Blogged Content

Having locked horns with the electrical retailer Currys a few weeks ago, regarding my long overdue Christmas present (update: the air fryer arrived less than 48 hours after my blog entry was published, and I’ve since been furnished with a £20 goodwill payment into my account by way of an apology for their company achieving a level of complaint resolution somewhere between ‘terrible’ and ‘fucking useless’), a few days ago I had reason to contact another purveyor of customer service excellence… Sky.

In short, the firm I work for has recently switched its website to the WordPress platform (you may be aware of my feelings towards WordPress, which is the very platform I use for this blog, and how I now encounter technical issues with it on nearly every entry) but, for reasons which remain unclear, not everyone can access it. Which is a shame, because I spent a considerable amount of time re-writing and updating all the content.

Anyway, it took a while for us (and by ‘us’, I mean ‘me’) to work out that the members of staff and – more importantly – clients who cannot currently view the site, receiving instead a ‘403 Forbidden – You don’t have permission to access this resource’ message, all have one thing in common: their broadband is with Sky.

Every other provider – to my knowledge – has no issues at all with our new website, but Sky is seemingly blocking it for their customers, and we still don’t know why. I promise I’ve not sworn anywhere when re-writing any of the pages, I certainly haven’t made any rude or libelous comments, and my boss forbade me from using that photo of me in a bikini for my profile picture, so it remains a total mystery to everyone concerned. Including, it now transpires, Sky themselves.

Having spent more than an hour on the phone to their ‘technical support team’ earlier this week (which is about as accurate a description as Currys ‘complaint resolution’ department) to try and rectify the issue, they seemingly don’t have a clue what is causing the error message.

Thankfully, I’m a very patient man who is not prone to expletive-laden outbursts (fuck off, yes I am) and, when the conversation developed into one of the most bizarre exchanges I think I’ve ever had while on the phone (or even off the phone, for that matter), I started taking notes so that I could share it with you lot.

What follows, is as close to a verbatim account of my telephone call with Sky as my frantically scribbled handwriting could possibly muster….

***

“Hello there. How can I help you today?”

“Hi. I’m having some problems accessing a particular website and it turns out I’m not the only one, so I was hoping you could look into what the problem is for me?”

“Yes, certainly Sir. Can I take you through some security questions first?”

“Sure.”

[I’ve omitted our exchanges regarding the security questions, for obvious reasons]

“And, finally, can I take your postcode please?”

“Yes. It’s CW….”

“C?”

“Yes, CW…”

“C as in chicken?”

“If you like. I mean, it’s normally Charlie, but whatever.”

“Charlie? Sorry, I thought you said your name was Greg, Mr Greg?”

“It is. I meant the letter C in the phonetic alphabet is Charlie.”

“Excuse me?”

“Never mind. Yes, C as in chicken.”

“What was next?”

“W. CW. As in Crewe. CW.”

“Walter.”

“Sure. Chicken Walter….”

[We then went through the rest of my postcode and first line of our address, painfully slowly, to satisfy Sammy One Star that I was who I claimed to be]

“Ah, yes, I have found you now Mr Greg.”

“Just Greg.”

“Just Greg?”

“It’s not Mr Greg. Greg is my first name.”

“Oh, yes. Of course. My humblest of apologies. And what seems to be the problem, Mr Greg?”

“Well, as I was explaining about ten minutes ago before we went through all the security questions and I lost the will to live, I’m having trouble getting onto a website and it looks like it’s affecting all Sky customers, not just me.”

“Ah. Are you….. how do I say this? You wishing to look at the porn, Mr Greg?”

“What?!”

“You look at the porn, yes?”

“No! It’s our company’s website.”

“Your company? You… erm… you work for the porn?”

“No, I don’t work for the porn. I work for a law firm. I’m a solicitor.”

“Oh. I always wanted to be a lawyer.”

“You’d make more money in porn, trust me.”

“Excuse me?”

“Never mind. I’m sure working for Sky’s technical support team is better than being a lawyer. To be honest, if you have any jobs going, give me a shout. Anyway, can you look into why your company apparently has an issue with my company’s new website, please? I think it must be something to do with the fact we’ve switched over to WordPress, as it’s apparently affecting anyone who has their broadband with Sky, but it’s fine for everyone else.”

“Have you seen the movie ‘Sweets’, Mr Greg?”

“Just Greg. And no, I haven’t. Why?”

“Oh, it’s very good. You should watch it. It is about lawyers like you. That is my recommendation.”

“Maybe I will.”

“It is all about the lawyers. In sweets. You know, like the clothes.”

“Right….. hang on, do you mean the television programme ‘Suits’?”

“Yes. Sweets. It very good. You like.”

“Ok, I know the show you mean now. I still haven’t seen it though.”

“Very very good. You like. While we wait, I see you have been a loyal customer for 18 years now. Can I interest you in upgrading your package?”

“No, thanks. I actually reduced our package a few weeks ago, and to be honest I’m calling from a work phone, about a work issue, so I’m not interesting in discussing my personal Sky account anyway.”

“Ok, let us solve this problem and try to get you onto the forbidden site.”

“That makes it sound dodgy. It’s just a law firm’s website.”

“Yes. Very forbidden. Like Sweets!”

“Whatever, mate. Can you fix it?”

“I will be putting you on hold Mr Greg. Very briefly. I will still be here but would like to ask some of my colleagues who are good with the technology. That ok?”

“Fine. I was hoping you might be good with the technology, seeing as you’re part of the technical support team, but whatever you need to do to resolve it.”

[ten minutes later]

“Thank you for holding there, Mr. Greg-“

“Just Greg.”

“Just Greg. I have spoken to our technical team and they suggest we turn your router off and then back on again.”

“That won’t fix it.”

“We should try, Mr Greg.”

“No, we shouldn’t. I’ve already explained that this issue is affecting all Sky customers, not just me, so turning off my router won’t solve the problem. It’s a problem between Sky and WordPress and there is something your system doesn’t like which is blocking it. It’s not all of WordPress, because I use that for other sites and I can see them fine, it’s just our firm’s new website.”

“Can we just try the router, to rule that out?”

“No. I promise you that isn’t the issue, and because I’m phoning through my work’s laptop phone, if I disconnect the router it will end this call, merciful though that may seem right now.”

“I would like to put you on hold again, Mr Greg.”

[ten minutes later]

“Thank again for your patience, Mr Greg. I am going to write up my notes and send this off to our technical team for them to look into it. I will be quiet while I write but I will still be here. That be ok?”

“Do I need to stay on the phone?”

“Sorry?”

“Do I have to stay on the call? If you can’t fix it, and all you’re going to do is write up what I’ve told you then send it to someone technical, can’t I end the call now and leave you to it? You have my number if you need me.”

“Yes, very good Mr Greg. I was happy speaking to you today. And you must watch Sweets, believe me. You like. It very great.”

“Can’t wait.”

“Bye bye Mr Greg!”

[Because WordPress is now shit, and won’t let me upload images, let alone emojis, you’ll have to imagine the giant ‘facepalm’ image I was hoping to include here].

Thanks for reading x

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Blog’s First Law

When I studied for my GCSEs back in the mid-nineties (I know what you’re all thinking – surely, with his boyish good looks, wrinkle-free forehead, and not a single grey hair in sight, he can’t possibly be that old; but, like Shakira, my hips don’t lie), there were certain core subjects we had to take as part of the National Curriculum: namely English, Maths and Science.

English was split into two subjects, English Literature and English Language, and we received a separate grade for each. Maths counted as a another.

Then, for reasons I am still unclear on to this day, the three sciences (biology, physics, and chemistry) were also studied separately, and for our efforts we were awarded two GCSEs. Not three. Not one per subject, like you might expect. Oh no. Two.

This was sold to us on the premise we were studying ‘double’ science, as if that would convince us we were still getting a fair deal (“wow, double science, that’s twice as good as just regular science!”), but even those who struggled with maths could tell it was utter bullshit. Biology, physics and chemistry are three separate branches of science and, if students are going to have to persevere with all three of them, then surely they should receive a ‘triple’ science GCSE, with three distinct grades.

It’s not rocket science, really (because, unless I’m mistaken, you don’t even study that at A-level).

Anyway, grievances aside (can you tell this still pisses me off nearly three decades later? Maybe I’ll bring it up with Ollie’s teachers when he chooses his GCSE options at the end of this academic year, because they’ve still not added the extra qualification even now), I ended up doing well in my exams, but only because I was good at two of the subjects, and this made up for the third.

Biology was always my favourite (and, if it weren’t for the truly formidable ‘Love Machine’, the same comment would also be true of Girls Aloud’s back catalogue, because ‘Biology’ is a fucking tune), and I was good at it, so I ended up studying the subject at A-Level, then again as a minor course in my first year of university – although, in all honesty, this was only because the subjects I really wanted to do clashed with my law courses.

I also really enjoyed chemistry (and, if it weren’t for ‘Closing Time’ and ‘Secret Smile’, the same comment would be true of Semisonic’s back catalogue, because ‘Chemistry’ is also a tune) but, unlike biology, it would be fair to say I struggled with it. Ok, it would be even fairer to say I was shit at it.

I was fascinated with all the scientific experiments and the periodic table (fans of my monthly pub quizzes will attest to this), but I really struggled with topics like chemical equations and reactions, and it ended up being my lowest mark at GCSE by some margin. So, in that respect, perhaps it’s best I didn’t have to study it separately from the other two subjects, because chemistry on it’s own was a shit-show, yet I still somehow ended up with a double ‘A’ grade overall, thanks to my performances in biology and physics. Imagine the core sciences are the three members of Nirvana, then for me chemistry was Krist Novoselic.

Finally, we had physics, which I always found to be intolerably dull (it was my least favourite of the three sciences by some margin), but I was somehow pretty good at it. Again, probably for the best, bearing in mind my performance in chemistry. In fact, using the same regrettable Nirvana analogy, physics was always Kurt Cobain, because my performance was generally good, but I took no joy from it whatsoever (and, by default, that leaves Dave Grohl representing biology, because he’s always fun and really interesting).

In fact, physics was so boring, I can only assume the final exam paper was marked more generously than the one in chemistry, because to this day none of it makes any sense to me whatsoever, and I have never got my head around all the laws created by the likes of Pascal, Hooke and especially Newton (who, it now transpires, was only the second most baffling Isaac in human history).

Nevertheless, despite loathing this part of the subject, when I was in first year at university I decided to come up with my own series of laws based on observations I had made in human behaviour (because I was/am a nerd like that, and girls weren’t exactly troubling my diary at the time), and I called these, rather appropriately, Greg’s First Law, Greg’s Second Law, and Greg’s Third Law.

Greg’s First Law

‘When talking in a loud environment, the source of the noise will suddenly and unexpectedly cease at the precise moment of maximum embarrassment.’

By way of an illustration for Greg’s First Law, consider the following example of two people having a conversation in a nightclub:

*Very loud music plays in the background*

A: “I’m nipping to the bar in a minute, if you want a drink?”

B: “Say again?”

A: “I’m nipping to the loo, then I’ll go to the bar. Want another?”

B: “Sorry, I can’t hear you over the music!”

A: “DO YOU WANT A DRINK?! I’M GOING TO THE LOO THEN THE BAR!”

B: “YEAH. I’LL HAVE ANOTHER RUM AND COKE. CHEERS! YOU GOING TO THE BAR NOW?”

A: “No, I’m going to the loo first.”

B: “Eh?”

A: “I SAID, I’M GOING TO THE LOO FIRST, BECAUSE IF I DON’T GO NOW-“

*Loud music suddenly and unexpectedly stops*

A: “-I’M GOING TO FUCKING PISS MY PANTS!”

*Everyone in the vicinity turns and laughs at Person A*

NB: I hasten to add this is purely an example, rather than based on any personal experience to my knowledge, but I’ll be honest and say it did spring to mind very quickly.


Greg’s Second Law

‘When walking through a double set of doors and holding each door open for the person behind you, that person will never thank you in the same way twice.’

For example, if you are entering a small foyer type area, and you hold the first (outer) door open for someone, and they say “thank you”, they are then physically unable to say “thank you” again for the next (inner) set of doors that you hold open, and will invariably opt for something friendlier (because, you’re door buddies now), such as “thanks,” “ta,” or “cheers.”

If you don’t believe me, try it for yourself next time you find yourself in a double-door situation.

NB: Of course, if you live in London, there’s no point trying this, because the other person almost certainly won’t speak to you at all.

Greg’s Third Law

‘When creating three scientific laws of human behaviour, always write them down, because you will never be able to recall the third and final law two decades later, and if you’ve already committed yourself by writing 1,000 words of a blog entry, you’re going to look a right tit when you can’t remember the last one.’

Fuck’s sake.

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Blogger Off, Currys

For the past few years, my dear mother has struggled to come up with Christmas present ideas for my wife and I, so, because she simply won’t accept “we don’t need anything” or “just some socks” as viable options, she has started buying us either a voucher for a fancy meal out, or something for the house. God love her.

As we approached Christmas last year (well, I say approached, but if mum hasn’t fully sorted all her gifts by the end of September, she starts to develop a nervous twitch), I began to wonder about getting an air fryer for the kitchen, so she said if we found one that we wanted, she would give us the money to buy it.

Now, I know I’m a little late to the party (as is so often the case with new technology), but so, it seems, was the rest of the UK, because suddenly every fucker in the country wanted an air fryer for Christmas, and getting one (at least, a decent one for a reasonable price) was proving extremely difficult. In fact, I’d have had an easier time sourcing some rocking horse shit.

My brother has one of the ‘Ninja’ air fryers (other makes are available), and he raves about how it has revolutionised his cooking (like us, he has young children, and sometimes a ‘quick tea’ to keep them happy is the easiest option), so taking his advice I started to focus on that particular brand and eventually found one I wanted.

Except, nowhere had it in stock

And I do mean nowhere.

We tried all the major electrical and kitchen appliance retailers (and even some of the non-major/shit ones) but, as soon as any of them got some air fryers back in stock, they immediately vanished again before I had chance to purchase one, as though everyone else was sat by their keyboards waiting and reacting quicker than I was. Which they invariably were.

In the end, having joined a number of ‘remind me when this item is back in stock’ mailing lists, including Ninja themselves (who insisted on only announcing they had more stock around 2am, so by the time I saw the email the next morning every unit had already sold), I managed to source one via a large high street retailer who we shall call ‘Currys’ because, well, that’s their name.  

(NB: Normally, in circumstances like this, where I am about to launch a vitriolic tirade of abuse towards a company who has, for want of a better phrase, ‘fucked me over’, I’ll disguise their name – not always convincingly – for ‘legal reasons.’ However, on this occasion, I would actually welcome a day in court with this company, so if any of their top brass happen to read this and want to sue me for defamation, you can all kiss my skinny white ass).

Initially, my dealings with Currys seemed to be going well – they had, after all, done a fine job of delivering a vacuum cleaner for my wife’s birthday only a few weeks earlier (and, before anyone judges me as some sort of misogynistic pig, she insisted that was what she wanted) – and I was promised that our air fryer would be delivered on the Thursday of that week, which just happened to be my day working from home. Splendid.

Except, the air fryer didn’t turn up on that Thursday as expected, nor the following day, nor even that weekend, so I decided to track my package online (not a euphemism), at which point I was informed it was currently stuck at the local DPD (yes, I’m naming those wankers as well) depot in Stoke.

Being uncharacteristically patient, I consoled myself that the Royal Mail strikes taking place at that time were probably impacting the delivery community as a whole, and since we still had another three weeks until Christmas, so that mum could wrap the air fryer and then gift it back to us, I wasn’t overly concerned with a slight delay.

Unfortunately, said air fryer not only failed to turn up in time for Christmas, but when I checked again during the abyss of time that is the period betwixt Christmas and New Year, I was shocked to find DPD had ‘returned the item to seller’ at my request. MY REQUEST.

Fucking livid.

Naturally, with my uncharacteristic patience now wearing thin, I Googled the complaints email address for Currys (having decided that raising a complaint with the perpetually useless DPD would be about as productive as tits on fish), and set about drafting a lengthy bollocking for them to muse over, before offering me some pathetic excuse of an apology.

Imagine my delight when, having prepared said email, and having deliberately omitted the word ‘kind’ from the end, so it simply said ‘regards’ (I wanted to make it clear how pissed off I was), the email then bounced back as the address advertised online is apparently ‘no longer active’.

Oh dear, Currys.

Having wasted another hour from my mid-life crisis using their online ‘webchat’ service (which, frankly, made even DPD seem competent, because I ended up stuck with Sally No Stars, who kept asking if I wanted a refund, and didn’t seem to grasp what I meant by “no, I want the air fryer I paid for as a Christmas present, a few weeks ago, which is seemingly now back with your useless company), I had no choice other than to phone their ‘helpline’ instead (never has a description been more of a misnomer, because I suspect the folk manning the lines wouldn’t have understood the word ‘help’ if they had been made to repeat it from the dictionary every day for six months, before having it tattooed onto their stupid foreheads).

Having gone over the same conversation of declining a refund, and insisting on them delivering MY air fryer instead, which was surely knocking around their depot somewhere, I was assured it would be sent back out to me in “a few days.”

Naturally, a few days passed with no further contact, but the one useful thing the ‘helpline’ operative had done was to – extremely reluctantly – provide me with their actual complaints address, so last week I set about preparing another, more volatile, email.

This time, expecting a sincere apology, together with offers of either a substantial gift voucher, free washing machine, or the area manager’s first-born child by way of compensation, I wasn’t prepared for the very abrupt reply I received a few days later: “sorry, this item is now out of stock.”

Now, it’s not often I get so angry that I reject the use of any conclusion to my emails whatsoever (I am British, after all), and it’s even rarer for me to launch straight into a bollocking without so much as a ‘Dear Sirs’, but I’ve cut and pasted our subsequent exchanges below for the world to see:

From: uselesscompany@currys.co.uk

To: poorbastardwhojustwantshisairfryer.co.uk

Good day,

Thank you for your email. We apologise for the inconvenience this has caused. Please accept our apologies. The item is now out of stock, and we are expecting stock on 12/01/2023. You can choose an alternative item so we can send it out. However, if you would like to be refunded, we can cancel the item and process a refund.

Kind regards

***

From: poorbastardwhojustwantshisairfryer.co.uk

To: uselesscompany@currys.co.uk

How can it be out of stock when I ordered and paid for one a month ago, it was delivered as far as the depot in Stoke, then returned to you without consulting me and with no attempt to deliver it? Surely the one which was returned to you belongs to me? You have now had my money for a month. This is unacceptable. 

***

From: uselesscompany@currys.co.uk

To: poorbastardwhojustwantshisairfryer.co.uk

Good day,

Thank you for your email.

I apologise for the inconvenience this has caused you. We do not have the stock available, and we are receiving stock on January 12, 2023.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any further questions.

***

From: poorbastardwhojustwantshisairfryer.co.uk

To: uselesscompany@currys.co.uk

That hasn’t answered my question.

I bought this product A MONTH AGO in good time for it to be delivered as a Christmas present. It was shipped as far as Stoke (which is 10 minutes from where I live) but DPD failed to make any attempt to deliver it and instead returned it to you, claiming that it was being returned at my request. It wasn’t.

You therefore have at least one of these air fryers in stock… mine. Unless you’re now saying you’ve sold the item I’ve paid for to another customer?

I want this complaint escalating to someone senior, with a full explanation and a guarantee the item will be with me by the end of this week (Friday 13th January).

***

From: uselesscompany@currys.co.uk

To: poorbastardwhojustwantshisairfryer.co.uk

Hi

Thank you for your January 9, 2023, email.

Please accept my apologies for any inconvenience caused as you have not received your product at the expected time.

To answer your question, no, you have not paid for the product for another customer; however, with the product being out of stock, we have an alternative option to wait for the same replacement to be in stock or you can opt for an alternative that is within the same price range as the air fryer you bought initially.

As it stands, the return has been approved; it is a matter of whether you are willing to wait for stock to arrive on the advised date to get a new delivery date or if you would like to take an alternate route.

Please reach out for further assistance.

***

From: poorbastardwhojustwantshisairfryer.co.uk

To: uselesscompany@currys.co.uk

But the product isn’t out of stock, because the one I paid for has been returned to you by DPD, so my one is still there somewhere.

If the new stock arrives on 12th January, I expect one of those to be delivered to me on Friday 13th January. 

***

From: poorbastardwhojustwantshisairfryer.co.uk

To: uselesscompany@currys.co.uk

Further to my previous emails (below), this issue has still not been resolved, I have received no response, and the situation is completely unacceptable.

I was informed last week that, even though MY air fryer was returned to you, and you hadn’t allocated it to someone else, the product is now out of stock. Clearly that cannot be true.

I was then told the product would be back in stock on 12th January, so I insisted one be delivered by the following day. I received no response.

Unless I receive a full refund, plus compensation for the fact my money has been sat in your account for more than a month, together with the fact the item which was supposed to be delivered a month ago was a CHRISTMAS PRESENT, I’ll be taking further action. 

***

They haven’t responded, so as promised I’m taking action. In the form of an online blog. Which around ten people will read.

I do feel slightly better, to be fair.

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Bloggage Allowance (Part II)

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

In my last entry, I shared the first three ‘postcards’ from our family holiday to Majorca earlier this month.

There was panic when my mum cracked her tooth on a Chinese takeaway the night before our departure, embarrassment as I loudly announced the arrival of my sister’s suitcase with ‘a pink strap on’ at Palma airport, sadness as we mourned the passing of ‘John the Blu Tack Penis’, and laughter as Isaac managed to win a bottle of herbal liqueur and a shellac nail treatment on our first night at the hotel.

Oh, and my first dip in the hotel pool ended with me at conversational distance from a sleeping woman’s vagina.

Seriously, if you didn’t read the last entry, you’re missing out. Fortunately for you, here’s a handy link, and the rest of us will wait while you catch up…

http://www.middlerageddad.com/bloggage-allowance-part-i/

Let’s crack on, shall we?

Having bemoaned the fact that on our first two days here we’ve struggled to get sun loungers by the pool, because other guests apparently get up ridiculously early to ‘reserve’ them with towels, and having labelled the offenders “selfish fucking wankers”, I decided to get up ridiculously early this morning to reserve some loungers with our towels. Oh well, if you can’t beat them…

I have to say, my new Stockport County towel looked resplendent. My wife’s Norwich City towel less so.

After breakfast, we sunbathed for a while, but it quickly got very hot and, with the kids already cooling off in the pool and seemingly intent on drowning each other, I decided to join them and keep the peace.

Sadly, due to the fact I burned my shoulders on our first day here (despite regular applications of factor 50), I’ve had to wear a t-shirt in the pool since. So, while all the ‘normal’ adult men have been bronzing their naked torsos in the scorching Majorcan sunshine, me, most of the children, and all the gingers have had to stay covered up. Shame, as I’d been working hard on getting totally ripped for this holiday.

As I waded over to where our boys were swimming, I noticed they were repeatedly jabbing each other and shouting something while giggling. It was only as I got next to them, and the noise from the other bathers faded away, I realised they were in fact shouting “prick!” each time they prodded one another.

Having angrily told them to stop using such language, both boys looked shocked and revealed they were playing a game they had just invented called ‘Water Sausage’, which either means they are very fast-thinking liars, or they’re morons who genuinely made up a game based on them being sausages and getting ‘pricked’ by their sibling. I’m not sure which concerns me more.

When I got back out of the pool and wandered over to where my wife was sunbathing on her (inferior) Norwich City towel, I suggested she might like to partake in a bit of ‘Water Sausage’ in the pool later, but she misunderstood my intentions and threatened to throw a sandal at me if I took one step nearer.

Worth a try.

Following another delicious evening meal, during which Isaac insisted all the menu choices were not to his liking, so he opted for a huge plate of “Dessert Tapas” instead, we headed back to the bar for tonight’s ‘mini disco’, which is on every evening before the main entertainment starts at 9.30pm.

The mini disco involves one of the Animation team (imagine a primary school teacher on LSD) and three guest kids on stage, leading the rest of the younger audience in the same playlist of nauseatingly cheerful song and dance routines. Think ‘Hokey Cokey’ and you won’t be far wrong. Actually, you’d be bang on. It was track 3.

As the adults (plus Ollie, who is way too cool/boring to dance with his younger brother and cousins) watched on from the back of the bar, a waiter approached our table to clear some empties and excitedly announced that the current song, ‘Baby Shark’ is “going to be huge.”

Erm, I think it already is mate. It’s been out for around five years and has been watched more than eleven billion times on YouTube.

He then expanded on his claim, by suggesting it won’t just be huge, it will be “bigger than ‘Evergreen’”. Eh? The Will Young track from the first series of Pop Idol in 2002? Fucking hell mate, where have you been for the past twenty years?

(Before any Westlife fans e-mail me, I’m aware Evergreen was originally their song – well, I am now, as I just Googled it – but I think we can all agree Will’s version is better known.)

The main entertainment this evening was a ‘Bruno Mars and Friends’ tribute act, although ‘Bruno’ only performed a handful of ‘his’ songs, before the playlist ended up in a downward spiral of Ed Sheeran tracks instead. Still, at least it wasn’t ABBA.

Today, we had pre-booked a glass-bottom boat trip in the nearby resort of Alcudia, so we arranged a couple of taxis with reception (which took TWO FUCKING HOURS to turn up) and, once we got there, we fortunately had a bit of time to do some shopping and grab lunch before heading to the harbour.

As the boys have some holiday spending money, Isaac immediately set about adding to his already excessive hat collection (as well as satisfying his sweet tooth with some nasty-looking confectionery), while Ollie’s main ambition was to buy a football shirt.

I tried to explain that he already has dozens of kits, including both Barcelona and Real Madrid (which understandably ruled out most of those available), but we then spotted a row of Spanish national shirts from the 2010 World Cup at the back of a shop and, no sooner had we shown a slight interest in one with Andreas Iniesta’s name and number on the back, the owner approached us was not taking no for an answer.

Fortunately, Ollie (with some assistance from his mother) managed to haggle the owner down from €40 to just €20, which he was delighted with – Ollie, not the owner. In truth, such a price drop almost certainly means the shirt is fake, but neither Ollie nor I could tell the difference and so long as he’s happy with his purchase that’s good enough for me. After all, he didn’t say anything when Santa got him that supposedly genuine Barcelona kit from a Chinese eBay site for just £13 a few years back.

This evening’s entertainment was a trio of very talented acrobats, although Isaac seemed more fascinated that they “had their boobies out” (side note: they were all men who merely had pronounced pecs – as is so often the case with acrobats) and, while we sat there my phone pinged with an alert from MyFitnessPal. Turns out, the app was just checking in on me, like an old friend, because I haven’t logged anything I’ve eaten – or, perhaps more importantly, drunk – since we arrived.

“You haven’t logged your lunch for today. Would you like to do it now?”

“Mate, I haven’t logged anything at all since Tuesday, and I had doughnuts for breakfast. Probably best not to ask.”

After the excitement – and heat – of yesterday’s boat trip, we decided to have a quieter one by the pool today.

As per usual, it didn’t take long for me to embarrass myself, firstly by capsizing in spectacular fashion while mounting my niece’s giant inflatable unicorn, and then by getting stuck in her rubber ring as well (I cannonballed into it, arse first, from the side of the pool which, in hindsight, was a mistake). Naturally, my wife found this hilarious and, rather than help, she grabbed her phone for a photo.

It wasn’t long before our exuberant jumping in from the side of the pool began attracting unfavourable glances and mutterings from a family sat by the edge. As far as I’m concerned, if you insist on getting up at 6am to reserve those loungers, you should expect to get your fucking feet wet.

Following one particularly spectacular cannonball from my brother, the older lady of the group (their party seemed to span three generations, like ours), beckoned him over to where she was sat.

I was too far away to hear the conversation, but I did notice a look of confusion on my brother’s face, so decided to offer some support in case he was being chastised for his aquatic enthusiasm. Turns out, she was asking him to solve some of the clues in her crossword, and I then got roped in as well, resulting in the two of us spending at least fifteen minutes leaning over her, much to the amusement of our respective wives. I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t have found it quite so funny if it had been a bikini-clad twenty-something needing help with her crossword, but there you go.

Tonight’s entertainment was a group called ‘The Cover Girls’ who, as the name suggests, performed a series of cover versions spanning several decades and genres. Highlights included Isaac twerking away to ‘Hit the Road Jack’ (he mistakenly thought the lyrics were “In the Bum Shack”, but I still don’t think that necessitated twerking) and ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ (which resulted in him running towards me from the dance floor, shouting “TUNE!” in my face, and then running back again). Lowlights included the entire medley of ABBA shite they performed for their encore. If I’d known that was going to be the encore, I’d have made damn sure they didn’t come back out again.

Our final day before flying home.

Not much happened of note, save for Ollie entering – and winning – a football tournament, beating a Millwall fan in the final (which was particularly pleasing) and Isaac getting recognised in the restaurant as we walked in for our last evening meal of the holiday. Not by one of my followers, mind (which would, I suppose, have been more plausible), but by the dad of one of his Sandbach United teammates, who arrived this afternoon. What are the chances, eh?

Home tomorrow and, while I have always said I would never return to the same hotel, or even the same resort (what’s the point, when you can go somewhere new?) I’d be sorely tempted to come here again, if only for the superb all-inclusive food and drink, which is the best we’ve ever experienced.

So long, Majorca, it’s been a blast.

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Bloggage Allowance (Part I)

If you cast your minds back to April (or simply scroll down the page a bit), I explained in Blog #249 that, for my mum’s 70th birthday later this year, my siblings and I decided to take her to Majorca for a family holiday with all four of her grandchildren – and, as is so often the case when our family get together, it was nothing if not eventful.

So, I thought I’d mark this blogging milestone with an entry all about our summer hols, broken down into seven bitesize ‘postcards’ to all my followers. And, just like real postcards from abroad, I arrived home long before any of you got to read them.

Enjoy.

Well, that wasn’t exactly the stress-free start to our holiday we had been hoping for.

Having already navigated our way through the worry of Ollie’s COVID jabs (he turned 12 in May, but that didn’t allow us sufficient time to get both of his vaccinations before our departure, as per Spanish entry requirements), nationwide flight cancellations, and the fact my brother’s family only received their passports a month ago, none of us banked on a seemingly harmless takeaway potentially fucking up the entire trip.

Yet, on the evening before we were due to fly, and having collected my sister from the train station with all her luggage, my Mum treated the two of them to a Chinese takeaway and, in a delicious twist of irony, she badly chipped her tooth on…. wait for it…. a chip.

Cue a family-wide panic attack. Mum was in tears thinking she had ruined the holiday, my brother was phoning around emergency dentists, all of whom wanted to charge the GDP of a small African nation to treat her that evening (not that she wanted to go to a dentist she didn’t know anyway), and I couldn’t drive over to her house to help my sister calm her down as I’d already started my “I’m not in work for an entire week” celebratory drinking.

Long story short, we managed to delay the taxi to the airport by 45 minutes, to allow Mum time to drive to her usual dental surgery for when they opened so she could plead for an emergency appointment. Having explained the situation, the reception staff were typically unsympathetic wankers and told her she couldn’t be seen. At this point, Mum was in tears, and a gentleman sat nearby asked why she was so upset. When she explained, he calmly told her he would sort it, walked to the reception desk, and after a few minutes came back, wished her a lovely holiday, and left the surgery. It turned out he had given up his 9am appointment so she could be seen in his place.  It’s nice to know there are still kind-hearted people out there (even if very few of them work in dental surgeries).

Thankfully, Mum was seen, the tooth was repaired, and she just about make her taxi in time. Then, contrary to all the horror stories in the media, we managed to drop our luggage off, have our passports checked, and proceed through security without any intimate cavity searches all within about half an hour, giving us time for a bite to eat before our flight. Which was on time. Things were finally going our way.

Unfortunately, when we landed at Palma airport, Isaac discovered that ‘John the Blu Tack Penis Man’ hadn’t survived the trip, which he was very sad about. In case you’re wondering (and, if you’re not, what the hell is wrong with you?) John was a penis Isaac had lovingly crafted out of Blu Tack and who he insisted accompany him in a sandwich bag stowed in his hand luggage. John, God rest his soul, had the body of a penis, curly hair (on his ‘head’, mind), and a Nintendo Switch in one of his hands to keep him entertained. No, me neither. I was just grateful none of the security staff at Manchester Airport had questioned the small, phallic lump of Blu Tack in Isaac’s luggage, because you can bet for damn sure he would have taken great pleasure in explaining his pliable little friend to all who would listen. Which would have been everyone.

The next embarrassment occurred shortly afterwards, while waiting to collect our luggage from the carousel. As we stood there, I spotted what I thought (correctly, it transpired) was my sister’s black suitcase, as she had attached a pink luggage strap around the middle to make it easier to identify. Without thinking, and surrounded by a few hundred weary travelers, I shouted across to my sister “Is that your bag with the pink strap on?”

As soon as I said it, I realised how that must have sounded, and it would be safe to say the woman stood next to my mortified sister nearly lost her shit laughing at me.

By the time we had travelled to our hotel and checked in it was just after 7.30pm, so we got washed and changed and headed to the restaurant for dinner, where we discovered that the all-inclusive drinks package included Estrella as the draught beer, decent wine, prosecco, brand spirits such as Captain Morgan and Smirnoff, and all of the (generous) cocktail menu.

Best of all, when I ordered a rum and coke in the bar after dinner, it would be fair to say the measure was heavily weighted in favour of the spirit (it was honestly about three double measures of rum, followed by a splash of coke). Suffice to say, by the end of the night I couldn’t feel my face.

The entertainment for the evening involved guests taking part in a series of challenges on stage, and the audience had to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ depending on whether they thought the participant would be successful. If you voted correctly, your raffle ticket got placed into a winners’ pile for the prize draw at end of the night. And, despite having been up since 4am that morning, Isaac not only won a bottle of herbal liqueur and a shellac nail treatment (which he donated to myself and my sister respectively), but he also took part in a one-hundred-person strong conga line around the bar.

Honestly, he’s like the fucking Duracell bunny that kid.

This morning started with yet another embarrassing incident.

Having been persuaded to tow my young niece around the hotel pool on her new inflatable unicorn, she asked if I could take her from the main pool over to the shallower kids’ section, which involved negotiating the unicorn under a particularly low bridge.

My delight at managing to duck the unicorn’s head under water, while keeping my niece lying sufficiently flat that she didn’t bump hers, was short lived, as no sooner had we got to the kids’ pool she started to look worried that she could no longer see her dad (my brother).

For reasons only known to myself, and with the cringing embarrassment of yesterday’s faux pas in the airport still flush in my cheeks, I then tried to reassure her by saying “Don’t worry, you don’t need daddy now, you’ve got me.”

Cue lots of accusatory looks from sunbathing Brits around the pool.

It was at this point that my latest embarrassment was mercifully overshadowed by a loud grunting sound which, as I turned around to locate the source, transpired to be a lady sunbathing right next to the pool. Not only was she fast asleep and snoring like a wild boar, but her legs were so far akimbo stretched across two sun loungers, that as I turned, I found myself unavoidably staring at her crotch, like a semi-aquatic gynaecologist.

Naturally, I immediately averted my gaze (I am nothing if not a gentleman, and society tends to take a dim view of gawping at a sleeping woman’s delicates while towing a young girl around a swimming pool on an inflatable unicorn – if, indeed, such an event has ever happened before), but I couldn’t help feeling a guilty sense of relief that most of the pool had forgotten my announcement and were now transfixed by her instead.

After a relaxing first day by the pool (embarrassing incidents aside), the family enjoyed a lovely evening meal followed by a soul and Motown singer in the bar over potent all-inclusive cocktails. My niece made a new friend, and the two of them spent the entire night doing cartwheels next to our table, while Isaac, seemingly pissed off that the attention wasn’t on him for a change, chose to overshadow their performance by jumping up and twerking during the singer’s rendition of ‘Build Me Up Buttercup.’

As you do.

Despite having showered last night, in order to wash off a day’s repeated application of factor 50 before dinner (although I might as well not have bothered, as I appear to have badly burned my shoulders and upper back anyway), a night of clammy rum-fueled sleep warranted another shower before breakfast, interspersed with anguished cries every time the powerful jets hit my reddest areas.

As I got out of the shower and grabbed a towel to gently pat myself dry, I wasn’t aware until I wrapped it around my waist that the towel had an unfortunate tear just large enough, and positioned in just the right spot, for ‘Little Greg and the Twins’ to poke themselves through, like a damp mole emerging from a blanket of snow. Needless to say, I found this hilarious, the boys found this hilarious, and my wife found it sufficiently disgusting that she apparently lost all appetite for breakfast. To be honest, I don’t think my impromptu ‘sexy towel dance’ helped in the slightest.

Later that morning, my brother began to feel unwell, and it soon transpired he was suffering from sunstroke, which resulted in him spending the rest of the day either in bed feeling dreadful, or paying his respects to the porcelain king while chucking up any food still left in his stomach.

This meant that he didn’t manage to take part in the evening’s entertainment, which was described as a ‘Retro Music Quiz’, although I can only assume with my limited Spanish that ‘retro’ loosely translates to ‘bag of shite’, because the entire quiz was simply fifteen intros ranging from the blindingly obvious (‘Wonderwall’ by Oasis) to the almost impossible (‘Escape’ by Rupert Holmes).

My mood was not helped by the entirely pointless bonus question available for guessing which film the song ‘Pretty Woman’ featured in (the answer, for anyone who struggles to walk and chew gum at the same time, is ‘Pretty Woman’), and the other bonus question relating to Chris Rea’s ‘Road to Hell’, which required us to name the city of his birth.

For anyone who doesn’t know, the correct answer is Middlesbrough, which pissed me off because it’s not a city, so either the question was badly worded, or the host was going to claim the answer was something other than Middlesbrough, like Newcastle. Fortunately for him, it was the former and we scored a point, otherwise he might have discovered my ‘Sex on the Beach’ hurtling towards his head from across the bar.

***

To be continued…

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We’re All Going On A Summer Blogiday

This summer, my siblings and I are taking our mum abroad for her 70th birthday (I’m 99% certain she won’t mind me mentioning her age, and I only do so because I wouldn’t want any of you to think we’re this extravagant with our gifts for ‘normal’ birthdays – last year we got her slippers), and to say it’s been a little stressful organising everything would be an understatement.

Aside from the usual logistics of booking a holiday for ten people, on dates we were all available, to a destination and hotel we were all happy with, we have also had to contend with the additional hurdles and concerns thrown at us in this post-COVID world in which we now find ourselves living.

The main problem, and source of many headaches over the past few months, has been Ollie (which makes a change from the source of all my headaches being his younger sibling), because he will be turning 12 in just a few weeks from now, which – under the previous rules when travelling to Spain – meant he had to be double-jabbed to be allowed into the country. And, because the current guidelines are that COVID vaccinations must be at least twelve weeks apart, plus we needed to then allow a further fortnight following his second jab before travelling, we didn’t have enough time between his birthday and our departure date to comply with the rules.

Thankfully, not only have Spain since relaxed their entry requirements (so those who are unvaccinated can now supply proof of a negative PCR test taken within 48 hours of departure instead), but the UK have since opened up vaccinations for 5-11 year old children, so Ollie has been able to have his first jab before he turns 12, thereby giving us enough time to get his second – and still allow that additional fortnight – before we fly. Phew.

So, with the vaccination issue thankfully resolved, and with my brother and his family hopefully in receipt of their passports shortly, we can finally now start looking forward to our first family holiday abroad since 2015, and my first with my siblings and mother since 1996.

Having celebrated my own birthday a few months ago, and with some money and vouchers still left over, I recently decided to treat myself to some new ‘summer’ clothes, which will hopefully compliment the glorious six-pack that I fully intend to have by the time we travel (and which will no doubt disappear by the second day, when I hit the all-inclusive buffet and bar like a man possessed). I was particularly delighted with the ‘3 for 2’ deal I got on some leopard print banana hammocks.

Artist’s impression

Form an orderly queue, ladies.

Then, while surfing the interweb (I believe that’s how the kids refer to it these days) a few weeks ago, I stumbled across a ‘retro’ football website offering a wide range of personalised gifts, many of which featured classic football kits from yesteryear, and I decided to have a quick search to see if they had anything featuring my beloved Stockport County.

Imagine my surprise when, not only did the site have a few products on offer (including a mug, a passport holder and, rather specifically, a phone case for a very limited range of phones – not including my own), but they all featured one of my favourite Stockport County kits of all time, our home shirt from the 1992-93 season, which was around the time I started attending matches regularly.

Isn’t it glorious?

The item which really caught my eye, however, was a ‘lightweight’ (in other words, ‘cheap’) beach towel, helpfully illustrated by the company as follows:

Ah, so that’s what a beach towel (and beach) looks like. Ta very much.

While I was under no illusions about the probable quality of said towel, and I was confident the material would feel cheap (even if the cost of the product certainly wasn’t), I decided it was worth the expense to be the envy of everyone sunbathing around me while on holiday, not to mention the fact that – when coupled with my new buff physique – I would be a focal point for the lustful eyes of every woman in the Puerto Pollensa area.

Then, just as I was about to checkout and pay for my new sexy beach towel, I remembered that my brother’s birthday was coming up and, although we had already sorted his gift, he too is an avid Stockport fan, and this way we could be ‘beach buddies’.

So, I altered the quantity box to ‘2’ before checking out, added my address and card details, and paid the GDP of a small African nation.

Unfortunately, my excitement at receiving a large, soft package (much like the contents of the aforementioned banana hammocks) through the post a couple of weeks later was short-lived, because, while the company in question had indeed sent me one Stockport County beach towel as requested…

… they had inexplicably sent me a (rather nasty looking) West Ham one with it.

I’m not quite sure how ‘Stockport County beach towel x 2’ could be so badly misinterpreted (I checked, and the confirmation e-mail had my order correct, so there was certainly no error on my part), but I then had to e-mail the company to explain my dissatisfaction and to request the correct towel be sent out.

I did – after some time – receive an e-mailed apology, confirming a second Stockport towel would be posted to me as soon as possible, but they have thus far ignored my offer to return the unnecessary West Ham one (so long as it won’t cost me anything to post back), and unless they get back to me soon I guess I’m stuck with it.

Fast forward to this week, and another large, soft package arrived, which I opened to again reveal a glorious Stockport County beach towel…

… this time accompanied by a Barnsley one.

Fucking Barnsley.

You couldn’t make this shit up.

I can only assume there is one of three explanations for this ridiculous chain of events:

  1. The company in question employs a bunch of morons in their stock/post room.
  2. They have a large quantity of unwanted West Ham and Barnsley beach towels they cannot shift, so are now giving them away to (presumably very confused) customers; or
  3. They mistakenly believe beach towels require some form of extra protection when being sent by post, and are using other towels which they had lying around to ensure nothing gets broken or smashed in transit.

Whatever the reason, the company are not replying to my subsequent e-mails, so I’m now stuck with two unwanted beach towels, for football clubs nowhere near me, and for which I do not know any fans I can pass them on to.

Fuck’s sake.

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Run FatBlog Run (2022)

Happy New Year!

Older readers (and by ‘older’, I mean those who have followed my blog and/or Facebook page for a little while – perhaps even in the years BW (Before Wicks) – rather than those readers who might occasionally complain about their winter fuel allowance and the fact “all music nowadays is just noise”) might recall that I have, over the past decade or so, set myself a variety of challenges to raise money for Kidscan.

I first became aware of Kidscan – a children’s cancer charity based in Salford – way back in 2013, through my involvement with an online Stockport County fans’ forum. At the time, they contacted us to see if any of our group might fancy taking part in an event (from recollection, it might have been the Manchester half marathon, but the specific details elude me now) and, while none of us could participate, whether through unavailability or the fact we simply couldn’t run, I decided to look further into the amazing work Kidscan were doing.

My reasoning was that, at the time, ‘the C word’ was having a massive impact on my wife’s family, with one of her cousin’s children – who was only six months old – battling cancer.

Cancer in all its forms is a horrible disease for anyone to face, but imagine a frail little baby going through it (and the torture his poor parents must have been suffering). And, while I am pleased to report he battled like a little warrior and has since made a full recovery, I was only too aware that many families are not so lucky.

Look, this is meant to be a light-hearted (hopefully funny, on occasions) blog, and I’ll try to inject some humour shortly, but there is absolutely nothing even remotely amusing about children living with cancer, so please bear with me while I throw some facts in your direction.

  • 2,400 children and young adults will be diagnosed with cancer this year.
  • 20% (one-fifth) of those will not survive.
  • 60% of those who do survive will be left with long-term effects caused by their treatment.
  • 25% (one-quarter) of all children diagnosed with cancer will not reach their thirtieth birthday.

I’ll just let those stats sink in for a minute.

When I first became aware of Kidscan, none of us knew whether my wife’s nephew (it’s close enough, and much easier to say that “my wife’s cousin’s baby”) would battle through his ordeal, or whether he would become one of the unlucky ones, and I felt that, if I could do anything to help a small independent charity in their fight against such a horrible disease, then I should.

Shortly afterwards, I came up with the idea of organising a sponsored walk based around my love of Stockport County (which was, after all, how I first became aware of Kidscan), and I decided it might be fun to gather together a group of like-minded fans for a ‘Hatters Hike’ (‘The Hatters’ being Stockport County’s nickname) from our Edgeley Park home to the upcoming away fixture at neighbours Macclesfield Town.

Ok, that’s only a distance of roughly thirteen miles, but I wanted to make the walk achievable so as many fans as possible could participate. And so it came to pass that, along with a good friend of mine (who we shall call Gareth because, well, that’s his name), on 30th March 2013 we led a group of eighteen County fans – as well as my dog Bexley – from Edgeley Park to the Moss Rose in Macclesfield, raising over £1,350 in the process.

Indeed, such was the success of the first ‘Hatters Hike’, we replicated the event a couple of years later by walking to an away match at Hyde – and back again.

Then, in 2016, Gareth and I decided to adopt a slightly more ambitious challenge, by embarking on a 1,000-mile road trip around England visiting all the football grounds in Stockport County’s league in just one weekend. I wrote two blogs about our trip, if you’d care to read either (or both) of them, because it’s safe to say we went on quite the adventure:

Notorious Blogging Spot | Confessions of a Middle-Raged Dad (middlerageddad.com)

The Blogs Are Back In Town | Confessions of a Middle-Raged Dad (middlerageddad.com)

Having had a year off, in 2018 I decided to turn my attention to a running challenge instead and, since my first ever 10k in the latter months of 2017 hadn’t in fact killed me as I had initially feared, I decided to see if I could run ten such events throughout the calendar year, again in aid of Kidscan.

I won’t share all the blog entries I wrote here, but they’re easy enough to find on my page if you were so inclined to have a read, and if you can’t find them just drop me a line. The short version is, despite badly injuring myself in training, collapsing at the finish line of the Whitchurch 10k (before being taken by ambulance to hospital), and completely fucking up my right hip, I managed to run all ten events in under fifty minutes (my personal target), and swore I was then done with running forever.

Running, I might have mentioned a few times, is insufferably shit.

Still, my wounds healed, and so, in early 2019, with the 10k challenge still ringing loudly in my knees, I decided to set myself a personal target (not for charity this time, just in case I failed) to try and run the length of the M6 – which is just over 232 miles – in one calendar year. In hindsight, I wish I had done the challenge for Kidscan, as I met the target and could have raised money while doing so, but I really wasn’t sure if I’d make the distance and would hate to have let the charity – and myself – down.

Gareth and I did then moot the idea of repeating our road trip around the country in 2020, due to the fact County had been promoted at the end of the 2018-19 season and so we now had a new list of football grounds to visit, but a little thing called Covid put paid to that idea.

In fact, Covid has pretty much fucked everything up since the early stages of 2020, meaning any group activities – or lengthy travel – has been best avoided. So, with the urge to rekindle my Kidscan fundraising in 2022, last week I decided to hunt for a new running challenge.

Now, I know what you’re thinking – I can’t hate running that badly if I keep doing it. But, let me assure you, I detest running with an unbridled passion, and my only reasons for setting myself these ludicrous challenges are as follows:

  1. I’m desperately trying to lose weight and, having shed three stone throughout 2021, I plan to keep that momentum up so I can hopefully be ‘ripped and buffed’ for our holiday abroad this summer. Ok, my chances of becoming ripped and buffed are slim at best (excuse the pun), but if I can at least avoid distressed beach goers trying to push me back into the sea I’ll consider that a victory.
  2. My hatred of running is usually matched (or, at least, partially balanced) by the chocolate and alcohol calories it earns me on MyFitnessPal each time I go out. Yes, I love chocolate and alcohol enough to put myself through torture to earn it.
  3. If you’re going to set yourself a fundraising challenge, at least be a man and make it difficult. The key word here is ‘challenge.’ There would be absolutely no point trying to eat 1,000 Jaffa Cakes for charity, for example, when I could smash that shit out in a weekend.
  4. While I detest running, it turns out I’m not totally fucking useless at it (hospital visits and other injuries aside), so my options for trying to get fit are rather limited.

Anyway, the problem I encountered when searching for a new challenge was that, once you’ve run the length of the M6 in a year, the next target needs to be bigger and better, but there aren’t any longer motorways in the UK, and I knew I wasn’t going to manage running Land’s End to John o’ Groats, so I struggled to think of a suitable distance short of simply trying to complete, say, 250 or 300 miles.

Then, earlier this week, I was browsing Facebook (as I so often do of an evening), when I spotted an advert for the ‘Valhalla Virtual 350k Challenge’ and, following a quick Google search to put this distance into terms I could comprehend, it turned out to be roughly 217 miles.

Now, while this is a slightly shorter distance than the M6, so it goes against my earlier statement of ensuring the next challenge is ‘bigger and better’, I equally have to bear in mind I am now two years older, and those two years have seen me put on a load of weight (then lose it again) during a global pandemic when I wasn’t really exercising and when most of the fucks I previously gave deserted me.

So, ever-so-slightly swayed by the frankly AWESOME medal and running shirt on offer for those who complete the challenge, not to mention the online discount I received for entering during the (invariably bollocks) ‘limited time only’, I decided to go for it and signed myself up.

Except, when the confirmation e-mail came through, it transpired I had read the rules incorrectly, and I only have six months to complete the distance, rather than the full year I was expecting. Which means, rather than running just over four miles each week from now until the 11th July (that being six months from the date I registered), I have to run an average of 8.5 miles instead. Yikes.

Ok, in truth I’ve been running around eight miles each week for most of the past year, so it’s certainly achievable, but my worry is that I have no margin for injury, illness (including any bout of the dreaded ‘rona) or any time off due to either holidays or weather-induced CBA* attitude.

*Can’t Be Arsed.

So, there it is. I have to run at least 8.5 miles a week, every week, for the next six months.

Bloody hell. What have I got myself in for?

Oh well, it’s for an extremely good cause, and for that very reason I will make damn sure I complete it, because there’s no way I’m letting anyone, least of all Kidscan, down.

If you’d like to read more about my challenge, simply keep updated on my progress every now and then or, best of all, donate to my target, here’s a link to the JustGiving page I’ve set up for the event:

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/virtual350k

Wish me luck!

Thanks for reading x

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We’re Going on a Blog Hunt

I’m going for a run.

It’s going to be long one.

What a cold, shitty day!

I’m a little scared.

Uh-uh! People!

A family of four, walking side-by-side.

Blocking the entire pavement.

I can’t run through them.

I shouldn’t really push them over.

Oh no!

I’ve got to go around them!

Running into the road towards oncoming traffic, while muttering ‘For fuck’s sake’ under my breath!

Beep beep!

Beep beep!

Beep beep!

I’m going for a run.

It’s going to be long one.

What a cold, shitty day!

I’m now even more scared.

Uh-uh! A tree branch!

Hanging low across the path at nipple-height.

I can’t go around it.

I can’t jump over it.

Oh no!

I’ve got to run under it, hurting my back and hitting my head!

Ow! Bugger!

Ow! Bugger!

Ow! Bugger!

I’m going for a run.

It’s going to be long one.

What a cold, shitty day!

I have a headache now.

Uh-uh! A massive hole in the pavement!

Left by the stupid workmen building that new estate.

I can’t go around it.

I don’t want to fall down it.

Oh no!

I’ve got to jump over it!

Leap! My knees!

Leap! My knees!

Leap! My knees!

I’m going for a run.

It’s going to be long one.

What a cold, shitty day!

My knees feel like porridge.

Uh-uh! Horse manure!

All over the path.

I best not jump again.

I don’t want to stand in it.

Oh no!

I’ve got to hopscotch my way through it!

Tiptoe! Tiptoe!

Tiptoe! Tiptoe!

Tiptoe! Tiptoe!

I’m going for a run.

It’s going to be long one.

What a cold, shitty day!

I hope I don’t smell of horse poo.

Uh-uh! A pack of teenagers!

All spotty and wearing dark clothes.

I bet they have weapons.

I can’t cross the road or turn back now.

Oh no!

I’ve got to go past them!

Wait, are they moving to one side for me? That’s awfully kind of them. See, teenagers aren’t all bad.

Thank you! Cheers!

Thank you! Cheers!

Thank you! Cheers!

What’s that?

IT’S FREEZING RAIN!

Quick! Back past the teenagers. Thank you! Cheers! Thank you! Cheers! Thank you! Cheers!

Back through the horse shit. Tiptoe! Tiptoe! Tiptoe!

Back over the massive hole. Leap! My knees! Leap! My knees! Leap! My knees!

Back under the low branch. Ow! Bugger! Ow! Bugger! Ow! Bugger!

Back into the road around that stupid family. Beep beep! Beep beep! Beep beep!

Get to my front door.

Open the door.

Get a glass of water.

Head downstairs to the shower.

Oh no!

I forgot my towel.

Back upstairs.

Grab my towel.

Back downstairs.

Into the bathroom.

Into the shower.

Under the hot water.

I am not going on a long run again.

Thanks for reading x

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Road Bloggage

The following transcript is an extract taken from the stolen recordings of a meeting held within the Highways and Roads department of Cheshire East Council last month. Don’t ask me how I got a copy, I just did, ok?

Due to the sensitive nature of the discussions which took place between senior Council members, and to preserve the anonymity of the persons involved throughout, their names have been swapped around. As a result, the real names of councillors Ken, Jeff and Dennis have been substituted with Jeff, Dennis and Ken respectively. Doris’ name has been left unaltered, since she is no way implicated in any wrongdoings, and, in her words ‘couldn’t give a shit, love’. Unsubstantiated allegations that it was Doris who leaked the recordings in the first place have no basis whatsoever.

Distribution of this transcript has been deemed to be firmly within the public interest, particularly for those poor bastards now required to commute along the roads of Cheshire East once again, following the latest return of the nation’s children to their schools.

Should any current employee of Cheshire East Council happen to chance across this publication and wish to make a formal complaint about their dealings being broadcast to the masses, I would welcome the opportunity to address their concerns, but have strategically hidden my e-mail address in such a way that they will never find it. Well, it seemed only right to extend them the same courtesy.

Besides, none of you have to read this if you don’t want to.

But you should.

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Ken: “Are we recording?”

Doris: “Yes.”

Ken: “You sure this time?”

Doris: “Get stuffed.”

Ken: “There’s no need for that, Doris. Let the record show that Doris is hereby excused from the meeting.”

Doris: “You don’t have the authority.”

Ken: “Just go.”

Doris: “Fine. Get your own dinner. I’m off to the bingo.”

[there is a pause in the recording, during which a chair can be heard moving, followed by footsteps and then a door slamming].

Ken: “Right, gents. First on the agenda, is the huge backlog of roadworks we have to deal with. Turns out, our roads are in a right mess. A lady in Congleton lost an entire pushchair down a pothole last week, while an elderly fella in Prestbury fell into one.”

Dennis: “Fell into it?”

Ken: “Up to his neck.”

Jeff: “Jesus! Is he going to sue?”

Ken: “No. Let’s just say he’s been ‘dealt with’.”

Jeff: “Killed?!”

Ken:  “JEFF! For fuck’s sake, this is being recorded. No, he, erm…. had to move abroad suddenly.”

Jeff: “But isn’t non-essential travel banned at the moment?”

Ken: “Jeff. Jesus Christ.”

Jeff: “Oh, right, sorry.”

Ken: “Turn the tape off. Now. Before you say something else incriminating.”

Jeff: “Ok. Sorry.”

[there is an audible click, but the recording continues]

Ken: “You sure it’s off?”

Jeff: “Pretty sure.”

Ken: “Good. Anyway, as I was saying, at last count we had 47,613 dangerous defects to deal with, so we’ll have to send the ground team out to partially repair the worst of them.”

Dennis: “Only partially repair?”

Ken: “Well, yeah. We’re hardly going to do the job properly, are we?!”

Dennis: “Won’t that still cost a lot of money to repair them all?”

Ken: “It’s ok, we’ll just ‘forget’ to collect the bins for a few weeks. That’ll claw some funds back. Plus, we can mix some porridge in with that knock-off shipment of bitumen we got, to make it last longer.”

Dennis: “Good idea.”

Ken: “So, the question is, when do we schedule the works to start?”

Jeff: “How about next week?”

Ken: “Hmm. No, that doesn’t really work for me. What about 8th March, instead?”

Dennis: “Isn’t that the day all the schools are going back?”

Ken: “I believe it is, yes.”

Dennis: “But that will cause total chaos. There will be five times as many cars on the roads then, at least.”

Ken: “And?”

Jeff: “Would it not make more sense to do the roadworks now, while so many people are working from home and the roads are quiet?”

Ken: “Jeff, how many times must we go over this? What is Cheshire East’s motto?”

Jeff: “I dunno.”

Dennis:Maximus disruptium.

Ken: “Exactly. By scheduling the roadworks to commence on 8th March, everyone will be so pissed off that their daily commute has trebled, they won’t be paying a blind bit of notice to us fucking up everything else.”

Dennis: “I like it! So, which roadworks are we scheduling to start on the 8th?”

Ken: “Good question. I was thinking, erm, all of them.”

Jeff: “ALL OF THEM?!”

Ken: “Yes. All of them.”

Jeff: “At the same time? It’ll be carnage out there!”

Ken: “I know. Delicious, isn’t it?! Now, what’s one of the busiest commuter routes in the area?”

Dennis: “I’ll check on the map….. erm…. probably this road right here.”

Ken: “Excellent. And how many crater-sized potholes do we have there?”

Jeff: “Forty-seven, just on that one stretch of road. But you can’t honestly be suggesting that we-”

Ken: “Read my lips, Jeff. All. Of. Them. At. The. Same. Time.”

Dennis: “Actually, this one here is right by a bus stop, so if we place the temporary lights just right, and a bus has to stop, it’ll block the traffic both ways and create chaos!”

Ken: “Excellent! See, Jeff, this is precisely why you will never lead the department. Dennis here has got the right idea.”

Jeff: “I’m just worried about the fall out, that’s all. Won’t the motorists all get really pissed off at us? Especially if one of them is unlucky enough to get stuck in every single traffic jam on their first day back after months of working peacefully at home.”

Ken: “So? What are they going to do about it?”

Jeff: “They might complain.”

Ken: “And how, pray tell, will they do that? Have you seen the ‘contact us’ part of our website?”

Jeff: “Not recently.”

Ken: “Well, let’s just say, if any of these idiots can actually find an e-mail address or telephone number to complain to us, then I’ll personally drive to their house, naked, and address their concerns face-to-face.”

Jeff: “We’re not going to be popular for this.”

Dennis: “We never are.”

Ken: “Exactly. What’s the worst that can happen? Some jumped up little prick writes a blog entry about us?!”

Dennis: “Ha! Good one Ken!”

Ken: “Hey, Jeff, why don’t you go and get us some coffee while Dennis and I talk logistics?”

Jeff: “Fine…. oh, erm, shit. Shit. Shit. Shit.”

Ken: “What? What is it?”

Jeff: “Erm. Nothing.”

[recording ends]

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Albus Dumblogdore

Tomorrow, our family of four will become, once again, a family of five.

Now, I should explain from the outset that this has nothing to do with the number of children we currently have, nor will have by the close of the weekend. My wife is not pregnant and, having had Isaac in our lives for nearly seven years now, I think it is safe to say we would be more than happy to stop at one child (we actually have two, but would be happier to have stopped at one – that was a joke, before anyone complains).

Equally, when I say we will ‘once again’ become a family of five, this does not mean we used to have a third child who we have carelessly misplaced somewhere, nor are we gaining a new lodger.

No, I am of course referring to us getting a family pet.

In truth, I have been sceptical for some time about us getting another pet, because although it is approaching five years since we said goodnight to The Greatest Dog That Has Ever Lived, our beloved Bexley, the memory of that trip to the vets will never leave me. I don’t mind admitting I cried like a little girl when he drifted off to sleep, and it broke me for some time afterwards. Bexley had been a part of our family for over a decade, and we always fondly referred to him as our ‘first born’ – he was the sweetest, most good-natured pooch a young family could have ever wished for.

Both boys would dearly love us to get another dog. Ollie has fond memories of ‘B-Dog’ (he too, sobbed his heart out, when my wife and I got back from the vets and he nervously asked us ‘Is Bexley coming home soon?’ – Christ, I’m welling up again just typing this), and even though he is somewhat scared of more ‘excitable’ canines, a number of his friends have recently got puppies and I think he is a little jealous.

Equally, while Isaac does not really remember Bexley (who he referred to as ‘Bebski’, and enjoyed clambering over as a baby, which was usually met with a disgruntled huff from the large brown lump of fur on the floor), he is a lover of all animals, having been initially raised by a pack of wolves before entering our lives.

I think the fact we have not succumbed to getting another pet for so long is partly down to the fact we see Isaac as more of a pet than a child, to be honest. He is hairy, he never refuses food, and he loves nothing more than lying in wait at the foot of the stairs so that I trip over him. Plus, he stinks.

However, he has been begging us to get a pet for ages, and when an opportunity recently presented itself, my wife and I decided to give in to his demands.

A few weeks ago, a friend of ours posted on Facebook that her hamster had given birth to a litter (is that the correct term for a shitload of hamster babies?), and she wanted to see them all go to good homes.

My wife and I then quickly discussed whether it was a good idea (we had to act quickly, to ensure Isaac didn’t miss out), and ultimately decided to go for it, on the basis:

  1. Of all the potential pets Isaac had shown an interest in, a hamster will hopefully be relatively low maintenance.
  2. We’re not ready to consider getting another dog.
  3. Cats are evil, ungrateful, spiteful little bundles of terror, who fuck off to live with someone else at the first sign of a better deal.
  4. Fish are pointless and dull.
  5. Reptiles/insects are reserved for the fundamentally odd.
  6. My wife won’t let me get a tiger (I know I said cats are evil, and I feel sure tigers are no exception, because if we got one it would surely rip my fucking face off within a minute, but how cool would it be to own a tiger?!)
  7. We knew it would make Isaac’s year.
  8. The hamster will be some companionship for him, on the basis he and Ollie seem to currently loathe each other (which is no surprise, as I tend to loathe them both most of the time, anyway).

We therefore contacted our friend, pretended to offer a ‘good home’ (it used to be good, but the kids ruined it), and enquired whether any boy hamsters were still available – we had been advised that boys are often less likely to nip – to which she replied that a couple had not yet been claimed.

Having looked through the pictures on Facebook, we selected ‘Baby Six’, and were told he would be ready for collection on Saturday 23rd January.

Initially, we were going to keep this a secret from Isaac, in order to surprise him with an early birthday present, but when we started getting updates from the ‘mum’ (by which, I mean our friend, in case you think the mother hamster was particularly intelligent and able to type), we decided it was unfair for Isaac to miss out on all the excitement.

Before telling him of the new arrival, however, my wife decided to test his reaction with a short quiz, to find out what names he would give to various potential pets (apparently, my suggestion of sticking with ‘Baby Six’ was ‘ridiculous’).

Having run through her list, with Isaac deciding that he would call a cat ‘Simba’, a dog ‘Bones’, a parrot ‘Roger’ and a sheep ‘Jim’ (don’t ask), my wife eventually reached hamster and Isaac surprised us with the rather cute suggestion of ‘Dumbledore’, based on his love of Harry Potter (hence the name of this week’s blog, in case you were wondering about the obscure link between a hamster and a wizard).

When we then told him that he would indeed be getting a hamster, to say his reaction was one of elation would be an understatement. He nearly cried with happiness.

The next morning, despite it being a Sunday, he got up ridiculously early – which was nothing new for him, but the fact he didn’t immediately assault me certainly was – and practically skipped his way downstairs. I later discovered him on the living room floor, with a large piece of paper, a pen and his laptop (a knackered old one we don’t use anymore), researching hamsters on the internet in order to prepare himself for being a ‘Daddy’. His list was split into various sections, including research on what hamsters like to eat, what equipment he might need, and what they like to play with.

Since then, we have received regular updates and photographs from our friend, we have purchased a cage and exercise ball (complete with bedding, a water bottle and food), and Isaac has spent many a blissful hour drawing pictures to go on Dumbledore’s wall next to his cage.

He has also written his new buddy a welcome letter:

Dear Dumbledore

My name is Isaac and I’m goner be your new owner. I love and love your colours. I am very excited to play with you.

Love from Isaac”

Bless his little heart.

Anyway, welcome to the family, Dumbledore the Hamster.

Thanks for reading x

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