Fast Metablogism

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

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

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

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

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

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

9f0c6

Not actually me, but alarmingly accurate

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

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

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

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

phones.c16dc7df94eb

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image result for chocolate around mouth gif

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

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

imagestravaliveukcyclinggroup

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And, on that image….

Thanks for reading x

Standard

The Blog Witch Project

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

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

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

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

gty_halloween_mask_nt_111027_wmain

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

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

0002900_swizzels-parma-violets-3kg

Parma violets: Incomprehensibly shit

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

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

Halloween, however, has changed for the worse.

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

I’ll happily explain why Halloween is now shit…

The ‘Children’

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

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

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

east-17.jpg_effected

Delinquents 

The ‘Outfits’

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

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

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

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

The ‘Treats’

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

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

The ‘Tricks’

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

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

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

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

Pumpkin carving

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

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

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

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

Other parents….

IMG_0840

…. Me.

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

***

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

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

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

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

Standard

Don’t Let The Bed Blogs Bite

I lie there in waiting

Alert on your stairs

A vast black body

Antennae with hairs

To the naked eye

I may well be dead

But I’m patiently sat

‘Til it’s your time for bed

Then as you approach

And squint in the light

I’ll flutter one wing

To give you a fright

Then I’m still once again

Like a miniature bat

As you lean in to look

“What the fuck is that?”

A creature of darkness

An insect-shaped goth

A prince of the night time

I’m the world’s biggest moth

black_moth_2.05.14_2

I patiently wait

While you search for a book

Take your best shot, pal

I don’t give a fuck

You think you’ve surprised me

Caught me unawares

As the book crashes down

There’s a smudge on the stairs

I lay flat and look squashed

It’s part of my game

While you get a tissue

To gather my frame

You carry me off

Throw my ‘corpse’ in the bin

But as I land in your trash

I stifle a grin

As the lid closes down

I crawl, like a sloth

To wait for my moment

I’m the world’s biggest moth

black-witch-moth

The very next day

The bin opens once more

You’ve forgotten me now

Think your house is secure

With that first crack of light

I dart through the space

And the next thing you know

I’m there IN YOUR FACE

I flutter; you splutter

You shout, yelp and swear

Your mind wanders back

To that stain on the stair

You thought I was dead

You fell for my trick

Now you’re waving your arms

And you look like a dick

You grab for a weapon

Locate a dishcloth

But when you turn back I’ve gone

I’m the world’s biggest moth

images

I flew near the window

Of that you are certain

But where am I now?

Is that me on the curtain?

I’m the master of stealth

The king of disguise

My huge body vanished

In front of your eyes.

I smile to myself

As you strike what you think

Is me near the window

While I’m sat by the sink

You swing, and you swear

Then you sigh and give up

As I skip cross your bowl

Wipe my arse on your cup

My gigantic frame

Like a winged behemoth

I don’t give a shit

I’m the world’s biggest moth

You head to the lounge

Plunge the room into dark

While I busy myself

By leaving my mark

It’s fun flying round

But my ultimate goal

Is to scare you again

Near the washing up bowl

I rest on the edge

Give myself time to think

But then lose my footing

And fall in the sink

I flap, start to panic

Must escape, but then…. Fuck

I’m too far from the side

I can’t swim, and I’m stuck

I’m trapped in the water

Surrounded by froth

Could this be the end

Of the world’s biggest moth?

download

When you wake the next morning

And go to your sink

To fill up the kettle

And make your first drink

Your tired eyes glance down

Can’t believe what they see

In among all the bubbles

That right pal, it’s me.

The master of evasion

Has finally been found

Because I got over cocky

And ended up drowned

So, as you scoop me out

Dump me back in the bin

That’s it: ‘Game Over’

I lose and you win

The dinosaurs, the dodo

The woolly mammoth

I too am no more

The world’s biggest moth

download (1)

Alone in the darkness

My last resting place

Never again

Will I fly at your face…

… but as the bin closed

Did you see my wing twitch?

I was really dead, right?

 

Sleep well, bitch.

Standard

Barclays Blog Plc

Dear Barclays Bank,

(Before I begin, I must advise you that this letter is being recorded for training and quality control purposes, not to mention forming the basis of a blog entry on Friday 5th October 2018.)

A few months ago, I received a couple of cheques. Admittedly they are only for £20 each, so not the largest sums in the world, but it is still money that would be more helpful to me if it were sat in my account, rather than on two pieces of paper in my wallet.

Unfortunately, having already closed the Barclays next door to my office a few years ago, in July you decided that the Sandbach branch was also surplus to requirements, so now that has gone too. I believe the rationale was along the lines of nobody wanting to meet instantly with a representative from their bank anymore, when modern technology affords us all the luxury of being connected to someone in a foreign country, who has a poor grasp of English, within a couple of hours.

Anyway, your decision to close all of those nasty, cumbersome branches, now means I cannot get to my nearest one (which I believe to be somewhere in Wiltshire) during their opening hours of 11am – 2pm on every third Tuesday of the month, so I have encountered some difficulty paying the two cheques into my account. Call me petty, but I resent wasting a day of my (limited) annual leave, purely to do some personal banking.

“Never mind,” your online support muppet cheerily said when I first raised this problem back in July (and I must stress here, ‘muppet’ is a label I have given her, but feel free to begin using it in a more formal capacity if you wish, to address anyone in your employ who clearly failed their McDonald’s entrance exam), “did you know you can actually pay cheques in to your account at any local Post Office?” (she said this with such enthusiasm, she was clearly expecting me to whoop with joy at the news, so I can only assume she was under the misapprehension that everyone in England lives either inside, above, or next to a Post Office).

I responded to her e-mail to explain that, whilst this may well have been a feasible option (I didn’t want to admit there is a Post Office two minutes from my office), I would presumably require some form of ‘paying-in book’ to accompany said cheques, and the only one in my possession pre-dated Barclays other genius decision to change all their sort codes last year. As such, it is very much invalid (much like her suggestion).

Undeterred, ‘Sally No Stars’ responded once more, (feel free to give her a name badge to this effect), confirming that she had ordered some new paying-in slips for me, and they would arrive in ‘five working days’. That was approximately six weeks ago.

When they didn’t arrive within the time frame she promised (I actually allowed three weeks to be on the safe side), and I inquired as to their whereabouts, I received an apology and assurance that a second batch would be sent immediately. That was the end of August.

Left with no choice other than to complain, I then received a phone call a few days later from someone with slightly more about her (she might even have her first star, but only in something menial like ‘answering the phone’ or ‘photocopying’), who again apologised for her predecessor’s stupidity, since it seemed neither batch of paying-in slips had ever been ordered.

She reassured me that she was now placing the relevant order; but went on to explain that, in the amount of time which had passed since I first contacted your company, technology had actually advanced to the point where I could now pay my cheques in via your mobile banking app. All I had to do was take a simple photograph of the front and back of each, and that would be good enough for you to credit my account accordingly (presumably this giant technological leap for mankind was funded by all the branch closures, or have you already set those millions aside for your exorbitant Christmas bonuses?).

This all sounded wonderful, of course, but having spent several hours taking so many photographs of these fucking cheques that their image is now permanently etched onto my retinas, it seems whatever I do the app refuses to accept that what I am uploading is indeed a photograph of a bona fide cheque.

If the app would tell me precisely WHY it doubts the authenticity of my photos, I might be able to rectify the situation, but all I get is an error code, followed by some rather patronising advice to make sure:

  1. ‘There is sufficient lighting’ – ah, see, there I was taking the photograph under my coat, down a manhole, in the middle of the Mersey fucking tunnel. Except, having now taken the image in brighter and brighter environments – until I eventually ended up in our back garden, on a sunny day, using the flash on my phone and a desk lamp for good measure – I have concluded that the only level of brightness you will find acceptable, is if I am stood on the surface of the bastarding sun at the time;
  2. ‘The handwriting is clear’ – I assume, by this, you don’t mean the handwriting of the person who sent the cheques, as surely even you understand that I have no control over that whatsoever?;
  3. ‘All four corners of the cheque are included’ – silly me, since I thought I could take four images of the various quarters of the cheque, then jumble them up to make a nice little jigsaw puzzle for Sally No Stars to have a crack at. Admittedly, four-piece jigsaws are usually aimed at toddlers, but perhaps she can ask a colleague for help?

Anyway, the bottom line is, the photographs I have taken (or at least image #62 onwards), could not be clearer if you were looking at the actual cheques themselves, so I have arrived at the conclusion that, either (a) your mobile banking app is a crock of shit that doesn’t work; or (b) this is all a little game you have devised to send your customers slowly insane.

Now, I strongly suspect it is the former, but just in case it is the latter, and you like annoying little games, I have devised one of my own. Since you won’t accept any of the images I have taken of my actual cheques, and I assure you they are both perfectly legitimate, there follows a series of cheque-related images (or things that sound a bit like cheque, as I disappointingly ran out of ideas rather quickly) for you to decipher instead.

The answers are below, so don’t cheat, ok?

download (5)

1.

255px-Flag_of_the_Czech_Republic.svg

2.

download (1)

3.

download

4.

484227672-612x612

5.

325px-Chequers2

6.

download (3)

7.

Chick 2 days old, isolated on white

8.

chicoWEB

9.

220px-Chuck_Norris_May_2015

10.

Chuckie

11.

download (2)

12.

 

Answers:

  1. Czech Republic
  2. Czech Flag
  3. Chequered Flag
  4. Petr Cech
  5. A ‘check’ mark
  6. Chequers
  7. A cheek
  8. A chick
  9. Chico
  10. Chuck Norris
  11. ‘Chuckie’ from Rugrats
  12. Chiquitos (that one was obvious, but I was clutching at straws by this point)

Anyway, don’t worry about responding to this letter, as I doubt you’ll be able to help me – unless you fancy sending a member of your staff to my house to collect the cheques personally? Even if they travel from wherever your call centre is based, the chances are they’d arrive long before I manage to pay anything in to my account.

Thanks for nothing, Barclays, stick it up your arse.

Kindest Regards

***

Addendum – Thursday 4th October 2018

Success!

After nearly three months, two phone calls, seven e-mails, over one hundred photographs, fourteen headaches, an hour spent searching Google Images (for my own amusement, admittedly), and three visits to the Post Office (on the first two visits, the queue of pensioners – at lunchtime – was out of the fucking door), I have FINALLY paid my cheques in – with the new paying-in book and envelopes you eventually sent, I hasten to add, and not via the utterly useless ‘photo’ option on your mobile banking app.

Ok, I’ve probably spent more than the £40 in premium rate phone calls to your company, and I now have to sift through my phone to delete all 119 images of the cheques (you better hope, for your sake, I don’t develop a Repetitive Strain Injury in my thumb), but we got there in the end, eh?

Purely out of curiosity, I decided to work out what else could have been achieved in the three months it took me to pay a couple of simple cheques into my account with you, and here are my ten favourites:

  1. One-third of a human pregnancy;
  2. An entire dog or cat pregnancy;
  3. Three (consecutive) gerbil pregnancies;
  4. Two Falklands wars;
  5. The reign of King Edward V;
  6. Half a game of Monopoly;
  7. Walking from Land’s End to John o’ Groats…. and back;
  8. One series of X-Factor;
  9. Three football World Cups;
  10. A quarter of a game of cricket.

Oh, and just so you know, the next time my account goes overdrawn, and you try to charge me for the privilege, I’ll be requiring a photograph of my overdraft as proof. Only, the photograph must be taken at 3,000 feet, whilst in a hot air balloon, on a slightly overcast day, using a camera from 1973, by a woman named Susan.

It will then take me approximately three months to respond to you.

Standard

The Last BlogScout

A couple of weeks ago, I went camping with Ollie.

Ok, it wasn’t proper camping, and it was only one night, but bearing in mind I am to nature what Stevie Wonder is to clay pigeon shooting, I was still well outside my comfort zone. In fact, there was no comfort in this particular zone whatsoever.

A few months back, the PTA at Ollie’s school announced they would be hosting a ‘Camp Out’ on the school field, and it would be an opportunity for parents and children to sleep in tents, whilst enjoying a BBQ, live music, and all the other delights which camping has to offer (although, at present, those delights elude me).

Stupidly, I made the mistake of asking Ollie whether he was keen, and naturally he thought it was a fantastic idea. I only had myself to blame, as I should know by now that there is very little Ollie will not try at least once – apart from vegetables.

So, even though we owned no camping equipment whatsoever (the last time I slept in a tent was the Leeds Festival in 2000, and the fact I haven’t since – despite the intervening eighteen years – gives you some idea of how ‘fun’ I find sleeping outdoors), I was now committed.

Having carried out some research, and armed with a discount code from Mountain Warehouse, a few weeks ago I purchased a three-man tent, two sleeping bags, a double airbed (with pump), and travel pillows.

My main reason for investing in a three man tent, even though it would only be myself and Ollie sleeping in it, was so I would have extra room (at 6’3”, I need all the space I can get). What I didn’t foresee, was my wife suggesting I can now take both boys camping at some point, but I can assure you that there is a far greater chance of Satan building a snowman.

Anyway, as the event drew near, it became obvious that the weather wasn’t going to be great – and even though some people believe rain adds to the ‘charm’ of camping, I am not one of those people. Look, some people believe in clairvoyants, the healing powers of little crystals, and that the earth is flat – so clearly some people are morons.

Still, having forked out a tidy sum – despite the discount – I wasn’t going to let rain spoil our plans, and even though I am more Paddington Bear than Bear Grylls, I was determined to put my differences with camping aside, for the sake of my rather excited son.

I did, however, begin to worry that I would be the only Dad who struggled erecting his tent, and that other men might judge me. I am sure this was nothing more than paranoia on my part, and they would be more likely to judge me for sniggering every time someone said ‘erect’; but I have always been sensitive about what people think of me, and the fact I am the antithesis of a manly-man often plays on my mind.

I therefore chose to partially erect *snigger* the tent in our living room beforehand, as a trial run. I wasn’t planning on hammering tent pegs into the carpet, obviously, but if I could at least form an idea of how the damn thing assembled, I might minimise the risk of being UselessDad™ throughout the main event.

Except, not only was the tent far too big for the area between our sofas (which really irritated me, as I pride myself on having excellent special awareness; some say it is my best – or only – quality), but I chose the very moment my wife was trying to get Isaac asleep to attempt my erection *still sniggering*, and made too much noise in the process.

After more than half an hour of struggling with a piece of canvas so vast, I had started to wonder whether Mountain Warehouse had sent me a fucking parachute by mistake, I gave up, and reassured myself that I had at least gained an impression of what was required.

However, as is so often the case in these situations, folding the tent back up into the bag from whence it came was damn-near impossible; and even though I had predicted this might be an issue (so I had memorised precisely how it unraveled in the first place),  simply reversing the process did not produce the results I was after. The fucking thing had seemingly doubled in size as soon as it was exposed to air.

I don’t know whether Mountain Warehouse had vacuum-packed my tent, or flattened it with an industrial machine of some description (perhaps a steam roller), but there was not a chance I was going to be able to fold everything back into the same size.

A woman in this situation will patiently unravel the tent again, before methodically repeating the process of re-folding the components over and over, until she has satisfactorily replicated the original factory environment. She will then delicately return the tent to its bag, zip it shut with a triumphant smile, and go about her business.

A manly-man, on the other hand, will bear-hug the tent until all the air has escaped, and it has been adequately squashed back into a package small enough to force into the bag. He will then use his manly arms to yank the zip closed.

Me? I unfolded and refolded the tent at least a dozen times, becoming redder and angrier with every attempt, whilst uttering words no inanimate object should ever be subjected to. Let’s just say, ‘camping’, ‘children’ and ‘countryside’ aren’t the only C-words my tent has encountered.

I did eventually get everything back into the bag, but not without a great deal of effort, some burst blood vessels, more terrible language, and the fear I may have broken something (aside from myself) in the process. Still, everything was packed away – albeit into a bag now straining at the zip – and I resigned myself to ‘winging it’ on the day.

Due to the fact the ‘Camp Out’ started at 4pm (once the main school rush had dispersed), and because I didn’t want to be putting my tent up after everyone else – when they would have nothing better to do than laugh at my inadequacies – I booked the afternoon off work and collected Ollie early.

Whilst we were still one of the last to arrive, I was relieved to discover most had already pitched their tents and were congregating on the playground, rather than pulling up chairs to witness my abject failure as a father.

This was for the best, because when it came to unpacking our tent again (I say ‘unpacking’, but as soon as I forced the zip open, it more or less erupted out, like a volcano of blue canvas), and I had a bit more room to study the components, the assembly was not as I had imagined.

Thankfully, some children were playing football on the other side of the school field, so I sent Ollie to join them, while I commenced shouting and swearing at the tent once more. I was extremely careful not to utter any Grade-A expletives this time, but I did lose it at one point, and hiss through gritted teeth:

“Look, I’m going to insert my pole A into your bracket B in a minute, you piece of shit.”

I’m not proud of it, but I was under pressure to complete – and maintain – my erection in a suitably fast time (if I had a pound…), and the stress got the better of me.

Thankfully, in a moment of clarity, everything suddenly clicked – both metaphorically and, in terms of bracket B (as well as my hip), literally – and by the time Ollie wandered back to see how I was getting on, my massive heap of canvas now slightly resembled a tent. Kiss my arse, Ray Mears.

Utilising Ollie in very much a ‘hold this here, and don’t let go or I’ll scream’ capacity, I managed to secure the tent pegs and complete the remainder of our flimsy shelter for the evening without too much fuss.

20180914_182100.jpg

The inner-tent then attached with comparative ease, and despite the pump for our air bed making an embarrassingly high-pitched wheezing sound (which could have easily been mistaken for my christening the tent with an elderly asthmatic prostitute), before long we were fully erect and good to go (sorry, I can’t help it).

Ollie appeared delighted, and even congratulated me with “Well done, Daddy, you can have a nap now” (I need to stop going for a nap every time I achieve something useful around the house), but I decided to celebrate my success with a can of beer instead.

Fortunately, we finished putting the tent up just in time, as the Heavens opened shortly afterwards, which – rather than shelter with me – was Ollie’s signal to go back to playing football.

As the rain got heavier, I tried to shout for him to come back; but he either couldn’t hear me, or had engaged his selective deafness, because he didn’t so much as glance in my direction. Conscious that he only had one change of clothes, which were supposed to be for the following day, I reluctantly left the sanctuary of our tent to drag him back inside.

Whilst he initially refused, once I had carefully explained the situation using words like ‘soaked’, ‘pneumonia’ and ‘bollocking’, he eventually returned to dry out. The fact I was now drenched as well did nothing for my mood, and the final straw was when he stumbled into the tent, kicked my freshly opened can of beer over, and soaked our ‘porch’. Fortunately, the can stayed out of the sleeping quarters, and missed soaking our bags, which was the only thing that saved Ollie from being launched over the nearest hedge.

I have to say, however, once my rage subsided, the remainder of the evening went really well, and the PTA did an amazing job – with a BBQ, music, marshmallows, and games for the kids (including a treasure hunt around the playground).

Ok, I got barely two hours sleep – thanks in no small part to the fact I had purchased a sleeping bag ever-so-slightly too short, and because Ollie somehow managed to sleep like a starfish (despite being in a bag of his own), which resulted in me spending most of the night with his knee embedded in my lower spine – but our first ever camping trip, and my first night in a tent for eighteen years, was a relative success.

I should be ready to do it all again in, oh, another eighteen years or so….

Thanks for reading x

Standard

Run FatBlog Run (Sandbach)

run-fatboy-run
Last Sunday morning, I ran the Sandbach 10k for the second time, despite saying at the finish line last year that I would never run another 10k in my life.

Of course, since then I have decided to run ten such races this year, all in aid of my chosen charity (Kidscan), and Sandbach was number seven on the list. The finish line is therefore very much in sight.

Technically, this was supposed to be race number eight, but ever since I had to walk part of the Tatton 10k in May, I have been kicking myself (not literally), because the challenge was to actually run ten races. To me, walking during one of them – even if only for a few minutes – felt like cheating.

So, even though I had the valid excuse of being scared shitless that I would end up in hospital again if I pushed too hard (and, if you don’t know what I mean by that, have a read here: https://middlerageddad.com/2018/04/13/run-fatblog-run-whitchurch/), and despite the fact my wife asked me not to, I have re-entered the Tatton 10k for next month in order to make amends.

As it happens – and rather fortuitously – Tatton is the only event that I can do again (because it is held monthly, whereas the rest of my races are annual); and since the friend who was due to run it with me originally had to pull out due to injury, but has been able to transfer his place, I have an added incentive to try again. Let’s just hope I can run it all (and finish under fifty minutes) this time, otherwise I’ll be tempted to take part in November (and, if necessary, December), until I get it right.

Anyway, last weekend was all about my home town of Sandbach, which is where my hatred of 10k races began last September. Whilst I still despise running, and feel sick in the days leading up to a race, I wasn’t as apprehensive of this particular event for two main reasons:

  1. I have run it before, so I knew the route, and that I was capable of completing it;
  2. For the first time on this challenge (after my mate had to drop out of the Tatton 10k in May) I had a running buddy, as my brother was taking part to support me.

Initially, when he first entered the Sandbach 10k a few months ago, my brother made his intentions very clear – he wanted to beat me. And, after only a month or so of training, having not really run long distances before, it looked very much like he would, as he was completing a few miles at a decent pace. However, when he didn’t run at all in the three months leading up to last Sunday, and confessed his plan was to simply ‘wing it’, I did begin to worry for him slightly.

Then, when the race instructions arrived last week, informing us that the timing chips would be fastened to our laces (rather than our running numbers), his plan apparently changed from finishing faster than me, to simply staying close enough to be able to remove his shoe and launch it past me at the finish line.

Anyway, without further ado, here are my scores:

Time: 48:45 (which, if we ignore Whitchurch – where I ran too fast and collapsed – is a PB)

Position: 90th (out of 368)

Cost: £16.00 – which is not only one of the cheapest events, but very good value bearing in mind what we got for our money.

Course: I don’t know whether it’s because some of the courses since last year’s Sandbach 10k have been horrible, or that my memory has softened over time, but I genuinely remembered the Sandbach route being relatively flat – apart from the railway bridge you encounter twice:

ScreenHunter_04 Sep. 12 22.13

It’s steeper than it looks

Unfortunately, I was mistaken, because whilst there weren’t too many steep climbs, the course was far more ‘undulating’ (which is seemingly 10k speak for ‘fucking hilly’) than I remembered.

Having said that, the route was all on decent roads (apart from the few potholes the organisers had thoughtfully stuck traffic cones in to warn us); the countryside scenery was pleasant (if a little dull, and, at one point, smelling of shit – which I assure you was the farm we were passing at the time, and not me); and it was a relatively straight-forward circuit..

Each kilometre was clearly marked, there were marshals at key points (although I could have done without every child being offered an annoying cow bell to ring as we went past), and the final straight offered a nice little sprint finish for those with any energy left – 8/10

Weather: Fortunately, the rain which had been forecast for most of the morning (and which was certainly coming down while we registered), stopped just as we headed to the start line, and the entire race – for us at least – was in sunshine. Ok, it was a little windy (again, not me), but otherwise the weather was spot on – 9/10

Organisation: There was no fancy pre-race instruction pack this time, but the e-mail which came through last week contained all of the information we required, and crucially made no reference to banning headphones (which, had the organisers done so, may very well have seen my brother drop out in protest).

Registration on the day was well organised, if a little cramped – which unfortunately led to me losing my timing chip with about ten minutes to go (many naughty words followed, but we located it just in time).

The results were also a little late being posted online, so even though the organisation was generally very good, I’ll mark Sandbach down a little for that (whilst giving an extra point for allowing us to wear headphones) – 8/10

Official Photos: The race photos were again courtesy of Bryan Dale, whose website I am fast becoming familiar with, but unfortunately ‘fast’ doesn’t describe the uploading of them, as they didn’t start appearing until yesterday. Still, they were entirely free to download and keep, without any irritating copyright watermarks printed across them, so I can’t complain. Here are the ones I appeared in:

8/10

I’ll also give credit to my good lady wife, for snapping the following additions (including capturing my sprint finish past three runners just before the line):

Medal: A little plain, and I am (probably irrationally) irked by the splitting of ‘Sandbach’ as though it is two separate words – however it is solid, good quality, and a nice little addition to my ever-growing collection – 7/10

39026898_681819275516391_5155702600661729280_n

(This is the organisers photo, I don’t have five medals)

Goody-bag: I’m torn here, because normally when there is a good quality running shirt for all finishers, the goody bag is always minimal (or, in some cases – Birchwood, for example – non-existent).

I should, therefore, be grateful that we were at least given a carrier bag of ‘treats’, but because these were supplied by the two main sponsors, who happened to be a salt company (bag of salt), and bakery (loaf of bread), they weren’t exactly what I fancied having just run six-and-a-bit miles. Salty sandwich, anyone?

In fairness, we also got a chocolate bar, which I would normally be delighted with, but it was a Bounty (and, as everyone knows, Bounty is at the lower end of the chocolate league, along with Lion bars and Double Deckers). I mean, full marks for the gesture, Sandbach, but next year might I suggest sponsorship from a local brewery and chip shop?

Anyway, the shirt – whilst the same colour as the Alderley Edge one – is very nice indeed (despite splitting Sandbach into two words again) – 7/10

Post-race refreshment: This comprised the customary bottle of water, and a banana (which I gave to my niece, as I don’t like bananas). Ok, I could have made myself a salty banana sandwich (which sounds like a euphemism for something kinky), but in the end I decided not to bother – 6/10

Summary:

Course: 8/10

Weather: 9/10

Organisation: 8/10

Photos: 8/10

Medal: 7/10

Goody-bag: 7/10

Refreshments: 6/10

All of which means, we have a new leader:

Sandbach                            53/70                     (76%)

Colshaw Hall                      52/70                     (74%)

Alderley Edge                     51/70                     (73%)

Birchwood                          49/70                     (70%)

Whitchurch:                       49/70                     (70%)

Tatton Park:                        47/70                     (67%)

Oulton Park:                       46/70                     (66%)

Poynton:                              39/70                     (56%)

Sandbach is now my favourite 10k so far (although I use the term ‘favourite’ loosely, since I detest all running), and bearing in mind I only have Tatton – which I have already completed once – Arley Hall and Wilmslow remaining, this score will take some beating.

If you have read and enjoyed this entry, and would care to sponsor me, here is a link to my Just Giving page:

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

(Yes, Isaac is dressed as Santa)

Finally, since I suspect many won’t bother reading this entry to the end (if at all), and as a reward for those who have persevered, I’ll let you into a little (embarrassing) secret….

Once I got home following the run, I went for a shower, and decided to test the fancy ‘post-exercise muscle-cooling’ shower gel that my wife bought for me recently. Without going into too much detail (although I fear I may), by the time I realised the true strength of the gel, I had already applied copious amounts to my body – including my ‘gentleman’s region’.

I regretted my decision almost immediately, as my reaction quickly progressed from ‘Ooh, that’s a bit tingly’, to ‘Jesus Christ, that’s cold’, and finally ‘WHAT IN THE NAME OF HOLY FUCK IS HAPPENING TO MY GENITALS?!’ in a matter of seconds.

For want of a better description, it was like someone had cryogenically (or cryogenitally) frozen my penis from the inside out. It wasn’t painful, as such, but I did fear that the effects may be permanent, and I would be pissing icicles for the rest of my living days. Honestly, it was like I was sporting a Mr Freeze Ice Pop down there.

Fortunately, after a great deal of scrubbing, normal service has been resumed.

wow GIF by Call of Duty World League

And, on that bombshell….

Thanks for reading x

Standard

Always The Underblogs

Last weekend, I became a Footy Dad.

By that, I mean I became one of those fathers who spends his Saturday/Sunday mornings in all kinds of weather (and it was most certainly raining at the time), watching his child play for a local football team.

I’m not entirely sure whether ‘Footy Dad’ is the correct term, as I’ve only been to one match so far, and none of the other parents have explained what we should refer to ourselves as yet (I felt silly asking, and it didn’t seem important at the time); but I suppose the best way to explain it is this: I became the male British equivalent of a ‘Soccer Mom’ – only ‘Footy Dad’ sounds less sexy.

Anyway, if we thought Isaac’s first day at school could have gone better, that was nothing compared to poor Ollie’s debut in the Mid-Cheshire Youth Football League (although at least Ollie didn’t cling to me and refuse to go onto the pitch).

Ollie only joined the Sandbach United Under-9’s ‘Kites’ team a couple of weeks ago, and had been to just two training sessions prior to the start of the season (the latter of which was only the night before).

As such, he didn’t really know most of his teammates before the first match on Saturday, and – more importantly – the manager wasn’t sure where best to play him. Ollie is adamant he is a striker, but what nine-year-old doesn’t think they should be the one scoring all the goals? It’s extremely rare to find a young aspiring footballer who is desperate to play at left-back.

Thankfully, the training session a few weeks ago, and then the ‘pre-season friendly’ last Friday night, had both seemed to go relatively well, so the manager was optimistic of at least giving The Kites’ first competitive opponents a decent test.  Unfortunately, however, this optimism was short-lived.

When we arrived, there was a bit of time before kick-off for me to take some pictures of Ollie in his new kit – which, whilst the Kites’ away strip this season (the home kit hasn’t arrived yet, apparently), is still alarmingly reminiscent of Burnley’s colours, and to a Stockport County fan this is horrifying (long story short: they cheated at Wembley in 1994, were promoted at County’s expense, and I haven’t forgiven them since). Still, despite the disgusting colour scheme, Ollie looked very grown up and smart, and I managed a few photos dotted around what is a very impressive set up at Sandbach United.

As the 10.30am kick-off time arrived, Ollie and the rest of his new team mates were called over by the manager, who quickly ran through their starting formation – and even though I was some distance away by the side of the pitch, it was quickly apparent that Ollie would be starting as a lone striker up front. I was now beaming with pride, and just praying he could score at least one goal.

The fact that Ollie didn’t know the names of his teammates turned out not to be a problem, because it transpired almost all of the squad were called either Lucas or Jacob; so, by shouting one of those names, he at least stood a good chance of attracting someone’s attention.

The referee then indicated that one boy from each team should come over to determine who would kick off, and Ollie (being the nearest Kites player to the centre spot) readily volunteered.

To my amusement, kick-off was not decided by the usual coin toss (as is customary), but instead by an impromptu game of ‘rock, paper, scissors’. I assume this is standard throughout the league, rather than at the whim of this referee in particular; but should tomorrow’s kick-off be determined by a quick ‘thumb war’, or even ‘musical statues’, I will be just as equally delighted.

Continuing my proud father moment, Ollie’s rock destroyed his opponent’s puny scissors, and it was all I could do to restrain myself at the side of the pitch. I had to remind myself that, much as I was desperate to yell “Ha! In your face, dickhead!” at the opposing player, he was only eight years old, and presumably one or more of his legal guardians would be nearby.

Ollie then kicked off (rather prematurely, in all honesty, as the referee had not yet blown his whistle – but seeing as we later went to watch Stockport County that afternoon, and even they managed to screw up kick off, I subsequently apologised to Ollie for laughing at his eagerness).

Almost immediately, it became clear that Ollie’s team were likely to be outclassed, as their opponents passed the ball around well, and won every tackle. Unsurprisingly, therefore, it wasn’t long before they went ahead. Ollie, meanwhile, looked utterly lost up front, but equally didn’t get involved enough to try and win the ball. I pointed this out to one of the mums who we know, but we both agreed that it was their first match, and Ollie was just settling in.

Unfortunately, not all of the adults on the touchline were as patient/considerate as us, and one grandfather in particular (I assume he was a grandfather, as he looked to be of retirement age, but he also appeared to be from one of those families where even the middle-aged members are on borrowed time) became very vocal towards the players, singling Ollie out in particular:

“Who’s that kid there? He’s just standing there doing nothing!”

I wanted to respond with: “That’s actually my son. He’s eight years old, this is his first match, and, in case you hadn’t noticed, it’s pissing it down. How about you cut him some fucking slack, you horrible, odious, mouth-breathing swamp donkey?”; but, as ever in this sort of situation, I had to quickly assess my chances of ending up in hospital, and decided that this chap – whilst potentially elderly – probably didn’t lose all his teeth eating toffees.

Even though I later regretted not defending my son, I made a mental note to instead blog about this piece of shit the following Friday (today) and wish upon him a plague of every venereal disease known to man (plus, if possible, some not yet known to man). The fact that his penis was almost certainly black and shrivelled already, made little difference to me, and I was comforted by my mental act of revenge.

I then became slightly side-tracked, by trying to remember how to spell gonorrhoea (even now, having spell-checked it, that still doesn’t look right to me), and by the time I regained my focus on the match, Ollie’s team were 4-0 down.

Now, if I thought the unusual kick-off routine was a bit different, another rule I was unaware of until last weekend was that, should a team find themselves 4-0 down, they are allowed to bring an extra player onto the pitch. So, just when I thought Ollie may be substituted for someone better, his team ended up with an extra man on the field.

Unfortunately, this made no difference whatsoever, as they just as quickly found themselves 8-0 down, meaning their only remaining player could also enter the pitch. To further compound the problem, their opponents were now able to rotate their players to give some of them a rest, whereas The Kites had to keep all of their players on until the end of the match (or at least until they reduced the goal deficit, but this seemed unlikely). Unsurprisingly, they quickly became knackered – and soaked.

This didn’t help the mood of the group next to me, and one father in particular who – whilst at least directing vitriol towards his own son rather than mine – took matters a little too far (following a badly timed slide tackle) by shouting ‘Stay on your fucking feet!’. Classy.

Anyway, much as I would love for this story to end in triumph, with Ollie’s team overcoming adversity to snatch victory with the last kick of the game (preferably with Ollie scoring the winner, so that I could run the length of the pitch waving my shirt around my head); sadly it was not to be, and I lost count of the score when it got to 15-0.

I was, however, immensely proud of Ollie – and the rest of his team for that matter – since at no point did his head drop, and more importantly, he didn’t cry (which, if I’m honest, I fully expected him to).

In fact, he seems relatively upbeat about tomorrow’s match (God love his optimism) and has spent the last few days working out ‘tactics’ on FIFA 18. Unfortunately, this has involved him playing as Burnley (so that the kit looks realistic), but at least he has changed all the players’ names to match those of his teammates.

“Lucas, passes to Lucas, back to Jacob, who picks out Lucas, Jacob shoots….”

See, don’t they look similar?

Wish us luck for tomorrow, and thanks for reading x

Standard