Another Blog In The Wall

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

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

However, please bear in mind the following:

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

which leads me to….

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

*well recovered, that man.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What times did you go for?”

“5.40 for Isaac, and 5.50 for Ollie.”

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

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

“Why do you need to be home by 6pm?”

[whispers] “Eggheads.”

“What?”

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

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

“Sorry.”

“Idiot.”

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

Questions To Ask At Parents’ Evening

Isaac

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

Ollie

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

 

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

Don’t fuck this up

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

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

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

I have never been right in our fifteen years of marriage

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

Parents Eve

Generic photo from Google

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

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

One down, one to go.

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

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

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

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

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So very close.

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Bloggy Irritating

I am quite a big fan of YouTube.

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

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

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

Exactly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Cock

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

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

“I’m a get get get get you drunk

Get you love drunk off my hump

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

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

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

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

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Also cocks

Horrific thought, right?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading x

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Blog To School

Last Tuesday, our boys returned to school – Ollie into Year 5 (which, for anyone unfamiliar with the English education system, is the penultimate year before leaving for Secondary School), and Isaac into Year 1 (which, for anyone unfamiliar with the English education system, is the point at which you no longer give a shit).

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Look, when your kids start primary school in the ‘reception’ class, even the battle-hardened among us, who have been there before with elder siblings, have a few concerns (even if, unlike the first time around, we care considerably less); but by Year 1, most parents have lost interest altogether. So long as your child doesn’t set fire to anything, attack anyone, or use one of ‘Daddy’s Angry Words’ when addressing a teacher, there’s very little else which can go wrong.

Then again, most parents don’t have an Isaac.

As you may have gathered over the last few years of my blog, Isaac is not like ‘normal’ children. Admittedly, I would argue there is no such thing as a ‘normal’ child, and any so-called expert who says otherwise is a moron, but even allowing for some variation between kids, Isaac is uniquely odd. It’s one of the reasons we love him so.

As an example, Ollie recently tried to trick Isaac with the old ‘What do cows drink?’ conundrum (where the recipient is supposed to be fooled into answering ‘milk’ rather than ‘water’), but Isaac – having paused only briefly – shouted ‘Sausages!’

See what I mean?

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Anyway, while we therefore had a few concerns about Isaac returning to school last week, the good news (for me) was that my wife will be doing the morning drop off on Mondays and Tuesdays this year, so the responsibility of escorting our youngest – and most untamed – child to his new teacher, was entirely hers.

As a side point, every single one of the teachers I have met at our boys’ school is delightful (which is, in itself, rather worrying, as I don’t think I could handle thirty little children every day without drinking heavily and calling at least one or two a ‘fucking dickhead’ every once in a while), and I always feel bad when a new teacher suddenly finds themselves responsible for either Ollie’s nerdiness, or Isaac’s brutal savagery.

I have genuinely contemplated leaving notes in the boys’ bags at the start of each academic year, along the lines of ‘Look, we’ve tried to be good parents, but somewhere along the line we clearly screwed up, and this is what we’re left with – sorry’ but my wife won’t let me. Besides, despite his demonic tendencies at home, Isaac appears to be the model pupil at school, so they never believe us when we say we have previously considered performing an exorcism.

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Anyway, as my wife was responsible for the first school run on Tuesday, I gleefully trotted off to work nice and early, and made a mental note to check my phone shortly after 9am, just to make sure the rest of the family had survived the ordeal. Sure enough, when I checked at 9:05am, my wife had messaged to say both boys were safely within their respective classrooms – although it was Ollie who had surprisingly created the bigger issue, by insisting on taking in a large stack of ‘contracts’ he had drawn up for the football team he has created for his year group.

As I mentioned in last week’s blog, it is perfectly clear to all but Ollie that no one gives a shit about his stupid football team, but rather obliviously he has still recruited most of his year to take part – even allocating some of the non-footballers among his peers  either coaching or physio roles, and rather chauvinistically setting up a ‘ladies’ team for the girls (even though I could name quite a few who are better footballers than him).

Oh, and if this wasn’t nerdy enough, he also took his Rubik’s cube into school, too. Honestly, when I was at school, I was studious, skinny, wore big glasses, and seemed to have based my hair style on that of my mother, and even I would have picked on Ollie.

Still, he’ll realise in later life that geeks have better job prospects and attract nicer partners, so I’m sure it’ll work out for him in the long run.

Even better than the first drop-off going well, Isaac apparently came skipping out of class at the end of the day, saying he had enjoyed a ‘super, super time!’ (which was uncharacteristically camp for Isaac), and describing his new teacher, who we shall call ‘Miss X’, as a mixture between Miss Lovely from Horrid Henry, and Miss Honey from Matilda. Even if you are not familiar with either character, you can gauge their personality from the names they have been given. In short, Isaac seemed besotted with his new teacher.

(NB: Just to be clear, I am only referring to his new teacher as ‘Miss X’, because it would be inappropriate to use her real name. Her surname does not begin with X, and to my knowledge she is neither a Bond-villain, nor a dominatrix).

Anyway, much as I was relieved that the boys had enjoyed a good first day, I was still acutely aware that it was my turn to do the school run the following morning, and any success from the day before could easily be undone after a few minutes of Daddy being in charge.

As a result, I made a point of getting the boys ready for school extra early (pretending we had to leave the house in ‘FIVE MINUTES!’, when actually we had a comfortable fifteen before needing to depart), and we found ourselves in the ‘junior’ playground in good time – even accounting for the fact Isaac insisted on riding his new bike all the way, and the fact that Ollie was trying to prove he is grown-up enough to walk to school by himself, while simultaneously trying to cross the road in front of a car.

So far, so good.

Then, things took a bit of an awkward turn.

Having safely dropped Ollie off in the junior playground (and, when I say ‘dropped off’, I mean ‘shouted at to explain that I was leaving, and he should under no circumstances see that as a green light to start behaving like a twat’), Isaac and I headed around the school building to the infant playground, and stood outside his new classroom.

It was at this point that I started to ask Isaac about his new teacher, as she is not someone my wife and I have had previous dealings with (she has never taught Ollie), and with a name like ‘Miss X’, I was intrigued to meet her (no, wait, that’s not her real name).

More importantly, I needed to speak to her about the reading book Isaac had been given to start the year, as he was finding it quite tough. Ok, he’s not an enthusiastic reader at the best of times, but you find me one five-year-old who can happily flick their way through Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment (joke – it was actually The Canterbury Tales).

As we stood outside his classroom, next to a couple of mums who were chatting away to our right, I asked Isaac whether he wanted me to speak to Miss X about his book, or whether he would rather do it. Being naturally quite timid at school (in direct contrast to the Tasmanian Devil of hatred and violence he is at home), he asked if I would speak to her.

It was at this point I noticed the time was already 8:55am, which is when the children are usually taken into class, and since there was no sign of Miss X, I looked at Isaac and quipped, “well, if your teacher ever turns up, I’ll happily speak to her.” I may have also tutted while looking at my watch.

To my horror, one of the two ‘mums’ to our right then approached me and introduced herself. “Hello, I’m Miss X, can I help at all?”

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Damn it.

Yes, I had been so preoccupied with ensuring our two boys made a good impression at the start of their new academic year, I had completely ignored the fact it was far more likely to be me who made a mess of things.

Fortunately, I think Miss X only overheard part of what I was saying about Isaac’s book, because if she did catch my harsh comment about her tardiness so early into the school year (which was particularly uncalled for, bearing in mind she was already outside her classroom well before I had arrived), then she did not let on. And, if she chose to ignore my rudeness and not react, then she is even lovelier than Isaac described.

After we had resolved the issue with the book, and she had moved towards the classroom door to start ushering children in, I quickly asked Isaac why he hadn’t warned me that was his teacher stood next to us.

“I thought you knew.”

“How would I know? I’ve never met her before!”

“Oh, yeah. Oops.”

I swear he did it deliberately….

 

Thanks for reading x

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The Twiggles and The Bloggles

Before the boys went back to school on Tuesday, we decided to spend last week visiting my in-laws in Norfolk and, unlike our main summer holiday in Northumberland (which Mother Nature seemed hell-bent on fully submerging during our stay), we enjoyed a week of glorious sunshine.

While we were there, my in-laws treated the four of us to a day out at Norfolk’s premier forest-based adventure park, BeWILDerwood, which is essentially a woodland activity centre, filled with tree-houses, mazes, rope-swings, bridges, and slides.

When I discovered we would be spending a day with the boys at BeWILDerwood, it would be fair to say my reaction was somewhat mixed. On the one hand, I like adventure (some would say ‘Adventure’ is my middle name, but it’s not, it’s James), the activities looked like a lot of fun, and it meant I got to spend some quality time with my boys. On the other hand, while I do like adventure, I love napping more, and a day at BeWILDerwood also meant I had to spend some quality time with my boys.

Most importantly of all, however, was the fact that, following our recent glamping weekend in the New Forest, where I was bitten by every fucking insect known to man (and, for which, I am still suffering several weeks later), spending time in the woods was way down my list of priorities. In fact, as far as priorities go, it was somewhere near shaving my gentleman’s potatoes with a rusty hacksaw. Still, I didn’t want to seem ungrateful, so off we went.

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Having arrived nice and early, in order to beat the queues for the boat ride (which takes you from the main entrance to the park itself), we collected our wrist bands and managed to board the second boat of the day.

Here, we were greeted by our driver, ‘Riley’, who regaled us with tales of the ‘Boggles’ and ‘Twiggles’ supposedly living in the woods, pointing out the various tiny houses and communes which the owners of the park had constructed either side of the riverbank. It would be fair to say Riley was very theatrical, which the kids on the boat loved, but I found irritating within seconds. That said, his boat steering skills were second-to-none, and a few minutes down the river we were safely moored up at the main park.

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Once we had gathered our bearings, as well as making a mental note of the various ‘story times’ for later in the day, the boys clambered around one of the smaller assault courses for a bit, completed the ‘sky maze’ (which we would have finished far sooner, had we not allowed Isaac to lead the way), and then set about doing some ‘den building’.

Ollie, naturally, had his own very precise methods of designing a camp purely from logs and sticks, which inevitably resulted in a den that made Boris Johnson look stable, while Isaac – in typical Isaac fashion – quietly went about his business on the opposite side of the forest clearing to his brother, and I think the results speak for themselves:

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Ollie’s ‘den’

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Isaac’s ‘den’

Having opted for an early lunch (again to beat the queues – which happens to be one of my favourite things to do on a day out), where Isaac spent more time crying than eating, because he only had three bags of crisps and wanted four, my wife then overheard the finest example of parenting we would encounter all day, as a frustrated father barked at his child “Look, I’ve paid forty quid for you to come and play here, so go and fucking play!” Lovely.

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Continuing the theme of obnoxious families (as a general rule of thumb, if our kids are some of the best behaved in any given situation, the other parents need to take a long hard look at their own offspring), I then encountered the most revolting brat I have seen for some time, which bearing in mind I was playing with Isaac at the time, is really saying something.

As Isaac clambered up a sloped wall via the rope and footholds designed to assist a child’s ascent, a mouth-breathing little shit appeared at the top of the apparatus and shouted down at Isaac to “MOVE!” because he wanted to slide down the ramp the wrong way. Worse, as I politely pointed out that this perhaps wasn’t a very good / safe idea (in case his much larger father happened to be in the vicinity, ready to punch me for challenging his son), the kid snarled at me and slid down anyway, nearly knocking Isaac flying off the wall.

Grinning in my direction at his achievement, I satisfied myself that the boy’s parents were not in fact nearby, before growling at the kid “do that again, and I will break your fucking ankles, you little turd”, which seemed to go unnoticed, but certainly made me feel better.

Still, as he wandered off (no doubt in search of another child to pick on), I did notice he was singing Starship’s ‘We Built This City’, so although I still thought he was an obnoxious little shit, at least he was an obnoxious little shit with some taste in music (oh, shut up, it’s a classic and you know it).

After lunch, it was time to listen to a story about ‘The Boggles of BeWILDerwood’, ably narrated by frustrated drama student, James, and his team of puppeteers. In fairness to him, despite being highly irritating (which seemed to be a pre-requisite to work there), James had the crowd of children captivated for at least half an hour, and once he had finished, he invited them all back later in the afternoon for the ‘Bouncing Bubble Party Parade’. I had no idea what this meant, but I had a feeling it would not be my particular idea of fun.

In order to be suitably dressed for the occasion, the boys decided they wanted to visit the ‘create your own crown’ area, where children were ‘encouraged’ (albeit, not by their parents), to design a resplendent headdress for the afternoon’s procession out of a variety of brightly-coloured craft items.

Naturally, Ollie took great care to meticulously recreate the colours and badge of the ‘football team’ he has established at school (which he is adamant all of his classmates are obsessed with, even though it is perfectly clear to everyone bar him that nobody gives a flying shit), while Isaac attempted to stick as much tinsel and glitter to his headdress – and himself – as possible. Our children summed up in one arts and crafts activity, folks.

Having just arrived back to the storytelling area with seconds to spare, my wife and boys joined the Parade behind ‘Mildred the Crocklebog’, and gleefully marched around the woods for ten minutes, while I busied myself locating a bin to dispose of the soggy ice cream cone Isaac has insisted he would eat if we bought it for him.

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‘Mildred’

By this point, the wee I had been needing for the past hour was reaching critical urgency (the pressure on my aging bladder had eased slightly when the boys and I went down a large slide a short while earlier, but I suspect that is only because the slide was very steep, and I cannot rule out some wee having leaked out mid-descent), so I decided that once the parade was over I would go in search of the toilet.

Naturally (and I could not be using the term more sarcastically), there only seemed to be two toilets in the entire park – which, bearing in mind it was a long walk between them, and kids tend to leave their decision that they need the toilet until the last possible second, seemed a little foolish* – and so it took me ages to find my way.

*although, I guess, the assumption must have been that since the entire park was woodland, at least the boys (and some men) would relieve themselves up – or behind – the nearest tree.

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(NB: I found that image on Google, just in case you think I had either asked my wife to snap me taking a piss, or, worse, I had photographed a stranger myself).

My particular situation was not helped by the urgency with which I needed to urinate, mixed with increasing frustration that the little map of the park I had been given at the main entrance was about as useful as an inflatable dartboard, so I only just located the gents (and emptied my agonized bladder) seconds before I suspect I would have passed out through pain. Which, bearing in mind that would have almost certainly meant doing so inside the toilets, with ‘the beast’ partially, if not fully, released to the viewing public, it was an outcome I was pleased to avoid.

However, because I had half-jogged the latter stages of my dash to the toilets, in a frantic panic to reach them in time, I could not fully remember the way back to my wife and boys, and so I had to once more consult the useless map of pointlessly-named regions of the park.

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Thankfully, having passed through the seven levels of the candy cane forest, through the sea of swirly-twirly gum drops, and finally through the Lincoln Tunnel….. no, wait, that’s a line from Elf. Still, it might as well have been like that, for all the use the fucking map made, and by the time I was eventually reunited with my family, it was almost time to visit the toilet again.

In fairness, though, we had a great day, and best of all I avoided being bitten by any more flesh-eating insects. And, ultimately, if you can go for a nice family day out and avoid being eaten alive, that has to be considered a win.

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Thanks for reading x

 

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Don’t Let The Bed Blogs Bite (Part III)

What follows, is the concluding chapter in a trilogy of blog entries about our recent glamping holiday in the New Forest. If you haven’t read the first two installments of our adventure, then you had better catch up using the following links to each, and the rest of us will have to wait until you get back….

https://middlerageddad.com/2019/08/02/dont-let-the-bed-blogs-bite-part-i/

https://middlerageddad.com/2019/08/09/dont-let-the-bed-blogs-bite-part-ii/

Up to speed? Good. Let’s see how the trip concludes, shall we?

***

Sunday 28th July 2019

Ok, so my decision to leave the containers of left-over Chinese takeaway next to the sink last night, rather than wash them up, turned out to be a bad idea. Not because we were suddenly infested with bugs and woodland creatures (even though, by all accounts, we were), but because I awoke this morning to my wife’s scowling face, which she tends to reserve for those occasions when I’ve properly fucked up.

“Why did you leave the takeaway containers next to the sink last night?”

“Erm, partly because I was tired and being lazy, but mostly because I thought if any bugs came in, they might be tempted to eat the leftovers rather than my danglies.”

“Well, just so you know, I got up in the night to find the bite cream, because I’ve been attacked again, and in the dark I accidentally put my hand on your sticky beef…… why are you sniggering?”

“You said you put your hand on my sticky beef.”

“You’re a fucking idiot.”

“I know.”

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Following a quick breakfast (ate mostly in silence), I decided it was about time I braved the communal shower block – because, after two days glamping, not to mention a trip to the beach on a hot summer’s day, I didn’t want to end up smelling worse than the farm animals just along the lane from our lodge.

Having gathered only the bare-essentials (shower gel, shampoo, towel, hairbrush, body butter, exfoliating cream, rape alarm), I headed off through the woods and down the country lane – bidding good morning to the goats, sheep and pigs as I passed.

When I arrived at the shower block, any relief I experienced at the discovery of two individual showers with locks on the doors (rather than, for example, a shed containing one of the owners armed with a hose and menacing grin), was overshadowed by the subsequent realisation that neither of the windows were frosted glass. This meant that anyone of my height or taller (or, indeed, any local pervert with a chair/ladder/trampoline at their disposal), could quite easily observe my ablutions.

Not to be dissuaded (I really needed a shower), I convinced myself that, if I faced the back wall of the cubicle at all times, then at worst it would only be my arse on view (or, heaven forbid, online), rather than the infinitely more-embarrassing prospect of my ‘gentleman’s sausage’ making it’s debut on http://www.newforestshowercam.co.uk (don’t click the link, I made it up – hopefully).

Facing the back wall at all times posed a problem, however, as it transpired the shower only had two settings (which it fluctuated between, regardless of whether you moved the dial or not): boiling hot or freezing cold. As a result, I spent more time spread-eagled against the wall like I was being hosed down in prison, trying to avoid having my skin frozen/burnt off, than I did actually washing myself.

***

Our plan for today was to take Isaac to Peppa Pig World, as he has been begging us to go for ages, despite the fact he hasn’t watched the programme in years, and has actually been twice already (even though he claims he can’t remember either occasion). In fairness, our first visit was when he was only two months old, so I’ll allow him that particular memory-lapse, but the last time was only a couple of years ago.

Nevertheless, he thoroughly enjoyed himself, and I honestly don’t think I’ve seen him as happy as he was today.

As with our previous visit, the weather was glorious, which meant aside from going on all the rides, the boys also got to play in the water park for an hour to cool down; while I consumed not one, but two strawberry milkshakes from ‘Daddy Pig’s Big Tummy Café’. I don’t care if I looked manly or not (I almost certainly didn’t, as I never look manly anyway, so I doubt a large pink drink with a straw improved my lack of ruggedness), I’d genuinely consider moving down here for those bad boys.

As Isaac has no patience whatsoever, he immediately struggled with the concept of queuing for rides, and my wife had to distract him for the duration of each. On one particular ride, she challenged him to a game of ‘I spy’, but when she spotted ‘something beginning with F’, and Isaac looked towards an overweight woman and shouted ‘is it FAT?’, we decided to try silent queuing for a bit instead.

It was only as we approached lunch, and I started subconciously scratching my arm while in a queue, that I realised I have been bitten quite badly (presumably overnight), so any smugness/relief I had previously enjoyed at avoiding the insects in our lodge, was immediately replaced with genuine sympathy for my wife’s suffering thus far, together with extreme self-pity.

Before leaving Paulton’s Park, there was just enough time to try a few of the bigger rides in the main site, and unsurprisingly Ollie was scared by most of them, whereas Isaac was utterly fearless (and now wants me to take him to Alton Towers so he can go on Nemesis).

By the time we arrived back at our lodge this evening, the bite on my arm had become unbearably itchy and sore, so I have covered it in cream (insect, not whipped) and I only hope it gets better by the morning (addendum: little did I know at the time, the bite would later become infected, necessitate a visit to hospital on the first night of our main holiday in Northumberland, and still be irritating the hell out of me as I typed up my diary notes nearly three weeks later).

I’m now so scared of being bitten again (I have this evening discovered two on each arm, one on my shoulder, one on the back of my neck, and three on my throat – which means I’m not shaving any time soon), I just prolonged my pre-bed wee for far longer than medically advisable – to the point I developed stomach cramps.

When my wife questioned why I was doubled-up on the sofa, and I explained that I didn’t want to go to the toilet in case I was bitten on the unmentionables, she offered no sympathy whatsoever, and merely suggested that not only would the offending insect need to have an incredible aim to strike such a small target, but the worst of the side-effects would be some mild swelling, and this doesn’t usually bother me in that particular region. Charming.

In the end, I did manage a quick visit to the toilet when the urge/pain became unbearable, which I achieved while wafting my hands around in front of me to hopefully keep any hungry little critters away from the baby-maker (while being extra careful not to stray too close to the stream, lest I accidentally piss on my own hands), and I have to say that urinating by candlelight does have one advantage: if I stood close to the lantern, the shadow I cast on the opposite wall was rather impressive to say the least. I looked like a tripod.

Monday 29th July 2019

Well, I think (and I use the word with some trepidation), my wife and I avoided any further bites last night – presumably because we both wore trousers and jumpers to bed, which also had the benefit of us losing about three stone in weight – but the ones we do have are becoming unbearable.

We’re essentially now taking it in turns to berate the other for scratching, and I suspect – if it were not for the fact we’re heading home today, and I have a lot of driving to do – we would genuinely consider taping oven gloves to our hands to prevent this (we get a lot of our ideas from old episodes of Friends).

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Having packed the car, I went to settle up with the ‘honesty shop’, and had the misfortune of bumping into Becky (real name, Vicky):

“Going home today?”

“Yes, just settling up, then we’ll be on our way.”

“Enjoyed your stay?” [asked with no sincerity whatsoever]

“Loved every minute.” [replied, with similar insincerity, while scratching the most aggressive bite on my arm]

“Good. Just add up what you owe, and there’s a jar marked ‘honesty jar’, so you put in your money and take any change you need.”

“Oh, is that what ‘honesty jar’ means? I assumed you were after our darkest secrets. Good job I didn’t share that time I put on one of my wife’s dresses and insisted she call me ‘Susan’!”

“Excuse me?”

“Never mind.”

***

Well, we’re home, but we decided to detour via Stonehenge on the journey back, as Ollie has wanted to visit for a while (he studied it at school, and obviously shares his mother’s love of history). Plus, I suppose as far henges go, it’s not bad.

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As with most historical features in Britain (and we have a few), the place was swarming with tourists when we got there, and I was slightly (read: very) infuriated by the fact the queue for those with pre-booked tickets was actually longer than the queue for the disorganised chancers who had simply turned up on the day with no forward planning whatsoever. If we don’t punish these people with long queues, how will they ever learn?

Then, on the bus ride from the ticket office (I don’t want to sound unimpressed or uncultured, but who would have thought a circle of rocks would be so popular that it requires a fucking bus transfer to get there from the car park?) I became intrigued by a conversation taking place next to me, between an American and a cockney:

American: “I hope we find out who discovered it.”

Cockney: “Discovered it?”

American: “You know, the person who found the rocks.”

Cockney: “They weren’t discovered, mate, it was built.”

American: “Built? You mean someone actually put the stones there?”

Cockney: “Of course it was built, mate, it’s a henge, innit?”

Fuck’s sake.

***

In summary, for a (mostly) free weekend away, we had a good time, but if you were to ask me if I would be dashing back to sleep outdoors in the New Forest any time soon, my answer would have to be a resounding ‘Hell no’.

Thanks for reading x

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Don’t Let The Bed Blogs Bite (Part II)

Last week, I started telling you about our recent glamping weekend in the New Forest, which my wife had won as a runners-up prize in a Kinder egg competition she had entered several months earlier (the main prize was a family holiday to Disneyland, if that helps explain her momentary lapse of sanity).

At the end of Part I, we had just retired to bed on our first night, sleeping in a dirty looking canvas lodge deep into the woods, where no one would hear our screams if we happened to be butchered in our sleep by our rather unusual hosts.

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No, wait, that’s slightly unfair. They actually seemed quite pleasant, it’s just that they clearly viewed us as nothing more than city folk (despite the fact we live in a market town in Cheshire), who were only glamping because we had won the weekend in a competition, and would never normally consider a rural retreat for a weekend away.

How dare they accurately sum us up within five minutes of our arrival…..

***

Saturday 27th July 2019

If truth be told, I actually slept quite well last night – possibly fueled by the bottle of red wine I consumed before going to bed – although I did have a dream about being trapped in a forest during the zombie apocalypse (which doesn’t exactly require a sleep expert to decipher), so I evidently still have reservations about our surroundings – and our hosts.

The boys, however, should be more worried about me attacking them, since – despite sleeping soundly enough – they have apparently woken up with the intention of clawing the living shit out of each other, and if their behaviour doesn’t improve soon, it will be Daddy who loses it with something sharp.

Actually, thinking about it, there are definite parallels to The Shining here. An aspiring writer gets isolated from civilisation, with only his family for company, and slowly loses his mind… before chasing them around with an axe. Hmmm, food for thought.

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Speaking of food, I thought I had come prepared for this trip, by bringing two multi-packs of Kellogg’s Variety Cereal (to cover our three breakfasts here), but since Isaac has apparently made it his mission to devour at least half the boxes on the first day, I suspect we’ll run out well before then. Assuming we survive long enough.

My wife is pissed off, too, as she was bitten on her leg during the night and, in fairness, it does look very sore and itchy. I seem to have avoided any bites, touch wood (hmmm, I wonder if there’s any wood nearby….?), so I have had to disguise my smugness/relief in favour of appearing sympathetic instead. I think I’m getting away with it.

Over breakfast, during a brief respite from attacking Ollie, Isaac started screaming because he had heard us talk about being bitten (and particularly about the blood-sucking arachnids we have been warned are in the area), and had decided there was a bug feasting on his leg. Thankfully, upon closer inspection, it turned out to be a Coco Pop.

Time to get out and about.

***

We had no real plans today, other than our organised archery session at the activity centre adjacent to the farm; and, since Meghan at the travel company had not booked this until 4pm, we decided to make the most of the sunshine by heading to the beach at Bournemouth.

When we arrived, at the slightly less crowded ‘Alum Chine’ (about ten minutes to the East of the main promenade), I immediately set up camp on an empty bench just before the beach. I argued that this was purely to keep our belongings safely away from the sand, but my wife knew that the real reason was to keep me safely away from the sand. I hate sand.

So, having bought myself a cup of tea from the nearby kiosk, I settled in to enjoy the sunshine – and some quality people watching. It was around this point that I realised I had turned into my Nan, but that was a price I was willing to pay, if it meant avoiding getting my feet and legs (and, heaven forbid, anywhere more ‘intimate’) caked in sand *shudders*. Still, it certainly looked like a nice beach, from the relative safety of my bench:

The first people I noticed, were a couple a little younger than us, who looked very much like ‘beach types’, which meant I instantly disliked them. They were athletic, tanned, and thoroughly fucking smug with themselves. Unfortunately, just as I was glaring at them, willing either (or both) to trip and fall on their face, the lady bent over to take her shorts off – revealing a skimpy bikini underneath – and I had to immediately avert my eyes, before I was accused of being some kind of beach pervert. Again.

Unfortunately, my instinctive reaction was to look in the opposite direction, but this meant my gaze was instantly fixed on two elderly women to my right, who were also in bikinis – and rubbing sun lotion onto each other. Since this view was equally inappropriate (albeit for different reasons), I found myself not knowing which way to look, and briefly panicked – like I was watching a high-speed tennis match – before fumbling for my phone to give me something else to focus on. And, before you think I could/should have been watching my family playing in the sand, they were positioned directly behind the attractive lady’s bottom.

Soon after, I encountered the only person at Alum Chine who was ‘enjoying’ the beach even less than me, as a family arrived next to my bench with a teenage daughter in full ‘goth’ attire – complete with torn black jeans, black jumper, and black trench coat. By this point it was nearly midday, and glorious weather, so you can imagine how sweaty and miserable she looked (even though goths often look miserable anyway). I nearly introduced myself, so we could bond over loud angry music, and our mutual dislike of beaches, but I thought that might seem a bit weird, so I went back to watching the two pensioners rubbing sun lotion onto each other instead.

After a nice day in Bournemouth (I was going to say ‘lovely’, but I’ve downgraded it as a result of being forced to scrape wet sand off Ollie’s feet and legs), we returned back to the farm in time for our archery session.

Having followed the signs even deeper into the forest, to the ‘outdoor activity centre’ (which was, in reality, just a dreadlocked man in a gazebo), we encountered a dozen other people, who were also there for an early-evening of fun with dangerously sharp stuff – since there was not only archery on offer, but also crossbows and axe-throwing. Fortunately, Isaac was too young to partake in the latter two activities, because I have no doubt someone (most likely me) would have lost a limb.

After a brief introduction, and some safety tips (‘don’t point the bow at your Daddy’s face, Isaac’), it would be fair to say I was the finest archer in our family – no surprises there, I’m a natural athlete, just look at me – but Isaac was undoubtedly next in line. In fairness, that was mostly because my wife was stood helping him load his bow each time, rather than taking part herself, but also because Ollie was relatively shite at it, and ended up crying as a result.

The situation wasn’t helped by ‘Dreadlock Dave’ (I think his actual name might have been Josh, but that doesn’t work as well), deciding to spice it up a bit for our boys, by adding some small balloons to the bullseye to see if either of them could pop one. Unsurprisingly, Isaac popped both, and Ollie sulked for the next hour.

After our archery session, we were told that the owners of the farm would be lighting the outdoor ‘pizza oven’ next to our lodge, and anyone could use it to make their own pizza from the ingredients on offer in the ‘honesty shop’ on site (for those unaccustomed with the concept of an ‘honesty shop’, you essentially take whatever you want, then settle up at the end of your stay).

Now, the last thing I wanted to do while on holiday was cook, let alone stand next to a hot kiln with other (proper) glampers, making polite conversation about how lovely it is to be sleeping outdoors with every insect known to man (spoiler: it’s not); but it was the only thing guaranteed to stop Ollie sulking, so I reluctantly agreed. Sadly, the limited supplies in the honesty shop restricted the boys to margherita pizza, and even though Isaac set about making ‘the cheesiest pizza ever seen’, he later complained that it was ‘too cheesy’. Twat.

Meanwhile, Ollie was either delighted with his dinner, or he knew full well I would push it into his stupid sulky face if he didn’t eat it all, because he kept saying how delicious it was.

“Daddy, did you know, when Italian people really enjoy their food, they put their fingers to their lips like this…..

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…. and say Bravissimo!”

“No, they don’t.”

“Yes, they do, I’ve seen it on TV.”

“Then you’ve been watching ladies underwear commercials, pal, because ‘Bravissimo’ make bras. The word you’re after is Bellissimo.”

Since neither my wife nor I fancied cremated pizza for dinner, once the boys were in bed I drove into Fordingbridge to pick up a Chinese takeaway, and although I couldn’t quite manage all the crispy chilli beef I ordered, it went particularly well with the beers – followed by more red wine – I had purchased to accompany the meal.

Then, once dinner was finished, and I felt too tired / inebriated to wash up, I left the takeaway containers by the side of the sink, and headed to bed.

Little did I know, that decision would come back to haunt me…..

To be concluded……

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Don’t Let The Bed Blogs Bite (Part I)

A few months ago, my wife received an e-mail from a travel company, who claimed to be contacting her on behalf of Kinder (those of the toy egg fame), regarding a glamping weekend she had supposedly won in a competition.

Now, my wife and I are not daft when it comes to internet safety, and so our suspicions were immediately raised – but when she vaguely remembered entering a competition last year (via a Kinder egg, as it happens), to win a family holiday to Disneyland, and possibly something about five runners-up ‘glamping’ prizes, this ticked enough boxes to reassure me that it was worth investigating further.

Anyway, long story short (because there is so much more of this story to tell, and the rest is far more interesting/amusing/harrowing), the e-mail and company were genuine, and since April I have been exchanging e-mails with a lady called Meghan, culminating in the following:

  1. We had indeed won a glamping weekend for four in the New Forest;
  2. My initial suspicions that our trip would be restricted to ‘midweek in January’ were unfounded, and Meghan booked us in for last weekend, just after our boys had broken up for the summer;
  3. Because the farm where our experience was due to take place only offer three-night stays throughout the summer, Meghan added an extra night to our trip;
  4. The prize also included an ‘outdoor activity’ whilst on the farm, and since Isaac was apparently too young to try ‘axe-throwing’ (to which my reaction was understandably along the lines of ‘thank fuck for that’), the four of us were booked in for the slightly less daunting ‘archery’ instead;
  5. On top of all of that, Meghan arranged to transfer £200 to my account to cover our fuel expenses in getting there and back (which was, in all fairness, a four-hundred-mile round trip).

Now, I should explain from the outset that camping is not exactly my idea of fun (especially with our two boys, who seem to react badly to confined spaces), and I would have much preferred the trip to Disneyland – on account of the fact I would rather encounter a six foot tall fake mouse, than a real one crawling around my nether regions inside a sleeping bag – but a free weekend away is not to be sniffed at. Much like my nether regions, as it happens.

Plus, this was glamping, and if I could just get over the fact that I detest cringey portmanteau words like ‘hangry’, ‘chillax’, ‘Brangelina’, ‘Brexit’ etc. at least this might be the sort of outdoor living I could get on board with.  If nothing else, it was a chance to re-acquaint Isaac with nature, in preparation for one day releasing him back into the wild.

So, with everything meticulously organised by Meghan prior to our departure, last Friday morning we loaded the car and set off on our glamping weekend in the New Forest.

What follows, is the diary-like account I kept during our three days on a farm – featuring incest (not us), voyeurism, blood-sucking arachnids, sunburn, Peppa Pig, innuendo (obviously) and just about the finest henge you could ever hope to see. Oh, and we foolishly armed Isaac with a real bow and arrows.

And, if all that doesn’t keep you reading, then there’s no hope for any of us.

Enjoy.

Friday 26th July 2019

Ok, our glamping adventure didn’t get off to the best of starts, on the basis it took us over five hours to get down here (we’re just north of Bournemouth), and Isaac was whining/asking if we were ‘nearly there yet’ shortly after we passed Stoke on the M6 (for non-geographers, that was about ten minutes after we left home).

By the time we did finally arrive, we had ditched our plans to continue past the farm where we are staying, in order to spend a few hours in Bournemouth, and instead had a pub tea in Fordingbridge (the nearest village/town) before arriving at the farm shortly after 4pm as agreed with the owners.

To say we had a bit of a shock when we arrived would be an understatement.

Don’t get me wrong, the people we have met on the farm so far have been perfectly pleasant, but it would be fair to say they have all been a little, well, odd.  If you have seen the film Deliverance, for example, then replace the accents for something a little less ‘American Deep South’, and a little more ‘West Country’, and you wouldn’t be too far from my initial impressions of the place. Let’s just say, had the owner of the farm introduced us to his wife and sister, there would in-all-likelihood have only been one woman stood there at the time.

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The lady I spoke to yesterday, who we’ll refer to as Tammy (because it wouldn’t be fair to use Sammy’s real name), was the first person we encountered on arrival, and she definitely treated us with an air of suspicion, which wasn’t helped when she discovered we were the ‘competition winners’ from up north. In fact, I’m not sure her reaction could have been more apathetic toward us, had I been wearing an ‘I hate horses’ t-shirt.

Soon after, she handed us over to Becky (real name, Vicky) who, despite also being pleasant enough, seemed equally unsure about us. Becky appeared to be the rough-and-ready outdoor type, who I have no doubt could have snapped me like a twig if she wanted to, and she clearly formed the immediate impression that the ‘competition winners’ were not well suited to life on a farm, and would have been far happier staying somewhere like, well, Disneyland. Naturally, I took offence to this assumption.

“Now look here, Becky (real name Vicky), don’t assume just because we have in-car DVD players for the boys, and I’m wearing my nice trainers, we are snobby city-folk who are unaccustomed to camping and nature. I’ll have you know I spent an entire night in a tent with my eldest son last year, and whilst it may very well have been on his school field, five minutes from home, we still embraced the great outdoors. So, I’d appreciate it if you would refrain from jumping to the conclusion that we are not camping types before you know anything about us. Now, if you could just show me where I can charge my phone, and let me have the wi-fi password, I shall be on my way.”

Of course, I didn’t actually say any of that (you read the part about her snapping me like a twig, right?), and we all simply exchanged awkward pleasantries before she showed us to our canvas lodge for the next three nights.

Initial impressions of the outside of the lodge were, well, disappointment mixed with terror (you need to understand that we were deep into the woods, where no one would hear our screams, and were about the spend three nights in what looked like a large abandoned tent some boy scouts last camped in thirty years ago.

Inside, however, we were pleasantly surprised, as there was a kitchen area, a double bedroom (of sorts), as well as bunk beds for the boys. There was also a proper toilet, which allayed some of my fears (but ultimately, later on in our stay, added some new ones) and a ‘fridge’ which was essentially a wooden box with some frozen hot water bottles inside to keep everything cool.

Once we had unloaded the car and read the guide the owners had left on the table (selected highlight: “Ticks are small blood-sucking arachnids common in these woods. If you think you have been bitten by a tick, inform Sammy (sorry, Tammy) immediately, who will be more than happy to perform rudimentary surgery on the affected body part with her toolbox of rusty screwdrivers” – NB: I may be paraphrasing/exaggerating slightly), we decided to drive back into Fordingbridge to pick up basic supplies like milk, weapons grade insect repellent, and all the alcohol we could feasibly carry.

However, as we got back to our car, and began strapping the boys into their seats, Tammy once again appeared from nowhere (I’m not going to lie, I damn near shit myself) and, with one eye inexplicably closed, she asked ‘Not leaving already, are you?’

Now, had she been smiling when she said this, it might not have seemed so pant-wettingly sinister, but I swear she delivered the line like she was auditioning for ‘The Fordingbridge Chainsaw Massacre’, and so even though we offered forced smiles and said we were just nipping to pick up some groceries, part of me did think about screaming ‘Get away from me, you mentalist’ (ala Alan Partridge) before racing off down the lane leaving dust clouds behind me.

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Thankfully, the rest of the evening was relatively uneventful (other than Isaac again confirming our family are not really accustomed to outdoor living, when he tried to turn a candle off by pressing the flame), and even I had to admit our little canvas lodge was quite cosy once the lanterns and candles had been lit. Admittedly, my new affection for glamping may have been fuelled by most of a bottle of red wine, but still, we were actually fucking doing this.

That said, my doubts/fears about our hosts and surroundings had not entirely subsided, and so once my wife and I had worked out a sentry rota, to ensure one of us was awake at all times throughout the night to watch for axe-murderers and any wildlife with fangs, we settled into our beds (wearing as much clothing as possible – I had four pairs of boxer shorts on, to protect against blood-sucking arachnids getting anywhere near my man-junk), and called it a night.

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Still, all in all, I think we may end up quite enjoying this glamping malarkey…

To be continued….

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