It’s A Funny Old Blog

This Sunday’s the World Cup Final

And England will not be there

We won’t be lifting the trophy in Moscow

Dancing on the streets of Red Square

 

Whatever you may think of football

This has been a special world cup

For a while we truly believed

(then on Wednesday night fucked it right up)

 

The first World Cup I remember

Was Italia ’90 – I was ten

It was the first time I really loved football

The hopes of a nation, and then

 

We played our old foes in the semis

And extra-time ended all square

West Germany beat us on penners

I can still recall my despair.

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Our fortunes since then have been woeful

Disappointment and failure ever since

Even the most hopeful of fans

Would take some work to convince.

 

We failed to qualify US Ninety-Four

So I supported the Irish instead

Diana Ross’ comical penalty

The heat going to Jack Charlton’s head

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Made the second-stage France Ninety-Eight

Michael Owen’s incredible strike

Couldn’t beat old Argentina

And Glenn Hoddle was soon on his bike

 

Then Japan in Two-Thousand-and-Two

England made it to the final eight

But the overall winners Brazil

Unsurprisingly sealed our fate

 

In Germany Two-Thousand-and-Six

A quarter-final defeat once again

Losing on penalties now habit

And the final straw for old Sven

 

This time our rivals were Portugal

Wayne Rooney was having a stinker

When his teammate got him red-carded

The smug greasy Portuguese winker

 

To South Africa Two-Thousand-and-Ten

Where a last-sixteen knock-out awaited

Once again the Germans destroyed us

Leaving England fans sad and deflated

 

Then four years ago down in Brazil

England’s worst world cup exit to date

Finishing bottom of Group D in disgrace

Paved the way for Gareth Southgate

 

Qualifying for Russia all sorted

In the group stage our Three Lions shone

Then on to knock out Colombia

With fears of penalties now gone

 

Winning with ease against Sweden

Set us up nicely for Wednesday night

A team playing as one for their nation

With World Cup glory in sight

 

But, alas, it was not to be

With the trophy almost in touch

We couldn’t beat lowly Croatia

The final was one step too much

 

I’d have loved to be sat there on Sunday

Watching something that I’ve never seen

England in a World Cup Final

Standing for ‘God Save The Queen’

 

Cheering our team onto victory

Losing our shit when we score

It might have been fifty-two years

But we’d be champions once more

 

I guess I’ll have to keep waiting

In four years I’ll dream once again

Perhaps then England’s young squad

Will fair better as more mature men

 

It’s still been a fantastic journey

Not just for passion and noise

But I’m proud of my country once more

And I can share that with both of my boys

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For a moment we thought it may happen

But the dream can’t be ours any more

Turns out it’s not coming home

It’s being delivered next door.

 

Thanks for reading x

 

 

 

 

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Run FatBlog Run (Alderley Edge)

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Over the last week or so, I have gained a number of new followers – welcome.

To bring you up to speed, my blog is published every Friday via WordPress, and has no real theme or topic. It’s not a blog on cooking, or fitness, or parenting (although parenting often features, because our boys are an almost endless source of comedic material); but is instead a random collection of whatever shit happens to be mulling around my head at the time, or going on in my life, and which I think you may find amusing. In a way, this is like therapy for me, because my brain can be a very dark and foreboding place at times, so it’s nice to share my weirdness with you all (for free).

Despite there being no particular theme to my blog, this year I have set myself a challenge to run ten 10k races for my chosen charity, Kidscan, who are a children’s cancer charity based in Salford – and I have been posting a ‘report’ of each race after the event.

If you haven’t read any of these ‘running’ blog entries, then please don’t be put off from reading any further. They are nowhere near as dull as they sound, thanks in no small part to the fact I am utterly shite at running, and catastrophe usually befalls me when I don my running shoes. Plus, each of my ten races this year are somewhat unique, and hopefully these blog entries will serve as a nice record of my charitable exploits in years to come. Future generations may even mistake me for a nice guy.

(Oh, and if you have read any of my previous running entries, don’t tell the newbies that the last paragraph was complete bullshit, ok?)

Anyway, for all newcomers, and as a reminder to the rest of you, here is a brief summary of my challenge so far – and, if you wanted to read any of them, there’s a handy link to each entry underneath):

Race #1 – Oulton Park 

Ran around a race track in very cold temperatures. Hated every second.

https://middlerageddad.com/2018/03/09/run-fatblog-run-oulton-park

Race #2 – Poynton

Completed a circuit of the village where I grew up (and now work). Hated every second.

https://middlerageddad.com/2018/03/30/run-fatblog-run-poynton

Race #3 – Whitchurch

Ran too fast around a very steep course, collapsed near to the finish line, spent some time in hospital. Needless to say, hated every second.

https://middlerageddad.com/2018/04/13/run-fatblog-run-whitchurch

Race #4 – Tatton Park

Still shaken by the events of the Whitchurch 10k, this was my slowest race to date (by some margin) as I had to stop and walk a few times. Hated every second.

https://middlerageddad.com/2018/05/11/run-fatblog-run-tatton-park

Race #5 – Colshaw Hall

Rather enjoyed this one, just a few weeks ago (only joking, I hated every second).

https://middlerageddad.com/2018/06/22/run-fatblog-run-colshaw-hall

Anyway, last Sunday I took part in my sixth event, in Alderley Edge (posh Cheshire), which entailed running down the A34 bypass… then back again. It doesn’t really matter if you are familiar with Alderley Edge or not, as I am sure you can imagine a single-carriageway bypass, but just in case you are desperate to visualise the event, here’s a photo:

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Believe it or not, I am on there, so feel free to play your own version of Where’s Wally? (or Where’s Waldo? for my American following). To help you, I am wearing a purple running top.

Ok, a bypass is not exactly the most interesting of routes, but the organisers relied heavily on two unique factors, to entice people into entering their particular event:

  1. Many of these 10k races involve road closures, but not usually one of the busiest bypass routes in Cheshire (even on a Sunday morning);
  2. They placed live entertainment along the route – to break the monotony of running along a predominantly straight road.

It also seems that either the organisers themselves, or someone involved in the setting up of the race, had a similarly twisted sense of humour to those behind the Colshaw Hall event two weeks earlier. If you read that entry, you may recall that there was a particularly nasty hill, which had not been referred to on any of the pre-race documentation, and the organisers chose to place this sign at the top of it:

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The gits.

Anyway, the Alderley Edge team (or some little fucker gone rogue), decided to go one better with their own version of a ‘motivational’ sign, because shortly after the 2k point, when all the runners were already starting to flag thanks to the heat, there was a very obvious ‘Just don’t be shit’ sign by the side of the road. Ok, it was actually ‘Just don’t be Sh1t’, in a lame attempt to avoid any ramifications, but it would hardly take Alan Turing to crack that particular code, would it? Fortunately, I thought it was pretty hilarious, but I suspect someone may well have taken issue and kicked it down by the end of the race.

Anyway, I have been rating the various events against each other, so here are the results of the Alderley Edge 10k:

Time: 49:48 (which is just about within my unofficial target of finishing each race in under fifty minutes)

Position: 423rd out of 1,733 (so still in the top third, which is another unofficial target of mine). Interestingly, over 2,200 people entered the race, but a handful failed to finish, and several hundred didn’t even bother to show up. Wimps.

Cost: £19.50 – which is one of the more expensive races, but the organisers (Run Northwest), allow you to enter both this and the Wilmslow 10k (which should be my final event in November), for a discounted price of £29.00, so they’re really £14.50 each. Bargain.

Course: As you might imagine, a bypass is not the most interesting of routes, but when it comes to running, I’m not really in it for the scenery anyway. Plus, running down a predominantly straight road – and then back again – has certain advantages: it’s easier to keep track of your progress (and even easier to work out the half way stage, as it’s the only time you turn around), plus there is very little scope for getting lost. Add to that, the fact there was live music at four points along the route, and it wasn’t as dull as you might think.

The course itself was mostly flat, nice smooth tarmac, and with no chance of any stupid / aggressive motorists ignoring the road blocks (even though I did nearly get hit by an ambulance dashing to the aid of a fellow runner), it was easy to concentrate all my efforts on not dying – 7/10

Weather: Too. Bloody. Hot. Ok, as with the other events, I can’t really blame the organisers for the weather, but baking heat is sometimes a risk when you organise an event for the start of July, even if this predominantly-overcast country of ours, so they have to accept some responsibility. Still, at least it wasn’t snowing – 6/10

Organisation: Very well organised. Lots of pre-race information, contained in a nice little booklet – which was posted out to us with our running numbers (and timing chips) the week before. There were several enthusiastic and supportive marshals along the route, two water stations (due to the heat) – which were both efficiently manned – and plenty to do at the Race HQ, for those not taking part themselves – 8/10

Official Photos: Free to download from photographer Mick Hall’s website, and to have all 20,000+ uploaded, and individually tagged (so you simply put your race number into the system, and it brings up all the photographs you are in) within a couple of days, is extremely impressive. As per usual, I look like I could die at any second in all of the ones I feature, plus I appear to have developed a rogue left arm when I sprint finish, but that’s not Mick’s fault – 9/10

And here are some my wife took before, during, and after the race:

Medal: Sizeable, thick and heavy (three words which can also be used to describe me) – 7/10

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Goody-bag: Difficult one to judge this. Normally, when there is no goody-bag, I am highly disparaging of the event, and give a low score as a result. However, the organisers quite cleverly stated that the lack of goody-bag was to save on plastic (so I would look like a dick for complaining), and they did give us a rather fetching running shirt instead. In fact, this is my favourite running shirt of the three I have received so far this year (the others being at Oulton Park, and the ill-fated Whitchurch event) – 8/10

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Post-race refreshment: Plenty of water, and a nice selection of flapjacks. I opted for caramel (not that you care), but it was delicious and, had I not been feeling sick to my stomach at the time, no doubt I might have had more than a nibble, before my eldest son scoffed it. Still, no jelly babies though – 6/10

Summary:

Course: 7/10

Weather: 6/10

Organisation: 8/10

Photos: 9/10

Medal: 7/10

Goody-bag: 8/10

Refreshments: 6/10

Giving Alderley Edge a total score of 51/70 (or 73%) – another very impressive score, placing Alderley Edge just behind Colshaw Hall on the leaderboard:

Colshaw Hall                      52/70                     (74%)

Alderley Edge                    51/70                     (73%)

Whitchurch:                       49/70                     (70%)

Tatton Park:                        47/70                     (67%)

Oulton Park:                       46/70                     (66%)

Poynton:                              39/70                     (56%)

I now have a nice little break until 19th August, when I’ll be running the Birchwood 10k (no, I haven’t a fucking clue where Birchwood is either), and, as ever, if you’d like to chuck some money towards a fantastic cause, here’s the link:

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

Oh, and for anyone still trying to spot me on that bypass photo….

IMG-20180702-WA0003

Thanks for reading x

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Mark Zuckerblog

Dear Mr Zuckerberg

Can I call you Mark? Actually, there’s no way of you responding to that right now, so I’m going to call you Mark until you tell me otherwise.

I don’t suppose you’ll get around to replying to this for a few days, as you’re probably busy rolling around (naked?) in your piles of cash. Hey, no judgement from me, as that’s exactly what I would do if I had your money. I mean, maybe not at the moment, as I have a bit of a jippy tummy, and I’d hate to risk a fart on my ‘cash bed’ – but I guess with these new plastic notes, at least they can survive a good hardy wash.

Sorry, went off on a tangent there for a moment.

The reason I’m contacting you, is because you strike me as the sort of chap who always strives to make his products better, and as a Facebook user for more than ten years, I think I’m pretty well qualified to say what’s currently wrong with it (well, apart from the millions of dickhead members, who drive me to the very brink of jabbing myself in the eye with a rusty screwdriver each day).

Anyway, I thought I’d set out my suggestions for improving Facebook, and you can let me know what you think. There’s no pressure for you to take any of them on board, but a few of these niggles of mine are starting to escalate into something of a white-hot fury, and if I were to ‘go postal’ as a result, I’d hate for you to end up with blood on your hands.

Emojis

Anyone who knows me, will tell you that I am generally a good-natured chap, who rarely gets angry; but emojis do tend to give me a nervous twitch (which sometimes escalates into an overwhelming urge to cause physical pain, when they are used excessively or incorrectly).

Frankly, I don’t see the point of using a crappy little cartoon character to express one’s emotions, when actual words will do just fine. Admittedly, I don’t understand a lot of youth culture in general – I’m not even entirely sure what a ‘Millennial’ is (other than to say it is someone younger than me, who I almost certainly detest) – but emojis are in the same category as skinny jeans, Love Island and the word ‘lol’. I refer to this as my ‘can fuck right off category’.

The only emoji I can even tolerate is the ‘winking face’ emoji (I call him ‘Mr Winky’, but that has been known to cause some confusion when referring to my penis by the same name), albeit only because he allows you to get away with being a total git to someone. For example, sending them a text saying ‘I hate you and want you to die’ might be construed as offensive, or even threatening; but stick Mr Winky in the end (excuse the unfortunate choice of phrase), and it’s nothing more than a jovial quip. No one can get mad when Mr Winky is around.

Then, a month or so ago (as I know you are aware) the emoji world took a turn for the even worse, with the introduction of 157 new ones – because, apparently, the youth of today are too bone-idol to actually type the word ‘peacock’ or ‘swan’. Seriously, look at this selection of utter pointlessness:

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I can’t imagine for one second that the multi-racial pensioners of the world were angry about being under-represented by emojis, or that ladies with alopecia had taken to the streets with placards to protest for more ‘bald women emojis’. And when was the last time a simple ‘poo’ emoji wasn’t sufficient, and you felt the need to tell someone that the poo in question was a sad poo? Poo DOESN’T HAVE FUCKING EMOTION. It’s poo.

Anyway, since it looks as though emojis are here for a while, might I suggest the introduction of a few more the next time yourself and the other social media moguls of the world get together to make the universe a slightly more stupid place?

My preferred choices would be a ‘bullshit’ emoji (for when you want to question the validity of someone’s status or comment); and a ‘U ok hun?’ emoji – because if I see one more person actually type that phrase, I will hunt them down like a wild dog, and then go after their family.

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Wait, is that Messi?

Vaguebookers

Vaguebookers have been a problem on Facebook for as long as I can remember. I cannot stand someone deliberately updating their status, or posting a comment, with something attention-seeking like ‘you should know better than to mess with me, you know who you are’, or ‘wondering why I bother’. If you want sympathy, or to get a reaction, then just tell us – or, better still, send a text or e-mail to someone who may actually give a shit. Don’t hint at your problem, and then hope we’ll all come running with the now-standard ‘aw, u ok hon’?

I’m not sure if you are able to design a ‘vaguebooker block’ of some description, to automatically prevent this from happening; but if not I am willing to offer my services to police Facebook day and night, and take whatever action I deem necessary towards any culprits. Sure, people will get hurt, but it’s a small price to pay for the good of society.

Unfriending Notification

I think it would be nice to know when someone has ‘unfriended’ you on Facebook, because that way you can scowl at them when you invariably bump into them in the street a few days later. Imagine my horror, when I was recently saw someone I know in town, and smiled at them, only to discover the little fucker had unfriended me at some point. I had to register them for all sorts of unwanted and embarrassing junk mail (and dodgy websites) before I got over the betrayal, and that kind of shit takes time, Mark.

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Video locator

It’s really annoying, when you watch a funny – or otherwise fascinating – video on social media, but when you come to tell everyone about it in the pub, or at work, you can’t remember which friend shared or commented on it.

I think, if you have watched a video on Facebook more than once, it should be stored somewhere on your profile for later use, or until you decide you no longer need it. Surely, with today’s face recognition software, you could get everyone’s phones, tablets and laptops to recognise when they have enjoyed a video, and save it to their profile accordingly? Ok, you’d need to find a way to eliminate any ‘mucky’ videos they may have enjoyed in the same time period, but you’re a social media billionaire, Zuckers, you figure it out.

Time-saving software

By the same token, would it be possible to design a method of informing Facebook users how likely they are to enjoy a video or article, based on their obvious sense of humour, and what they enjoy, before they click through thirty pages of crap and adverts to get to the bit advertised on their news feed?

I’ve lost count of the number of times I have wasted half an hour of my constantly-dwindling life span clicking through page after page of rubbish, only to be hugely disappointed by what I was promised in the first place. Just give us a rating out of 10, with 0 being ‘I really wouldn’t bother, this is shit’, and 10 being ‘no, you absolutely need to read/watch this, it will change your life and/or you will laugh your bollocks off’.

Can’t be that hard, surely?

TimeHop

I quite like the appeal of Facebook telling me what I did on any particular day in years gone by; but could you possibly tweak it a bit so that it only reminds me of the good stuff, and doesn’t make me feel so fucking old? Just knock a few years off the date, it’s easy.

I refuse to accept that our last holiday abroad was in 2015 (it feels like last week), or that it will be three years this December since I saw Def Leppard live in Manchester. Most people who go to see Def Leppard don’t have three years left, and that kind of realisation is pretty depressing.

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Invisibility

I appreciate that, whilst you are one of the richest people on the planet, you cannot actually bestow super powers on people in real life; however what about a system whereby you can become invisible on Facebook, and comment on posts and threads under a randomly-generated pseudonym (and profile picture) so that nobody knows it’s you?

For example, I belong to a Facebook group called ‘What’s Going On – Sandbach’, and there is not a day goes by when I don’t want to destroy some moron, who either wants a job (usually ‘any’ job) but cannot spell basic words properly; is looking for a builder/plumber/decorator, even though someone else asked the same damn question the day before (and the day before that, and the day before that); or who has lost their cat AGAIN, for the fourth time this week.

I can’t leave the group, as there is occasionally one useful piece of local information every six months or so, and if I’m honest I find the morons quite entertaining in a perverted way, but I’d love to be able to tell them what I really think of their stupid bastard cat, without the repercussions of their meathead boyfriend paying me a visit and beating the living shit out of me.

Ah, I think I’ve just worked out what the ‘sad poo’ emoji is for.

Anyway, that’s enough from me, Mark. As I said at the outset, no rush to respond, so long as it’s within the week, and you can show that you have introduced at least one of my suggestions.

Take care, and thanks for reading

The Middle-Raged Dad x

P.S. – oh, any chance you could sign a few thousand people up to my blog without them noticing?

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Run Fatblog Run (Colshaw Hall)

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Last Sunday, I ran the latest event in the ridiculous 10 x 10k challenge I have set myself for this year, and it took place within the picturesque grounds – and surrounding countryside – of Colshaw Hall, in Over Peover (pronounced ‘peever’, for anyone even remotely interested), which is near Knutsford in Cheshire (pronounced ‘Cheshire’, for anyone even remotely interested).

Regular readers may be aware – or may recall – that I am trying to run all ten events for charity, and my aim is to do so in under fifty minutes each time.

Unfortunately, having collapsed shortly before the finish line at the Whitchurch 10k in April, this knocked my confidence somewhat for event number four at Tatton Park the following month, resulting in me stopping and walking a few times (through a fear of ending up in hospital again). As a result, I not only missed my target of running the entire race, but my time was well outside fifty minutes (54:13, to be precise).

Fortunately for me (and I use the word ‘fortunately’ with more than a mere smattering of sarcasm), Tatton Park is the only one of my ten events to be held monthly, so I do still have the option of re-running it later in the year, should it transpire to be the only race where my targets have been missed.

Thankfully, I was back on track last Sunday, as – despite my legs begging me to stop and walk a couple of times towards the end – I managed to run the course in 49:23, which is very much in line with what appears to be my ‘usual’ pace (Sandbach last September was 49:16, Oulton Park this February was 49:11, and Poynton in March was 49:28). I conclude, from that information, that I tend to run a 10k in just over forty-nine minutes.

I was particularly pleased to complete the Colshall Hall 10k, for a few reasons:

  1. It was event number five; so, leaving aside any possible re-run of Tatton Park later this year, I’m half-way to the point where I can load my running shoes into a cannon, and blast them toward the horizon;
  2. It has gone some way to restoring my confidence that I will not collapse and nearly die each time I run more than a few miles;
  3. My preparation for the race was pretty dreadful, and not what most runners would recommend before a 10k.

Let me expand on that last point.

Normally, I don’t tend to run too much leading up to a race, and will only do a few miles earlier in the week. This time, however, I decided to instead run a full 10k circuit around Sandbach on the Tuesday evening, and then get extremely drunk on the Friday night. Ok, all the alcohol was well out of my system come the race on Sunday morning, but I was still feeling the effects of spending the whole of Saturday generally tired and hungover.

But, above all, most runners (and anyone with an ounce of common sense) will tell you it is best to avoid any injuries prior to a race, particularly when those injuries are to the whole ‘foot’ region.

So, imagine my displeasure / anger / rage, when – in rushing around before the school run last Friday morning – I stamped down hard on one of Isaac’s metal toy trains. I suppose I shouldn’t necessarily blame him for the injury (although that didn’t stop me), as I should have anticipated that he would want to keep his collection of Thomas The Tank Engine trains in a partially obscured spot on our bedroom floor. Only a fool would expect them to be in plain sight, or, I don’t know, in his own fucking room, but Isaac has never really conformed to what society would deem ‘normal’ behaviour.

So, Isaac left his collection of trains just where he wanted them – in a prime spot to badly hurt Daddy (and make him use many colourful expletives), two days before one of his races.

Of course, I don’t only blame Isaac, as naturally it took two people to cause my injury. No, I don’t mean me – as I dashed around like a headless chicken trying to locate a pair of socks – I mean this little shit:

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For the uninitiated, this is ‘Ferdinand’, one of Thomas the Tank Engine’s friends. And don’t let his goofy-toothed expression fool you, either, because Ferdinand, I discovered last Friday, is an evil metal bastard.

Now, I would upload a picture of my foot at this point, to emphasise not only the amount of pain that the initial injury caused me, but also the damage which persisted come Sunday’s 10k, however:

  1. The visual bruising didn’t do the injury justice;
  2. The pain has thankfully now almost gone, as has the bruising, so I should have taken a photo earlier in the week, because now you would just think I was being pathetic.

You’ll just have to trust me when I say that I was still having trouble walking, let alone running, by Sunday morning, to the extent that I almost pulled out of the race. Thankfully, in a short ‘test’ run with about half an hour to go, I realised that running would be relatively pain-free, so long as the middle of my left foot didn’t come into contact with any stones, potholes, tree roots, or another person’s foot (the latter of which being a real shame, as it’s often a tactic I employ when overtaking a fellow runner, to gain an advantage).

Anyway, my foot held up nicely, I finished the race in a respectable time, and I’m now well on my way to completing this challenge. So, without further ado (as I am well aware that these running entries aren’t very popular, and most of you stopped reading a while ago), here are my ratings for the Colshaw Hall 10k:

Time: 49:23

Position: 272nd out of 1,078 runners (which I’m really pleased with, as I have an unofficial target of trying to finish in the top-third each time, and there were dozens of ‘proper’ runners there from actual clubs – including a group from ‘Sandbach Striders’, who I managed to overtake and finish faster than – ha!)

Cost: £19.95 – on the expensive side, bearing in mind we didn’t get many goodies for our troubles.

Course: Easily the most scenic so far, comprising delightful little country lanes (without ever sending us down hazardous muddy tracks, or canal towpaths – Poynton 10k, I’m looking at you). The route took us all round Over Peover, and past the iconic Lovell telescope at Jodrell Bank:

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There were a few unexpected ‘hills’, however, which the organisers failed to mention – but when they clearly have as twisted a sense of humour as I do (bearing in mind the sign they positioned at the top of the steepest hill), it’s hard to stay mad at them for too long,:

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I did swear quite loudly at the time though, as it was bloody steep. Still, the course gets a solid 8/10

Weather: Almost perfect. Like Whitchurch, it was a little on the warm side for my liking, but it was dry, breezy, and about as good as I could have hoped 9/10

Organisation: Very impressive indeed. Each kilometre was marked clearly, there were helpful and enthusiastic marshals at every key point, and the pre-race pack was sent out nice and early, with everything you might need – not to mention the fact they allowed us to wear headphones, and sent us our race numbers and timing chips in the post, so there was none of that awkward safety-pinning with just a few minutes until the start of the race bullshit 9/10

Official Photos: Taken and uploaded – for free – by Bryan Dale, who I recognised from an event earlier this year (or possibly even Sandbach last year). He apparently had 5,000 photographs to sort through and upload to his website, which he clearly worked around the clock to achieve, so that we weren’t left waiting for long. I can’t really blame him that I’m either hiding, or looking like I might collapse, in the five in which I appear:

There is also apparently an official video, which will be uploaded to the Colshaw Hall 10k Facebook page soon, but I am yet to see it. Hopefully, I’m not featured 8/10

Medal: Massive, solid, and heavy, everything you want in a medal 7/10

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Goody-bag: Not bad at all, actually. Ok, we didn’t get a t-shirt, but we did receive an actual bag (with the event logo on), containing a delicious chocolate-covered flapjack, and a packet of Haribo 6/10

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Post-race refreshment: We only received a bottle of water, but that’s because the flapjack and sweets were in the goody-bag. Still, when my previous post-race refreshment has comprised the likes of bread and fruit, I didn’t feel like I was missing out. Wouldn’t have minded a big tray of jelly babies, like they had at Oulton Park and Poynton though. 5/10

Summary:

Course: 8/10

Weather: 9/10

Organisation: 9/10

Photos: 8/10

Medal: 7/10

Goody-bag: 6/10

Refreshments: 5/10

Meaning a total score of  52/70 (or 74%) – a very impressive score, meaning Colshaw Hall is now top of my leaderboard:

Colshaw Hall:              52/70               (74%)

Whitchurch:                49/70               (70%)

Tatton Park:                47/70               (67%)

Oulton Park:                46/70               (66%)

Poynton:                       39/70               (56%)

Amazingly, the race which nearly killed me is still doing rather well near the top of the table. Maybe I should enter it again next year?

Ok, perhaps not.

My next race is a week on Sunday, in Alderley Edge. If you’re local, feel free to pop down and cheer me on. If not, you’ll just have to donate instead, won’t you?!

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

(Isaac was there, but refused to pose)

Thanks for reading x

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Blog In The U.S.S.R.

(or ‘The Eastern Blog’)

Yesterday afternoon, the World Cup 2018 kicked off in Mother Russia – hence this week’s title.

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Even if you don’t necessarily like football, this still shouldn’t be a surprise, unless of course any of the following apply:

  1. You are a hermit/recluse/prisoner of war, without access to the outside world or any form of media (and, if that is the case, how are you reading this?);
  2. You have the memory of a goldfish and cannot retain information for more than a few seconds;
  3. Your knowledge of current affairs is equivalent to, or worse than, a Love Island contestant;
  4. You live in a country where an evil dictator controls the news, e.g. North Korea, the USA etc. (topical, bearing in mind this week’s historic meeting between a deranged megalomaniac with shit hair and nuclear weapons… and Kim Jong-un);
  5. You have the memory of a goldfish and cannot retain information for more than a few seconds.

Before those of you who detest football stop reading, I should explain that this entry is not solely about the beautiful game. Well, it is, but only to the extent that I will be providing my own unique run-down of the thirty-two countries who qualified.

That way, even if football isn’t necessarily your thing, you might discover a new favourite nation to cheer, as they progress through the tournament. It could even make that office sweepstake slightly more interesting.

So, without further ado, pick your favourite from these:

Russia

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Russia may well have been good enough to qualify for the World Cup anyway, but rather than take the risk, they decided to bribe/blackmail their way into hosting the entire competition in 2010*

*allegedly. I don’t want to find a healthy dollop of VX nerve agent in my soup next time I dine out.

Saudi Arabia

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Russia’s opponents for the opening match yesterday. I’m writing this before the tournament has started, so I’ll assume the match went ahead, and the Saudi Arabian squad didn’t mysteriously disappear, or come down with life-threatening illnesses prior to kick-off. Unlikely to progress from the group stage, which is no bad thing, as it’ll allow them to focus more on giving equal rights to women (decades after everyone else).

Egypt

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If Liverpool striker Mo Salah is fit, Egypt could do well – without troubling the knock-out stages too much. If, however, Mo Salah is still carrying his shoulder injury from the Champions League Final, or has a few off games, Egypt will be like that boring colleague at the Christmas party – going home early.

Uruguay

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Uruguay will most likely top Group A, so long as they don’t get kicked out of the tournament because Luis Suarez has eaten an opposition player, been racist, or simply behaved like the despicable twat he is. Shame, as he’s actually a very good footballer. Uruguay have won the tournament twice, and that will still be the case come August.

Portugal

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I have mixed emotions about Portugal. It is a beautiful country, and they are a strong footballing side (as evidenced by their victory at Euro 2016), however there are very few footballers I detest more than Cristiano Ronaldo, and I cannot bring myself to cheer a team containing that smug prick.

Spain

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Like Portugal, Spain have some terrific footballers, and you will not find a starting eleven anywhere in the world with finer, more precise beards; but as far as preparing for a World Cup goes, sacking your manager the day before the start of the tournament is ill-advised at best. They’ll still do better than England though.

Morocco

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On Wednesday, Morocco lost their bid to host the 2026 World Cup, because FIFA decided to go with a joint offering from Mexico, the US, and Canada instead. Seemingly, despite having eight years to prepare, Morocco’s hotels, transport network, and – rather crucially – football stadiums, are so shit that they still don’t have enough time to prepare. Their disappointment will no doubt be an unwelcome distraction (and they were crap in the first place).

Iran

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Speaking of shit footballing nations, don’t get your hopes up if you picked Iran in the work sweepstake, ok?

France

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France are a solid team, but apart from their victory at the 1998 World Cup (which they hosted), they rarely perform to their potential – something England fans can relate to. If the players sort themselves out, they could be formidable, but they’ll most likely just end up being…. well, French.

Australia

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The Aussies are very much like the United States when it comes to football. Both have massive countries, with a population who, for the most part, couldn’t give a shit about ‘soccer’ – presumably because they devote the vast majority of their time to avoiding all those deadly snakes and spiders. Strewth.

Peru

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Peru is famous for three things: Machu Picchu (which I think is a type of Pokemon), Paddington Bear – who always sounds distinctly un-Peruvian if you ask me – and the fucking panpipes. Notice the absence of any reference to football. There’s a reason for that.

Denmark

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I’ve never been to Denmark, but I’m quite fond of it as a nation. The Danes have some good players among their ranks, but sadly not enough for them to do any major damage on the world stage. Fortunately for Denmark, they have been plonked in a group alongside Australia and Peru, so they have every chance of progressing to the knock-out stages.

Argentina

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Argentina are another team who should do really well in tournaments, but haven’t won anything for some time. Still, as we have seen with Barcelona this season, Lionel Messi (the man my son wishes was his father) can win a game virtually on his own if he so chooses, so you should never write them off.

Iceland

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Prior to Euro 2016, most people would have associated ‘Iceland’ with cheap frozen food and Kerry Katona/Peter Andre; but having reached the quarter-finals in France (by beating England), only to be knocked out by the host nation, shit party food is now thankfully a distant memory.

Croatia

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Despite what Cristiano Ronaldo may think, footballers don’t need to be good-looking – which bodes well for Croatia, because you will not find an uglier collection of specimens outside Burnley town centre (I’ve just flicked through my son’s Panini sticker book, and it’s actually worse than I thought). Not bad footballers though.

Nigeria

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If my junk mail is anything to go by, there are enough Nigerian princes floating around to plough some serious money into their national team, so they should be unstoppable. Unfortunately, it looks like all that money is currently tied up in various off-shore accounts, so Nigeria will have to resign themselves to being average (at best) in the meantime.

Brazil

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The favourites, as usual. The most annoying part is, they don’t even need to play very well to stand a chance of winning the entire tournament. In fact, Brazil could send their Under-12’s blind B-team to the World Cup, and still comfortably reach the semi-finals. The swines.

Switzerland

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To give the Swiss some credit, they make nice chocolates and cuckoo clocks, but that’s about it. They aren’t exactly a force in world football, so I don’t think we need to say too much more about them. Shit flag, too. Looks like they nicked it from a first aid tent.

Costa Rica

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I know nothing about Costa Rica (the team, or the country). I’m pretty certain it’s in Central America, somewhere near that other non-entity from this summer’s tournament, Panama (quick Google check…. good, they share a border), but other than that, I’m stumped. Never mind, they won’t be around long enough for me to take an interest.

Serbia

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Like Russia, the Serbian squad – following another cursory glance at the sticker book – appears to be exclusively made up of big, angry-looking, bastards – and a lot can be said in football for scaring the living shit out of your opponents. This alone may well be enough for Serbia to follow Brazil into the knock-out stages.

Germany

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God, I hate Germany. Not the country, or the people (hey, it’s all in the past), but as a footballing nation they are our nemesis. Which makes the fact we have every chance of facing them in the quarter-finals (assuming England make it that far), all the more daunting.  We won’t beat them in normal time, and we sure as hell won’t beat them on penalties either, so we have to try and avoid them at all costs.

Mexico

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Now that Mexico have been chosen as joint hosts of the 2026 World Cup, in eight years’ time they will become the nation to stage the tournament the most times – thrice. For me, it’s between Mexico and Sweden as to who will follow Germany into the second round (which probably means it’ll be South Korea).

Sweden

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Sweden may be responsible for Roxette and the Volvo XC60, but they also gave the world ABBA and Ikea, so for that reason alone they can fuck off.

South Korea

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Everyone’s favourite Korea, although they are only marginally better than their neighbours when it comes to football (unless you believe North Korean media, in which case you will know that the Kim Jong-un World XI are the best team of all time).

Belgium

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Made up of players you look at and immediately say ‘Shit, I forgot he’s Belgian – he’s quite good’, which makes them a half-decent side, and undoubtedly England’s biggest threat in Group G.

Panama

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Shares a border with Costa Rica (I learned this a few minutes ago). Has a famous canal, and is associated with hats. If you fancy a sneaky bet on Panama, make sure it’s on them losing every match without scoring a single goal.

Tunisia

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England’s opening fixture. A fascinating and beautiful country (we had our honeymoon there), spoiled somewhat by recent terrorist activities and general civil-unrest bollocks. Shame.

England

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The semi-finals of this summer’s tournament start on 10th July, and barring an airline strike, England’s footballers will be safely back in Blighty long before then. If we reach the final four, I’ll post a nude photo of myself on my Facebook page.

Poland

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Straight out of the Russia/Serbia camp of ‘scary blokes you don’t want to mess with’, Poland are a decent side who – looking at the remainder of their group – stand every chance of reaching the last sixteen. There are lots of Polish people in Crewe, so I hope they do well for our local relations, if nothing else.

Senegal

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In any other group, Senegal would be advised to book early flights home, but none of the teams in Group G look particularly threatening (although the Polish look threatening), so if Senegal reach the knock-out stages it wouldn’t surprise me.

Colombia

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Famous for drugs and shootings (then again, so is London). In the world of football, they are only known for two things: Carlos Valderrama’s massive permed hair, and their goalkeeper (who looked like Lionel Richie) performing his ‘scorpion kick’ at Wembley in 1995.

Japan

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Like the rest of Group G, Japan are boring at best – very much like their flag – however they seem like such a peaceful nation (no, I haven’t forgotten Pearl Harbor, but like Germany, it’s all in the past) and you can’t possibly take a country whose national sport is paper-folding seriously. Bless them.

So, there you have it. Choose your favourite, and support them like you were born there.

Thanks for reading x

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Herbie The Love Blog

On Monday, the televisual juggernaut that is ITV’s Love Island rolled back into town for a brand-new series.

Despite having never watched it before (well, I watched Celebrity Love Island about a decade ago, but all I remember is Jayne Middlemiss having a breakdown, whilst trying to mount anything with a penis for two weeks – including Calum Best, who appears to be nothing more than a tanned penis with nice hair), I think I have a pretty good idea of the format.

The fact I have never watched Love Island has nothing to do with snobbery – because I thoroughly enjoy Take Me Out and Celebrity Juice, which are hardly highbrow – it has just never really appealed to me before. It still doesn’t, frankly, but I have chosen to give it a try, purely for experimental purposes.

My reasons for taking on this challenge (and it is a challenge), are:

  1. I want to see how it will affect my intelligence;
  2. I’m an old romantic, and like to think there is someone out there for everyone, no matter how superficial they are;
  3. I have no blog material this week. Honestly, not even a shitty ‘top ten’;

If science lessons at school taught me anything, it’s that I should watch at least a week of Love Island to form a balanced view; but since my blog is always posted on a Friday, and because I genuinely fear for my mental health, I have decided to just watch the introductory show, where we meet this year’s guinea-pigs.

If, by some miracle, I love it, the experiment may be extended; but I am writing these opening paragraphs first, so no promises. To be honest, I suspect my getting hooked is about as likely as Donald Trump getting four more years, or England making it through the group stages of the World Cup, but you never know….

Episode 1 – Monday 4th June

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To start, we’re introduced to a Big Brother-style house, where the contestants will live (and love) – only it’s in Majorca, so the weather will be better. The producers clearly selected a Mediterranean island (over the likes of Wight, Man, and Canvey) because there is a far greater chance of the contestants ‘bumping uglies’ if they aren’t wearing much.

The first contestants are both women, wearing what were presumably once bikinis, before they shrank in the wash. As the first in, they embark on the obligatory ritual of high-pitched squealing, despite clearly hating each other already.  Makes sense, as I hate them both too, and I don’t even know their names yet. Ah, here we go…

First up is SAMIRA, 22, from London. She claims to be a ‘performer’, which I initially assumed meant ‘stripper’, but it turns out she has performed actual musical theatre. Now that she has stopped squealing like a mid-orgasm pig, she seems ok.

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Samira

The other girl is HAYLEY, 22, from Liverpool. She is a model (shock), and in her VT explains that she only knows one word in Spanish, which is the word for ‘prawns’ (although she is never tested on this). I’m not sure how much a diet of prawns is going to help her find love though.

When it comes to her own language, Hayley admits she ‘doesn’t use big words’ (another shock), and claims to have only slept with one person – presumably she means today.

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Hayley

Next to arrive is KENDALL, 26, from Blackpool. She’s quite pretty, but in a ‘Carol Vorderman meets Sophie Ellis-Bextor’ kind of way. Christ, I thought the other two could squeal, but there will be dogs going nuts as far as mainland Spain now. Kendall appears nice, but with a name like that I cannot help but detest her.

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Kendall

Contestant four is DANI, 21, a barmaid from Essex. Looks thick, sounds thick. I’ve already heard about Dani because, apparently, she is Danny Dyer’s daughter. Yes, Dani Dyer is Danny Dyer’s Daughter (say that three times whilst drunk). She just tried to quote Shakespeare, and got confused. Play to your strengths, love.

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Dani

Here’s LAURA, 29, from ‘Scotland’. How delightfully vague, Laura – are you on the fucking run or something? Or do you think those of us South of the border won’t have heard of Falkirk, or Dundee? Laura’s chest appears to have entered the villa a full minute before the rest of her. Honestly, you could hire out her boobs as a bouncy castle for children’s birthday parties.

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Laura

Enter the presenter, Caroline Flack (many have), who has come dressed as Big Bird for some reason. Great, now she’s squealing. I’m going to fast forward (ah, Sky+, whatever did we do before you?)

Here come the boys…

NIALL, 23, from Coventry is first. He claims to be a student AND construction worker; but presumably he is a police officer, cowboy and native American, depending  on who gets to the Village People dressing-up box first. Niall is obsessed with his hair, has a Harry Potter tattoo, and ‘used to be ugly’ – which implies he finds himself gorgeous now. Prick.

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Niall

This is interesting (and, by that, I mean ‘not-very-interesting’). Now that Niall has arrived, the girls have to decide whether they are attracted to him or not, by lining up and then stepping forward if they would like to have his babies. I do hope no one moves, and his colossal ego takes a battering…. ah, screw you for stepping forward Kendall (and he probably will).

Boy number two is ALEX, 27, from Wales (another one who doesn’t like to give away his location). Did he just say he’s a doctor?! I half expected him to follow that with ‘a doctor of lurve’; but, no, he’s an actual doctor.

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Alex

Despite Alex being well-educated (I assume), not a single girl has stepped forward. Hayley even admits that she’s not keen on him because ‘he doesn’t have a tan’. Not that she’s a shallow heartless bitch or anything.

Apparently, Alex now gets to pick from the four girls who rejected him, and he’s opted for Laura. I wonder what first attracted Alex to Laura? Actually, I can think of two things (and the attraction was most likely their gravitational pull).

Next is WES, 20, who only moves in slow motion. He claims to be a ‘design engineer in the nuclear industry’, which sounds important, but since it took him three attempts to even say it, I call bullshit.

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Wes

Laura, despite being ‘coupled’ with Alex, has decided she likes the look of Wes more (although I get the impression she’d have preferred a warthog to Alex); so she’s ditched the pasty-skinned doctor for a guy who clearly Googled ‘what sounds like a clever job?’ (then forgot the answer). Alex has been resigned to the ‘subs bench’, apparently, and looks like he might cry.

Dani is talking constantly. I’m not sure why, as she’s only making herself even less attractive, and it was a pretty dire (pun intended) starting point to begin with. She needs to shut up.

EYAL, 22, is next (pronounced ee-yaal, apparently, which is how you address someone called ‘Al’ in Yorkshire). He says his best feature is his hair, which means he’s in big fucking trouble, because his hair looks like someone shaved the pubic region of a ’70s porn star, then glued the results to his head. Think ‘Mika cameos in Baywatch’.

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Mika

Eyal is a model (obviously), and claims to be ‘spiritual’, because he mistakenly believes this makes him irresistible. All three unattached girls step forward, because in the seven minutes since they arrived, they have become terrified of being left alone. Eyal chooses Hayley (pube-head meet thick scouser, thick scouser meet pube-head).

Lastly, JACK, 26, makes his entrance. It’s hard to see what Jack looks like, because of the tremendous glare from his teeth; but at least no ships will crash into the coast, should bad weather descend. I imagine you’d spot those gnashers from space, long before the Great Wall of China. Jack sells pens for a living, and says ‘innit’ every three seconds.

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Jack

Needless to say, the two remaining girls start fighting over Jack in desperation; visions of being spinsters by their late twenties flashing through their tiny minds – and it’s Samira’s turn to taste bitter rejection, as Jack opts for Dani over her.

Samira and Alex are now (reluctantly) thrust together, as the rejects who nobody else wanted – which is the Love Island equivalent of being picked last in P.E.

Hang on, there’s a sixth lad, which means either the producers are shit at counting (entirely plausible), or we’re about to have more boys than girls. ADAM, 22 (like hell he is), appears to have been chiseled out of granite, and doesn’t he just know it. I don’t think it would be possible for him to love himself any more, if he was licking his own photograph.

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Adam

I wouldn’t last two minutes on this show. I mean, I’m nowhere near good-looking enough, obviously, and would probably come across as relatively intelligent compared to this lot (which hasn’t done Alex any favours), but I just don’t have the ego.

This is Greg. He’s 38, but looks and feels 48. He has two kids, has to pee at least once every hour (and prefers to do so sitting down), and his right hip crunches when he tries to climb stairs. 

Form an orderly line, ladies.

Hang on, did they just say this is on for eight weeks?! The bloody world cup is only four weeks. I can already feel my brain decomposing, and I’ve not made it through episode one yet.

They’re now spending some quality time in their couples. Hayley is trying to pronounce Eyal’s name, but it turns out she struggles with short words as well as big ones. She has managed to say Eyal fifteen different ways (all of them wrong), and with her high-pitched voice she sounds like a cat who is desperate to be let in. She just asked what ‘superficial’ means.

Meanwhile, Laura – who paired up with Wes less than an hour ago (having already ditched Alex) – is now attracted to latecomer Adam. Brilliantly, Laura informs Dani that she fancies Adam, to which Dani replies ‘You fancy him, don’t you? I can tell’. She literally just fucking told you, Dani. Try to keep up.

To win Adam over, Laura appears to be applying vast quantities of blusher to her chest, which could easily result in global shortages of the stuff, if she’s planning on covering them entirely.

I swear, if one more person actually says ‘hashtag’ before something, I’m going to fly to Majorca, invest in a chainsaw, and not regret my actions for a second.

Hashtag bloodbath

I can’t watch any more, I’m losing the will to live. Sorry everyone, I couldn’t even make it through the first episode.

I’m done.

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Blogs and Girls

This is my youngest son, Isaac:

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Yes, that’s right, he’s my son. I am well aware that he is extremely pretty, and has long hair, but he is still very much a little boy (believe me, he mentions his willy even more frequently than I do), and it’s amazing how many people struggle with the concept of a boy having long hair, even in 2018.

Isaac’s hair initially grew beyond what society apparently deems ‘normal’ length about a year ago, because he didn’t want to go to the barbers to have it cut. The more we tried to persuade him that barbers are not scary people you should be fearful of (unlike murderers, tax inspectors, and dentists, for example), the more he refused to listen. It has now got to the point where, if we so much as suggest getting his hair cut (and this is not for the reasons you might imagine), he curls up into a ball like a cornered hedgehog.

The thing is, over the past year, Isaac has moved away from merely being scared of getting his hair cut; and his main reason for not wanting to visit the barber now, is that he simply adores his long hair.

True, he hates getting it tangled or matted (usually with ketchup or ice cream), and in hot weather it can become an unwanted source of additional insulation for him (to the extent he is now often seen in just his pants, with his long hair blowing behind him as he runs); but, generally speaking, he adores his mane, and it is now very much a part of him. In fact, if he did suddenly get his hair chopped, it would be some time before we adapted to his new look.

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Isaac is very much an individual and unique little boy, who doesn’t wish to conform to whatever society dictates to be the norm – and I refer here to not only his hair, but also his behaviour in general, which is best described (as I have many times before), as ‘feral’ – so if he wants to have long hair, he is jolly well going to have long hair, and fuck anyone who questions his decision. Truth be told, I admire anyone who has this attitude to life, and only wish I was so dismissive of what people thought of me.

In recent months, now that the weather is warmer, he has decided that he wants to wear his hair up more, and as soon as the ladies at his nursery started putting it in a pony tail, or bunches (and, on one occasion, a French plait – see below), this only encouraged him further. This does not mean he relates more to being a girl, or prefers girly stereotypes (whatever they may be); he merely loves his hair to bits (ketchup-encrusted bits, admittedly).

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I’m ashamed to admit that, initially, I wanted him to get his hair cut for selfish reasons, because I was so annoyed by the strange looks when another parent or passer-by in the street would overhear us call his name; or, worse, when they would actually engage with us and refer to our ‘little girl’ or ‘daughter’.

At first, I would correct them with a simple and stern ‘actually, Isaac here is a boy’, but I eventually got so sick of the confusion in their reaction – or, on odd occasions, an actual look of disapproval – that it just became easier to ignore their comment and say his name louder next time to really mess with their heads.

But now I’m getting seriously pissed off with it all.

I don’t care if he has long hair. I don’t care if he enjoys playing with his dolls and unicorns (he’s obsessed with unicorns). I don’t care if his favourite colour is pink. I don’t care if, one day, he decides that he’d quite like to wear a dress please, Daddy (although that does mean actually buying him one, and we don’t have enough space for any more clothing as it is, because 82% of our house is taken up by my wife’s shoe collection).

Who decided that dolls and unicorns are just for girls, anyway? When was pink allocated to one gender, and blue the other? Why shouldn’t he spend his birthday voucher on two rainbow-coloured teddies if he wants to?

At Ollie’s football club on a Thursday evening, there are two young girls who turn up every week with their Dads, and whenever I see them playing, I’m disappointed. I don’t imagine for one second, that there are only two girls of Ollie’s age in the whole of Sandbach who enjoy playing football, and it saddens me to think they don’t join clubs like this one, because they are either afraid or embarrassed of being labelled ‘boyish’.

Ollie has done many things that have disappointed me over his eight years on this planet. In recent months he has become extremely sulky, stroppy and stubborn. Prior to that, he started to misbehave and get into trouble at school (only for talking in class, mind), and when he was a baby, he shit on me. A lot.  But I have never been so disappointed in him, as the time he criticised his goalkeeper at football club, purely because she was a girl. Ok, as it happens, she’s not the best player in the world, but then again neither is he, and I gave him a severe bollocking for having such a chauvinistic attitude.

My grandparents grew up at a time when racism was still widely accepted, and even though society has come a long way in the last few decades, we still see racism even now – for example, we will almost certainly encounter it at this summer’s world cup in Russia.

In 2018, we are still faced with gender inequality in terms of wages, and, until this year, women were not even allowed to drive in countries like Saudi Arabia.

People are still persecuted and looked upon differently, because of their gender, age, race, religion and sexual orientation. It’s fucking ridiculous. If we don’t educate our children, now, then this will never change.

If Isaac is made to feel different, or odd, or wrong, purely because he wants to have long hair, wear pink, or play with a doll, then society as we know it is totally screwed.

He may grow out of this phase of his life, he may not. I frankly couldn’t give a shit either way, so long as he’s happy, and so long as – if he does choose to pursue what society deems to be a more boyish lifestyle in the future – he does so for his own reasons, and not because of peer pressure, or, heaven forbid, bullying.

Look, he’s not perfect. In fact, far from it. There are very few days where I don’t end up telling him off, for one reason or another; but I still love him, and that will never change no matter what life he chooses for himself, and no matter how much he morphs into Drew Barrymore from E.T.

So, next time you see a young child in the street (or an adult for that matter), don’t automatically make assumptions about them and their life decisions. They may be very self-conscious of their appearance; but, hopefully, if they are anything like my son, they won’t give a flying fuck what you think.

And I think we can all learn something from an attitude like that.

Thanks for reading x

 

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