Mind, Bloggy and Soul

Ever since ‘lockdown’ began a few years ago (at least, that’s how long it feels right now), I seem to be spending more and more time scrolling through Facebook, and I suspect this is due to a combination of three factors:

  1. I am not currently working in the office, where checking your phone is somewhat frowned upon by the boss, and while I am still putting in the same (if not longer) hours, my working pattern is now all over the place, and to balance the fact I am frequently still at my desk come 10pm, I occasionally break during the day and check my phone to see what is going on in the world.
  2. You may recall that, around the first week of lockdown, I attempted to take part in Joe Wicks’ YouTube P.E. lessons, shared a very tongue-in-cheek post calling him a ‘cockney bellend’ and, well, the rest is history. That post has now had over 60,000 reactions, has been shared more than 65,000 times, and has been read by 6.8 million people. To say it made a different to my pokey little Facebook page would be an understatement. Consequently, now that my following has multiplied at least tenfold, I now have more reason to check it regularly – whether that be to read your lovely comments, or to keep an eye on the one or two dipshits who seem to have crept in among my fanbase (I shall mention no names, but at least one or two appear to thoroughly dislike me, despite still following my page to this day).thebodycoach_91475218_2329404364027379_6767080010601958072_n-f9d0-e1586528817485
  3. This entire coronavirus shit-storm really has brought out the humour in people, both brilliantly intentional, and entirely accidental. The latter, in particular, fills me with great joy, as I like nothing more than chuckling away at the medically stupid.

Anyway, while scrolling through Facebook earlier this week, I stumbled across a post someone had written on one of our local pages, and while I won’t give the name of the person (or the page), for reasons which will shortly become clear, it was essentially a list of ‘wellness’ tips, for a better physical and mental outlook on life.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am all for a bit of positivity (now more than ever), and I would never scoff at someone advocating a healthier lifestyle, but on the other hand my wellbeing is usually boosted by mercilessly taking the piss, and because I am somewhat sceptical of certain aspects of the ‘wellbeing’ fraternity (for example, I don’t personally buy into the healing powers of pretty little rocks), I decided I would share some of my thoughts on this post with you.

So, having largely copied and pasted the original post, I have added my own particular comments and musings under each bit of advice for a more wholesome existence:

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Here are my wellness tips for Wednesday:

  1. Cut out sugar for today – allow your body a day without sugar.

I’ve checked, and all my favourite foods have sugar in them. Can’t I cut out something else, like hummus, instead?

  1. Have a break from social media – this may boost your mental health.

Well, aside from the fact I have just explained how Facebook actually nourishes my mental health, by allowing me the opportunity to laugh at the Muggles out there, what about if I need a poo at some point today? What the fuck am I supposed to do while I’m sat there, if I can’t check Facebook?

  1. Pay someone a compliment – if you make other people feel good, it will make you feel good about yourself too.

I told my wife this morning that she has a nice arse, and she actually scowled at me. You know that noise Marge Simpson makes when she’s properly pissed with Homer? Yeah, that. Not everyone accepts compliments in the way they were intended.

Ok, in fairness, I was grabbing her arse at the time, and making what I believed to be seductive noises (which, in hindsight, was an ill-advised move) but that’s beside the point.

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  1. Feel nature – if you have a garden, take your shoes and socks off and stand in the grass. Allow yourself a moment to feel nature beneath you.

Feel nature? Are you shitting me? Aside from the fact we have artificial turf in our back garden, and it was so hot today I’d have scorched my feet if I’d gone out there without any shoes or socks to protect them, Isaac spent most of yesterday spreading the bark from the bottom of the garden all over the lawn, and if you’ve never stood on one of those barefoot, let me tell you it’s like an inch long splinter piercing your skin. Lego has nothing on these vicious fuckers.

Plus, I’ve seen the cat from two doors down wandering around out there recently, and unless I have cast-iron guarantees that the little bastard hasn’t shit on our lawn, there’s not a cat in hell’s chance (yes, pun intended), I’m going to risk getting any mushed up little kitty nuggets squished between my toes.

  1. Compile a positivity list – this is similar to a grateful list and is a quick self-check to make sure you notice the good things in life.

Firstly, don’t assume anyone knows what a ‘grateful list’ is any more than a ‘positivity list’. Both are phrases I am highly dubious of. Secondly, while I do love a good list, I am not a particularly positive person, and I don’t think ‘Things I am grateful for’ is going to make for particularly riveting reading, not least because I’m certain ‘boobs’ will feature within the top three. Now, if we could agree on a ‘Negativity list’ instead, I’d be well up for that. Off the top of my head: pigeons, tuna, and those stupid Nationwide adverts with the corny poems. There, easy.

  1. Go nuts – replace any less-than-healthy snacks like chips, crackers and pretzels, with heart—healthy nuts. They are a great source of healthy fats, protein, anti-oxidants and fibre. Plus, they’re easily portable, have anti inflammatory properties, and satisfy your hunger.

Brilliant advice – unless of course the person you are addressing this to has a severe nut allergy? Also, apart from the fact I’m pretty sure you’re referring to ‘crisps’ when you say ‘chips’ and that leads me to suspect you are American and therefore not to be trusted under any circumstances, are pretzels honestly the least healthy snack you can think of? I cleared a box of Jaffa Cakes in one sitting the other day, and I didn’t even feel guilty afterwards. Pretzels? Amateur.

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Finally, I note your reference to nuts being ‘easily portable’, but if that is your biggest selling-point for a wholesome snack, then I’ll take a fucking Freddo bar every time, thanks very much. Those things are tiny.

  1. Dance like no one is watching – dancing to music releases serotonin – so get that favourite track on and boogie!

Urgh. I hate the whole ‘dance like no one is watching, love like you’ve never been hurt’ shit. Yes, I know the original quote was Mark Twain, but if he was here now, I’d knee him in the squishies for starting this nonsense in the first place.

Look, if I’m dancing, it is for one reason and one reason only – I’m fucking hammered. And, even then, I still get self-conscious if I think anyone is looking in my direction, because if they are watching me then they will almost certainly be judging my serious lack of rhythm and moves. I’ve been ‘Dad dancing’ since around 15BC (Before Children), so the only time I dance is when I am convinced no one is watching (or, alternatively, when I am that drunk I’m not aware of anyone around me). Even then, my dancing is usually restricted to just a few subtle swings of the hips, and a twist of alternate feet every now and then.

Dad dancing GIF - Find on GIFER

Oh, and you said ‘boogie’, which makes me dislike this final point even more.

***

So, there you have it. This poor chap did nothing wrong, and merely tried to give everyone a little physical and mental lift, but due to the fact I am miserable git and I have a serious deficiency in my personality, whereby I have to pour scorn on everyone even remotely chipper, I took his post apart.

Well, I obviously didn’t respond to the actual post in question, so with any luck he’ll never see this – as I do genuinely feel bad for typing it – but, at the same time, it has been a great release for me personally, so by satisfying my piss-taking urges, he has inadvertently helped me unwind in a different way. For that, at least, I am grateful to him.

Right, I’m off to search for more people defending Dominic Cummings….

Thanks for reading x

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Like a Blog With a Bone

Those of you who attend my weekly (virtual) pub nights at Ye Olde Cock & Balls each Friday evening will be aware that, for the past couple of weeks, I have been encountering some problems with the strength of our internet connection – particularly during the picture round of my quiz.

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Well, after trying to contact our broadband provider, Sky, for a fortnight now, including one ‘online chat’ session where, having waited for two hours, our connection was lost and it kicked me out (hey, irony, fuck you), I have finally resolved the situation.

And, by that, I mean I properly resolved the situation, rather than simply ripping all of the Sky equipment from the various sockets in our lounge, dousing it in lighter fluid, and then torching the entire lot in the back garden (which, believe me, was next on my list of potential solutions). Even more amazingly, I am still a Sky customer.

Look, I know I should probably have considered switching our various packages to an alternative provider, but the truth is my wife and I really like some of the Sky-specific channels, and would hate to be without them. Plus, the boys love the wide range of children’s shows available on our additional ‘Entertainment Package’.

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Finally, above all else, I hate change, and I am inherently lazy, so I often find it preferable to stay with a company rather than shop around for a better deal. Yes, I know I negotiate for a living, but please also bear in mind that I largely dislike my chosen career, and would rather not bring that aspect of it home. Besides, do chefs walk through the door after a busy day in the kitchen and instantly want to cook for the family? No. Do cleaners come back from work and immediately make a start scrubbing the oven? Unlikely. Do strippers arrive home and promptly undress seductively for their partners?…. Well, only in my dreams. You get the idea.

My point is, for various reasons, I didn’t want to actually leave Sky, but equally we could not continue as a family with such a piss-poor broadband connection – not least because we now have two adults working remotely, two children being home-schooled on laptops, and various other essential devices (such as phones and tablets) all draining our WiFi, which only had the strength of an asthmatic pensioner atop a mountain in the first place.

So, yesterday, I put my big boy pants on, picked up the phone, and dialled the Sky complaint line. The following is an entirely accurate* account of the events which followed (apart from the fact I have made up the names of the people I spoke to, partly to protect their anonymity, but mostly because I can’t for the life of me remember what they were called)….

*sort of.

***

Automated Message: “Hi. Thanks for contacting Sky. Sorry, but we’re experiencing a really high call volume at present, so we’re having to prioritise our customers and can only currently deal with customers who are aged seventy or over, suffering with ill-health, or are classified as being a ‘key worker’, which includes all medical staff and teachers. If you do not fall into any of these categories, please hang up and try again when this shit-storm is finally over….

….

Ok, before we connect you through to one of our advisers, we will need to take you through security. Do you know your Sky account password?”

Me: “No”

Automated Message: “Ok. No problem. Can we take your mother’s maiden name instead?”

Me: “ **** ”

Automated Message: “Sorry, that’s not correct either.”

Me: “It fucking is…. Oh, unless the account is in my wife’s name?”

Automated Message: “Please say your mother’s maiden name.”

Me: “ **** ”

Automated Message: “Please hold for the next adviser.”

Me: “I could’ve sworn the Sky account was in my name….”

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***

Adolf: “Hi, you’re through to Adolf, thanks for holding.”

Me: “No problem. It’s marginally preferable to listening to my children screaming.”

Adolf: “Ha ha! I know what you mean, mate.”

Me: “I’m not your mate. Let’s get on with this.”

Adolf: “Sure thing, buddy. Before we begin, can I just check your mother’s maiden name for security?”

Me: “Well, I just gave my mother’s maiden name and it said that was incorrect, so apparently the account is in my wife’s name and her mother’s maiden name  is ‘ **** ‘.”

Adolf: “That’s not what I’ve got down here.”

Me: “But your system just let me through with that?”

Adolf: “Weird. So, what is your mother’s maiden name?”

Me: ” **** “

Adolf: “That’s the one.”

Me: “Fuck’s sake.”

Adolf: “Ok, then. I just need to check you fit into one of the categories of customer we can deal with at the moment. Are you over seventy?”

Me: “I feel like it, but no.”

Adolf: “Are you suffering with ill-health?”

Me: “I get knackered walking up the stairs. Does that count?”

Adolf: “Not really. Ok, last category, are you or anyone in your household a medical professional?”

Me: “Well, no, but your recorded message just now mentioned teachers, and my wife is a teacher.”

Adolf: “But neither of you are medical professionals?”

Me: “No. We tend to find being a lawyer and a teacher keeps us busy enough. Plus, I have a rather popular online quiz I do every Friday, and-”

Adolf: “Look, I’m afraid we have to prioritise our calls…”

Me: “Yes, but I’m telling you the recorded message just now specifically stated that teachers are key workers. Which they are. Go ahead and check after this call, if you like, but if you cut me off, I will find out where your office is, drive there, and cut you. Ok?”

Adolf: “Well, I guess you’re on the line now anyway. What’s the problem?”

Me: “Our broadband is slow. Like, properly shit, and I want it improving considering how much we pay each month.”

Adolf: “Ok, well, I’ve just checked, and you do qualify for superfast broadband in your area, which we could set up for you in around a week.”

Me: “Sounds expensive.”

Adolf: “It’s £32 a month, but for an extra £5 a month you can also get the broadband boost, which guarantees fast connection throughout the house.”

Me: “Wow, imagine if we could get a connection throughout the entire house.”

Adolf: “Are you being sarcastic?”

Me: “A little. The problem is, the other reason for my call was to complain about the fact our monthly cost has just shot up, so I don’t really want to be making things more expensive.”

Adolf: “Ok, I’ll transfer you to one of my colleagues and if you mention that you want the superfast broadband with the boost, they’ll set out your options for the TV package as well.”

Me: “Fine. Put me through.”

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***

Genghis: “Hi, you’ve been put through to Genghis. How can I help?”

Me: [sigh] “Right, I want to add the superfast broadband with the boost that I’ve just been told about, but I also want to know why our television package went up nearly £20 last month. When I phoned a couple of years ago, I agreed to remove the sports package to save some money, but now we’re paying more than we paid before only without the sports included.”

Genghis: “Do you want to add the sport back on?”

Me: “Fuck no. I’ve just complained about how high our bill is. I want to bring it down, not increase it.”

Genghis: “What do you want to keep?

Me: “Well, mainly Sky Movies and the Entertainment package for the kids.”

Genghis: “What about the F1 channel?”

Me: “We don’t have that.”

Genghis:  “Yes, you do.”

Me: “I beg your pardon? We’ve never requested that. Have we been paying for it?”

Genghis: “Not exactly. It came free with the entertainment package as an introductory offer, but then the package changed in December and it was then additional.”

Me: “So, I’ve been paying for an F1 channel I never asked for since December?!”

Genghis: “No, we only started charging you last month.”

Me: “Bless your generosity. Take it off, now. I don’t want it, and haven’t asked for it. You can’t just force it on me and then start charging me for it. Who do you think you are, fucking U2? Besides, there’s no F1 taking place right now anyway, so what are you even showing?”

Genghis: “Old clips and stuff.”

Me: “Well, as much as ‘old clips and stuff’ sounds awesome, get rid. How much is it, anyway?”

Genghis: “£18.”

Me: “For one fucking channel?! A channel dedicated to something that isn’t even happening right now? Have you got a channel dedicated to Euro 2020 and the fucking Olympics too?”

Genghis: “There’s no need to be like that.”

Me: “Right, if we ditch the F1 we didn’t ask for, don’t want and have never once turned on, and we add in the superfast broadband with the boost thingy, how does that affect our monthly bill?

Genghis: “Erm…… it will bring it down by £31 a month.”

Me: “£31 less?! Why the hell hasn’t this been offered to us sooner?!”

Genghis: “You didn’t phone.”

Me: “So you wait for people to get pissed off and threaten to leave, then offer them a deal?”

Genghis: “Pretty much.”

Me:  “Do it.”

Genghis: “Ok…. sorted. And, since you’re now paying much less, would you like some sport back?”

Me: “Well, my son would love to watch Premier League matches, but there’s no games at the moment. How much is it, for future reference?”

Genghis: “That’s £18 a month, too.”

Me: “For how many channels?”

Genghis: “Just Sky Sports Premier League, so one.”

Me: “Jesus wept. At least Dick Turpin wore a mask when he robbed people. Besides, my son and I support a lower league side who you never feature, so it’s really not worth adding any football channels. It’d be cheaper for me to take him down the pub to watch matches. At least that way I can spend the £18 on beer.”

Genghis: “Fair enough. But, you mentioned lower league football, and we do feature some games. How low down the leagues are we talking?”

Me: “Stockport County.”

Genghis: “Ouch.”

Me: “Fuck off.”

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***

Thanks for reading x

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Always Blog On The Bright Side of Life

(Do-do, do-do, do-do-de-do-do-do)

Continuing on from the general theme of last Friday’s entry (my first for a while), I would like to focus on some of the positives to be gained from the current shitstorm gripping our country – and, indeed, the planet.

Sure, COVID-19 is about the least popular thing to invade these shores since a certain Austrian with a distinctive moustache decided to show the world what a colossal fuck-nugget he was, but me sitting here writing about the horrors of this pandemic is a little bit pointless, really. Not only can you gather all the misery you like from the news or social media, should the mood take you – and I pray it doesn’t – but this is intended to be a lighthearted and comedic blog, and there is nothing even remotely lighthearted or funny about what it going on.

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Hitler: bit of a twat

So, yes, I know some people are unable to work, and struggling financially. I know most of us are unable to see our loved ones and friends. I know the sensible among us are avoiding pubs, restaurants, cinemas, parks and other public places (and I only hope those morons ignoring the rules don’t live to regret their selfish stupidity). I know, sometimes, the light at the end of this particularly dark tunnel only appears to flicker slightly before it is eclipsed by another setback. And, yes, I know Mother Nature decided to screw us all over by hosting summer in mid-April, when none of us could fully enjoy it. However, I always try to raise a smile with my blog, and if there is one thing we all need right now, it’s a bit of positivity and a chuckle.

Therefore, I have conjured up a list of the ten consequences from being stuck at home which I see as positive, in the hope that perhaps a few of you, can take a few of them, away for yourselves.

1. Virtual Pub Night

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For those of you who read my blog but do not follow my Facebook page, you may not be aware that I have been hosting an online ‘pub night’ every Friday since lockdown began.

The doors to my ‘Ye Olde Cock & Balls’ open at 8pm, and attendees are treated to a ‘Jukebox’ (which is essentially just a different YouTube playlist each week), some topics for debate, and a live Quiz. The latter, in particular, has proved especially popular, with hundreds of people taking part from all over the world – including such far flung places as America, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa (as well as a number of our neighbouring countries in Europe).

Anyway, while my virtual pub nights were only created in response to this terrible situation, I absolutely love them, and many of my Facebook followers have declared it the highlight of their week, too.

2. Avoiding People

Look, I don’t want you thinking I am being anti-social, as I am generally easy-going with most folk – so long as ‘most folk’ are my family, friends, and the vast majority of the general public who aren’t monumental cockwombles. Unfortunately, however, there remains that small minority who behave like idiots (such as anyone who still thinks it is ok to host barbecues and parties, or lean over you in the supermarket), and the fact I can now avoid interacting with the lowest echelons of society is a bonus.

Also, I love all of our local friends dearly, but I always feel guilty when someone calls round and I am too embarrassed to invite them in, because our children have transformed the house into a post-apocalyptic war zone. Fortunately, for the time being, I cannot possibly invite them in anyway (and I would like to think they would decline my offer even if I did).

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Our living room

3. Talking To Our Neighbours

I am well-aware that there are streets and communities up and down the nation who frequently socialise together, pop round each other’s houses for a chat, and exchange Christmas cards and gifts every December. Well, not on our street, we don’t.

For example, we very rarely spoke to the chap next door before lockdown, perhaps as infrequently as once a month (despite the fact he has lived there for the best part of a decade and appears to be very pleasant), but now I chat to him most days. Ok, that might only be across the fence, to thank him for returning Ollie’s football for the third time that morning, but it’s still progress.

Plus, before lockdown, the only time I ever interacted with those on our street, was to ask whether they had kindly accepted another parcel for us, and now we get to smile and wave at the couple opposite every Thursday evening, as they appear to be the only other household willing to step outside and applaud the nation’s key-workers.

I mean, we’re still a far cry from inviting them around for drinks and nibbles, but it’s all baby steps in the right direction.

4. Embracing Wackiness

Following on from that last point, about applauding key-workers from our doorstep every Thursday, how delightful is it to be stood on our doorsteps in just pyjamas (having not got dressed at all that day), loudly banging a saucepan with a wooden spoon like a fucking lunatic, without someone accusing you of being a ‘saucepan-banging fucking lunatic’?

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5. Scruffiness

And, speaking of wearing pyjamas all day*, the fact I no longer have to put on a suit and clean socks for the office is having a very positive effect on our washing pile (before lockdown, I once noticed some Sherpas erecting a base camp about half-way up).

*I have only done this twice (so far), but it was rather liberating – until we had a parcel delivered, and the driver could not approach for a signature, so had to take a photo of me stood next to the parcel, at a time when I happened to be wearing the shorts which leave little to the imagination.

Plus, distancing myself from most of my family (apart from the wife and children), our friends and my colleagues, means I am currently able to attempt something I have never tried before – growing a beard.

The fact I have never attempted this before is primarily because my wife claims she will hate it, so perhaps selecting the one time when we are stuck in the house together (and she is most likely to smother me in my sleep anyway) is ill-advised, but I would argue that, if it looks shit, no one need know – save for any parcel delivery drivers, or the muggles I encounter in Tesco, and I don’t care what they think.

True, I only stopped shaving a week ago, so I am still in the ‘sleeping rough’ stage of my facial hair adventure, and I do not yet know which path my new look will take: ‘sexy academic’ or ‘deviant sex pest’ (my wife is certain it will be the latter), but if I don’t like it, or there is more grey in there than expected, I’ll get rid. Now is the time to experiment.

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Week 3?

6. Saving Money

An unexpected advantage of being in ‘lockdown’, bearing in mind our weekly shopping budget appears to have almost doubled, and I am now forking out for a takeaway every Friday (to break the monotony, and give the family a sense of what day it is), but I actually made it to payday a couple of weeks ago without dipping into my overdraft or savings.

I suspect (nay, I know) that the money I am saving in fuel is having a big impact on my finances, as my usual commute requires me to drive 250 miles each week, but I honestly cannot work out where the rest of my current ‘wealth’ is coming from. I mean, I only go out once every few weeks, and I usually take my own lunch to the office anyway, so where am I making all these savings? Maybe it’s best not to question it.

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7. No Commuting

The fuel-savings lead me to the other advantage I have discovered from working at home: I do not have to deal with other road users. Look, I accept that my driving is by no means perfect (although it’s not far off), and I will generally tolerate mild misdemeanours on the road for the sake of my blood pressure, but there have been days in the past when I have genuinely questioned whether Cheshire has been blessed with more than it’s fair share of road wankers, and the fact I don’t have to suffer them each day is having a positive effect on my physical and mental health.

Conversely (and I did say I would only focus on the positives in this week’s blog, but please indulge me), my new daily commute of walking down the stairs is not without it’s own hazards, as some long-haired dickhead cut me up on our landing the other morning, and nearly caused a pile up of Daddy’s shattered limbs at the bottom.

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8. Soft Play Centres

I don’t have to go to these for the foreseeable future! Sure, they often mean our boys fuck off and leave me alone for a bit, whereas they are now constantly around me all the time, but at least that means I don’t have to worry about other people’s feral little nightmares, and/or Isaac attacking one of them.

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9. Clearing Sky Planner

In the same way my bank account has spent the last year teetering perilously close to the overdraft, our Sky Planner has fluctuated between having 1% and 5% storage remaining for the best part of six months. Not these days, though. Thanks to us watching some programmes recorded at the start of the year (which I never thought we would have time to watch), we are currently up to a whopping 13%. Boom.

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10. Getting To Spend More Time With My Children

Finally, I am thoroughly enjoying spending some quali-

Nope, I can’t even type it without laughing. Like fuck I am.

(I knew I should have stopped the list at #9, but my damn OCD insisted I add one more to round it up….)

Thanks for reading x

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Hi there.

Followers of my Facebook page may be aware that, over the last week or so, I have penned a couple of *entirely original* songs about the current COVID-19 situation (with particular emphasis on being stuck at home), but some people have since pointed out that the first was apparently similar to Blur’s 1994 hit ‘Parklife’, while the more recent song was seemingly a little like ‘Stuck in the Middle with You’ by Steeler’s Wheel.

So, to avoid any further potential legal wrangles, I can assure you that the following poem is 100% my own work, 100% accurate, and 100% funny. I hope you like it (and, if you don’t, you can keep your damn opinions to yourself).

***

‘LOCKDOWN’

I’ve been stuck in the house for five weeks now
Apart from a few trips for food
But those outings were hardly much fun
As the shoppers were stupid and rude.

I have an office set up in the corner
And I’m working from home when I can
But my new colleagues are making things tricky
So my routine isn’t going to plan.

Ollie is tired and grumpy
The slightest thing sours his mood
While Isaac is increasingly feral
And spends most of each day in the nude.

In fact they’re as bad as each other
Ok, I’ve been days without socks
But at least I am putting clean pants on
I am sick of the sight of their cocks

Isaac’s hair is now straggly and knotted
You can’t predict when he’ll next attack
One second he’ll be playing with toys
The next he has jumped on your back

I am badly in need of a haircut
I haven’t had a shave for three days
I sometimes forget what the day is
And just wander around in a haze

I’m using up emergency loo roll
Which I grabbed in the panic-buy farce
But the damn stuff is so cheap and nasty
It’s like sandpaper wiping my arse

The posher stuff isn’t much better
As it’s balmed with deluxe coconut
If I want my bum smelling of Bounty
I’ll stick a bar straight up my butt

I’m drinking more booze than before this
It’s become an unfortunate trend
To suddenly proclaim Wednesday lunchtime
“Hurrah! It’s now the weekend!”

I’ve got through a bottle of spiced rum
But at least I am able to say
If I add a few slices of lime in
I’ve had one of my five a day

I’ve been snacking far more than I should be
And I’m certain my knob hasn’t shrunk
But when I look down there during a shower
My gut now eclipses my junk

I did Joe Wicks’ workouts for one week
But rather than getting me fit
I then struggled to walk up the stairs
And cried when I sat down to shit

But for each isolation struggle
And for every time that we’ve cried
I try to find something uplifting
To look on the positive side

My family are (generally) healthy
And many folk have it much worse
I could be trained as a doctor
Or be working right now as a nurse

I’m saving a fortune in fuel costs
As I don’t have a daily commute
I can wear shorts at my desk if I want to
There’s no need to be dressed in a suit

Let’s applaud all of our key workers
Risking their lives for the rest
Think about what others are facing
Whenever you’re grumpy or stressed

Every one of us needs to work through this
Stick together whenever we can
Patience and friendship and laughter
Every child and woman and man

There is always somebody who’ll listen
To be there if you need to chat
So whenever you’re struggling to focus
Please try to focus on that.

Keep going folks.

Thanks for reading x

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Blogapest (Part III)

Ah, the final instalment of my trilogy, where all loose ends are tied-up, and our half-term city break in Budapest concludes.

If you haven’t yet read parts one and two, here are a couple of links, and the rest of us will have to wait while you catch up:

Part I – https://middlerageddad.com/2020/02/28/blogapest-part-i/

Part II – https://middlerageddad.com/2020/03/06/blogapest-part-ii/

Ready? Off we go then….

Wednesday 19th February 2020

For our final full day in this gorgeous city, before our flight home the following lunchtime, we had decided to visit the ‘Buda’ side of the Danube (I wasn’t aware until relatively recently, that Hungary’s capital comprised the separate regions of ‘Buda’ and ‘Pest’, until their unification in 1873), as this is the ‘older’ side of the river, and with my wife being a History teacher, she was keen to check it out.

Amazingly, for a couple who had only arrived less than 48 hours earlier, we now felt confident enough on the excellent public transport system to metro and bus our way over the river, and having disembarked by the funicular cable car, we decided this method of transport was preferable to walking up the giant hill to the top (albeit considerably more expensive, for what was a two minute journey tops).

Once at the summit, we spent some time admiring the views over the city, then wandered around for a bit (at one point passing a museum that did nothing whatsoever to draw us in, although that might have been due to the pile of bin bags left by the entrance, which my wife complained ‘stank like shit’, and I didn’t have the heart to tell her the smell was actually the side-effects of my hangover mixing with the spicy hot dog sausages I had consumed for breakfast), and we then headed down the twisting streets of Buda towards the Matthias church.

En route, we passed an underground cave network, called – rather appropriately – ‘Labyrinth’ – and since I had read about this online before our trip, we decided to go in. Once inside, there were certain aspects of this ‘attraction’ I had been expecting (paying a fortune to get in, dark tunnels with low ceilings, creepy music in the background, etc.) but there were certainly other aspects which came as a big surprise.

In order of weirdness, they were:

  1. Being followed around by a creepy Albanian lady – who, I have to stress, was another visitor to the caves, rather than an employee stalking us;
  2. Several rooms of entirely unexplained waxwork figures, who were terrifying enough anyway (they would not have looked out of place on a particularly shit-your-pants episode of ‘Dr Who’), but I could have sworn I saw a few of them move slightly out of the corner of my eye;
  3. However, head and shoulders above everything else on the weird scale, was the laminated picture of three guinea pigs attached to one of the cave walls, with no explanation whatsoever as to why it was there.

On our way out, we noticed a sign proudly exclaiming that ‘Labyrinth’ had apparently been voted the eighth best attraction in the whole of Europe, which is nonsense, because it wasn’t even the eighth best attraction in Budapest.

From there, we visited the Fisherman’s Bastion (which was not, as I had first suspected, a seafood restaurant, but rather a large terrace offering terrific views of the capital), and sat down to enjoy a traditional ‘chimney cake’ with a hot chocolate.

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Chimney Cake

After a bit of exploring – during which, my wife was extremely pleased with herself for correctly identifying which saint had been portrayed in a statue (if only she had put as much effort into my ‘guess which former footballer died in my dream last night?’ game *eye roll*), and we then decided to pay to look around the Matthias church, even though I generally object to paying for the privilege of visiting a place of worship.

Now, I can enjoy a beautifully crafted church as much as the next man (assuming he enjoys a beautifully crafted church), and this was right up there with the prettiest, but I was far more taken with some of the weird-as-fuck statues and exhibits they had inside as we looked around. For example:

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My first reaction to this particular figurine was that the mother and baby have exactly the same face (I know parents often look like their children, but that kid is at least forty), and then I noticed the deranged potato-headed man ‘upskirting’ the mother.

For lunch, I was determined to source some traditional Hungarian goulash (for the uninitiated, this is a sort of spicy soup or stew), and having found two cafes serving the country’s most famous national dish – and following twenty minutes of walking between the two, because I am so indecisive – we finally settled ourselves at a table and waited to be served.

Once we had ordered our drinks (I was becoming quite accustomed to Hungarian beer by this point in our trip), my wife nipped to the toilet, and had not returned by the time the waiter brought our drinks over.

As he approached our table, he carefully placed my wife’s hot chocolate in front of her empty place, before lifting my pint off the tray in his hand, bringing a rather damp receipt stuck to the bottom of it. Then, as he passed my pint over to me, the receipt became unstuck, and we both watched as it slowly floated down and nestled gently on my crotch.

I know this was not intentional on his part, but I still looked up at him for a reaction, and he then looked back at me for the same. I stared at him, he stared at me. I stared down at the receipt on my crotch, and so did he. What felt like an age passed by, without either of us wanting to acknowledge the damp bit of paper clinging to the front of my jeans until, finally, he gleefully shouted “voila!” and walked off.

That unfortunate incident aside, my first experience of goulash was highly enjoyable, the selection of cakes for dessert was amazing (I opted for a slice of Kinder Bueno cake, which looked a little like the one below), and the cafe ended up playing both ‘Would I Lie To You?’ by Charles & Eddie and Roxette, so the music choices were impeccable as well. All in all, I would highly recommend this particular cafe, if only I could remember what the fuck it was called.

On our way back to the hotel, we briefly visited a BrewDog (like most Brits abroad, I cannot resist the temptation of trying something British to see if it’s the same in another country), but when I realised a half-pint of Punk IPA was going to set me back nearly £4, we moved swiftly on.

Having investigated plans for our final evening meal in Budapest, we decided to head to an American-style ‘Speakeasy’ bar called Fat Mo’s, and despite a brief mix-up when we initially entered the wrong part of the bar, and were quickly ushered elsewhere by a group of men who may well have been part of the Hungarian mafia, I have to say the recommendations online were bang on – the place was amazing.

Ok, it was deserted when we first got there, but in fairness it was only around 6.30pm, and the place soon filled up the nearer it got to the live music at 7.30pm. In fact, such was our enjoyment of the food, drinks and music on offer, we stayed there all night – and I racked up a bill of nearly £100 in the process. Oops.

In fact, the only thing which soured an otherwise enjoyable evening, was a trio of American men coming in and sitting at the bar, of which one was particularly sure of himself, and wanted the entire bar to know how wonderful and funny he was. Spoiler alert: he was a twat.

By way of example, at one point he asked the Hungarian barmaid if she knew any American phrases, and when she nervously replied with ‘erm…. what’s up?’, he bellowed, ‘Ha! What’s up? I’ll tell ya what’s fucking up, this fucking drink is what’s fucking up, sweetheart!’ Look, I enjoy swearing, perhaps more than most, but that’s just excessive.

Amazingly, however, he was not the most socially unacceptable American we would encounter on the remainder of our trip, as the following morning, while travelling on the shuttle bus back to the airport, my wife and I noticed a man with an American accent (and, from that, we deduced he was American), sat right behind the driver with a rucksack on his lap. Then, soon after leaving the city centre, he opened the rucksack and took out two items: a metal tin, and a giant red pepper, a bit like this one:

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He then proceeded to roll back the metal lid of the tin, filling the entire bus with the stench of fish paste (I’m assuming it was some form of mackerel), before dipping his giant pepper – not a euphemism – into the paste and eating it. What kind of delinquent sociopath eats pepper and fish paste as a snack, let alone on a crowded bus where at least one passenger was feeling delicate (and, therefore, homicidal) after consuming several rum and cokes in a speakeasy-themed bar the night before?

Even more amazingly, in the half hour journey to the airport, he devoured two of these giant peppers, dipped in four, yes four, tins of fish slop, which he then deposited on the floor of the bus. Who does that?

Thankfully, the shuttle bus arrived at the airport just before I resorted to inserting one of the peppers into him, and aside from an unusual incident inside the terminal, where one lady appeared to genuinely struggle with the normally straightforward concept of sitting down, our journey home was uneventful.

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Sitting: complicated

Thanks for reading x

p.s. – it was Peter Crouch who died in my dream.

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Blogapest (Part II)

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

… this: https://middlerageddad.com/2020/02/28/blogapest-part-i/

Don’t be so fucking lazy and go read it for yourself.

Tuesday 18th February 2020

Following a delicious cooked breakfast in our hotel (although, why can none of our European neighbours do breakfast sausages properly? Spicy hot dog sausages with a cooked breakfast, really?), we headed out to explore Budapest – which, it has to be said, was far less intimidating than we had found the route to our hotel the night before.

In fairness, that may be because we took the wrong road from the bus stop (although, I maintain, only because they hadn’t labelled the map/streets properly) and ended up in what appeared to be their gangland district. It probably wasn’t, and was most likely just a not-quite-as-nice part of the city, away from the main tourist spots, but when you’re walking down a dark alley in a foreign country, and there are groups of men huddled together in the shadows, it’s hard not to be a little frightened. Look, I’ve seen Hostel (which was, admittedly, set in Slovakia, but it’s close enough).

Having wasted a couple of hours at two different shopping centres, looking for a Hungarian football shirt for Ollie’s collection, we then decided to visit The House of Terror; which is not – as the name might suggest – a form of jovial tourist attraction (like the dungeons in London and York), but a museum focusing on the fascist and communist regimes throughout Hungary’s 20th Century history (as well as being a fitting memorial to the victims).

Now, I try to keep my blog entries light-hearted and humourous whenever possible, and there is certainly nothing even remotely amusing about the interrogation and torture of innocent Hungarians, but our visit did feature two moments of inadvertent humour, both relating to pigs.

Firstly, one display featured an image of lots of pigs (the importance of which was not entirely clear) accompanied by the caption: “Proudly displaying their Porkers!” Now, call me childish if you like (and I’m sure you will), but to a man who enjoys nothing more than some genital-related innuendo, this was fucking gold.

Shortly afterwards, we entered a series of corridors, which twisted and turned through the museum, and all the walls appeared to be made of a white, wax-like substance. Sadly, photographs were prohibited inside the museum (and, if the solid-granite lump of security guard on the main door was anything to go by, I had no plans to risk a quick snap), but I have found the following image on Google:

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As my wife and I questioned what the waxy substance might be, a tour guide crept up behind us, then suddenly barked “PIG FAT!” at me, before walking away. Naturally, I responded with “Ok, love, no need to call me names”, but I don’t think she heard (NB: a similar incident once occurred when we were in a fabrics souk in Morocco, and I mistakenly assumed the trader was referring to me, when he shouted ‘cheap pouf’).

After a quick lunch at the highly-recommended Pizzica (I shall leave you to guess the cuisine yourselves), and an even quicker drink at the nearby ‘360 Bar’ – which offered stunning views from the rooftop – we headed to the magnificent Opera House, where we had tickets for the afternoon tour.

Now, I should stress from the outset, neither my wife nor I have ever been to the opera, neither of us have much of a desire to ever go to the opera, and neither of us have the first fucking clue what is going on at the opera (for some reason, it tends to be sung in Italian, which is all very lovely and romantic sounding compared to, say, scouse, but is also marginally harder to understand), however we had heard how impressive the building was, so we decided to go on a tour.

Unfortunately, it transpires that the main auditorium in Budapest’s Opera House has been closed for renovation for around two years (it was due to be finished by now, but rumour has it the work will take at least another two years to complete), however the tour still allowed us access to some impressive areas of the building, and I have found the following image online, to add to my own collection of photos:

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The ticket price also included a short operatic performance, and while I have no idea what they were singing about, from the way he seemed agitated during his lines, and from the photos I managed to snap throughout the performance, I can only assume the general gist was ‘Hurry the fuck up, and choose something to wear, we’re late for dinner’.

Sadly, once the performance was over, so was the tour, and we were ushered out of the building before I had chance to try on one of the dresses (I don’t know what it is, but place me near to some elaborate dressing-up, and the urge to put on a dress is incredibly overwhelming):

Before dinner (for which I had special plans), we returned to our hotel, where I suggested my wife rest for a bit while I braved the nearby Post Office, to try and change my out-of-date currency. Fortunately, I located the Post Office without too much trouble, but that is where my luck ended, because once inside I had no idea what to do.

Having stood around for a while, I realised that everyone around me was holding a ticket in order to visit the correct cashier, but the only machine I could see turned out to be dispensing lottery tickets, so off I went in search of something else.

I then discovered what I assumed must be the correct machine and, having watched over the shoulder of the person in front, I discovered how to change the language settings, and my fortunes seemed to be improving. Only, once I had got the instructions into English, I was presented with eight different services, none of which seemed to cater for currency exchange. So, I opted for ‘personal banking’, assuming that was the closest to what I needed, and nervously took my ticket.

As I joined the queue, however, it struck me that only one of the ten counters seemed to be dealing with tickets starting with ‘8’, as mine was, and the person in front of me had been sat there for what seemed like an eternity. Indeed, at least twenty minutes passed, before a cashier at a different counter took pity and called me over.

Unfortunately, as I approached her she noticed my ticket and the old currency I was holding, and starting repeatedly shouting “NUMBER TWO!” directly into my face. I briefly contemplated explaining that I didn’t require the lavatory, thank you very much, but thought better of it. Thankfully, when she realised I was (a) English, and (b) utterly clueless, she quickly swapped my notes and ushered me away to fuck up someone else’s day.

Purely out of curiosity, I went back to the machine on my way out and, having checked again, it transpired the second option (“NUMBER TWO!”), referred in very small letters to ‘currency’, which I might have spotted had I not been so flustered in the first place. Oh well, I never needed to come back, and having considered turning back to the cashier to show her I understood what she meant by putting two fingers up, I inadvertently dispensed another ticket from the machine, and scarpered.

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For dinner that evening, I had reserved a table on the Legenda Candlelit Cruise (I’m quite the romantic at times), which was a two-and-a-half hour, four-course, dinner cruise down the Danube.

I had only made our reservation the week earlier, and having noticed reviews online suggesting a table by the window offered the best views (well, duh), I contacted the company via Facebook to enquire whether it was possible to reserve such a table. To their credit, they responded within a matter of hours, to state that tables tended to be allocated in the order of booking, so I had no chance. However, when I replied to explain that the cruise was for my wife’s 40th, they said they would see what they could do.

Sure enough, as we boarded the boat, the kind people at Legenda had indeed reserved a seat right next to the window for us and, having ordered our complimentary drink, we sat down to enjoy the cruise.

In short, the meal was fantastic, the views stunning, and since there was an open-air section at the back of the boat, we decided to try and get a photo of the two of us with the spectacular Parliament building behind us as we sailed past.

Only, while stood outside awaiting the perfect moment for our selfie, my wife glanced back inside the boat and noticed a flustered looking waitress stood by our empty table. The couple to the right then pointed in our direction, the waitress spotted us out on the deck, and started to head our way – carrying my wife’s dessert with a candle in it. Typically, I had once again made a cock of things, by suggesting we pop outside the boat at the very moment they were bringing a birthday surprise for her.

In my defence, I probably spared her the embarrassment of the entire boat singing ‘Happy Birthday’ (which she would have hated), and how was I to know the organisers had decided to do this for her? Still, it was very sweet, and if you ever travel to Budapest I can highly recommend this particular cruise (perhaps, if my blog ever takes off, I might one day get paid for these plugs).

Anyway, we then took the tram and metro back to our hotel, decided to brave the bar one more time (only to find it was the same barman as the evening before, and he still hadn’t forgiven me for accidentally tipping him 25p) and then called it a night.

To be concluded….

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Blogapest (Part I)

My friends, family, and those of you on Facebook who have been paying attention, should be aware that I recently took my wife to Budapest for a few days in half-term, as part of her 40th birthday present. In truth, she was forty in November, nearly six weeks prior to my own big birthday (so help me, I do like an older woman), but she hates surprises, so I gave her the tickets in November, along with a guide book to this beautiful city, in order that she could plan the trip with me.

And, since I seemingly cannot go anywhere without becoming embroiled in some sort of comical or embarrassing incident (I appear to be a magnet for the unusual, and bear in mind we didn’t have Isaac with us this time), I thought I would tell you all about it – in the form of a postcard home to my followers. Ok, we’ve been back more than a week, but when was the last time a postcard got back to the UK before you did? Exactly.

Enjoy.

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Monday 17th February 2020

In order to make my wife’s birthday trip extra special, I decided to book the ‘Escape Lounge’ at Manchester airport, where, for around £20 each (I had a discount code), we could relax in style before our flight to Budapest, with all the complimentary food and drink we could manage. And, yes, that did include alcohol, but, fortunately, I still hadn’t fully recovered from my own birthday celebrations the weekend before (psychologically, rather than physically), so there was no danger of my becoming too inebriated to board the flight.

Anyway, when I booked this special treat just a few weeks earlier, I was blissfully unaware that I would be receiving my own ‘special treat’ before we even reached the lounge, in the form of getting felt up by a security guard at the baggage check. Look, I have flown before (albeit, not for a few years), so I am aware of the standard procedure for removing one’s belt – and sometimes shoes – before being patted down by a humourless airport employee, but on this occasion the chap in question insisted on running his gloved hands around the inside of my jeans waistband and then boxers, and in doing so caressed one of his long latex-clad fingers across my chap.

Worse, not only did he fail to react to becoming intimate with my intimates (so I assume it was intentional, rather than accidental), but when I made the snap decision to lighten the mood by giggling nervously and saying ‘Don’t worry, that’s not a weapon’, his facial expression remained entirely stoic. I therefore opted against suggesting he should take me for dinner before touching me up again in the future.

Following my own personal ‘baggage check’, The Escape Lounge itself was very nice, and the lady who greeted us perfectly pleasant, but it soon transpired that they would do everything possible to prevent me from getting my money’s worth out of the unlimited food and drink. Not only were the plates for the breakfast buffet ludicrously small (I smirked to myself when recalling the scene from I’m Alan Partridge, where Alan takes his own ‘big plate’ down to breakfast), but after I had been up twice the food started to run out – much to the annoyance of our fellow passengers – long before the lunch service was due to start.

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Then, when I made the decision that 11am was a perfectly acceptable time for a beer (at airports, time is irrelevant, so you can start drinking at 5am if you so wish), I approached the bar to see what draught beer they had on offer. Fortunately, the one beer available was acceptable, so I asked for a pint of that.

“I’m afraid we only serve halves, Sir.”

“But it’s unlimited, is it not?”

“Yes.”

“In that case, I’ll have two halves, please.”

Soon after I had worked my way through a few halves of beer (not to mention eyeing up the recently served lunch menu at the buffet table, with less than half an hour to our flight), we went to our gate and boarded the Jet2 plane waiting to take a load of Brits to Budapest.

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Obligatory plane photo

And, it would seem, a load of Brits cannot board a plane without entirely fucking it up, because not only did a group of people (I believe the technical term is ‘morons’), ignore the boarding procedure – leading to those in the front few rows holding up the entire queue while they fannied about loading their bags and taking their seats with no sense of urgency whatsoever – but shortly after my wife and I correctly took our seats (when instructed to do so), it quickly became apparent that there was an issue on the other side of the plane.

It later transpired, one couple had either accidentally or deliberately ignored their seat allocation (either way, I despised them), but when the passengers who should have been in those seats boarded the plane, they simply followed suit and sat somewhere else, rather than tell them to fuck off.

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Worse, Brits being Brits, all the remaining passengers then did exactly the same, rather than create a scene, which eventually created a scene anyway, as the final couple to board could not sit together – let alone anywhere near their original seats.

One poor flight attendant then had to make a quarter of the plane stand up and switch around, all because of the original couple who, to my horror, were not then thrown out of the fucking door at twenty-thousand feet as a punishment. Perhaps this is one of the many reasons why I would not make for a good flight attendant (indeed, any public service position requires at least rudimentary patience with the public, and I generally hate people at the best of times, let alone Brits going abroad).

Thankfully, this incident only slightly delayed our flight taking off, and we actually landed ahead of schedule, thanks to the tail-end of Storm Dennis (shit name) getting behind our tail-end, escorting us on our way across Europe a little faster than expected. Bless ‘im.

Upon arrival at Budapest’s Ferenc Liszt airport, the passport check was mercifully brief (aside from a plane load of confused Brits all questioning whether we should now join the EU or non-EU queue), and having collected our bags, I managed to purchase two travel passes for our three-day visit, as well as tickets for the airport shuttle bus to take us to the city centre. Thankfully, most Hungarians speak excellent English (far better than most of the Brits on our plane, as it happens), otherwise I might very well have found myself conjuring up a mime for ‘bus’, which is a situation I was happy to avoid.

Once we had checked in to our hotel (which was lovely), we then decided to brave the city for dinner and a few drinks.

Having taken advice before leaving, one place I was keen to check out was ‘Szimpla Kert’, one of the very first (if not the first) ‘ruin bars’ in the city. It was essentially an old factory, which had been transformed into a network of tiny bars and eateries (some without a roof, such was the dilapidation of the building), and having wandered around for a bit, we stumbled upon a tiny alcove bar serving burgers and other bar type food.

Having pondered the menu and our new ‘funny money’, we ordered, and then took our seats on a shared table with a few other couples.

Sadly, soon after taking the first few sips of my Hungarian beer, I realised the couple to my left were also British (I realised this, because they were extremely loud southerners) and, having caught my eye, the man decided to bring me into their ‘discussion’ over some of the artwork on the wall.

“Awight mate, help me out ‘ere, will ya? That picture up there, it’s a fackin’ man, right? The missus says it’s a woman.”

“Sorry, it IS a woman.”

“You sure?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, it’s not my fackin’ fault I can’t see properleeeee. That fackin’ barman gave me some fackin’ Plinko, dinne, and now I’m fackin’ pissed out me ‘ead.”

Lovely fella.

Turns out, he was half right. The drink he had previously been served (apparently around 2pm, and by now it was nearly 8pm), was actually Pálinka, a traditional Hungarian brandy (of sorts), but he was quite correct about one thing – being pissed. Annihilated, as it happens.

In fact, he was so drunk, at one point he knocked over his empty pint glass but failed to realise, and then a full ten minutes later accused his wife/girlfriend (who was also drunk, but not to his level of inebriation), of spilling it. She then pointed out he had finished it some time ago, before knocking the empty glass over himself, and he decided on that basis it was time to leave.

And not a moment too soon, either, as the group of pleasant Hungarians to my right were clearly starting to think we knew this couple, and were travelling as a foursome, so I wanted to distance myself from them as quickly as possible. Besides which, I had a very strong feeling he was probably a Chelsea fan, which only made me dislike him all the more.

After dinner and a few drinks in Szimpla Kert (where I, rather annoyingly, discovered some of the currency I had brought with me was no longer legal tender, and I would need to change it at a bank), we wandered back to our hotel, passing a curious looking Indian Restaurant called ‘Bum Bum Hole’ on the way (it was actually called ‘Bum Bum Bole’, but I was by now a few beers warmer myself, so I misread the sign, and Bum Bum Bole is nowhere near as funny).

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Having enjoyed one further drink in the hotel bar (and realising, retrospectively, that I had accidentally tipped the barman around 25p, as I had not yet got to grips with the exchange rate), we retired to the room where I found some German football channel on the TV (the only British channel appeared to be BBC World News, which was all doom-and-gloom).

And, rather amazingly, the German for ‘Trent Alexander-Arnold’, is apparently ‘Trent Alexander-Arnold’.  Who knew?

To be continued…

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