Bloggage Allowance (Part I)

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

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

Enjoy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This morning started with yet another embarrassing incident.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As you do.

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

To be continued…

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We’re All Going On A Summer Blogiday

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

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

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

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

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

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

Artist’s impression

Form an orderly queue, ladies.

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

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

Isn’t it glorious?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

… this time accompanied by a Barnsley one.

Fucking Barnsley.

You couldn’t make this shit up.

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

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

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

Fuck’s sake.

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Run FatBlog Run (2022)

Happy New Year!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Can’t Be Arsed.

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

Bloody hell. What have I got myself in for?

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

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

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

Wish me luck!

Thanks for reading x

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We’re Going on a Blog Hunt

I’m going for a run.

It’s going to be long one.

What a cold, shitty day!

I’m a little scared.

Uh-uh! People!

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

Blocking the entire pavement.

I can’t run through them.

I shouldn’t really push them over.

Oh no!

I’ve got to go around them!

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

Beep beep!

Beep beep!

Beep beep!

I’m going for a run.

It’s going to be long one.

What a cold, shitty day!

I’m now even more scared.

Uh-uh! A tree branch!

Hanging low across the path at nipple-height.

I can’t go around it.

I can’t jump over it.

Oh no!

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

Ow! Bugger!

Ow! Bugger!

Ow! Bugger!

I’m going for a run.

It’s going to be long one.

What a cold, shitty day!

I have a headache now.

Uh-uh! A massive hole in the pavement!

Left by the stupid workmen building that new estate.

I can’t go around it.

I don’t want to fall down it.

Oh no!

I’ve got to jump over it!

Leap! My knees!

Leap! My knees!

Leap! My knees!

I’m going for a run.

It’s going to be long one.

What a cold, shitty day!

My knees feel like porridge.

Uh-uh! Horse manure!

All over the path.

I best not jump again.

I don’t want to stand in it.

Oh no!

I’ve got to hopscotch my way through it!

Tiptoe! Tiptoe!

Tiptoe! Tiptoe!

Tiptoe! Tiptoe!

I’m going for a run.

It’s going to be long one.

What a cold, shitty day!

I hope I don’t smell of horse poo.

Uh-uh! A pack of teenagers!

All spotty and wearing dark clothes.

I bet they have weapons.

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

Oh no!

I’ve got to go past them!

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

Thank you! Cheers!

Thank you! Cheers!

Thank you! Cheers!

What’s that?

IT’S FREEZING RAIN!

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

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

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

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

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

Get to my front door.

Open the door.

Get a glass of water.

Head downstairs to the shower.

Oh no!

I forgot my towel.

Back upstairs.

Grab my towel.

Back downstairs.

Into the bathroom.

Into the shower.

Under the hot water.

I am not going on a long run again.

Thanks for reading x

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Road Bloggage

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

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

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

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

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

But you should.

***

Ken: “Are we recording?”

Doris: “Yes.”

Ken: “You sure this time?”

Doris: “Get stuffed.”

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

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

Ken: “Just go.”

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

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

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

Dennis: “Fell into it?”

Ken: “Up to his neck.”

Jeff: “Jesus! Is he going to sue?”

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

Jeff: “Killed?!”

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

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

Ken: “Jeff. Jesus Christ.”

Jeff: “Oh, right, sorry.”

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

Jeff: “Ok. Sorry.”

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

Ken: “You sure it’s off?”

Jeff: “Pretty sure.”

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

Dennis: “Only partially repair?”

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

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

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

Dennis: “Good idea.”

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

Jeff: “How about next week?”

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

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

Ken: “I believe it is, yes.”

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

Ken: “And?”

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

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

Jeff: “I dunno.”

Dennis:Maximus disruptium.

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

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

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

Jeff: “ALL OF THEM?!”

Ken: “Yes. All of them.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jeff: “They might complain.”

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

Jeff: “Not recently.”

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

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

Dennis: “We never are.”

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

Dennis: “Ha! Good one Ken!”

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

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

Ken: “What? What is it?”

Jeff: “Erm. Nothing.”

[recording ends]

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Albus Dumblogdore

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He has also written his new buddy a welcome letter:

Dear Dumbledore

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

Love from Isaac”

Bless his little heart.

Anyway, welcome to the family, Dumbledore the Hamster.

Thanks for reading x

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If It Ain’t Blog, Don’t Fix It

I had no intention of writing a new blog entry this week, for a few reasons.

Firstly, nothing particularly blog-worthy has happened in my life – until yesterday. Ok, Isaac has been as ‘interesting’ (read: batshit crazy) as ever, but his brief comedic moments lend themselves far better to short posts on my Facebook page, rather than a full blog entry.

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Secondly, WordPress (for reasons I will come to shortly), is now dogshit.

Finally, I am quite enjoying sharing blog posts from the past, for all my new 2020 followers to enjoy, and I have plenty of festive-themed entries to choose from over the next few weeks. Still, it’s only the start of December, so there’s plenty of time until the big day, and perhaps I’ll share one a day for an entire week instead.

Whenever I plan to write a new blog entry, I always prefer my material (or, at least, the original idea/event) to occur early in the week, so I have plenty of time to jot down my thoughts, then spend my lunchbreak/evening on the Thursday making any final adjustments, before publication the following day. Sadly, for reasons which will become clear in a second, today’s entry is based on something that only happened yesterday, and I have therefore had very little time to write it. 

Nevertheless, write it I shall, and if this means I have to forego some of my pre-flight checks to get it ready in time (a little like NASA, when they launch that space probe in The Martian), then so be it. I’ll just have to hope that what follows doesn’t similarly explode in a ball of flames.

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Today, I would like to discuss companies trying to make things better – but achieving quite the opposite.

I understand why devices like mobile phones, laptops and games consoles need to move with the times (although, I’m not sure new releases are required quite so frequently, when they add little to their predecessors), and I particularly enjoy developments in the motoring world, where my desire to save the planet is only superseded by my love of a quirky cup holder, but sometimes, just sometimes, things work perfectly fine as they are and you should leave them the fuck alone.

Cup Holder Want GIF by Cheezburger - Find & Share on GIPHY

This happened recently with WordPress, who ‘upgraded’ the platform I use for this blog, and in doing so made it almost completely unworkable. For example, I can no longer write my entries without each paragraph being placed into ‘blocks’ (no, me neither), and this means I am unable to leave a line between certain paragraphs, inserting images is damn-near impossible, and the ‘justified’ paragraph option has been removed altogether, so I can only now select ‘align left’, ‘centred’, or ‘align right’ (when no one in their right mind would write an entire blog entry adopting anything but the former). I don’t want to align left, I want my entry to look neat, because I’m a perfectionist, and now the right hand side looks all scruffy. Ok, this might seem minor to most people, but my point is this – why fucking get rid of it at all? What does that achieve?

Put it this way: before computers and typewriters existed, if someone wanted to write an article (that’s what we used to call blogs back in the day, kids) they would usually write their words down on a piece of paper. It was basic, but it worked fine. What WordPress have done recently, however, is the equivalent of making that person write upside-down, with gloves on, and their hands tied behind their back – claiming this improves their experience.

Facepalm GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

It’s utter madness.

The worst part is, having contacted WordPress’ tech support (which appears to be manned solely by people who failed their McDonalds entrance exam) they have suggested I can return to the old, i.e. better, version if I want to, but I would need to install a special plugin and that requires an upgrade to their Business Plan… at a cost of £235 a year. That’s not progress, that’s fucking blackmail.

“But I want to write my article the correct way up, without any gloves on, please?”

“Why would you want to do that?! Surely this is better?”

“No, it makes it much harder and gives me a headache.”

“Right, fine, whatevs. We’ll turn you the right way again, untie your hands, and take the gloves off if you really want, but it’ll cost you.”

So, as a result, I am currently planning to reach blog entry #250 (today’s is #244) and then call it a day, purely because I don’t think I can continue writing on a site which makes it so damn difficult.

Then, yesterday, Facebook followed suit and upgraded my ‘Confessions of Middle-Raged Dad’ page (without being asked), which has resulted in it being much harder to use, and, in my opinion, not as aesthetically pleasing.

Facebook have been trying to do this for months, but until yesterday I always had the option to revert to the old version for 48 hours, which at least meant I could do so before each ‘Ye Olde Cock & Balls’ pub night, thereby avoiding any additional stress when things don’t work as planned. I was ok with that.

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Yesterday, however, that option was removed – I assume permanently – so I am now stuck with the new version of my page, and to say I don’t like it would be something of an understatement.

Admittedly, I am the sort of person who doesn’t like learning new things from scratch, which I understand is my issue rather than Facebook’s, but I genuinely don’t see how they have made my page any better with this latest upgrade. Plus, while WordPress have obviously fucked things up deliberately, to force people into paying money to make things right again (detestable though that may be), Facebook is, and apparently always will be, free – so what’s the point? Why piss people like me off by making things infinitely worse?

Let me explain what has altered – since you may not have noticed just yet – and you can then decide for yourselves. In the interests of balance, I will deal with the new features I see as positive, as well as the (many) negatives. Let’s start with the former, so you can have the good news first.

The ‘insights’ part of my page has seemingly become more in-depth, so I can now throw all sorts of interesting stats at you, such as:

  1. Only 16.70% of my followers are men, while 83.30% are women (no surprise there, just look at me). However, since that adds up to 100%, it means I apparently have no appeal whatsoever with the non-binary community. 
  2. Of my 30,000+ followers, 28,400 are in the United Kingdom, followed by just 342 in Ireland, 253 in Australia, and 155 in the United States. Which means, since that totals a little over 29,000 people, there are around 1,000 followers from ‘other countries’, each of which must have fewer than 155 followers to feature lower than the US, and I therefore appear to have reached more than a dozen countries across the globe. How exciting.
  3. As far as the UK is concerned, after London and Manchester, my biggest following is in Glasgow. How ye daein? Gled tae meet ye, ye wee stoaters. A wannae winch the lorra yae (don’t blame me, blame Google).
  4. My key demographic is the 35-44 age bracket, followed by 45-54 and then 25-34. Understandable, since my page is mostly about adult humour and parenting, but what did shock me is that I have a small number of fans in the 13-17 bracket. Not sure what they gain from my page, to be honest, as I very rarely discuss puberty, TikTok, or ‘how to be a sulky little bitch’, but it’s good to have them on board anyway. 

Screenshot_20201204-111121_Facebook (2)

So, yes, the insights/stats part of my page is admittedly rather interesting, and…. erm…. yeah, that’s where the good news ends, I’m afraid. Now for the bad stuff:

  1. I can no longer invite people to like my page. By that, I mean I have lost the option to click ‘invite’ if someone who does not already follow me reacts to a post, and even if I still had that feature, they could no longer ‘like’ my page anyway. Sadly, Facebook deemed ‘liking’ a page surplus to requirements, so all you can now do is ‘follow’ it instead. Call me old-fashioned, but I quite enjoyed having people ‘like’ me. It seemed more enthusiastic than merely ‘following’ me, just in case I posted something of interest.
  2. While I could never respond to every comment on my page (at least, not since my fanbase rocketed in March), I always tried to whenever possible. My view is that, if someone has taken the time and effort to comment, it’s courteous to at least acknowledge them – even if their opinion is bollocks. Now, though, it seems Facebook is filtering my notifications, so I only receive the ones deemed to be of interest to me, as if Facebook’s algorithms know the first fucking thing about what I like (which they don’t, if the adverts I receive are anything to go by). So, apologies if you comment on my page, particularly with a question, and I don’t reply – I’m not being rude, it’s just that Facebook has deemed you unworthy of my attention.
  3. The ‘search’ function has remained, which I frequently use to look back at old posts when I need to refer to (or copy) something, but I can only now search for ‘old’ material after the update was forced upon me – in other words, anything posted since yesterday morning. Great.
  4. The main reason for wanting to revert back to the old Facebook during my pub quizzes, was because the new version makes it very difficult to post picture comments to my page, so while I can still upload photos to a main post, if I want to start a picture round and then upload the images into the comments below, I have to follow a number of complicated steps to do so. Again, how is that progress?
  5. Another new feature, is that Facebook now tells me precisely how many people have got bored of me and unfollowed my page in the last 28 days. Gee, thanks. Any chance you could also find out how many of those people referred to me as ‘unfunny’ and/or ‘ugly’ as well, just to really give my confidence a kick in the nuts?
  6. Last, but by no means least, my new page has cropped the cover image when viewed on a mobile phone, so that only my (admittedly large) nose is viewable on the left hand side, and the ‘Midlife Crisis Ahead’ sign now reads ‘MII CI A’. Even worse, my profile picture has been moved over it, so that the very top of the page now reads: ‘Confessions of a Middle-Raged Wanker’.

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That’s. Just. Ace.

I’ll keep tinkering away, to try and restore some sense of normality as soon as possible, because I would hate anyone to get so frustrated they leave (presumably uttering something about me being unfunny and ugly as they go), but you might need to bear with me. 

Oh, and I’ll be sending daily feedback to Facebook as well, using phrases such as ‘fucking pointless’ and ‘why couldn’t you leave things the way they were, you total gobshites?’

Thanks for reading x

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November Can Blog Off

As far as months go in the UK, November must surely be one of the worst.

Think about it. If we all accept that the spring and summer months are the best six (which we do, and if you disagree with me then frankly you’re wrong), that essentially leaves September through to February to fight among themselves for the title of shittiest month of the year.

Except, September often has semi-decent weather, October has Halloween and half-term to look forward to, and December has fucking Christmas, so now we’re down to our final three.

I’ll make a case for February, because not only is that the month when I celebrate my birthday, but, thanks to Valentine’s Day, it is also the one date in the calendar where everyone has their best chance of getting laid.  

GIFs of Hot Guys Winking | POPSUGAR Celebrity

All of which leaves us with January and November in the grand final and, while I suspect January takes the overall crown for the majority of people, don’t let November off the hook so easily. After all:

  1. The clocks have just gone back, so as soon as the kids come home from school, it’s immediately dark outside, which means you can’t really throw them out into the garden for a few hours to kill each other where you can’t hear them.
  2. After the potential for a few final days of ‘autumn sunshine’ in October, you can kiss goodbye to anything other than biting wind and howling rain for the foreseeable future. Plus, the chance of starting to feel all festive with some potential snow is still a few weeks away.
  3. All of the trees (well, the deciduous ones, at least) have now well and truly shed their annual supply of leaves, which in October gives the pavements a beautiful autumnal canvas, but thanks to November’s rain they are now just soggy mulch, serving no purpose other than to make you slip over, or, worse, to disguise some unclaimed dog shit underneath.
  4. There is not a single date within the month of November to look forward to (apart from perhaps the 30th when we get to see the back of it for another year). Ok, my mum and wife celebrate their birthdays in November, which is nice, but that just means I’m skint – at a time when I really need to start thinking about buying Christmas presents – and the pressure is on me to come up with ideas of what to get each of them two months running. Plus, while I suppose Bonfire Night can be considered an event of sorts, all it seems to do these days is split the nation between the pet owners who hate all the loud noises, and the people who get fed up of the pet owners complaining.

So, yeah, January is probably the most widely-hated month of the year, but November is right behind it in the title race, and in some ways that makes it even more pathetic, because it’s can’t even succeed at being shit.

However, there is one other good reason why November is such an utterly terrible month, and that’s because all the major stores and supermarkets choose November to really push their annual assault on the nation – their Christmas adverts.

John Lewis Christmas Advert 2020: What is it about and who sings this  year's song? | The Independent

Don’t get me wrong, that first glimpse of the Coca Cola truck gives me a lovely warm feeling inside, and I cried like a little girl over that fucking John Lewis penguin a few years back, but nowadays it just seems like all the major stores and supermarkets follow the same boring formula:

Rules for Christmas Adverts

  1. First, choose an already slow and dreary song for the soundtrack.
  2. Slow the tempo down by at least half, then record it using ONLY a piano (all other musical instruments are strictly prohibited).
  3. Employ a female solo artist (preferably someone relatively unknown, so you can later claim you ‘discovered her’), to half-whisper/half-breathe the lyrics with as little enthusiasm as she can possibly muster.
  4. Create a cute main character (animals, young children and pensioners are all popular choices), then place them in an utterly depressing situation. Preferably, make them look really fucking lonely.
  5. Bring it all back together with a happy ending, then shoehorn in a Christmas message, while claiming that this is what your company proudly represents throughout the year, even though we all associate the brand with something entirely different (e.g. John Lewis = overpriced goods for the middle-classes; Aldi = the random ‘aisle of shite’ and packing at potentially fatal velocity; Amazon = not paying any tax, etc.)
  6. The main aim is to try as hard as you possibly can to make everyone cry. Never mind that Christmas is meant to be a happy time, you want your customers blubbing for the entire month, because the more people you can make cry, the more successful your advert is deemed to be.
Is it Okay For Men to Cry? | The Modern Man

Why can’t just one of the major stores be realistic each year, and portray Christmas like it really is for most ordinary people?

Ok, contrary to what Facebook might think, when they repeatedly suggest I should advertise any vacant jobs I might have available, my page is not a business. If it was, it would be an utterly terrible one. In the nearly-five years since I first launched ‘Confessions of a Middle-Raged Dad’, I have not made a single penny from it. Not one. In contrast, I have spent hundreds of pounds trying to gather as many followers as I possibly can (had I known before this year that it would only take one post about a ‘cockney bellend’ to go viral, I’d have saved the cash).

Nevertheless, if I do ever launch a product range (perhaps selling merchandise with quirky slogans printed on them, like ‘Go To Bed, Debbie’, ‘Don’t Answer The Fucking Questions’, ‘Tired as a Git’ and ‘#feral’), then you can be damn sure my Christmas advert will at least be realistic.

For example, picture the scene:

The camera pans along a dark street at night, while the first few bars of ‘Fairytale of New York’ begin playing in the background (look, it’s not even in my top three Christmas songs, but it’s by far the most appropriate for what follows, and I plan to use the original version, not some barely-whispered horse-shit piano cover by some twat like Ellie Goulding).

Ellie Goulding Wants To Be A Teen Again Very Badly On 'Sixteen' - MTV

The camera continues down the street until it stops outside a rundown looking house with the lights still on, then zooms in and enters the living room. Above the fireplace is a clock which shows the time to be just before midnight, and either side it are two large sacks with the names ‘Ollie’ and ‘Isaac’ printed on them, but both are flat and clearly empty. Underneath them sits a half-drunk bottle of sherry, and an open box of mince pies.

A man’s voice starts singing the lyrics to ‘Fairytale of New York’, but it quickly becomes apparent that he is not only a worse singer than Shane MacGowan, he also sounds even more inebriated (if that were possible) and, as a result, he gets some of the lyrics wrong.

As the camera angle moves toward the sofa, the man is slumped cross-legged on the carpet, with mountains of unwrapped presents stacked around him, and mince pie crumbs nestled on top of his Christmas-jumper clad belly.

He continues to sing, drunkenly out of tune, while looking from the presents to some large rolls of Christmas wrapping paper and then back again. He appears to be fiddling with something between his legs (hey, no, come on folks, you’re better than that) and, as we zoom in, it transpires he has a roll of Sellotape in his lap.

He glances at the clock and looks exhausted. Then, his face brightens slightly as he manages to locate the end of the Sellotape, and as he frantically picks at the roll, a weight seems to lift from his shoulders.

But, as soon as the Sellotape begins to peel away from the roll, it suddenly splits, leaving the man holding a useless four-inch stretch of tape which narrows to a point. He angrily shakes his hand as if to discard the tape, but it only becomes more entangled around his fingers.

The man stops singing and begins to quietly sob, as the camera pans back, out of the living room window and back to the cold street.

Moving upwards toward the empty night sky, the message ‘Have a Middle-Raged Christmas’ appears on the black, starlit screen, and when the words eventually fade away, we hear the man wail pitifully before, half-sobbing, he whimpers ‘For fuck’s sake’.

***

Look, I doubt it will sell much, but at least mine is realistic.

Thanks for reading x

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A Rush of Blog to the Head

On Tuesday evening I went for a run

My first in eight weeks, I’ll admit it was fun

I know that I’ve grumbled and said in the past

That running is shit, but that wouldn’t last

People said “It’s addictive, becomes like a drug”

And I think I might’ve now caught the bug

So, for something I’ve always said that I hate

I take it all back – because now I feel great.

*

Having not run in ages, I suffered with nerves

As I undressed after work and noticed my curves

I donned my compression top, so I’d look my best

(it constricts my belly, and flattens my chest)

It’s bad enough for ladies spotting my wobbly bits

Without getting jealous of these massive tits

I’d rather they focused on my legs and ass

Craning their necks as I go flying past.

*

I put on my shorts and my snazzy blue shoes

My bright yellow top so I’m easily viewed

(The driving in Sandbach is generally shit

and it’s bad enough running without being hit)

I needed music, so grabbed my mp3

Did some warm-up stretches and went for a wee

And then I was ready, so despite feeling crap

I opened the door and set my Strava app.

*

I left our estate to the main Sandbach road

Plodding along like a bright yellow toad

But I felt pretty good and soon realised

I was enjoying a pastime I’d always despised

Although if you are local and happened to pass

(no doubt craning your neck to check out my ass)

You might have noticed me put on an act –

(look like I was dying, to be more exact).

*

I started to realise my speed and physique

And the fact that I’m clearly at my fitness peak

Could attract some attention and cause a backlash

Upset other runners, or make drivers crash

So, I slowed down my pace and limped as I ran

To make you all think I’m a wreck of a man

After months of not running, it wouldn’t be fair

To be the world’s greatest athlete, make others despair.

*

I pretended my breathing was laboured and strained

My limbs were on fire, my energy drained

I rubbed my right hip and clutched at my chest

Faked pain in my knee, looked fairly depressed

I started to cry like a little lost boy

When they were really tears of unbridled joy

I pretended I was struggling and generally unfit

(which is why I stopped and walked for a bit).

*

After all, I realised my pace was so brisk

The 5k world record was likely at risk

But what was the point if my time wouldn’t count

No medal or trophy, no podium to mount?

I couldn’t see Guinness sending someone to mine

To be waiting with a stopwatch at the finish line

So I delayed my record to a future run

And continued the act to fool everyone.

*

I slowed to a walk, then for any sceptic

I heaved in a hedge and faked getting sick

If you went past, you just might have seen

I brought up something quite sticky and green

But that wasn’t phlegm, the performance was fake

(it was actually my earlier enzyme shake)

While you may have spotted me heaving and pale

What I actually produced was some digested kale.

*

I then struggled on and developed a cough

Told a few passing motorists to kindly ‘fuck off’

(that part was real if you happened to see

since the drivers in question had tried to kill me)

I reached the half-way point at Sandbach train station

Then waddled back home like a wounded crustacean

A few more times I walked for a bit

To maintain the façade I was generally shit.

*

Despite my performance, a sprint’s in my genes

So nearer to home I gave it the beans

Flew down our road and at the finish line ducked

Then nearly keeled over and claimed to be fucked

The truth was I’d smashed it and really felt ace

Despite the anguished look on my face

I unlocked the door and stepped in our house

Ready to be met by my proud kids and spouse.

*

I’d run over 5k and despite a few rests

I was delighted – a personal best

(ok, that’s not true, as the furthest I’ve run

was nearly eight miles in baking hot sun)

But my first run in weeks was still a good test

and back then I didn’t have this belly and breasts

I felt pretty awesome, so I’ll admit that I lied

When I told the boys that I thought I had died.

*

Ok, I was limping and holding my back

And I’m sure I felt sweat creeping down my arse crack

My breathing was laboured, my cheeks had a blush

But that was just from the endorphin rush

If you saw me in pain, I was only lying

I bloody love running, it’s my new favourite thing

In fact, I’ve already planned my next run day….

I should be good to go again some time next May.

*

Thanks for reading x

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Don’t Tell The Blog

I have mentioned before that I work as a personal injury solicitor, and, contrary to popular belief, we are not all ‘ambulance chasers’ or ‘parasites’, who get turned on by the slightest glimpse of a car crash.

We do not all go weak at the knees when faced with the prospect of making a little money (and, believe me, due to Government cuts over the past decade, any money we do make from our work is most definitely ‘little’), out of someone else’s misfortune.

However, when it comes to metaphorical car crashes, particularly those of the television variety, I do get a little tingly of trouser.

I have, over the past few years, posted a few blog entries alluding to my fondness for truly awful TV, the stand-out examples being Eurovision (https://middlerageddad.com/2016/05/13/blog-bang-a-bang/) and ITV’s Take Me Out (https://middlerageddad.com/2016/03/11/let-the-blog-see-the-rabbit/) so I am happy to pause here for a minute while you go back and read both, if you like.

Good, weren’t they?

Anyway, for some reason, I derive great pleasure from laughing at idiots, and while many people find cringy television uncomfortable (for example, my wife cannot stand Alan Partridge), I relish watching programmes where the window-lickers of society gather together. By that, I am not suggesting for one second that I laugh at all stupid people, as that would be unkind, but if you happen to voluntarily feature on reality shows such as Take Me Out or Love Island, then, sorry, but you are fair game as far as I’m concerned.

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I am currently writing this week’s blog entry from my in-law’s, partly because Ollie and Isaac wanted to spend some quality time with their maternal grandparents (who live on the other side of the country to us, so we don’t see them as often), but also to give my wife a break from refereeing their constant squabbles – while I try to work.

Now, my in-laws do not have Sky, which is absolutely fine (although it does mean we’ll return home to a shit-load of recorded Masterchef Australia to catch up on, not to mention the fact Isaac is having Spongebob withdrawal symptoms), but the consequence of this is that I have encountered a few programmes over the past few days which I have either not seen in years, or have never seen at all.

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One such television ‘treat’ (and I say this knowing full well many of you will strongly disagree with such a description), is a programme called Don’t Tell The Bride. I honestly haven’t seen this show in years, but please believe me when I say there was literally nothing else on while eating my breakfast the other morning, so I decided to amuse myself by watching some utter planks get hitched.

If you have never seen Don’t Tell The Bride, let me explain the concept: a betrothed woman, more concerned with a few minutes of fame/ridicule on TV than actually having the wedding she wants, entrusts every single aspect of her big day to the man she plans to spend the rest of her life with – who is, almost exclusively, a total fuckwit. The groom-to-be is then given a budget to organise absolutely everything, including the ceremony itself, the dress, rings, bridesmaid’s outfits, hen party, stag do, food, vehicles, decorations… everything, and the couple must then remain apart for three weeks until the entire shit-show is unveiled to an invariably pissed off bride.

Why is she always pissed off? Well, that would be because the groom is always either medically stupid, completely ignorant of what his bride wants, or a totally selfish prick (but usually a combination of all three). However, I am yet to watch a single episode where the bride turns up to the ceremony and promptly calls the whole thing off in floods of tears – which is, if I’m honest, the only reason I turned it on this morning. I live in hope of one day catching an episode where the woman storms off, screaming at him to stick his ring firmly up his….. well, ring.

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Now, it is highly unlikely that anyone reading this blog entry knows the people who featured in the episode I watched while eating my breakfast on Wednesday morning, let alone appeared in it; but, just in case, I would like to apologise for the next four words in my blog:

What. The. Actual. Fuck?

Even by the very low standards already set by Don’t Tell The Bride in the past (and, I must stress, I have only watched a handful of the 164 episodes that apparently exist), the groom was a monumentally arrogant and selfish bellend; so, by association, his bride deserved everything she got – which, in case you hadn’t already seen the conclusion coming, was the polar-opposite wedding day to the one she had no doubt dreamed of for years. Still, if you choose to marry a prick, and then have your day filmed for a television show which thrives on men being utterly useless at planning anything important, you only have yourself to blame.

Anyway, here are my ten highlights from this particular episode, so the men among you can gauge whether you would have done a better job of planning the wedding (and, if you have read this far without getting a headache from the big words, I guarantee you would have), while the women can gasp in horror and thank your lucky stars you never made such a stupid decision (to have your wedding day filmed by E4 / marry this clown).

Strap yourselves in, folks…

1

Before separating for three weeks prior to their impending nuptials, the bride-to-be only specified one aspect of her wedding day which she was resolutely fixed on – she did not want it outdoors. In her words, she ‘doesn’t like t’cold’; so, naturally, the groom arranged for the wedding to take place on a fucking beach. Cracking start, lad.

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2

Then, for the hen do, which he forgot to organise until a few days before (as he was too preoccupied booking his stag do skydive instead), he arranged for his beloved and her girly chums to have a lovely relaxing day….. at a muddy assault course. After all, what self-respecting bride doesn’t want to spend her hen do squelching around under a tarpaulin, before dragging herself over a brick wall and through a partially submerged tunnel? Well, apart from one who is FUCKING PREGNANT, and therefore can’t take part. Not that she would have enjoyed it, judging by how much the chief bridesmaid bitched about her lovely new trainers getting ruined.

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3

Fortunately, the groom redeemed himself slightly later that same day, when he arranged for the hen party to dine at a fancy restaurant (well, it was fancy for them, because the cutlery wasn’t plastic), and all appeared to be forgiven. Well, until they realised he’d forgotten to pay for the meal, so they nearly had to cover the bill themselves.

4

Next up, the big one – selecting and paying for the bride’s dress. I did sympathise with him slightly at this point, because (a) no man should ever risk buying clothes for a woman, as it will almost always end in disaster; (b) this is especially true when it is arguably the most important outfit she will ever wear; and (c), did I mention she was HEAVILY FUCKING PREGNANT? Fortunately, she left the wedding dress choice relatively open for him, so long as he didn’t buy one with loads of lace on it…..

….yes, of course he did.

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5

Oh, and it had a big shiny silver belt around the waist, too – because, what every pregnant bride wants, when already uncomfortable stood on a freezing beach, is to be further restrained around her expanding bump. Still, the dress was, in his words, ‘cheap’, so at least he saved a bit of cash to put towards his skydive.

6

Then, for the bridesmaid’s outfits, he very astutely realised that you hardly ever see them dressed in white too (I wonder why that is?); but, to avoid causing any confusion/jealousy by clothing all the gal-pals in similar white dresses, he opted for ABBA-style jumpsuits instead. Cla-ssy.

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They honestly looked like a cross between low-budget Bond villains (if a Bond film had ever been set on a cold beach in Yorkshire, which it understandably hasn’t) and a group of thoroughly-miserable painter decorators.

7

While choosing their rings, he appeared to be genuinely flummoxed when the jeweller asked him what size he needed for his wife-to-be, and even more astonished when ‘cocktail sausage’ wasn’t a recognised size on the International Ring Scale.

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8

For the ceremony itself, he splashed out the princely sum of £16.99 to buy a trellis style archway from somewhere like ‘Poundland’, which he then had to secure to some wooden pallets on the beach to stop it from making an untimely escape towards Scandinavia.

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9

Still, at least if the bride-to-be was pissed off at having to exchange her vows cowering under Poundland’s finest, with the icy turd-ridden surf creeping ever closer to her feet, surely the groom could pull it out of the bag with a spectacular reception afterwards?

Well, he did, but only if you consider a marquee in a nearby caravan park to be spectacular. Having said that, he also arranged a fairground ride and chip van, so at least that was something for her special day. I mean, she obviously couldn’t go on the fairground ride (preggers, remember?), but she more than made up for any disappointment with her chip consumption.

10

Finally, despite fuming at getting married on a beach, hating her sand-stained dress (not to mention the bridesmaid’s jumpsuits), nearly standing in horse shit from her carriage  ride on the way to the caravan park/funfair reception, and the somewhat-belated realisation she was now inextricably linked to a fucking moron, once she’d had a cone of chips, she decided he was a sweetheart really. Which is the way this show always ends, no matter how badly the wedding has been arranged.

I hope they are very happy together*

*which, bearing in mind the show was filmed two years ago, I doubt very much they are.

Thanks for reading.

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