Mince Pies and EggBlog

Well, it’s December, and that can mean only one thing – it is now acceptable to discuss Christmas.

I know some people begin getting all festive before the embers have fully died out on the bonfire, but for me you need to wait until midnight has ticked by on 30th November before you scoff that first mince pie, or even consider braving the loft to retrieve those decorations (which, incidentally, I am convinced I only shoved back up there about a month ago).

We all know Christmas is a magical time, particularly for the kids, but the real magic of Christmas, is that it is the one time of year when anything goes. You will eat, and drink, and behave like a totally different person from now until Boxing Day, all with one simple excuse – it’s Christmas. Christmas is like a month-long ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ card. In short, at Christmas time, the unacceptable suddenly becomes acceptable.

Here are seven examples of unacceptable Christmas behaviour, that no right-minded person would even contemplate at any other time of the year….

1. Fancy Dress

 

There are only two categories of adult human being who consider fancy dress as normal acceptable behaviour – actors, and the medically unstable.

Look, I am willing to turn a blind eye when it comes to Halloween, because I get that some parents will dress up for their kids, and I suppose the occasional stag/hen party is permissible, so long as they show some imagination (although, the last hen party I encountered – in Stockport – had clearly opted for the theme ‘drunken slags’), but for the remainder of the year fancy dress should be restricted to children only.

Not at Christmas though. Oh no. Once 1st December arrives, all bets are off, and you won’t make it through a twenty-four-hour period without encountering a Santa Claus, a ‘Mrs Santa’ (note for the ladies, not all of you can actually carry off a ‘sexy’ Mrs Santa outfit, so proceed with caution), a snowman or an elf.

I should know, because I hate fancy dress, but if you are reading this on the day of publication (Friday 7th December), then I am currently dressed like this for the Alzheimer’s Society’s ‘National Elf Day’ (which I’m pretty convinced my colleague made up, to make me look like a twat in front of clients):

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As you can see, I’m delighted about this. Ah well, it is Christmas, I suppose.

And I guess some festive fancy dress is ok…..

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2. Sprouts

No one in their right mind would consume these evil little balls of foulness at any other time of the year, so why do we allow them to infiltrate our dinner plates come Christmas? They smell of fart, they taste of fart, and they make you fart.

And, before you pipe up with ‘I honestly like them!’, no, you fucking don’t. You’re either lying to yourself (and the rest of us); or, worse, you honestly believe you like them, in which case you are a danger to society, and should be quarantined post-haste. See also: granola, kippers, olives (black and green).

Sprouts are awful, and disgusting, and my dinner plate come Christmas Day will be absolutely crawling with them. Because I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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3. Christmas Songs

26th December to 30th November:

“Shall we put some Mariah Carey on?”

“Fuck off.”

 

1st December to 25th December:

“Shall we put some Mariah Carey on?”

“I-I-I DON’T WANT A LOT FOR CHRISTMAS, THERE IS JUST ONE THING I NEEEEEED!”

4. Breakfast

For eleven months of the year, I will hazard a guess that your daily breakfast consists of something like cereal, or toast, or fruit. Now and again, you may treat yourself to sausages, or bacon, or eggs – or even all of the above, in that most glorious of treats, the full English breakfast.

Then, December begins, and any sense of self-restraint goes straight out of the window. You will justify that third bacon sandwich of the week, because it’s nearly Christmas. You might even scoff a mince pie, or a chocolate bar, before the school run, because it’s nearly Christmas.

But this is nothing, and I do mean nothing, compared to Christmas Day itself. On Christmas Day, all sense of decency vanishes, and sheer, unadulterated gluttony takes over, as you devour an entire Terry’s Chocolate Orange, or half a tin of Quality Street (orange creme, thanks for asking) before 7am.

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Even at Easter, a religious holiday now seemingly devoted to chocolate (amazing how the chocolatiers – and, to a lesser extent, the bunny community – managed to wrangle control of that one), most sensible adults wouldn’t dream of scoffing every last bite of a giant Toberlone before sunrise, yet at Christmas we seemingly think nothing of it.

And, best of all, we get to wash it all down with…..

5. Weird Alcohol

Assuming you are not an alcoholic, then aside from Christmas, there are only two other occasions when drinking alcohol first thing in the morning is considered acceptable: when you are at an airport about to fly away on holiday, and on your wedding day (when the bride may have a glass of champagne with her Maid of Honour, and any bridesmaids of sufficient maturity, and the groom will neck something a little stronger, to numb the pain of the horrible mistake he is about to make*).

*joke, dear.

However, it is not the timing of the alcohol consumption which really worries me about Christmas, it’s what we drink. For example, at no other point throughout the year, would I even entertain the notion of sipping a glass of sherry of an evening, but I can easily clear a bottle by myself during Christmas week alone.

Look, I know it’s not a manly drink in the slightest, but I don’t think downing a litre of Harvey’s Bristol Cream in the last week of the year is going to make me seem any camper than I already am, so I’m not overly concerned.

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Then, ladies and gentlemen, we have eggnog. What in the name of all things sacred is eggnog? And don’t say ‘Advocaat’, because we both know full well you haven’t got a fucking clue what that is either. You can’t explain one mysterious drink with another mysterious drink.

Even the name concerns me, because no alcoholic beverage should ever feature the word ‘egg’ (or, for that matter, the word ‘nog’). A nog, for those unaware, is a small block of wood. Nowhere else in the off licence would we accept a drink with a name formed from a dairy product and a small block of wood. Anyone fancy a quick cheese-peg or cream-wedge? No, didn’t think so.

And don’t even get me started on mulled wine.

6. Rubbish TV

I don’t watch soap operas, apart from with my mother-in-law at Christmas. I don’t tend to watch reality shows, except at Christmas. And even though I don’t mind the Queen, if someone offered me the option of watching a woman in her 90s give a meaningless speech in June, or July, or even on any other day in December, I’d politely decline or make up an excuse not to.

But this is Christmas, and so help me God I need to find out who shot so-and-so on Corrie.

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7. Christmas Shopping

Christmas has been almost entirely commercialised, whether you agree with that or not, but for someone who has never been a huge fan of shopping anyway, schlepping around stores looking for gifts at the same time as the rest of the country is not my idea of fun. In fact, I would far sooner drizzle my gentleman’s area with honey, then dangle it in front of a bear’s face.

Yet people seem to tolerate, no, love, pushing their way from one shop to the next in the build up to Christmas, fighting to grab those last minute gifts for relatives you don’t even like, and won’t see again until the same time next year (if any of my relatives are reading this, I don’t me you, obviously).

Even my wife, who treats Christmas shopping as her all-time favourite sport, and who once spent three days in the Trafford Centre buying gifts (honestly, we had to set up a ‘base camp’ outside Clintons), now avoids the place once December starts. It’s ridiculous. The Trafford Centre is so vast that it is twinned with Luxembourg, but if you visit on a Saturday throughout December, you won’t find a spare parking space among the 47,000 available if you don’t arrive before 9am.

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No, I much prefer to do my Christmas shopping in my underwear*, and since the Trafford Centre kicked me out the last time I tried it there, I now purchase nearly all of my gifts online. Not that I have many to buy, as my wife takes control of purchasing for most of our family.

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Of course, nowadays we also have the ‘Christmas Markets’ to contend with, where cities and towns have taken the concept of crowded shopping, and moved it outdoors into the freezing cold.

Never mind, at least we can all stay warm with a steaming cup of disgusting hot wine.

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Thanks for reading x

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Run FatBlog Run (Wilmslow)

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That’s it, it’s all over!

On Sunday, I successfully completed the tenth and final race of my challenge for 2018, when I ran the Wilmslow ‘Festive’ 10k. To say I am pleased that it’s all over would be an understatement, but at the time of writing this week’s entry my Just Giving page stands at £1,465, which is phenomenal. To put that figure into perspective, it means an additional 146 hours of research into childhood cancer, which makes every painful stride worthwhile, and I am very grateful to those who have donated.

Over the course of the year, I have seen two races cancelled at the last minute (including my inaugural race at Kidsgrove in January, which was cancelled – due to snow and ice  -with me stood at the start line raring to go); I have have battled injuries to my hip, knee and foot; I have tripped and fallen in training, suffering a gash to my right arm and leg; and I’ve been hospitalised with a suspected heart attack (which, thankfully, it wasn’t), when I collapsed barely twenty feet from the finish line at the Whitchurch 10k in April.

In short, it hasn’t been easy.

Which sounds pretty pathetic really, as a lot of proper runners will see 10k as nothing,  a brief jog and nothing more – but to me it’s my limit. I can’t imagine I will ever attempt a half marathon, and certainly never a full marathon, so I am in absolute awe of anyone who does.

Anyway, for the final time, here are my scores for the Wilmslow 10k:

Time: 47:08 (my second fastest time of the entire challenge, and whilst it was a shame to miss out on a PB in my final race by just 21 seconds, I shouldn’t complain too much, when I was struggling to meet my sub-50 minutes target just a few months ago.

Position: 723rd (out of 3,291)

Cost: I think this race is ordinarily around £19, but since I got a special offer to enter both the Wilmslow and Alderley Edge events for the bargain price of £29, they were essentially £14.50 each.

Course: The course itself was largely ok, save for the giant hill between 8 and 9k, and the fact that the organisers moved the finish line this year to ease congestion in the town centre and allow more of a finish ‘strait’.

Unfortunately, this meant the finish line was over a mile from the start, and on a country lane, which not only meant spectators fighting to get a place on one of the four buses the organisers put on (which thankfully my wife and kids did), but the finish line was very overcrowded. Oh, and then the runners had a choice of fighting to get one of the buses back, or face an extra mile-and-a-half to their car.

I think, on balance, I would have preferred the old route, whether it had a finish strait or not.

That said, apart from the one big hill towards the end, the course was mostly flat, on good condition roads – which, unlike at Arley Hall, remained fully closed throughout –  and was packed with enthusiastic spectators cheering us on. I even high-fived some kids on the final stretch, such was my euphoria at this bastard challenge being nearly over.

Each kilometre was clearly marked, and it was well marshaled throughout. Shame that moving the finish line has cost Wilmslow points, really – 7/10

Weather: Cold, but not quite as cold as the Oulton Park race in February, and certainly not as cold as Kidsgrove would have been, had it taken place. A little bit of rain, but not enough to put me off. Could have been worse – 7/10

Organisation: The organisation was very efficient, as I have come to expect from RunNorthWest, with a detailed pre-race pack sent through a couple of weeks in advance. The numbers were also posted out early, so there was no need for me to even visit ‘Race HQ’ on the day. They did advise against wearing headphones, but there was no way I was running my last race without music, and to be fair none of the marshals ever challenged me.

The results were online very quickly the same day, and I even got a text from ‘Nifty Timing’ the instant I crossed the line, so I knew my time, position, and wear I had finished in my category (middle-aged men who are shit at running, or something to that effect).

Wilmslow is, however, let down by the fact the start line in the town centre was so crowded, with no organisation of runners based on their ability/expectations, that the result was faster runners who wanted to get near the start were clambering over the barriers among the spectators, and this led to Ollie nearly taking a running shoe to the face.

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Shame, really, otherwise this race would have scored highly – 7/10

Official Photos: Yet again, Mick Hall was the chosen race photographer, and I have to say he is very efficient, uploading thousands of photographs the next day.

Unfortunately, with over three thousand runners to snap, it would be fair to say he didn’t exactly capture my best side:

So that’s one beheading, one with my eyes shut (I’ll share some of the blame for that), and one where the bint next to me has nicked my ‘race number ten’ pose. She’s either getting in on the action, or mocking me, but either way she can fuck right off. I might even cut her out of that one.

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There. Much better (and it even emphasises the pretty rainbow behind me).

Thankfully, my good lady wife grabbed a few good shots before and after the race, including a great photo of my sprint finish:

Still, Mick did his best, and they were all free to download – 8/10

Medal: Very nice indeed, and very distinctive. Good work, Wilmslow – 9/10

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Goody-bag: For only the second time throughout the challenge (the other being at Colshaw Hall in Knutsford), the goody bag comprised an actual bag. This was filled with some sweets, a caramel flapjack, and some energy powder (which I think you are meant to add to water, but after the ‘birthday cake’ flavour powder at Oulton Park at the start of the year, I don’t think I’m brave enough to try it). No running shirt this time, though – 7/10

Post-race refreshment: Just a bottle of water, but that’s only because the other treats were in the bag, and the finish area was so cramped, they wouldn’t have been able to organise fruit and other treats really – 6/10

Summary:

Course: 7/10

Weather: 7/10

Organisation: 7/10

Photos: 8/10

Medal: 9/10

Goody-bag: 7/10

Refreshments: 6/10

Which gives the Wilmslow ‘Festive’ 10k a total score of 51, meaning it is tied with it’s sister event, Alderley Edge.

So, without further ado, here is my final table:

Arley Hall                           54/70                     (77%)

Sandbach                            53/70                     (76%)

Colshaw Hall                      52/70                     (74%)

Alderley Edge                     51/70                     (73%)

Wilmslow                            51/70                    (73%)

Birchwood                          49/70                     (70%)

Whitchurch:                       49/70                     (70%)

Tatton Park:                        47/70                     (67%)

Oulton Park:                       46/70                     (66%)

Poynton:                              39/70                     (56%)

Arley Hall is therefore my favourite race of the ten (which has absolutely nothing to do with the fact it was my fastest race, and towards the end of the whole ordeal being nearly over).

That said, I did begin to wonder whether my scores were becoming more generous as the challenge went on, because I was getting fitter, my times were improving, and because I was less nervous before each race. However, when I look back over the final table now, I do genuinely feel that Arley Hall was my favourite race, and Poynton was a sack of shit, so apart from Birchwood being slightly lower than expected in hindsight, not to mention the fact Whitchurch is mid-table despite doing it’s level best to kill me, I think the scores are about right.

That’s it for my running now, at least for this year. I don’t imagine I will continue to take part in regular 10k events (although I may be persuaded to compete in the Sandbach race again next year, with it being so local), and I won’t be training anywhere near as hard, but gentle jogs around the town, and the odd Parkrun when I can, are by no means out of the question.

Anyway, I’m so glad it’s over, as I’m sure you are too (back to cheap knob gags next week, folks), and I would just like to thank everyone again for their support and donations throughout this daft challenge. I would like to especially thank my wife and kids, for coming along to every event to cheer me on (regardless of the weather conditions).

Best of all, look at all the new running shirts and shiny stuff I have gathered over the past ten months:

Finally, there is just enough time for one last push for donations, so if you could spare a few quid to help me hit £1,500, take a look at my Just Giving page:

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/greg10x10k

Thanks for reading x

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Nobody Puts Bloggy In A Corner

You may be aware that last week was national ‘anti-bullying week’ (frankly, every week should be anti-bullying week, but I do understand the rationale behind selecting one particular seven-day period to focus everyone’s attention on the issue).

Naturally, head teachers up and down the country dealt with this in different ways; but our boys’ primary school participated in ‘odd socks day’, inviting all the pupils to wear mismatched (and brightly-coloured) socks, as a symbol of unity against bullying, and to celebrate everyone’s individuality.

If you don’t follow my Facebook page (although I suspect the vast majority of those reading this do), you may not be aware that, on ‘odd socks day’, I posted a photograph of my two boys from the knees down, displaying their chosen footwear for the day. Here’s the photo:

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Yes, in true Isaac fashion, he refused to take part; and whilst my wife and I obviously accepted his choice, we were still concerned that he might change his mind once he arrived at school to be greeted by all the other pupils in colourful socks – or, worse (and rather ironically), that he might be teased for being the odd-one-out – so we shoved a spare (mismatched) pair in his bag just in case.

Bullying is an important issue, and whilst the focus tends to be on children during anti-bullying week, this is usually because:

  1. It is best raised early, before any adverse behavioural patterns are formed which might be harder to change in later life;
  2. Children are often less aware of the devastating effects that bullying can have (whether they happen to be the ‘bully’ or the ‘victim’);
  3. Children may be unaware of the various forms bullying can take, and that it needn’t be physical – or even in person – to still have terrible consequences;
  4. If adults think bullying is acceptable, then they are most likely beyond help, and should be sent away to live in a far-off land.

So, in a rare turn of events, the remainder of this week’s entry is aimed towards children, and whilst you adults are naturally invited to read on, I would appreciate it if you could share what follows with your own kids, or any that you happen to know.

Thanks.

***

Hi.

You probably don’t know me, or ever get to read what I write about, but that’s because I tend to be a bit rude and swear a lot. Hopefully, your Mum or Dad (or whichever grown-up has asked you to read this) likes my blog, and finds it funny.

I wanted to talk to you about bullying because, statistically, you will experience bullying at some point in your life (whether directly or indirectly), and it’s an issue which needs addressing. I am by no means an expert, but I have amassed a few readers over the years, and if the message gets through to just a few people, it was worth it. Besides, I was bullied at school, so I know what it’s like, and that’s a pretty good starting point.

Firstly, let’s get one common error out of the way. Bullying is not always physical, and can just as easily (perhaps even more easily) take the form of words rather than punches. You may even have bullied someone yourself in the past – even if you don’t want to admit it – because if you have ever teased someone, and taken the joke too far, that’s bullying.

Look, I like to make people laugh, and sometimes I do that at the expense of others, but I would like to think I know when to stop, and if the person who is the subject of the joke doesn’t find it funny, then that’s not right. I’ve made this mistake myself over the years, and hate to think I might have upset people, but I now try to find humour in other situations – preferably at my own expense, to be on the safe side. Fortunately, I embarrass myself quite a lot, so I’ve usually got plenty of material.

Bullying doesn’t even need to be in person, and that’s the really scary thing, because the internet (which, believe it or not, didn’t exist when I was your age), now makes it so much easier for bullies and – even worse – makes it much harder to detect and stop.

If a child comes home from school with a black eye, or a bloody nose, or a bruised arm, this is a visible sign that hopefully their parent(s) or teacher(s) will ask them about. Ok, it might be down to a simple accident (and my kids are always having accidents), but it could equally be the result of bullying. However, if that same person is being bullied online, or via their phone, it’s not as easy to spot, and that child’s misery may go undetected – or could be mistaken for something else.

I want you to take a second and think about your friends, classmates, siblings, and anyone else you are in contact with each day, and really think if you might have crossed that line at some point. If, like me, you have ever taken a joke too far at someone else’s expense, ridiculed them, or even physically hurt them, there’s still time to apologise and change.

Alternatively, maybe you are the one who has been bullied in the past, or you might even be the victim of bullying right now, and it’s you that I really want to talk to, because you can – and must – do something about it.

I am pleased to say I have never physically bullied anyone, but that is for one very simple reason, and it’s this:

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Just look at me. I’m not exactly physically threatening, am I? And that’s me now. Believe or not, I’m a lot more appealing as an adult than I was as a child/teenager. When I was at primary school, I had over-sized glasses and the hair of a fifty-year-old woman. Don’t believe me? Take a look at this:

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Then, when puberty hit, I developed even worse hair and terrible skin. Being skinny, wearing glasses, having acne, or being socially-awkward, is usually enough for any bully to work with, and I had all four going on at once.

I was an easy target, for most of my teenage years, and I’m just glad I was mentally strong enough to cope, because some days I was utterly miserable at school. It frightens me that not everyone has that inner-strength, and some victims of bullying fail to see a way out. Believe me, there is always a way out, because there is always someone out there willing to listen and help.

My escape was being funny (or, at least, trying to be).

I realised, when I was growing up, that I had a knack for making people laugh, and it gave me a buzz when others found me amusing. I slowly managed to alter people’s perception, so that rather than laughing at me, they laughed with me. Not everyone, obviously, and there were still some of the bigger kids who picked on me, but it only ever resulted in physical violence on a few occasions, so I suppose some people might see that as fortunate, even though psychological bullying can have longer-lasting effects.

Because I wasn’t ever blessed with good looks – some would say I’m still not – not to mention the fact I needed glasses from a young age (and, back then, wearing specs wasn’t as cool as it is today), I never had the distractions of going out lots, or girls, and so I worked hard at school instead.

I didn’t know it at the time, and if you’re in the same situation you may not appreciate it either, but being ‘geeky’ was one of the best things to happen to me. I got really good grades in my GCSEs, and even though I didn’t do as well in my A-levels (thanks, in no small part, to the fact I had been rejected by several girls in my year, and it started to get me down), I still went to a good university, then law school, and now I have a decent job.

Better still, when I was at university, I met a girl who was able to look past the crap hair and glasses (even though she later persuaded me to change both), and she fell in love with me for who I am. We got married in 2004, had our first son in 2010, and our second son in 2014. I still wish my school life had been happier, and perhaps filled with more female attention in the later years (ok, any female attention), but my point is this: everything worked out.

Popularity, sporting achievements, and having a boyfriend or girlfriend isn’t everything, I promise you. If you try to be a good, kind person, things will work out. You will be popular. You will find love. If I can get married, have kids, and enjoy a relatively successful career (I added the word ‘relatively’, because I’m typing this on my lunch break, and it ended about twenty minutes ago), then there is hope for us all.

Each and every one of us is amazing in our own way, and that includes you. Don’t ever let anyone make you feel worthless, or inferior, because it usually only means they are compensating for something missing from their own life.

And, if anyone does make you feel that way, whether their actions take a physical or psychological form, it is absolutely ok to tell someone, and get help. You never need to suffer on your own, and even if you don’t think you can speak to your parents, or teachers, or friends, there are charities like Childline. Their number, if you or anyone you know needs it, is 0800 1111.

Basically, just be you, because you are bloody brilliant.

Thanks for reading x

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Run FatBlogRun (Arley Hall)

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Last Saturday I completed the ninth of my ten 10k races for the year, as I raise funds for my chosen charity, Kidscan, and I think the fact the challenge is nearly over is something we can all be pleased about.

I am pleased, because it means I will soon be able to bid farewell to long distance competitive running. I don’t like it, I’m not very good at it, and it is clearly bad for my health – and hips.

At the same time, you should also be pleased, because it means you won’t have to read about my running any more, and we can all get back to blog entries about my moronic children, and the various unfortunate events that seem to plague my life.  Be honest, we all prefer a bit of childish swearing and a cheap knob gag, right?

However, for all the pain and exhaustion I have suffered throughout the year, and despite the fact I have not grown to love running as everyone predicted, I am pleased I set myself this challenge, because it has been a real struggle for me (when it perhaps wouldn’t have been for most runners), so I feel like I have genuinely earned all the donations to my JustGiving page.

And, on that subject, I am delighted to reveal (to those of you who don’t already know), that last Saturday I reached my £1,000 target, which means more than one hundred hours of additional research into childhood cancer. That fact alone makes every single painful stride completely worthwhile.

My penultimate 10k took place at Arley Hall in Cheshire, and to say it went well would be an understatement, as I managed to shave more than a minute off my PB (which, bearing in mind my previous best put me in hospital for two days, to run faster without collapsing was certainly a bonus).

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Arley Hall

It’s not like the build-up to the race went particularly well, either, as I had been struggling with both my left knee and right thigh/hip in the days prior to the event (plus, Isaac had been his usual nocturnal self the night before), so we arrived at Arley Hall shortly after 8am with me already knackered and aching.

My lack of enthusiasm was compounded when we reached the ‘event village’ for the race (which was nothing more than a series of gazebos in a field), and I immediately slipped in sheep shit. The stuff was everywhere – indeed, my wife and the boys ended up victims to sticky ovine plop on their footwear too – and aside from the sheer disgustingness of it all, my paranoid brain feared it might cause me to slip mid-race and injure myself.

I managed to focus myself, however, and apart from the start of the race being a little congested, it wasn’t long before we were underway, dodging potholes (and more sheep shit), before leaving the grounds of Arley Hall for the country lanes of Antrobus – which, I am well aware, sounds very much like a low-cost travel company.

My calm was short-lived, however, because soon after we passed through the main gates of Arley Hall, some colossal fuckwit collided with me (naturally, in true British fashion, I apologised to him), and it really threw my concentration. Thankfully, I managed to compose myself by spending the next minute or so coming up with various penis-related insults to shout at him, should our paths cross again later in the race.

It wasn’t until I reached the 1k marker, however, that I looked at my watch and realised ‘Dick Van Dick’ (look, they weren’t all gold) had inadvertently – or perhaps deliberately – stopped my watch at 2:26, which meant I had no idea how fast I was running (other than to say it had taken me at least two-and-a-half minutes to complete 1k, but I could have predicted that much).

Whilst, in hindsight, it was not exactly rocket science to calculate my pace from that point onward, I was never that strong at maths under pressure anyway, and trying to work out the time at which I should reach the remaining markers suddenly felt like… well, rocket science.

It took me an inordinately – and embarrassingly – long time to work out that, so long as I could reach the 2k point before my (since-restarted) watch hit 7:30, that was approximately the right pace, and I would have to hope that the first kilometre was not slower than anticipated, otherwise I would struggle to finish within my sub-fifty-minute target.

No sooner had I solved my maths problem, however, I was then faced with two further distractions: the first being a horse rider, who had somehow evaded/ignored all the road blocks to come face-to-face with 1,400 runners (which clearly spooked the horse, and could have proven very dangerous), and the second being the fact I was then overtaken by a fat cow.

Now, before you start hurling insults like ‘misogynist pig’ or ‘sizeist neanderthal’, I must stress that I was genuinely overtaken by a fat cow (as in the oversized farm animal variety, or a bovine beast, if you will), which was running in the field next to me. Now, bearing in mind how ungainly cows are, and the fact they are rarely mentioned in the same sentence as words like ‘speedy’, or ‘streamlined’, this was rather embarrassing and off-putting.

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A pointless image, really

Fortunately, the rest of the event ran smoothly (pun intended), and aside from missing the 7k marker entirely – which caused a brief panic – I returned to Arley Hall in what I later realised was an alarmingly quick time (for me). This was much to the dissatisfaction of my wife, who was very concerned that I was crossing the line considerably faster than the Whitchurch 10k, and was expecting me to keel over at any moment.

There was no collapse, however, and once she had berated me for running too fast (I quickly explained about ‘Jordan Prickford’ stopping my watch so early into the race), there were congratulations all round.

I was also approached by one of the runners I had overtaken on my sprint finish (who had sportingly cheered me on), and he asked about my challenge, having seen my name and the charity on the back of my running shirt. He even promised to donate himself (which he hasn’t, yet, but it was a nice gesture anyway), and as we went our separate ways, we even managed a ‘cool’ handshake/shoulder bump, which in my head went a little like this:

bro hug GIF

But in reality was probably more like this:

country hug GIF

Anyway, moving swiftly on to the scores:

Time: 46:47

Position: 354th (out of 1,347)

Cost: £19.00 – one of the more expensive events, but still decent value for money.

Course: If the organisers could get rid of the treacherous, pot-hole filled, sheep-shit splattered first/last 200m straight, then this would be my favourite route yet. It’s almost entirely flat (every event so far has contained at least a couple of nasty inclines), and this shows in my time. The course was mostly along decent roads and paths (unlike the muddy, woodland sections at Poynton and Tatton Park), and apart from a few potholes it was ideal.

Each kilometre was clearly marked (well, I assume 7k was, but I missed that one), there were marshals at every turn, and the sprint finish was pretty fun – 8/10

Weather: Like the last two events, the rain had come down pretty heavily in the days beforehand, but the race itself was dry, sunny and not too cold – 9/10

Organisation: The pre-event organisation, and collection of running numbers on the day, were both very good, but sadly there were some issues during the race. The start was a little disorganised, which resulted in me getting penned in behind some much slower runners, and the road closures were poorly enforced, leading to a horse rider, some cyclists, and eventually some cars getting through – all of which could have caused a serious injury (but fortunately didn’t).

However, the results were posted online very quickly after the event, and I’ll cut the marshals some slack in terms of the roadblocks, as it seems the motorists in question were not only determined to get through, but very abusive – 7/10

Official Photos: The race photos were courtesy of Mick Hall, who, if memory serves me, was at the Birchwood 10k a few months ago, and they were again free to download. Also, despite the fact there were well over 1,000 shots to upload, he had the photos on Facebook by the end of the day.

I only appeared in two (and the finish line photo was shit, so I’m not sharing it), but he did get a decent snap of my new ‘pose’ – which is actually meant to signify this being my ninth race, and is not intended to be a camp little wave (as my siblings initially thought):

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I’ll give Mick and his team 8/10

My wife also took some decent shots, including one of the sprint finish:

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Medal: Very similar to the Tatton Park 10k medals (on account of the fact this race is organised by the same people). Very nice indeed, if a little ‘samey’ now – 8/10

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Goody-bag: As with many of the earlier races, I was presented with a very smart running shirt for my troubles, and since I don’t yet have one in black, it was gratefully received (even though it’s a little useless for running in the dark winter months) – 7/10

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Post-race refreshment: With the event being organised by ‘RunThrough’, who also do Tatton Park’s monthly 10k, we again received some of their delicious flapjack, as well as water and a banana. Nothing fancy, but it very rarely is – 7/10

Summary:

Course: 8/10

Weather: 9/10

Organisation: 7/10

Photos: 8/10

Medal: 8/10

Goody-bag: 7/10

Refreshments: 7/10

Giving the Cheshire 10k an impressive total of 54/70, making it my new favourite with just one race to go:

Arley Hall                           54/70                     (77%)

Sandbach                            53/70                     (76%)

Colshaw Hall                      52/70                     (74%)

Alderley Edge                     51/70                     (73%)

Birchwood                          49/70                     (70%)

Whitchurch:                       49/70                     (70%)

Tatton Park:                        47/70                     (67%)

Oulton Park:                       46/70                     (66%)

Poynton:                              39/70                     (56%)

The score would have been even higher, were it not for the sheep poo (which took ages to scrub off), and the poorly adhered to road closures.

My challenge is almost over, so if you would like to donate, here’s a link to my Just Giving page:

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/greg10x10k

Thanks for reading x

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Fast Metablogism

I have been on a bit of a health kick for the past few months, and I am pleased to report that I am finally starting to see the benefits.

As well as forcing myself to go running at least a couple of times each week, as I prepare for the next 10k race in my charity challenge, I have been thinking more carefully about my diet too, and whilst I have naturally had to make some sacrifices (for example, devouring an entire pack of chocolate Hobnobs is now, sadly, a thing of the past), it hasn’t been as horrendous as I expected.

Please don’t imagine for one second that I am dieting to excess, as I have always been blessed with a naturally fast metabolism, so I have never needed to lose a lot of weight (besides, I have never advocated crash dieting for anyone), but in recent years I have noticed my waistline getting somewhat out of control, and I felt it was time to make a few slight changes to my diet in order to halt the expansion.

My three main reasons for deciding to take action were as follows:

1. Daft as it may sound, collapsing while running earlier this year – and spending the best part of 48 hours in hospital as a result – gave me a bit of a wake-up call, and even though my diet seemingly played little or no part in what happened, I couldn’t help but think now might be the right time to make that change (and don’t pretend for one second you didn’t read that, then immediately start playing Michael Jackson’s Man In The Mirror in your head…);

2. Some of my clothes, particularly my work suits and shirts, were beginning to strain somewhat around the middle (to the point that my midriff often looked like the end of a duvet cover, where the duvet itself is visibly bursting out between the buttons of the cover);

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Not actually me, but alarmingly accurate

(NB: For anyone struggling with the duvet cover comparison, you could alternatively visualise a burst sausage).

3. I realised it had been some time (perhaps even a few years BC – Before Children) since I had last glanced down in the shower and seen my ‘junk’ (and this had everything to do with my expanding waistline, and nothing to do with any inadequacies in that department, I hasten to add). In fact, my stomach had become so out of control, I suspect the only reason I could still see my feet when looking down in the shower, is because I am a size 12 (that’s right, ladies), but it was only a matter of time before even they were eclipsed by the belly.

So, on my wife’s suggestion (and it was nothing more than a suggestion, prompted by my obvious dissatisfaction at the state of my prolific gut), a few months ago I downloaded the ‘MyFitnessPal’ App onto my phone.

For those unfamiliar with this marvelous piece of technology (and I have no doubt there are many alternatives on the market), MyFitnessPal is an App for recording your weight, everything you eat/drink on a daily basis, and any exercise you do. By uploading your routine each day, you can closely monitor your calorie intake, earn extra calories back by exercising, and – hopefully – watch your weight decrease over time.

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NB: This photo was taken from Google, not my phone, so please don’t think for one second I have started eating Broccoli and Cauliflower salad (I’m not that much of a prick)

The calorie counter was a bit of an eye opener for me, as I now accept that I was being somewhat naïve when it came to which foods are good/bad for me. Obviously, I’m not stupid enough to think that an entire pack of chocolate Hobnobs is a healthy option when it comes to losing weight, but I was surprised to discover that red wine is just as calorific as beer (more so, when you consider the relative volumes), and astonished that an apple is twice as bad for you as a carrot, and almost as bad for you as half a KitKat Chunky. Given the choice between two apples and a KitKat Chunky, it’s not even a contest. I’m surprised people still buy apples at all.

I have also been extremely honest with my recordings (well, there didn’t seem much point in lying); and whereas historically I would always consider devouring a nice bar of chocolate – or some other delicious treat – after a hard day at work, I now check what calories I have left for the day before doing so.

True, there have been occasions when I have already exceeded my daily intake for the day, only to adopt a very swift ‘ah, fuck it’ attitude (before pouring another glass of wine and eating a slice of cake), but this tends to be on a Friday or over the weekend, when we all know calories don’t count (note: they do count, I am just making light of my tendency to binge eat when I am around the kids for too long – it’s my personal coping mechanism, and I don’t endorse it).

Generally speaking, though, if I realise that I cannot enjoy a treat after my dinner without exceeding my calories for the day, I will either:

  1. Abstain completely;
  2. Reduce the size of the treat to keep within my limits; or (if desperate)
  3. Stay up until after midnight so the treat is deducted from the next day’s allowance.

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There are of course disadvantages to my recent healthy (or at least healthier) eating plan, not least the fact I am becoming more irritable (even by my standards), and I genuinely fear for the survival of high street chains like Greggs, but when it comes to the future, the survival of this particular Greg is infinitely more important.

Better still, keeping a close eye on my calories each day has given me more of an incentive to go out running, as I can earn back roughly one-third of my daily intake by completing my usual five-mile circuit around Sandbach. I don’t even need to do any calculations, because the ‘Strava’ App (look at me with all the technology) monitors my progress as I run, turns the distance and speed into calories earned, then automatically credits my total for the day on MyFitnessPal.

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NB: Again, this photo is from Google, not from my actual phone, so please don’t think for one second I have started cycling as well as running (I’m not that much of a prick)

Don’t get me wrong, I still hate running with every fibre of my being, and I cannot promise I will continue to drag my sorry arse out onto the cold streets of Sandbach twice a week once this 10k challenge is over, but it’s amazing how the prospect of an extra pint of beer, or some chocolate, is enough of an incentive to get me out there.

Yes, yes, I know I should go running without then devouring all the extra calories I have earned, as I am rather defeating the object of dieting; but the way I see it, so long as I end up in ‘calorie-credit’ at the end of each day, I’m heading in the right direction.

I know this to be true, because the scales do not lie (despite me calling them a ‘fucking liar’ on more than one occasion – whilst standing on tip-toes, removing items of clothing, and even farting in an attempt to drop that needle a pound or two), and I am pleased to report that in the few months since I first downloaded MyFitnessPal, I have lost the grand total of one-and-a-half stone.

To put that into context, the weight I have lost is roughly equivalent to:

  1. A bowling ball;
  2. A sperm whale’s brain;
  3. Four chihuahuas;
  4. Two-and-a-bit human heads; or
  5. ‘Ginge’, Britain’s heaviest recorded cat.

Better still, that one-and-a-half stone seems to have been lost primarily from my belly (I did fear that I would lose weight from my already pathetic arms and legs, but they, thankfully, seem to be unaffected) so I really am noticing the benefits – not to mention a larger proportion of ‘him downstairs’ when I shower (look, I know I’m going on about it, but it’s like seeing an old friend after many years).

And, on that image….

Thanks for reading x

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The Blog Witch Project

Next Wednesday is Halloween (or Hallowe’en, for anyone who gets turned on by seemingly pointless apostrophes) and, as far as child-focused events in my calendar go, this has to be one of the shittiest.

Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of grown-up fixtures that I dread reaching each year – such as dental appointments, the day the clocks go back/forward (I can never remember which is the crap one where we get less sleep) and Valentine’s Day; but when it comes to dates the children look forward to, Halloween is right at the bottom end of my personal league table.

It wasn’t always this way. As a kid, I used to quite enjoy Halloween, because it involved dressing up in a ridiculously inexpensive and thoroughly unconvincing ‘scary’ costume (which, invariably, meant putting on a bin bag and a cheap cartoonish mask that mum had bought at the newsagents), before going around our neighbours on the cul-de-sac where we grew up.

We would gently tap on their doors, full of anticipation and excitement, utter the customary ‘trick or treat’, politely wait for them to tell us how adorable/scary we looked (lies), and then gratefully receive sweets and chocolates for our troubles.

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It was all just harmless fun ‘back in the day’, and the best part was getting home in the warm, then emptying our bags of loot onto the living room floor, to check how lucrative that particular year’s haul had been.

The worst that ever happened, was occasionally some miserly fucker would give you a packet of ‘Parma violets’, which had clearly been found hiding at the back of a cupboard (having been rejected by everyone – or even discarded by their own kids – the previous Halloween: no one ever eats Parma violets, they just re-gift them); but these lesser ‘treats’ were easily passed off to a younger, more naive sibling (or eventually the bin), and then everything would be fine again.

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Parma violets: Incomprehensibly shit

Nowadays, however, I dread Halloween – although not for the reasons you might think. Look, I know I can be a miserable git at times, and it doesn’t take a great deal to get very firmly on my tits (although, sadly, ‘very firmly’ is not a phrase often associated with my tits these days); but my reasons for detesting Halloween have nothing to do with the fact I am no longer a child myself.

Look, even though Easter, Christmas and my birthday don’t necessarily carry the same magic they did when I was young, now that I have kids of my own I can still enjoy these events vicariously through them. The magic of Father Christmas, the unwrapping of birthday presents, and the sheer unadulterated gluttony of the Easter bunny, may all have different meanings these days, but it doesn’t mean they are any less enjoyable.

Halloween, however, has changed for the worse.

If my boys could simply stick on a bin bag and a cheap mask, then go around the houses on our street collecting confectionery – like my siblings and I used to – then I may still enjoy Halloween to an extent, but it’s just not the same as it used to be (which, admittedly, does make me sound old and grumpy).

I’ll happily explain why Halloween is now shit…

The ‘Children’

I firmly believe that, as a general rule of thumb, once a child reaches secondary school age (and certainly once they have conquered the trials of puberty), they need to stop participating in Halloween. This is partly because Halloween is intended to be a night for young children to go out and enjoy themselves, not for teenagers to profit from the generosity of the community, but mostly because the older the youths to our front door get, the more likely I am to shit myself when I answer it.

And, whilst I am admittedly something of a wimp when it comes to confrontations with gangs of teenagers, I am at least partially-protected by the fact my wife is a teacher at an all-boys secondary school, so any young lads looking to cause trouble tend to leave us alone – because they know full well she can identify them if necessary.

Elderly residents do not usually have this protection, however, and when faced with a teenager hammering on their door during Halloween, it can understandably be very frightening. This is especially troubling, since many pensioners are already at risk of shitting themselves purely by eating something moderately spicy, by bending over, or by moving suddenly in their chair, so they don’t always appreciate an additional threat to their underwear.

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Delinquents 

The ‘Outfits’

Now, I have already said that Halloween is meant to be a bit of a laugh, so as long as the child in question has made an effort, I’m more than happy, but even this appears to be a thing of the past.

From my recent experience, the children of today – presumably via their dickhead parents – either make no effort whatsoever (last year, we had a kid who had simply put a black hoodie on, and whilst it was pretty scary, that’s only because I suspected he was carrying a knife), or go way over the top and spend a fortune on something elaborate.

Then, there are the parents themselves, who spend hours with a professional make-up artist, until they look like an extra from The Walking Dead.

The only time I appreciate a serious amount of effort going into a child’s Halloween costume, is if the parent is clearly making reference to a famous horror film, and the kid in question is completely oblivious – but going along with it.

The ‘Treats’

While some of the confectionery I received as a kid was frankly disappointing (I don’t want to sound ungrateful, but feel confident none of our old neighbours will read this, and George with his fun-size Bountys can frankly go fuck himself), children nowadays are apparently no longer happy unless they receive a large bag of Haribo, a entire box of chocolates (and none of this ‘Quality Street’ shit, thank you very much, the youth of today appear to have been weaned away from the breast on Belgian truffles and Ferrero Rocher), or, in extreme cases, they just want cold hard cash.

It’s now only a matter of time before kids are carrying contactless card readers around with them on Halloween, or begin asking for a BACS transfer directly into their account.

The ‘Tricks’

Here’s the biggest change since my youth – we didn’t really have any tricks when we were kids. This was partly because we weren’t delinquent little fuckers in the 1980s, and we respected our elders, but mostly because no adults ever called our bluff. We knew they would never choose ‘trick’ over ‘treat’, and they knew we didn’t have any tricks in the first place, so it was a symbiotic relationship of trust and mutual understanding that worked perfectly fine.

I’m not sure when Halloween changed for the worse (although there was at least two decades between my outgrowing it, and Ollie being old enough to participate), but it strikes me that kids nowadays see Halloween as an excuse to go out with half a joke shop hidden about their person.

Oh, sure, it might have started out relatively harmlessly, with some ‘silly string’, a water pistol, or a fake spider/dog poo/hand grenade etc.; but no sooner had society let this sort of behaviour go unpunished, we are now faced with teenagers throwing eggs and flour at our homes and cars if we don’t cough up (and sometimes even when we do).

The situation has become so threatening, I now have to keep a broken glass bottle and a baseball bat behind the front door just in case.

Pumpkin carving

I don’t remember us ever carving pumpkins as kids, but at the same time I don’t remember any of our neighbours doing it either. It just wasn’t that common.

Nowadays, however, I feel like I’m letting our boys down if I don’t buy the largest pumpkin I can find, then lose most of the skin off my hands by gouging out the disgusting insides (yes, I know you can use tools, but I still end up red raw by the time I’m finished).

Ok, the end product of an intricately carved pumpkin can be somewhat rewarding, but hollowing them out is messy, time-consuming, and bloody painful, and I’m not sure it’s worth it for something which will rot in less than a week.

Plus, everyone now sees pumpkin carving as a competition to come up with the most elaborate design, and that just means yet another opportunity for my children to be hopelessly disappointed in their father.

Other parents….

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…. Me.

What’s the point? When did Halloween become so obsessed with intricate vegetable designs? It’s not like we gouge out the insides of our turkey on Christmas morning, then carve a rude word into it’s flesh during the Queen’s speech (well, my Nan did one year, but in her defence she’d been on the booze since 7am).

***

So, overall, Halloween is not what it once was, and I now dread it each year.

As a child, it was a fun night of dressing up as a harmless ghost or vampire, visiting the houses on our street, and receiving delicious goodies off kindly neighbours.

But now, Halloween is an excuse for reprobate teenagers to scare the crap out of pensioners, and then mug me on my own doorstep. And I’ll tolerate it, because the alternative is getting the shit kicked out of me, or having my car covered in eggs and flour.

Stay safe, folks. It’ll all be over soon, then we can look forward to Christmas.

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Don’t Let The Bed Blogs Bite

I lie there in waiting

Alert on your stairs

A vast black body

Antennae with hairs

To the naked eye

I may well be dead

But I’m patiently sat

‘Til it’s your time for bed

Then as you approach

And squint in the light

I’ll flutter one wing

To give you a fright

Then I’m still once again

Like a miniature bat

As you lean in to look

“What the fuck is that?”

A creature of darkness

An insect-shaped goth

A prince of the night time

I’m the world’s biggest moth

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I patiently wait

While you search for a book

Take your best shot, pal

I don’t give a fuck

You think you’ve surprised me

Caught me unawares

As the book crashes down

There’s a smudge on the stairs

I lay flat and look squashed

It’s part of my game

While you get a tissue

To gather my frame

You carry me off

Throw my ‘corpse’ in the bin

But as I land in your trash

I stifle a grin

As the lid closes down

I crawl, like a sloth

To wait for my moment

I’m the world’s biggest moth

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The very next day

The bin opens once more

You’ve forgotten me now

Think your house is secure

With that first crack of light

I dart through the space

And the next thing you know

I’m there IN YOUR FACE

I flutter; you splutter

You shout, yelp and swear

Your mind wanders back

To that stain on the stair

You thought I was dead

You fell for my trick

Now you’re waving your arms

And you look like a dick

You grab for a weapon

Locate a dishcloth

But when you turn back I’ve gone

I’m the world’s biggest moth

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I flew near the window

Of that you are certain

But where am I now?

Is that me on the curtain?

I’m the master of stealth

The king of disguise

My huge body vanished

In front of your eyes.

I smile to myself

As you strike what you think

Is me near the window

While I’m sat by the sink

You swing, and you swear

Then you sigh and give up

As I skip cross your bowl

Wipe my arse on your cup

My gigantic frame

Like a winged behemoth

I don’t give a shit

I’m the world’s biggest moth

You head to the lounge

Plunge the room into dark

While I busy myself

By leaving my mark

It’s fun flying round

But my ultimate goal

Is to scare you again

Near the washing up bowl

I rest on the edge

Give myself time to think

But then lose my footing

And fall in the sink

I flap, start to panic

Must escape, but then…. Fuck

I’m too far from the side

I can’t swim, and I’m stuck

I’m trapped in the water

Surrounded by froth

Could this be the end

Of the world’s biggest moth?

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When you wake the next morning

And go to your sink

To fill up the kettle

And make your first drink

Your tired eyes glance down

Can’t believe what they see

In among all the bubbles

That right pal, it’s me.

The master of evasion

Has finally been found

Because I got over cocky

And ended up drowned

So, as you scoop me out

Dump me back in the bin

That’s it: ‘Game Over’

I lose and you win

The dinosaurs, the dodo

The woolly mammoth

I too am no more

The world’s biggest moth

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Alone in the darkness

My last resting place

Never again

Will I fly at your face…

… but as the bin closed

Did you see my wing twitch?

I was really dead, right?

 

Sleep well, bitch.

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