Blog Habits

Now that Christmas is well and truly over, and the unadulterated gluttony of the festive season is but a fond memory, everyone appears to be making the same mistake they made this time last year (and the year before that): trying to better themselves.

Very rarely do we stick to our New Year’s Resolutions, unless we set our targets extremely low (for example, I could vow to avoid eating tuna for a whole year, but bearing in mind the mere thought of it makes me want to retch, it’s hardly worth the gesture), and unless the resolution is something meaningful, well, what’s the point?

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Don’t get me wrong, if you have personally set yourself the challenge of losing weight, or giving up smoking, or learning a new language this year, then fair play, I hope you achieve your goals, but experience tell us that the majority will fail long before Easter.

For this reason, it seems many people are being drawn towards month-long gestures of betterment instead, led by a number of different charities up and down the country.

In recent years, we have seen the growth of campaigns like ‘dry January’ (which, having just checked online, now appears to have been adopted – rather appropriately – by Alcohol Change UK, although I’m certain it wasn’t their idea in the first place), but research indicates that a one month change to your alcohol intake has limited health benefits (particularly if you then spend the whole of February pissed to make up for it), and a more long-term alteration to your drinking habits is required.

Whilst I am all for these events in aid of charity, it seems you could now go through an entire calendar year of giving something different up each month, and the nation runs the risk of being swamped with novelty gestures – with the result that they could lose some meaning and significance.

For example, in just this opening month of the year, we Brits can choose to give up booze for ‘Dry January’; all meat, fish and animal products for ‘Veganuary’; and now women are being encouraged to stop shaving their body hair for ‘Januhairy’ (to name but three). As if January wasn’t depressing enough as it is, I’m now expected to make it through to February without any alcohol or meat, while married to Chewbacca*? No thanks.

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*for the record (because I value my genitals) my wife isn’t taking part in Januhairy, and even if she did, I’m sure she wouldn’t have that much body hair, and would still look lovely.

Anyway, that’s just January. We have eleven more months of this shit to get through.

My wife and children informed me the other day that our family will be taking part in ‘Dechox’ next month, which is the abstaining of all chocolate consumption for the whole of February in aid of the British Heart Foundation, and whilst they did say I didn’t have to join them (it is my birthday next month, after all), I have chosen to participate for a few reasons:

  1. I love a bit of chocolate, but feel I can realistically give it up for 28 days without too much trouble;
  2. I would far sooner give up chocolate throughout my birthday month than, say, alcohol (I don’t drink heavily, and not at all during the week, but turning 39 is going to require more than just a glass of wine or two, if I am to going to endure getting older without crying);
  3. The fact that the boys have agreed to take part makes me a very proud father; not least because Isaac, in particular, loves chocolate more than he loves me.

In truth, I don’t think either child fully understands the implications of going an entire month without any chocolate whatsoever; because I have since had to explain that this means no Jaffa Cakes for Isaac (he cried), and Ollie won’t be allowed brownies for dessert when we go out for my birthday meal (his immediate expression was very much one of ‘What the fuck have I agreed to?’)

Still, we have vowed to take part as a family, and complete the month we shall, because it is all for a very good cause: punishing Isaac (oh, yeah, and the British Heart Foundation).

That said, I do feel that some charities are perhaps jumping on the bandwagon slightly, and whilst I cannot deny their intentions are honourable, certain campaigns do strike me as, well, a bit shit frankly. For example (and because I would not want to upset any UK charities who may happen to read this), America is currently in the midst of ‘Walk Your Dog for January’. Now, call me old-fashioned, but shouldn’t most responsible dog owners be walking their pet every month? What’s next, Feed Your Cat for February? Don’t Kick Squirrels for September?

Anyway, because the situation with these ‘novelty months’ is – in my opinion – getting a bit silly, and since I do enjoy a bit of silliness (you may have noticed), I have decided to come up with my own twelve-month plan for the year, in addition to the current Dechox the family and I will be embarking on next month. Feel free to join me for any or all of the following, should you so wish.

‘Jamuary’

I shall be giving up all jam products this month (including doughnuts and cream teas), to raise awareness of underpaid fruit pickers on their ‘gap yah’ from studying the History of Art.

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‘Webuary’

I can’t give up the internet, as I have a weekly online blog to write, but I can promise not to kill any spiders for the whole month (on top of giving up chocolate for ‘Dechox’), which will really piss the wife off, since she hates the hairy little bastards (which is also how we refer to Isaac sometimes).

‘Starch for March’

I originally contemplated omitting all starchy foods from my diet, but then I Googled ‘What food has starch in?’ and, frankly, there’s not a fucking chance. So, because little else rhymes with ‘March’, I have decided to only eat complex carbohydrates for the entire month, in a sort of low-budget Super Size Me remake. In hindsight, I could have just ‘marched’ everywhere, but my commute is a fifty mile round trip, so that’s not an option either.

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‘April Showers’

I shall be giving up all bathing and personal hygiene for the month of April, to save water in aid of Africa (wildly generic, I know, but I’m sticking with it). I would like to place on record that I am personally hoping for an unseasonably inclement April, because if it does start to heat up ready for a glorious summer, I will become highly unpopular (well, more unpopular) at work.

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‘Theresa May’

Throughout May, I shall dress as our Prime Minister and insist on being called ‘Theresa’. Bearing in mind both our boys have their birthday in May, and we have just booked a short city break as a family, this could prove interesting. I am also very aware that Mrs May is not exactly popular of late (or ever), and I may need to hire a bodyguard. Hopefully I can dance my way out of any potentially volatile situations, with some of her signature moves.

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‘No Prune in June’

Rather self-explanatory, I suppose, although I should reveal that I don’t like prunes, and cannot remember the last time I ate one. Essentially, I have decided to give myself an easier month in June, having giving up bathing and then dressing as an elderly crone in the two months prior.

‘Pie July’

To make up for going entirely without prunes the month before (yes, I am well aware that I have just admitted this isn’t really a sacrifice), I will be rewarding myself in July by eating at least one pie per day. To promote a balanced diet, I will try to alternate between meat and fruit fillings.

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‘Auguffs’

I was struggling with an idea for August, so my wife has suggested ‘Auguffs’ – an entire month without breaking wind. To be honest, this one might be my toughest challenge yet.

‘Selltember’

On the basis my wife usually commences Christmas shopping around this time of the year, I vow to sell one item from the house every day throughout the month, to make space for the imminent invasion of toys. I can’t promise any of the items sold will belong to me, however, and a fair proportion of my wife’s shoe collection may mysteriously vanish (as revenge for ‘Auguffs’, and for dismissing my original ‘Sextember’ suggestion).

‘Frocktober’

Not content with spending May disguised as our wizened Prime Minister, I shall once again be embracing my cross-dressing curiosity, by only wearing frocks. Interestingly, this was my wife’s suggestion for the month, which I think says more about her than it does me.

‘Mowvember’

To save electricity, and therefore the planet, I will refrain from mowing our garden for the penultimate month. Admittedly, grass doesn’t tend to grow much by this stage of the year, and in fact ours doesn’t grow at all as we have an artificial lawn, but I think the gesture will be well received.

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‘Deafcember’

To raise awareness of local and national deaf charities, I will spend the final month of the year ignoring anything anyone says to me (my wife believes I am well practiced at this, as I apparently ignore most of our conversations already).

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Feel free to drop me a line if you take part in any of my campaigns, by e-mailing the following address: thisisalljustajoke@middlerageddad.co.uk.

Thanks for reading x

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Blog Relatives

Well, it’s now officially 2019 (not that anyone was claiming it was unofficially 2019 prior to midnight on 31st December, mind), and I would like to wish you all a Happy New Year.

I don’t have many wishes for the coming twelve months, but I would like to increase my audience, to edge me nearer to that lucrative book / film / YouTube / adult entertainment deal. Seriously, I’m not that fussy (except, perhaps, in the last category), just so long as I can earn enough to bid farewell to my shitty commute.

To put things into perspective, I now have nearly 700 followers on Facebook, so it would only require each of them to encourage 100,000 of their friends to sign up, and I would then have a fan base roughly equivalent to the population of the United Kingdom. I’d be content with that.

I am less popular on Twitter, however, where I have approximately one-tenth of the followers (so each would need to recruit 1,000,000 friends to achieve the same result, which I accept is a bit of an ask), and don’t even get me started on Instagram. No, seriously, I haven’t got started.

I wouldn’t mind so much, as I am hardly active on Twitter, but I’ve just checked and the three most followed people are seemingly Katy Perry, Justin Bieber and Barack Obama. Really? Sure, they can all dance, but two of them are as thick as mince (and if you can’t decide which is the odd-one-out, frankly, so are you).

Anyway, the main thing is, you are here – which makes you very special to me. And, until someone tells me otherwise, I’m still here too, so let’s crack on, shall we?

I have said before that my family – particularly our two boys – are an almost constant source of comedy material, and the Christmas period was no exception. If we add in my wife’s family (of which there are frankly dozens), it is no exaggeration to say our festive period was a smorgasbord of hilarity.

Here are my six comedic highlights of Christmas 2018:

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With three adult children, two daughters-in-law, and three young grandchildren all invading her house for Christmas, it was inevitable that Mum was going to struggle to keep everything pristine for the few days were we there.

Our mum is so house-proud*, but she dealt with the shit-storm of wrapping paper with her usual aplomb (and massive bin bag); however, later in the evening, she was clearly agitated as she dashed to gather cleaning products from her kitchen.

*©Madness/Sony/ATV Music Publishing (not that they will read this)

It transpired that, in the corner of her lounge, there had been a spillage – which had lightened her beige carpet to a shade between ‘Barley Twist’ and ‘Desert Wind’ on the Dulux Paint Scale (the latter not to be confused with ‘Dessert Wind’, which is something I suffered with following my second helping of cheesecake an hour earlier).

As the scrubbing intensified throughout the evening (occasionally interspersed with brief periods of ‘letting it dry’), it became clear the stain was not shifting, and the carpet had apparently been bleached.

This, naturally, was terrible news to everyone (although it did at least mean Ollie, Isaac and I were innocent, as none of us possessed anything likely to cause such damage), and Mum was obviously upset. Christmas was on the brink of being ruined.

Enter my wife (wait, I’ll rephrase that), who nipped to the kitchen shortly afterwards, and on her return burst out laughing. It transpired that, when she placed her foot in a particular spot near to the affected carpet, the ‘stain’ vanished. Yes, mum had spent at least an hour – and several litres of Mr Muscle – scrubbing what was nothing more than a patch of light reflected off a nearby shiny gift.

Isaac: Child Genius?

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Christmas would not be complete (for us, at least) without a family quiz, and since I forgot to bring anything with me this year, I had to search online for something suitable instead.

Unfortunately, we were already well into my choice before I realised it was clearly created by – and aimed towards – Americans. I know this because:

  1. The ‘Football’ round referred solely to the NFL;
  2. The ‘England’ questions all related to our royal family and Harry Potter, as if we have nothing else;
  3. The ‘History’ round only dated back a couple of hundred years, and refused to acknowledge any major event outside the US.

Nevertheless, we persevered, and eventually stumbled across a geography section which featured countries other than America (and I’m talking actual Europe here, not just Canada and Mexico).

One of the questions was ‘Which country hosted the first Winter Olympics?’, and after a few mutterings around the room, Isaac burst in from the kitchen, shouted ‘France!’ and then buggered off again triumphantly. I still don’t know how he got it correct, but have a feeling it’s the only country he knows other than ours.

Stockport: Capital of Indulgence

I was born in Stockport, have spent half my life living and working in the area, and I’m an avid supporter of Stockport County – all of which makes me suitably-qualified (and perfectly entitled) to admit certain parts of Stockport are rough.

For example, Edgeley (the home of Stockport County), does have some nicer areas, but these are largely surrounded by a desert of shit (not to be confused with a dessert of shit, which is also something I suffered with following my second helping of cheesecake).

Castle Street, the main shopping area in Edgeley, is honestly so run down and nasty, you could be mistaken for assuming the American military had recently swept through looking for WMDs.

To illustrate my point, here is a picture of war-torn Iraq:

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And here is a picture of Castle Street, in Edgeley:

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See?

Anyway, whilst walking down Castle Street on Boxing Day, prior to County’s victory over neighbours Altrincham (which, conversely, makes Kensington look a bit dodgy), I encountered the greatest vision of couldn’t-give-a-fuck indulgence I have ever seen.

A young-ish woman (I say young-ish, because it’s often hard to tell in Edgeley on account of the fact most women are grandparents by their late thirties), resplendent in fluffy white dressing down and slippers – which she presumably received from one of the fathers to her children at Christmas – was drinking, I shit you not, a large pot of double cream like it was a can of coke.

Bearing in mind this was around 2pm, and she appeared to still be in possession of her senses, there is no other explanation than she had effectively abandoned what little etiquette remained – and couldn’t care less. I had to applaud her (albeit mentally, as she was probably armed under that fluffy exterior).

‘Explicit Cooking and Other Stories’

This Christmas my wife and her siblings (together with the three of us daft enough to marry them), agreed to swap gift ‘hampers’ per couple, rather than individual presents.

However, when it came to exchanging them a few days after Christmas, my direct sister-in-law (by which I mean my wife’s sister, as opposed my wife’s brother’s wife, who is my wife’s sister-in-law, but I still refer to as my sister-in-law too – clear?) immediately apologised for one of the gifts in our hamper, warning that it was intended for me, and should not be opened in front of the children.

Here it is:

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As a keen cook, and purveyor of all innuendo, this book is a joyous gift to me, and I very much look forward to gobbling…. nope, can’t do it, sorry.

However, the anecdote does not end there. Whilst discussing the book between us all a few hours later, and immediately after someone had joked “I do enjoy a bit of cock”, my mother-in-law entered the room (following an entirely unrelated conversation she had just finished with my father-in-law in the kitchen), and announced ‘….to quote your father….’

I laughed so much, I swear a little sherry escaped out of my nose.

Isaac: Child Model?

Whilst shopping in Norwich’s Chapelfield Mall a few days after Christmas, Isaac asked whether he could go into the Norwich City FC store; and so (despite the fact he has no interest in football – and if he did I would far rather he support Stockport County) my wife took him in while the rest of us waited outside.

A few moments later, we all heard the tapping of glass, and turned round to see that Isaac had somehow managed to break into the window display, and was proudly stood with all the mannequins waving at passing shoppers. He, naturally, found this hilarious.

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The Unorthodox Mixer

Shortly before midnight on New Year’s Eve, I announced to the room that I was going to the kitchen, should anyone want their glass filling ready for Big Ben.

My mother-in-law, having initially declined, then decided she would like a glass of port – in a particular glass (which was kept in the conservatory), with a splash of the ‘cloudy lemonade’ she informed me was in the fridge in the utility room.

Already on my way to inebriation, and conscious that my in-laws have a tendency of using the words ‘conservatory’, ‘dining room’, ‘kitchen’ and ‘utility room’ interchangeably, I tried to memorise my instructions and set off, like a shit episode of Challenge Anneka.

Having located the glass and port, I then searched both fridges for the ‘cloudy lemonade’, and having found nothing more accurate based on that description, returned triumphantly with this jug:

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In hindsight, I can see this is less ‘cloudy lemonade’, and more ‘you’ll be needing a course of antibiotics’, but bear in mind I was slightly drunk, in a hurry to make it back to the lounge for midnight, and I only had the light of the fridge to guide me at the time, you can hopefully understand my error.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is that lesser-known mixer, ‘gammon fat’.

Fortunately, I queried my decision before pouring a healthy splash into the port, and was promptly ridiculed by all in attendance.

Thanks for reading x

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‘Twas The Blog Before Christmas (2018)

‘Twas the Blog before Christmas, two thousand eighteen

Another year writing things rude and obscene

So, as is tradition, here’s my year in review

Twelve months of bollocks for you to sift through

 

JANUARY

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‘The Twelve Blogs of Christmas’ kick started our year

My talents with Photoshop instantly clear

To all, that is, apart from my wife

Who said ‘Eight Maids a Milking’ will haunt her for life

Then in ‘Bloggy Useless’ I expressed some concern

At trying to fill out my tax return

Just logging-in requires a degree

So my password is now ‘fuckyou123’

While in ‘Goldiblogs and the Three Bears’

I wrote about Isaac and his lovely long hair

How Daddy bear put up with all of his shite

Because he insisted that everything must be ‘just right’

To round off the month, my first 10k run

In wintry conditions would not have been fun

But the organisers decided that it would be smart

To cancel the run with us stood at the start

 

FEBRUARY

In February my training suffered a blip

When I started to notice a crunch in my hip

And since it persisted, despite a long bath

A friend recommended his osteopath

The problem, however, is for most of my life

I’ve enjoyed innuendo and here it was rife

But the lady who treated me sighed and just smiled

When she said I was stiff and I laughed like a child

In the next instalment I thought I’d endeavour

To watch a Superbowl for the first time ever

Despite being late, I gave it a go

And tried to at least see the half-time show

But I got quite confused and fell asleep for a bit

(at least Janet Jackson didn’t pop out a tit)

Which leads us nicely to ‘Airblogs as Standard’

Where Fords of Winsford were borderline slandered

For once again lying ‘bout my car’s valuation

I hope their engineer suffers castration

 

MARCH

Poynton 10k Clare

We drove down to Norwich for our half-term break

Met a kid called Starsky (I mean, for fuck’s sake)

Ollie was poorly, lay on the settee

While Isaac turned Dutch when his bum was ‘schwetty’

My 10k challenge then got off the mark

When I ran in the cold around Oulton Park

And in ‘Best of Bloggish’, a long list was written

As some experts determined the finest in Britain

Their own A-Z for a new coin collection

(although I’m not sure why oak trees gave them such an erection)

In ‘The Fresh Prince of Blog-Air’ I mused about how

Events in my life got me where I am now

I went off to Uni, met my perfect match

And we both settled down to a life in Sandbach

The month then concluded on a grueling Sunday

As I ran around Poynton for my second 10k

 

APRIL

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As we moved into April, a fairy appeared

Isaac’s dummies were gathered and then they were cleared

But if you stare very closely, you might just agree

That the Dummy Fairy looks a little like me

I then did more running, when I went to Whitchurch

But as I got to the line, with a stumble and lurch

I collapsed on the ground, was dragged ‘cross the line

They didn’t believe me when I said I was fine

In truth, for a while, everything had gone black

And they started talking about heart attacks

So, in the end, I had to agree

To go via ambulance to A&E

A day spent in Telford, then Leighton (near Crewe)

Where, throughout the night, I gave my review

Of my elderly roommates, all wizened and curled

Each of them poorly, not long for this world

I met George and Freddie, Joseph and Roy

Not to mention old Robert, bereft of all joy

I became ‘squadron leader’; I led the fight

Determined my ‘boys’ would get through the night

Each one of them made it, and I’ll say it again

It was truly an honour to spend time with these men

Then something lighter, as I published my verses

About Princess Kate, surrounded by nurses

Swearing her way through delivering a child

A third royal baby – the press had gone wild

But as she lay there, all painful and tender

Did she threaten to put William’s dick in a blender?

 

MAY

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More car trouble in May, as I suffered a crash

When a prick in a van got too close and then smash

My wing mirror destroyed, and to rub in some salt

The lobotomised gibbon now holds me at fault

My insurers were crap, took an age with my car

Were about as supportive as a wet paper bra

The Tatton 10k was next on my list

But I ran far too slowly, my target was missed

Then ‘Some Like it Blog’ explained with some wit

The ten simple reasons why summer is shit

Sunglasses and hayfever among my picks

(plus don’t forget wasps, the vile little pricks)

And if that was depressing, I bid May goodbye

With a cheerful poem about how I might die

The message was clear though – make the most of each day

Because none of us know when we’re going away

 

JUNE

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In ‘Blogs and Girls’ I discussed Isaac’s hair

How he plays with his dolls and has dresses he’ll wear

But why shouldn’t boys like princesses in pink?

I’m pleased he ignores what some people think

Then, as a test, I gave Love Island a try

But felt my brain cells wither and die

Just one episode in I had to give up

And turned my attention to this summer’s world cup

Gave my own unique run down for each of the teams

Heading to Russia with their own hopes and dreams

Next, Colshaw Hall, a 10k to complete

But despite an injury to one of my feet,

A cobbled path and one hell of a climb

I completed the course in respectable time

Lastly, I tried my best to be nice

By offering Mark Zuckerberg some advice

On how Facebook might be improved

(he hasn’t replied, so I assume that he’s moved)

 

JULY

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First up in July, another 10k

In Alderley Edge, on the year’s hottest day

I crossed the line sweating, but I didn’t care

As I’d beaten my target with seconds to spare

The following week, I tried to cheer up

As England crashed out of another World Cup

Then ending the month, I wrote ‘Mr Blog’

Describing my clients in coarse dialogue

Some of them rude, most of them needy

I’m compared them to Messrs Nosey and Greedy

 

AUGUST

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July was cut short, as we went away

So I gave an account of our holiday

Each day of our trip, a witty postcard

On visits to Evesham, and the home of the Bard

Then travels once more as we had to contend

With a ferry to Ireland to see an old friend

A busy four days with no time to rest

I took photos of girls like a rampant sex pest

I thought it was nice to offer a pic

But their mum was behind me and I looked a dick

In ‘Vocablogary’ I thought it a gas

To mispronounced words, like Fadge-It-Ass

Or Modge-Itt-Oh and Jal-App-Ah-Noss

(try it yourself and watch people get cross)

Then, yet again, I ran through the pain

Completing the Birchwood 10k in the rain

Struggled back home to a nice warm tipple

And soothing cream to nurse my sore nipple

 

SEPTEMBER

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A busy September, with an entry that you’ll

No doubt remember, as Isaac starts school

It turns out that entry was read by some staff

But they all seemed to like it and it gave them a laugh

Then to our eldest, and I was delighted

To have Ollie sign up for Sandbach United

Just a shame their away strip is like Burnley’s kit

It’s hard to support him in colours that shit

Then back to running, no time for a rest

But the Sandbach 10k was a personal best

(if we discount Whitchurch, but I think that’s fine

as I was technically carried across the line)

Some father-son camping, on Ollie’s school field

But my brand-new tent was not much of a shield

To the rain which came down, and the strong winds that blew

I chose to get pissed, while sat piss-wet through

Then trying to sleep, a crash by our tent

As some dickhead went flying and my tent peg got bent

Not to mention our ‘porch’ getting covered in beer

I’m not sure we’ll bother if they run it next year.

 

OCTOBER

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Another short month, and it starts with an app

For mobile banking, which was frankly crap

It turns out Barclays are useless at tech

(all I wanted was to pay in a cheque)

Followed by ‘Don’t Let The Bed Blogs Bite’

Where a moth terrorised me all through the night

Hairy and black, this thing was obscene

It was the largest moth the world’s ever seen

Then moving on from a massive insect

While staying with terror, ‘The Blog Witch Project’

Outlined why Halloween is so very shit

Delinquent children and grown-up outfits

Terrible tricks, and even worse treats

Pumpkin carving and cheap crappy sweets

 

NOVEMBER

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A healthy month next, where I watched what I ate

And MyFitnessPal helped me lose weight

Not to mention more running, my final two runs

Cheered on by my wife and both of my sons

First Arley Hall and later Wilmslow

All in the name of raising some dough

A fantastic amount, my challenge was done

(and until next year, no need to run)

Healthier eating, and cutting back beers

I could see my penis for the first time in years

Then, for a change, I spoke to the youth

Wrote about bullying and told them the truth

Whether you’re black or white; straight, bi or gay

We’re all amazing in our own unique way

Just look at me, I’m gangly with specs

But I’m married with kids, which proves I’ve had sex

 

DECEMBER

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To end the year, we looked at Christmas

Mariah Carey and brussel sprout gas

All of the things that are suddenly fine

Including eggnog, and fucking hot wine

Then this time last week, we’d packed up our bags

Spent a night at the theatre, surrounded by slags

The women behind us were slaughtered and rough

One had her legs spread, to cool down her chuff.

 

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And that, dear reader, brings us to date

Twelve months of rants, the things that I hate

Forty-six entries, another year done

Thank you for reading, I hope we had fun

 

But don’t get upset, and don’t shed a tear

I’ll be back with more bollocks early next year

May your glasses be full, may your Christmas be white

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

 

x

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The Blogs Office

Last weekend, I took my wife away for her birthday (which was actually in November, but part of her present was tickets to see the musical ‘Wicked’ in Manchester, and this was the first Saturday evening performance available).

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Ok, Manchester is not necessarily the most romantic of cities, but spending a weekend there did mean we could combine some of our favourite pastimes – Christmas shopping (her), drinking beer (me) and spending time away from the kids (both of us).

I actually bought the tickets prior to her birthday last year, but such is the popularity of certain West End musicals, I had to get them nearly fourteen months in advance and then keep them secret until a few weeks ago. Frankly, the fact I managed to keep the cat firmly in the bag for so long, is only surpassed by the fact I still remembered I had them as her birthday approached this year. There was, in all honesty, every chance of me forgetting completely during the intervening period, and there being two sad little empty seats throughout the entire show.

Having arrived in Manchester just before 2pm on Saturday afternoon, we arrived at our hotel shortly afterwards (which was nothing fancy, because at this time of year – particularly with the Christmas markets nearby – it would have been cheaper to fly abroad then spend the night in most of the city’s nicer hotels), and we checked in to drop the bag off. As it happens, she didn’t want to be dropped off, and insisted on heading out with me (joke, dear), to ‘enjoy’ the Christmas markets.

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As I alluded to in last week’s entry, I don’t enjoy shopping at the best of times, so when that shopping happens to also be extremely crowded, not to mention outside in the freezing rain, I really don’t see the attraction, and was ready to leave within a matter of minutes. What really surprised me, however, was that it was my wife who suggesting moving on not long after we arrived, and – God love her – she suggested I go and sit in a pub while she did some ‘proper shopping’. As you can imagine, I took little persuading.

Anyway, the real reason for this week’s blog, is to tell you about our theatre experience – and how, by some unfortunate mix-up, our seats ended up right in the middle of the ‘Most Obnoxious People in the World’ Christmas Outing. Oh, sure, they may have pretended not to know each other, but it cannot be mere coincidence that that many utter dickheads bought tickets in the same section of Manchester’s Palace Theatre on the same night.

Look, I grew up near Manchester, so I am only too aware that – like most cities – it has its fair share of dickheads, but I can prove beyond doubt that most of the usual suspects were elsewhere that evening, because City were away to Chelsea at the time (and no United fans live anywhere near Manchester).

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So, these particular morons had obviously gathered together for one reason and one reason only – to try their hardest to ruin a night I had been planning for more than a year.

To prove I am not exaggerating, let me introduce you to some of the theatre mutants we encountered, and then you can decide for yourselves whether their behaviour was acceptable for a kebab shop at 2am, let alone a West End production. I shall even leave out the pillock in the Christmas jumper, and the two hipster twats in the bar beforehand (who turned up in brightly-patterned ‘ankle grazer’ trousers), because I accept they were entitled to wear what they like, and they were only visually offensive to me.

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Like these only brighter

First up, and sticking with the theme of inappropriate clothing, we have the giant lump of a man who sat directly in front of me wearing the world’s largest peaked baseball cap.

Quite apart from looking even more of a pillock than the trouser twats from the bar (at least once they were sat down only their nearest neighbours would have been offended), he kept the cap on throughout the entire performance – clearly worried about his ‘hat hair’ – which meant my wife, and the three rows behind her, had an obstructed view of the stage (and most of the stalls).

And, before you ask, I did offer to swap places with her, but apart from the fact I was in an aisle seat, and we both agreed I was in greater need of the option to stick my legs out to one side (I’m 6’3”, whereas my wife is 5’3”), we also agreed I was more likely to lose my shit with the mother and daughter she had on her left, who spent most of the performance discussing the plot. Admittedly, this was mostly the daughter, and it’s hard to be mad at someone else’s child, but I would have hated to be the person to elbow said girl in the ribs to shut her up.

We then have the couples (and small groups), who either arrived at the theatre late, or, worse, sat in the bar until one minute before the show was due to start, before embarking on their own theatrical performance entitled ‘of course my seat is in the middle of a fucking row, where else would it be?’

I firmly believe that people who turn up late to the theatre, or cinema, or any kind of live performance, always do this, and it’s never a one-off scenario where they have been genuinely stuck in traffic, or have faced some other emergency which has delayed them.

No, they either do it deliberately, or they are so fucking useless/unreliable/inconsiderate that they are blissfully unaware of what a colossal bell-end they are. In my opinion, there should be a separate section of every theatre for late-comers (perhaps a cage, with a feeding trough), so they don’t ruin the show for everyone else.

You could argue that the two very elderly ladies, who clearly had mobility problems, should be excused from my wrath – on account of the fact it would clearly take them longer to find their seats – however I would counter that argument with the following:

  1. Unless they can’t tell the time, they should allow for their fragility and make arrangements to turn up early;
  2. They shouldn’t buy tickets in one of the most inaccessible sections of the theatre, at the very bottom of a flight of stairs, and in the middle of a row;
  3. As it happens they did turn up early, because we had already spotted them sat in the bar quaffing gin, and they had evidently stayed there until thirty seconds before the curtain call.

There is very little I despise more than tardiness when watching a live show (at least at the cinema you aren’t distracting the performers by turning up late), but even latecomers are preferable to the next group of cretins we encountered – the noisy folk.

I will, to an extent, excuse the young girl who was sat on the other side of my wife, because she was only about Ollie’s age, and was clearly very excited (and somewhat confused), because she kept asking questions – plus her mother did at least try to keep her quiet for most of the performance – but there were grown adults around us who had no sense of decency, or volume.

Some of them talked throughout the entire show, others even sang along (it wasn’t karaoke, for fuck’s sake), and some whooped and whistled after every musical number, like they were in the X-Factor audience. It was as though they hadn’t been let out in months (which might actually have been the case).

Then, there was the constant eating. And not quiet food, either, loud food. Sweets, with noisy wrappers. At one point, I decided a woman towards the front of our section must have been wrapping Christmas presents, because no one could make that much noise purely by opening sweets. I was sorely tempted to walk down and beat her to death with my umbrella, to see if it would make any more noise than she was already creating.

Finally, we have the very worst offenders in the entire theatre, which was the group of women sat directly behind us. Well, I say ‘women’, but believe the technical term would be ‘bunch of slags’, and they swiftly became my least favourite people not because they were late, or noisy, or eating, or singing, or whistling, or talking…. but because they did all those things.

Not only that, when they did turn up late (and pissed), the first to push her way along the row behind us managed to stumble and spill her PEE-NOT GRIGG-EE-OH over the mother of the young girl, and then – despite briefly apologising – found it funny.

They then proceeded to ruin the show for everyone around them (bear in mind these tickets weren’t cheap), and it was only because they were so rough that I didn’t say anything, mostly because I didn’t fancy having the shit publicly kicked out of me by the middle-aged equivalent of Little Mix.

During the interval, they naturally had to go outside ‘FOR A FAG’ (because waiting another hour was not an option), and when they came back they loudly exclaimed how nice it was to get some fresh air (the irony, it seems, was lost on them), because the theatre was so warm.

Then, just when I didn’t think they could get any more deplorable, the slag over my left shoulder said to the slag directly behind “Don’t close your legs, because if they turn the air con on again second half, you won’t get that nice draft.”

Classy, ladies, really classy.

Thanks for reading x

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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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