinkles (or ‘worry lines’) are appearing at an alarming rate. Now, far be it from me to make a connection between these increased wrinkles and Isaac’s birth, but it does seem more than a coincidence….

Eyesight

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My eyesight has always been dreadful, but since having children the rate at which it is deteriorating seems to have accelerated. Worse, I now find that whereas I used to decline all the optional extras when purchasing new glasses, I now actively seek additional ones just to be on the safe side.

“Ok, so that’s the anti-scratch, smash-resistant, anti-glare lens options all added, plus we’ve got that thing which makes car headlights less blinding, but can you offer me anything by way of ‘sharp object repellent’? No? How about something which makes it look like you’re asleep, so the kids leave you the fuck alone?”

Ears

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Look, I know everyone’s ears get bigger – and, in the case of us menfolk, hairier – as we get older, but I have noticed my hearing has deteriorated far more rapidly since we became parents. Now, this may be because of the excessive noise created by the boys screaming at each other, and us screaming at them to tell them to stop screaming at each other, but I also can’t rule out the possibility my body is trying to protect me from having to listen to that fucking Baby Shark song ever again. Evolution is a wonderful thing, sometimes.

Nose

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As a father, I suppose the worse-case scenario, is that your nose will be broken at some point, whether by a stray baby leg during nappy changing, a toy thrown at your face when they are a little older, or by your partner punching you for any number of things you may or may not have done to upset her (almost all of which you will not have foreseen), but even though I have thankfully avoided ever visiting A&E to have my conk snapped back into place, I now find that I apparently have a cold for the majority of the year, because my children collect and distribute every single bug available at school. I swear I never got ill before we had them, and now I feel ill all the time.

Boobs

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From the moment we are born and they nourish us, through puberty when we realise they are fabulous and we long for nothing more than to see them up close, right up to middle-age when we try to remember the last time we saw a pair in real life, we (heterosexual) men are obsessed with boobs. But now I suddenly have a pair of my own, and not only has the appeal worn off when I look down at them each day, but I sometimes cry myself to sleep at night when I am reminded of their presence.

Stomach

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I have already covered this above (although sadly, actually covering mine is getting increasingly harder these days), and there are only so many times your shirt button can ping open before you have to accept there is nothing wrong with it, and you have fastened it correctly each time, it’s just that your clothes can no longer accommodate the vast gut underneath, but the real kicker is the first time you glance down in the shower and realise you can no longer see your own penis.

Hips/Legs/Knees

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These are all, quite frankly, destroyed, and while I have to blame running as being the primary cause for my lower-body deterioration, I’m not ruling out child-based factors either. If I am not running up and down stairs to fetch things for the boys (or, more commonly, to bollock them for fighting again), I am smacking my lower extremities on items they have left strewn around the house, or being kicked by Isaac.

Feet

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I have lost count of the number of times my feet have been injured by small sharp objects being left lying around (and, yes, Lego usually gets the blame when someone on social media posts about the pain of standing on a piece for the 1,000th time that week – I do wish people would get their own material – but the truth is most things kids leave on the floor are likely to hurt like Hell when trodden on).

So, there we have it. My body is ruined, and I fear the situation is only going to get worse as I enter my fourth decade.

Wish me luck, folks.

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Thanks for reading x

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Blogz II Men

Over the past few months, I have become increasingly conscious that my blog entries, and my Facebook posts in particular, have become a little, well, Isaac heavy.

I think I can be excused for this, to an extent, because Isaac – as should be perfectly clear by now – is a seemingly endless source of comedic material. For example, last month alone, he:

  1. Determined that cows eat sausages;
  2. Caught a Daddy longlegs at school, gave it to a girl in his class as a gift, then ‘meditated for a while thinking about donkey poo’;
  3. Decided he wants to ‘save all the trees’, because if he doesn’t, he might run out of paper for drawing, and that would be far worse fate than any resulting lack of oxygen;
  4. Fell in love with his own toes and decided he would quite like to marry them one day;
  5. Drew the following rather unflattering portrait of me:

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  1. Walked to school with his arms inside his coat, insisting I hold his empty sleeve all the way there, only for me to discover that he was sticking a lone finger out from underneath the coat, so everyone passing us thought he had his knob out;
  2. Wrote his first ever love song, which went a little something like this:

Ah, love you

Oh no

Oh no, yeah, yeah

Oh no

Oh no, yeah, yeah

Yeah, oh no, oh no

Oh no, yeah, yeah.

  1. Wrote an angry note to my wife and I, which he penned with such rage and fury, he then couldn’t read his own handwriting;
  2. Drew ‘Zog The Evil Rabbit’, complete with ‘male genitals mouth’, nipple tassels, and rather excessive public hair:

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  1. Punched me in the leg for no apparent reason, then apologised with the excuse ‘I thought you were Ollie’.

And that was just his top ten in September (I know, because I’ve been back through my Facebook posts for the month). In short, the kid is one unpredictable little bundle of totally fucked up.

But, every so often, he can be the sweetest child in the world. As I posted on my page last weekend, I took the boys to the cinema for the day (so that my wife could work on her MA in peace), but knowing I was feeling dreadful, he asked her to pop to the local shop while we were out to buy ‘a chocolate bar the size of his head’ to cheer me up.

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And, if that were not cute enough, who can forget the time he drew a face on his hand before leaving on the school run, and when questioned he explained to me that it was ‘Mr Hand’, who he likes to talk to at school sometimes when he gets lonely.

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*sniff*

Bugger. I was supposed to be starting this week’s entry by apologising for my blog posts and Facebook page being so Isaac-focused of late, and I’ve just – rather ironically – wasted one-third of my (self-imposed) word count writing about him. Worse, I have completely neglected to mention my first-born child, Ollie (well, I guess I referred to him once, but only in the context of Isaac twatting me in the leg thinking it was him).

Poor Ollie doesn’t get a look-in sometimes (and I mean that purely in the sense of my online persona, it’s not like we neglect him at home…. much), but that’s only because he doesn’t possess the sheer, unadulterated quirkiness of Isaac. He has his odd moments, like all kids, but he has never once pretended to be giving birth on the classroom floor at school – to our knowledge – and I doubt he would randomly start talking Spanish when asked what he did at school that day (when he hadn’t studied any Spanish at school that day – or, indeed, ever).

So, in an attempt to redress the balance (not that either of my boys give a flying fuck what I write about in these blog entries, because I tend to use phrases like ‘flying fuck’, which means they aren’t allowed to read them), this week’s entry is all about Ollie. Well, from this point onwards, anyway. He may not ever read these words, but I’ll feel better knowing I have devoted some online attention to him for a change.

Here goes, then….

Ollie is a right mardy little knobhead at the moment*

(*that may very well be the most northern thing I have ever said in my blog, so for any southern – and, indeed, foreign – readers among you, I shall translate: ‘Ollie has been something of a grumpy little nuisance of late.’)

The thing is, like any child Ollie is prone to mood swings, but my wife and I have noticed that, particularly over the last month or so, he has restricted himself to swinging purely between ‘sulky little twat’, and ‘stroppy little twat’.

In Ollie’s defence, we put some of his current vileness down to lack of sleep, because he and Isaac still share a room – and, as most of you know, Isaac is the Nocturnal Prince of Darkness, who seldom succumbs to his subconscious netherworld until he is fully satisfied that everyone’s evening has been suitably ruined. But that cannot be the only reason.

Funnily enough (and I use the term somewhat ironically, bearing in mind what follows is not funny in the slightest), a couple of weeks ago one of the mums at football training mentioned that her son is exactly the same at the moment, and there followed a general murmur of agreement among the parents gathered by the side of the pitch, to the extent  that everyone was encountering the same behavioural downturn with their own son.

At which point, the same mum explained that, in her view at least (and she is a teacher, which does lend some weight to the suggestion), our boys are going through the early stages of [gulp]… puberty.

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Now, bearing in mind I was cradling baby Ollie in my arms what feels like a few months ago, I am NOT ready for puberty just yet (and I refer solely to Ollie going through ‘the change’ here, as I have been fully developed myself for at least two-and-a-half decades now, with everything dangling and hairy as it should be), but if Ollie is developing into a man early – or, at least, earlier than I recall it happening to me – I can only hope he will emerge the other side equally early, and we’re not looking at suffering these mood swings until he is about fifteen. If that happens, then by the time Ollie is a fully-formed bloke, Isaac should be well into puberty himself, and I’m not going to get any respite until around 2030 (the year, rather than 8:30pm).

Worse, puberty not only means all the uncomfortable conversations I will have to have with Ollie over the next few years (because my wife and I agreed, prior to becoming parents, that she would have ‘the chat’ with any daughters we might produce, but I was responsible for the boys – and then she knocked out two sons just to fucking spite me), but if he is anything like me – and just look at him, he is exactly like me – then it could very well be a miserable period in his life. A terrible thought, bearing in mind he’s a grumpy little shit already.

If nature takes its course with him, as it did with me during most of the 1990s, he has chronic acne and his voice breaking to look forward to (not that it took a decade for my voice to break, you understand), and this will all happen at precisely the same time he suddenly decides girls are actually pretty awesome, rather than ‘disgusting’ and to be avoided at all costs (I’ve always thought it unfair that we humans become sexualised when we are at our least attractive stage of life).

I only hope he doesn’t face the endless bitter rejection that I faced throughout my latter teens (although, if any of the girls who rejected me at school / work / university are reading this – and there are plenty of them out there, so the odds of at least a few stumbling across these words are pretty high – then consider this: you could be married to the sixth most popular blogger in the whole of Sandbach now, so there).

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It’s not all bad news though, because if Ollie’s development does take a similar path to my own, then it is simply a waiting game. If he perseveres, one day the acne will fade, the facial hair will become less sporadic, and he should be blessed with a monstrous ‘middle-wicket’ for the remainder of his life – winky face*.

(*I should clarify here, I haven’t worked out how to insert emojis into my blog entries yet, just in case anyone assumes I call my penis ‘winky face’, or, worse, that I occasionally draw an eyes, nose and mouth on it…. which I only did once. It’s actually called ‘Monty Bojangles’, and isn’t that impressive if I’m honest.)

Anyway, when that day comes, Ollie will hopefully find a girl who loves him for who he is (assuming he hasn’t bored her to death with football talk in the meantime), and he will ultimately be far happier as a result, with puberty a distant – yet harrowing – memory.

I just hope all of this happens quickly, though, as I can’t take much more of his fucking sulking.

Thanks for reading x

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Blogz In The Hood

Cast your minds back to 1984 (the year, not the novel by George Orwell).

Indira Ghandi – who remains the only female Prime Minister of India (to date) – was assassinated, the Grand Hotel in Brighton was bombed, and George Michael released ‘Careless Whisper’.

But it wasn’t all tragic news. In the same year, the Macintosh computer was released, the first solo transatlantic flight took place, and some of the biggest artists in the World gathered together to record ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’, raising £8m to help relieve famine in Ethiopia.

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Oh, and a pale, skinny, dark-haired little boy from Cheshire started primary school.

Of course, I’m assuming most of you reading this will recall 1984 (the year, not the novel by George Orwell), because, even though many of my followers were not yet sperm floating around inside their father’s man-plums at the time, it tends to be the more ‘mature’ among you who go to the trouble of reading this weekly blog.

I suspect this is because those of us with a few years under our belts have nothing better to do of a Friday, while the younger generation seem more than content with the shorter quips I post on my Facebook page (particularly those with pictures), and prefer to spend their spare time hanging around in car parks wearing hoodies, sexting each other, or playing ‘Candy Crush’ on their phones.

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Ok, perhaps that’s a sweeping generalisation (it definitely is, I haven’t the first clue what the ‘yoof’ get up to these days), and I am happy to be proven wrong, but I still fear that my early mention of 1984 (the year, not the novel by George Orwell) will have immediately lost some of my younger fans, so let’s fast-forward to something a little more recent, shall we?

1989 (the year, not the album by Taylor Swift).

By 1989, that pale, skinny, dark-haired lad was also bespectacled (as if he didn’t have enough on his nerdy little plate), and in September started his penultimate year at that same Primary School, before heading into the much wider world of secondary education in 1991. Little did the world know at the time, but that young man would one day become the sixth most popular blogger in the whole of Sandbach.

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(NB: for anyone who hasn’t realised it yet, that young boy was me – although, if that did come as a surprise, perhaps you might prefer something a little less challenging than reading this week’s blog, as there are some big words coming up, and I fear you may struggle).

Anyway, due to the diminutive (see?) size of my primary school, the years were merged into joint classes, so the ‘Year 4/5’ room actually contained around a dozen children who were one academic year younger than the rest of us (but who were judged to be bright enough to keep up), along with another lad who joined the school having moved into the area from down south. And that lad, together with one of the younger pupils, became two of my very best – and now oldest – friends.

Indeed, it was only a month or so ago that we realised September 2019 marked three decades of us being mates, so we decided to honour the occasion by meeting up in the village where we went to school (and, rather conveniently for me, where I now commute to work), so we could reminisce and – more importantly – get pissed.

Obviously it would have been preferable to have met up on the exact anniversary of our friendship, but aside from the fact none of us could work out precisely when that was, and it made more sense to go drinking on a Friday anyway, the main hurdle was that one of our trio (known as ‘Golden Boy’, ever since I labelled him with that nickname back in the ’90s), is harder to organise than Brexit.

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Anyway, after weeks of diary checking on his part, ‘Golden Boy’ finally confirmed that he was also available to meet up last Friday, and the date was set. Our other friend, who we shall simply refer to as ‘Tim’ (for that’s his name) was already on annual leave that day, so I booked the afternoon off in order that we could start drinking earlier.

And, because at least two of us were now available to meet mid-afternoon, I decided to contact our old school, on the off chance they may allow us in for a little nosy around after all this time. Sure enough, I got an e-mail back the same day from someone in the office called Sarah, who confirmed that a tour would be possible, so long as we arrived by no later than 4.30pm (because all primary school staff are ruined by that time on a Friday, and desperately need to return home, to get drunk and cry themselves to sleep in a darkened room*).

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*I imagine.

I therefore arranged to meet Tim outside our old gates at 4pm, and shortly beforehand set off to re-trace my childhood walk to school, which I had done most days through the mid-to-late 1980’s.

On my way there, I decided it would be courteous to phone the school to remind them that we would be dropping by, and when a female voice answered I assumed it was the Sarah I had swapped e-mails with the week before. Only, it turned out to be someone else, so I began explaining why I was calling:

‘Ah, ok, sorry. Basically, my friend and I are meeting up this afternoon, as we’ve realised it’s thirty years since we first became friends, and we were hoping to have a look around our old primary school to see how much it has changed.’

‘Oh, yes, Sarah did mention it. That’s no problem, just come to reception when you arrive. Sarah is still here, but she’s had to go to the main gate as we’ve had… erm…. a bit of an incident.’

It was at this point, as my thoughts clicked into place, I had a sneaking suspicion I knew what that incident might be, as I had arranged to meet my now forty-year-old mate outside the gates to a primary school, and I suddenly realised that this could look potentially, well, dodgy as fuck.

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I restrained myself from asking ‘would the incident happen to be about 5’5” tall, with dark hair and stubble?’ and merely confirmed that I would be arriving in around five minutes. Sure enough, when I got to the gate, there was my friend Tim, who nervously grinned and said ‘You’ll never guess what’s just happened to me!’

‘Oh, I think I can guess. Have you just been accused of hanging around outside a primary school, by any chance?!’

‘How did you know?!’

‘Because you’re hanging around outside a fucking primary school, mate.’

I went on to tell him about my conversation with the office, and Tim explained that he had indeed been challenged by a few members of staff, including Sarah, who were understandably concerned about reports – one of which from a young girl – about a strange man hanging around outside the gates.

Thankfully, Tim had quickly told them why he was there, Sarah had remembered our earlier e-mail exchange, and had cancelled the local police from arriving to escort Tim to a cell for the night (joke, I don’t think the police had actually been called by that point).

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We then went to reception, where it would be fair to say Sarah wasn’t seeing the funny side of the altercation, and it was left to her colleague to show us around instead.

Despite the intervening three decades, the school looked remarkably similar, if a little smaller than we had remembered, but that’s perhaps because at least one of us has grown a lot taller since then (NB: it’s not Tim), and I was especially pleased to note that our old brown and gold uniform had finally been replaced by a much more appealing burgundy instead, so at least future generations no longer have to suffer the wardrobe embarrassment myself and my peers went through all those years ago.

In fact, my mum had managed to find some of my old school photos, so I showed these to the lady from the office, although she was understandably apathetic (I’m not sure why I expected her to be impressed, to be honest), and she merely smiled politely.

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Note: If you can spot me, that’s a shadow behind my head, not a mullet.

She did, however, explain that one of the dinner ladies still worked at the school three decades on, and actually remembered us (which should have been heart-warming to hear, but only made me realise that the office had clearly asked around to verify Tim and I were genuine, and not a pair of deviant sexual predators, before agreeing to our visit).

Anyway, after a brief tour – which, in fairness, was only brief because the school is so small – we thanked our host for her hospitality, and set off to get as drunk as is humanly possible for two middle-aged men.

Having learned that Golden Boy was running ‘a little late’ (which shocked no one), Tim and I devised a wager on our friend’s actual arrival time – bearing in mind the original plan had been for us all to meet outside the school at 4pm – with the forfeit being a shot of something unpleasant for the loser.

Needless to say, I won the bet – albeit only by a few minutes – when Golden Boy eventually arrived shortly after 6.30pm, but Tim’s forfeit of downing a Jagerbomb (on top of the several pints we had already consumed), somehow ended up involving me having two Jagerbombs – as I happen to enjoy them very much.

From that point on, it was a slippery slope, and I ended up crawling back to my Mum’s house shortly after 1.30am (if you are under thirty and reading this, that’s fucking late for us middle-aged folk, ok?) and felt incredibly rough the next day.

Still, a good night was had by all, and it’ll be our forty-year reunion before we know it.

Thanks for reading x

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Another Blog In The Wall

On Tuesday, I attended Parents’ Evening at our boys’ school.

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Now, you might think this is not a particularly big deal (and certainly nothing worthy of a blog entry), since dozens of parents were there, and no doubt many of you with children have attended parents’ evenings yourselves in the past – if not already this academic year – so my ‘achievement’ is certainly nothing special.

However, please bear in mind the following:

  1. My wife was away on a school trip for the first part of the week (she is a teacher herself), so I was attending parents’ evening alone for the first time;
  2. Because my wife has been a teacher for many, many years (while still looking as young as the day I married her*), she usually does all the talking at parents’ evening, since she knows what to ask – and, more importantly, what not to ask;

which leads me to….

  1. I am often uncomfortable in situations where it would be wholly inappropriate to default to my defence mechanism of trying to be funny, so I will usually panic… and then default to my defence mechanism of trying to be funny.

*well recovered, that man.

My naivety when it came to attending parents’ evening alone was apparent well before the event itself, as I received an e-mail a couple of weeks ago confirming the online booking system was open, and since my wife had warned me to reserve the appointments quickly before all the best slots went, I went immediately to the site to ensure I had my pick. After all, the earliest I could get to school would be 5.30pm, and the last appointments were around 6.15pm, so with two sets of teachers to meet, I had little room to manoeuvre.

Fortunately, there were plenty of slots within my window of availability, so I initially selected 5.45pm to speak with Isaac’s teacher, and 5.55pm for Ollie’s. I then panicked, however, that this would cause issues with collecting Ollie from football training (which was due to finish at 6pm), so I cancelled those and moved everything slightly earlier to 5.40pm and 5.50pm.

Such is my indecisiveness, however, and the fact that I was under strict instructions not to fuck this up,  I decided that the earlier appointments probably made little difference, and perhaps it might be best if Ollie missed football training this week. I could then take both boys with me, and Ollie could (hopefully) make sure Isaac behaved while I was meeting their teachers. I therefore cancelled the re-arranged appointments, and re-re-arranged them back to 5.45pm and 5.55pm.

Naturally, I then doubted this decision, and having questioned why I would leave the appointments so late, particularly now that football training was no longer a factor, and I could potentially be home in time for Eggheads, I re-re-re-arranged the appointments back to 5.40pm and 5.50pm.

It was only when I logged in to my e-mail account later that day, I realised I had received messages every time I had changed my mind, so my inbox looked like this:

19/09/2019      13:15     Parents Evening – Appointments Booked

19/09/2019    13:16   Parents Evening – Appointments Cancelled

19/09/2019      13:16      Parents Evening – Appointments Booked

19/09/2019   13:17    Parents Evening – Appointments Cancelled (again)

19/09/2019    13:17     Parents Evening – Appointments Booked. You sure this time?

19/09/2019   13:17   Parents Evening – Appointments Cancelled (What the fuck is the matter with you?)

19/09/2019     13:18    Parents Evening – Appointments Booked. Cancel them again, and we’ll block you from our system, you indecisive prick.

Ok, the latter e-mails didn’t exactly say that, but I had to pray the system was fully-automated, and the school would not discover how much I had messed around and changed my mind, because the office staff would then surely mark me down as some kind of moron for future administrative challenges.

The main thing was, the appointments were reserved, as I proudly informed my wife over dinner that evening (omitting to mention the many e-mail exchanges I had triggered via the online system). My bravado was, however, short-lived.

“What times did you go for?”

“5.40 for Isaac, and 5.50 for Ollie.”

“What?! Why have you only left five minutes between them?”

“Because I don’t want to be hanging around, and can be home by 6pm.”

“Why do you need to be home by 6pm?”

[whispers] “Eggheads.”

“What?”

“I thought Ollie might go to training, so I’d need to pick him up.”

“No, you’ll never get there in time, because the teachers are always running late, so now not only will you have to tell Ollie he can’t go to training, but you’ll miss the second appointment because you’ll still be waiting for Isaac’s teacher, and that means you’ll then have to wait until the end of the night to see Ollie’s teachers.”

“Sorry.”

“Idiot.”

Once my wife had calmed down (which was a full week later), I asked her for some pointers on the questions I should ask while at the appointments, because I had only managed the following list:

Questions To Ask At Parents’ Evening

Isaac

  1. Is he this much of a prick at school?
  2. Has he hit anyone?
  3. Could you have a word with the catering staff, and tell them to stop giving him ketchup, baked beans, or tomato soup, as it’s costing us a fucking fortune in white polo shirts?

Ollie

  1. Does he ever shut up?
  2. He claims he hasn’t been in trouble for talking since he started back in September, and I’ve warned him that, if he has lied to me, and has been in detention just once, I’m going to properly bollock him. So?
  3. Could we possibly speed this up? Eggheads starts at 6.

 

Needless to say, my wife was less than impressed with the list I had prepared, so she gave me a few genuine issues we wanted addressing; and, as I walked to the school on Tuesday evening, I received the same piece of advice from her via WhatsApp that I give to both boys daily when I drop them off at their respective classrooms:

Don’t fuck this up

As I arrived through the gates, and collected Isaac from his after-school club (Ollie had gone to football training in the end, since the mum of one of his teammates had kindly offered to give him a lift both ways), I realised I had a few minutes until my first appointment in the ‘Infant Hall’, so we went to his classroom to have a look through his books (which the children always display, for parents to check what they have been working on).

Having made encouraging comments about how much his handwriting was progressing, and how wonderful the portrait of his friend was (I’m not sure which kid the portrait was of, but if it was a genuine likeness, the poor boy has not been blessed with good-looks), there was just enough time for him to show me where he sits on the carpet each day – and for me to feign interest in front of the puzzled parents around us – before it was time to return to the Hall for my appointment. I was, after all, determined to finish speaking to his teacher on time, in order to make the second meeting with Ollie’s teachers by 5.50pm, so I could boast to my wife later in the evening when she got back from her trip.

Sadly, as I played the future conversation with my wife over and over in my head (and each time it concluded with her apologising and admitting I had been right to book the slots I had – then offering ‘sexy time’ by way of apology), I neglected one crucial point:

I have never been right in our fifteen years of marriage

So, when Isaac’s teacher finished her current appointment at precisely 5.40pm, and I strode over to her table with all the arrogance and confidence of a man who was about to win his first ever marital dispute, I was shocked to notice a couple sit down before me. I then had to walk back to the ‘general seating’ in the middle of the hall, like a man who had just been rejected by a lady in a bar (a walk which, in my younger years before meeting my wife, I was all-too-familiar with).

Parents Eve

Generic photo from Google

Not only that, but the rejection was repeated every few minutes, as one set of parents would leave, and I would rise from my seat, only to notice someone else sit down first. Needless to say, this meant the clock reached 5.50pm, and I was now late for my second appointment with Ollie’s teachers, so when I spotted a brief gap between parents who all had appointments before mine, I quickly explained to Isaac’s teacher that I would need to go to the Junior Hall and come back later. After all, I didn’t want to leave and then have her wondering where I was.

Thankfully, Ollie’s two teachers were on time, and I listened to what a superstar he is for a few minutes, fully aware that this was probably lulling me into a false sense of security before meeting Isaac’s teacher. I had booked the appointments in this order for a reason, as I wanted the bad news first. Sure, Ollie still chatters too much, but that’s only because he appears to be under the gross misunderstanding that his verbal diarrhoea is of universal interest, and his teachers have now learned to ‘tune him out like white noise’, so the feedback was generally very good.

One down, one to go.

It wasn’t long after I returned to the Infant Hall before it was my turn to meet Isaac’s teacher, and, fortunately, his feral behaviour at home still hasn’t made its way into the classroom. In short, he is apparently a joy to teach, and is actually quite shy and reserved in class (I did ask whether she’d mixed her notes up, and we were discussing the wrong child).

As with the first meeting, I chatted, made appropriate eye contact, smiled / looked interested at the right times, and, most pleasing of all, didn’t make any stupid jokes (to my knowledge). Both boys were performing well at school, and I was performing well at parents’ evening. The male contingent of our family was smashing it.

So, as the second appointment started to wind down, I allowed my mind to wander back to thoughts of bragging to my wife about how I had coped perfectly well without her. I was so close to not fucking this up, and could almost smell the sweet scent of victory.

It was only then, as I thanked Isaac’s teacher and stood up to leave, I noticed the hole in the crotch of my trousers.

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So very close.

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Bloggy Irritating

I am quite a big fan of YouTube.

Not only is it a seemingly endless source of music videos, sporting clips and comedy, but, in our house at least (and I suspect many of you with children will agree with me here), it’s like a third parent.

I am well aware that leaving children glued to a laptop or tablet for hours on end is generally frowned upon by so-called parenting ‘experts’, but either these experts don’t have children themselves, or at least they don’t have our children. And, until they have spent some prolonged time with our boys, they will never understand why just a few hours of peace and quiet is such a blessed fucking relief.

I defy anyone to sit there and listen to Ollie relentlessly prattle on about football players even the most die-hard of fans couldn’t give a flying shit about, or have Isaac scream directly into their face for an entire afternoon, without accepting that just a little bit of quiet time watching YouTube is a bad idea. What would the experts prefer, a child who spends a couple of hours glued to football / music clips, or a child locked in a garage because their increasingly agitated father cannot take it anymore?

Exactly.

Besides, I’ve looked online, and contrary to what our own parents would have had us believe back in the day, there is not one single scrap of medical evidence out there to support the suggestion that prolonged exposure to television and computer screens makes our eyes go square. Even the ‘flat-Earthers’ would struggle to get on board with that bollocks.

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So, now that we are all agreed that I am in fact an exceptional parent (I was only joking about locking the boys in the garage – I’d never trust them near my archived CD collection), and I have persuaded you all that YouTube is a perfectly acceptable parenting tool, let me explain why I now regret the day I introduced Isaac to it.

The problem, you see, is that he has somehow discovered a musical group called the ‘Haschak Sisters’.

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If you are unfamiliar with this horrendous assault on the world of music (and, if you have young children like me, I pray that your kids never discover them), the Haschak Sisters are a group of siblings who share the same surname – Haschak. Ok, I suspect you could have worked that out for yourselves, as the clues are all there, but ever since I discovered that Shakespeare’s Sister were neither siblings, nor related to ‘The Bard’ in any way whatsoever, I’m not sure I know what to believe any more.

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So, assuming you haven’t yet watched any Haschak Sisters videos (because, let’s face it, you’re reading this, so you clearly haven’t yet scratched your own eyes out and smashed every internet-accessing screen in the house), there are four of them: Madison, Gracie, erm….. Tito and Jermaine (look, I don’t know all their names, and I didn’t want to spend too long researching them online in my lunch break, in case the boss is monitoring my browser history for any reason – and, if he is, I suspect he’ll be making contact with Holly Willoughby’s people and/or the police, any time now).

All I know is, the Haschak Sisters do write and perform some of their own songs, but are perhaps better known for destroying cover versions of pop songs which were frankly shit the first time around, when recorded by the original artists (notable examples being ‘Worth It’ by Fifth Harmony, and ‘Sorry’ by that colossal bellend, Justin Bieber).

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Cock

If you don’t believe me, check out their playlist on YouTube, and you will see that, with the exception of ‘Uptown Funk’ (which I happen to like), there is not a single decent song among their back-catalogue of disastrous cover versions.

Even more bizarrely, the sisters (or their agents) have inexplicably chosen to cover a number of songs with rude lyrics, which they have then had to alter due to the fact the youngest sister is only 13, and it would be considered poor taste for her to be singing about her ‘lady lumps’. I mean, would you feel comfortable if your teenage daughter was dancing around singing:

“I’m a get get get get you drunk

Get you love drunk off my hump

My hump, my hump, my hump, my hump, my hump

My hump, my hump, my hump, my lovely little lumps”?

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It’s not exactly The Beatles, is it? And, because of the nature of the song (there is a subtle sexual undertone to ‘My Humps’ which evades some listeners, but I spotted it), the sisters have altered the lyrics to ‘my pumps’, so it makes even less sense than the diabolical original. Which begs the question, was there really nothing better they could have chosen to cover? Even if they had their hearts set on singing a Black Eyed Peas track, ‘I Gotta Feeling’ would have surely been more suitable. I’m honestly waiting for them to cover ‘Candy Shop’ by 50 Cent at some point (see, folks, I can be current and trendy when I want to be).

If it helps to visualise how bad they are, imagine if Hanson and Jedward formed a terrifying, hair-obsessed ‘super group’, then performed dreadful cover versions of shit songs while dancing around in bright clothing and cheesily grinning at the camera, to the point you would honestly think their jaws had been wired that way permanently. Then imagine them even more high-pitched.

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Also cocks

Horrific thought, right?

The worst part is, the Haschaks have somehow brainwashed over seven million YouTube viewers to subscribe to their channel, all of whom seem obsessed with this irritating girl group, whereas I recently crawled past two thousand followers after years of hard blogging (don’t get me wrong, I’m fucking delighted to achieve that milestone, but it’s not exactly going to allow me to quit my job to become a full-time writer now, is it?), and the disparity doesn’t seem fair. I’ve honestly given consideration to performing my own screechy cover versions of terrible songs, if that’s what it takes to achieve fame these days.

I’m not even sure how Isaac discovered them, but I rue the day he did, because now, from his waking moment, until the time his eyes finally drop in the evening, he wants to watch their videos constantly, and it’s driving me insane.

Worse, he now dances around the house singing ‘Baby I’m Worth It’, which, as we all know, he bloody well isn’t. Thank goodness he doesn’t have any lady lumps to boast about.

In desperation, I tried to convince him this week that Daddy’s new phone doesn’t have YouTube on it, and he will always have to use Mummy’s phone to watch the Haschak Sisters as a result; but either he spotted the logo on my home screen, or the wife grassed me up, because he’s not falling for it.

I suppose I could put a stop to it, by hiding the laptop, tablet, and my phone, but then I’ll have to deal with him whining for snacks, or beating the living crap out of Ollie instead, so this is honestly the lesser of two evils if we want some peace and quiet.

And, besides, at least it’s a welcome break from The Greatest Showman.

Thanks for reading x

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