Like a Blog With a Bone

Those of you who attend my weekly (virtual) pub nights at Ye Olde Cock & Balls each Friday evening will be aware that, for the past couple of weeks, I have been encountering some problems with the strength of our internet connection – particularly during the picture round of my quiz.

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Well, after trying to contact our broadband provider, Sky, for a fortnight now, including one ‘online chat’ session where, having waited for two hours, our connection was lost and it kicked me out (hey, irony, fuck you), I have finally resolved the situation.

And, by that, I mean I properly resolved the situation, rather than simply ripping all of the Sky equipment from the various sockets in our lounge, dousing it in lighter fluid, and then torching the entire lot in the back garden (which, believe me, was next on my list of potential solutions). Even more amazingly, I am still a Sky customer.

Look, I know I should probably have considered switching our various packages to an alternative provider, but the truth is my wife and I really like some of the Sky-specific channels, and would hate to be without them. Plus, the boys love the wide range of children’s shows available on our additional ‘Entertainment Package’.

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Finally, above all else, I hate change, and I am inherently lazy, so I often find it preferable to stay with a company rather than shop around for a better deal. Yes, I know I negotiate for a living, but please also bear in mind that I largely dislike my chosen career, and would rather not bring that aspect of it home. Besides, do chefs walk through the door after a busy day in the kitchen and instantly want to cook for the family? No. Do cleaners come back from work and immediately make a start scrubbing the oven? Unlikely. Do strippers arrive home and promptly undress seductively for their partners?…. Well, only in my dreams. You get the idea.

My point is, for various reasons, I didn’t want to actually leave Sky, but equally we could not continue as a family with such a piss-poor broadband connection – not least because we now have two adults working remotely, two children being home-schooled on laptops, and various other essential devices (such as phones and tablets) all draining our WiFi, which only had the strength of an asthmatic pensioner atop a mountain in the first place.

So, yesterday, I put my big boy pants on, picked up the phone, and dialled the Sky complaint line. The following is an entirely accurate* account of the events which followed (apart from the fact I have made up the names of the people I spoke to, partly to protect their anonymity, but mostly because I can’t for the life of me remember what they were called)….

*sort of.

***

Automated Message: “Hi. Thanks for contacting Sky. Sorry, but we’re experiencing a really high call volume at present, so we’re having to prioritise our customers and can only currently deal with customers who are aged seventy or over, suffering with ill-health, or are classified as being a ‘key worker’, which includes all medical staff and teachers. If you do not fall into any of these categories, please hang up and try again when this shit-storm is finally over….

….

Ok, before we connect you through to one of our advisers, we will need to take you through security. Do you know your Sky account password?”

Me: “No”

Automated Message: “Ok. No problem. Can we take your mother’s maiden name instead?”

Me: “ **** ”

Automated Message: “Sorry, that’s not correct either.”

Me: “It fucking is…. Oh, unless the account is in my wife’s name?”

Automated Message: “Please say your mother’s maiden name.”

Me: “ **** ”

Automated Message: “Please hold for the next adviser.”

Me: “I could’ve sworn the Sky account was in my name….”

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***

Adolf: “Hi, you’re through to Adolf, thanks for holding.”

Me: “No problem. It’s marginally preferable to listening to my children screaming.”

Adolf: “Ha ha! I know what you mean, mate.”

Me: “I’m not your mate. Let’s get on with this.”

Adolf: “Sure thing, buddy. Before we begin, can I just check your mother’s maiden name for security?”

Me: “Well, I just gave my mother’s maiden name and it said that was incorrect, so apparently the account is in my wife’s name and her mother’s maiden name  is ‘ **** ‘.”

Adolf: “That’s not what I’ve got down here.”

Me: “But your system just let me through with that?”

Adolf: “Weird. So, what is your mother’s maiden name?”

Me: ” **** “

Adolf: “That’s the one.”

Me: “Fuck’s sake.”

Adolf: “Ok, then. I just need to check you fit into one of the categories of customer we can deal with at the moment. Are you over seventy?”

Me: “I feel like it, but no.”

Adolf: “Are you suffering with ill-health?”

Me: “I get knackered walking up the stairs. Does that count?”

Adolf: “Not really. Ok, last category, are you or anyone in your household a medical professional?”

Me: “Well, no, but your recorded message just now mentioned teachers, and my wife is a teacher.”

Adolf: “But neither of you are medical professionals?”

Me: “No. We tend to find being a lawyer and a teacher keeps us busy enough. Plus, I have a rather popular online quiz I do every Friday, and-”

Adolf: “Look, I’m afraid we have to prioritise our calls…”

Me: “Yes, but I’m telling you the recorded message just now specifically stated that teachers are key workers. Which they are. Go ahead and check after this call, if you like, but if you cut me off, I will find out where your office is, drive there, and cut you. Ok?”

Adolf: “Well, I guess you’re on the line now anyway. What’s the problem?”

Me: “Our broadband is slow. Like, properly shit, and I want it improving considering how much we pay each month.”

Adolf: “Ok, well, I’ve just checked, and you do qualify for superfast broadband in your area, which we could set up for you in around a week.”

Me: “Sounds expensive.”

Adolf: “It’s £32 a month, but for an extra £5 a month you can also get the broadband boost, which guarantees fast connection throughout the house.”

Me: “Wow, imagine if we could get a connection throughout the entire house.”

Adolf: “Are you being sarcastic?”

Me: “A little. The problem is, the other reason for my call was to complain about the fact our monthly cost has just shot up, so I don’t really want to be making things more expensive.”

Adolf: “Ok, I’ll transfer you to one of my colleagues and if you mention that you want the superfast broadband with the boost, they’ll set out your options for the TV package as well.”

Me: “Fine. Put me through.”

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***

Genghis: “Hi, you’ve been put through to Genghis. How can I help?”

Me: [sigh] “Right, I want to add the superfast broadband with the boost that I’ve just been told about, but I also want to know why our television package went up nearly £20 last month. When I phoned a couple of years ago, I agreed to remove the sports package to save some money, but now we’re paying more than we paid before only without the sports included.”

Genghis: “Do you want to add the sport back on?”

Me: “Fuck no. I’ve just complained about how high our bill is. I want to bring it down, not increase it.”

Genghis: “What do you want to keep?

Me: “Well, mainly Sky Movies and the Entertainment package for the kids.”

Genghis: “What about the F1 channel?”

Me: “We don’t have that.”

Genghis:  “Yes, you do.”

Me: “I beg your pardon? We’ve never requested that. Have we been paying for it?”

Genghis: “Not exactly. It came free with the entertainment package as an introductory offer, but then the package changed in December and it was then additional.”

Me: “So, I’ve been paying for an F1 channel I never asked for since December?!”

Genghis: “No, we only started charging you last month.”

Me: “Bless your generosity. Take it off, now. I don’t want it, and haven’t asked for it. You can’t just force it on me and then start charging me for it. Who do you think you are, fucking U2? Besides, there’s no F1 taking place right now anyway, so what are you even showing?”

Genghis: “Old clips and stuff.”

Me: “Well, as much as ‘old clips and stuff’ sounds awesome, get rid. How much is it, anyway?”

Genghis: “£18.”

Me: “For one fucking channel?! A channel dedicated to something that isn’t even happening right now? Have you got a channel dedicated to Euro 2020 and the fucking Olympics too?”

Genghis: “There’s no need to be like that.”

Me: “Right, if we ditch the F1 we didn’t ask for, don’t want and have never once turned on, and we add in the superfast broadband with the boost thingy, how does that affect our monthly bill?

Genghis: “Erm…… it will bring it down by £31 a month.”

Me: “£31 less?! Why the hell hasn’t this been offered to us sooner?!”

Genghis: “You didn’t phone.”

Me: “So you wait for people to get pissed off and threaten to leave, then offer them a deal?”

Genghis: “Pretty much.”

Me:  “Do it.”

Genghis: “Ok…. sorted. And, since you’re now paying much less, would you like some sport back?”

Me: “Well, my son would love to watch Premier League matches, but there’s no games at the moment. How much is it, for future reference?”

Genghis: “That’s £18 a month, too.”

Me: “For how many channels?”

Genghis: “Just Sky Sports Premier League, so one.”

Me: “Jesus wept. At least Dick Turpin wore a mask when he robbed people. Besides, my son and I support a lower league side who you never feature, so it’s really not worth adding any football channels. It’d be cheaper for me to take him down the pub to watch matches. At least that way I can spend the £18 on beer.”

Genghis: “Fair enough. But, you mentioned lower league football, and we do feature some games. How low down the leagues are we talking?”

Me: “Stockport County.”

Genghis: “Ouch.”

Me: “Fuck off.”

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***

Thanks for reading x

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Always Blog On The Bright Side of Life

(Do-do, do-do, do-do-de-do-do-do)

Continuing on from the general theme of last Friday’s entry (my first for a while), I would like to focus on some of the positives to be gained from the current shitstorm gripping our country – and, indeed, the planet.

Sure, COVID-19 is about the least popular thing to invade these shores since a certain Austrian with a distinctive moustache decided to show the world what a colossal fuck-nugget he was, but me sitting here writing about the horrors of this pandemic is a little bit pointless, really. Not only can you gather all the misery you like from the news or social media, should the mood take you – and I pray it doesn’t – but this is intended to be a lighthearted and comedic blog, and there is nothing even remotely lighthearted or funny about what it going on.

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Hitler: bit of a twat

So, yes, I know some people are unable to work, and struggling financially. I know most of us are unable to see our loved ones and friends. I know the sensible among us are avoiding pubs, restaurants, cinemas, parks and other public places (and I only hope those morons ignoring the rules don’t live to regret their selfish stupidity). I know, sometimes, the light at the end of this particularly dark tunnel only appears to flicker slightly before it is eclipsed by another setback. And, yes, I know Mother Nature decided to screw us all over by hosting summer in mid-April, when none of us could fully enjoy it. However, I always try to raise a smile with my blog, and if there is one thing we all need right now, it’s a bit of positivity and a chuckle.

Therefore, I have conjured up a list of the ten consequences from being stuck at home which I see as positive, in the hope that perhaps a few of you, can take a few of them, away for yourselves.

1. Virtual Pub Night

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For those of you who read my blog but do not follow my Facebook page, you may not be aware that I have been hosting an online ‘pub night’ every Friday since lockdown began.

The doors to my ‘Ye Olde Cock & Balls’ open at 8pm, and attendees are treated to a ‘Jukebox’ (which is essentially just a different YouTube playlist each week), some topics for debate, and a live Quiz. The latter, in particular, has proved especially popular, with hundreds of people taking part from all over the world – including such far flung places as America, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa (as well as a number of our neighbouring countries in Europe).

Anyway, while my virtual pub nights were only created in response to this terrible situation, I absolutely love them, and many of my Facebook followers have declared it the highlight of their week, too.

2. Avoiding People

Look, I don’t want you thinking I am being anti-social, as I am generally easy-going with most folk – so long as ‘most folk’ are my family, friends, and the vast majority of the general public who aren’t monumental cockwombles. Unfortunately, however, there remains that small minority who behave like idiots (such as anyone who still thinks it is ok to host barbecues and parties, or lean over you in the supermarket), and the fact I can now avoid interacting with the lowest echelons of society is a bonus.

Also, I love all of our local friends dearly, but I always feel guilty when someone calls round and I am too embarrassed to invite them in, because our children have transformed the house into a post-apocalyptic war zone. Fortunately, for the time being, I cannot possibly invite them in anyway (and I would like to think they would decline my offer even if I did).

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Our living room

3. Talking To Our Neighbours

I am well-aware that there are streets and communities up and down the nation who frequently socialise together, pop round each other’s houses for a chat, and exchange Christmas cards and gifts every December. Well, not on our street, we don’t.

For example, we very rarely spoke to the chap next door before lockdown, perhaps as infrequently as once a month (despite the fact he has lived there for the best part of a decade and appears to be very pleasant), but now I chat to him most days. Ok, that might only be across the fence, to thank him for returning Ollie’s football for the third time that morning, but it’s still progress.

Plus, before lockdown, the only time I ever interacted with those on our street, was to ask whether they had kindly accepted another parcel for us, and now we get to smile and wave at the couple opposite every Thursday evening, as they appear to be the only other household willing to step outside and applaud the nation’s key-workers.

I mean, we’re still a far cry from inviting them around for drinks and nibbles, but it’s all baby steps in the right direction.

4. Embracing Wackiness

Following on from that last point, about applauding key-workers from our doorstep every Thursday, how delightful is it to be stood on our doorsteps in just pyjamas (having not got dressed at all that day), loudly banging a saucepan with a wooden spoon like a fucking lunatic, without someone accusing you of being a ‘saucepan-banging fucking lunatic’?

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5. Scruffiness

And, speaking of wearing pyjamas all day*, the fact I no longer have to put on a suit and clean socks for the office is having a very positive effect on our washing pile (before lockdown, I once noticed some Sherpas erecting a base camp about half-way up).

*I have only done this twice (so far), but it was rather liberating – until we had a parcel delivered, and the driver could not approach for a signature, so had to take a photo of me stood next to the parcel, at a time when I happened to be wearing the shorts which leave little to the imagination.

Plus, distancing myself from most of my family (apart from the wife and children), our friends and my colleagues, means I am currently able to attempt something I have never tried before – growing a beard.

The fact I have never attempted this before is primarily because my wife claims she will hate it, so perhaps selecting the one time when we are stuck in the house together (and she is most likely to smother me in my sleep anyway) is ill-advised, but I would argue that, if it looks shit, no one need know – save for any parcel delivery drivers, or the muggles I encounter in Tesco, and I don’t care what they think.

True, I only stopped shaving a week ago, so I am still in the ‘sleeping rough’ stage of my facial hair adventure, and I do not yet know which path my new look will take: ‘sexy academic’ or ‘deviant sex pest’ (my wife is certain it will be the latter), but if I don’t like it, or there is more grey in there than expected, I’ll get rid. Now is the time to experiment.

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Week 3?

6. Saving Money

An unexpected advantage of being in ‘lockdown’, bearing in mind our weekly shopping budget appears to have almost doubled, and I am now forking out for a takeaway every Friday (to break the monotony, and give the family a sense of what day it is), but I actually made it to payday a couple of weeks ago without dipping into my overdraft or savings.

I suspect (nay, I know) that the money I am saving in fuel is having a big impact on my finances, as my usual commute requires me to drive 250 miles each week, but I honestly cannot work out where the rest of my current ‘wealth’ is coming from. I mean, I only go out once every few weeks, and I usually take my own lunch to the office anyway, so where am I making all these savings? Maybe it’s best not to question it.

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7. No Commuting

The fuel-savings lead me to the other advantage I have discovered from working at home: I do not have to deal with other road users. Look, I accept that my driving is by no means perfect (although it’s not far off), and I will generally tolerate mild misdemeanours on the road for the sake of my blood pressure, but there have been days in the past when I have genuinely questioned whether Cheshire has been blessed with more than it’s fair share of road wankers, and the fact I don’t have to suffer them each day is having a positive effect on my physical and mental health.

Conversely (and I did say I would only focus on the positives in this week’s blog, but please indulge me), my new daily commute of walking down the stairs is not without it’s own hazards, as some long-haired dickhead cut me up on our landing the other morning, and nearly caused a pile up of Daddy’s shattered limbs at the bottom.

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8. Soft Play Centres

I don’t have to go to these for the foreseeable future! Sure, they often mean our boys fuck off and leave me alone for a bit, whereas they are now constantly around me all the time, but at least that means I don’t have to worry about other people’s feral little nightmares, and/or Isaac attacking one of them.

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9. Clearing Sky Planner

In the same way my bank account has spent the last year teetering perilously close to the overdraft, our Sky Planner has fluctuated between having 1% and 5% storage remaining for the best part of six months. Not these days, though. Thanks to us watching some programmes recorded at the start of the year (which I never thought we would have time to watch), we are currently up to a whopping 13%. Boom.

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10. Getting To Spend More Time With My Children

Finally, I am thoroughly enjoying spending some quali-

Nope, I can’t even type it without laughing. Like fuck I am.

(I knew I should have stopped the list at #9, but my damn OCD insisted I add one more to round it up….)

Thanks for reading x

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Blogdown

Hi there.

Followers of my Facebook page may be aware that, over the last week or so, I have penned a couple of *entirely original* songs about the current COVID-19 situation (with particular emphasis on being stuck at home), but some people have since pointed out that the first was apparently similar to Blur’s 1994 hit ‘Parklife’, while the more recent song was seemingly a little like ‘Stuck in the Middle with You’ by Steeler’s Wheel.

So, to avoid any further potential legal wrangles, I can assure you that the following poem is 100% my own work, 100% accurate, and 100% funny. I hope you like it (and, if you don’t, you can keep your damn opinions to yourself).

***

‘LOCKDOWN’

I’ve been stuck in the house for five weeks now
Apart from a few trips for food
But those outings were hardly much fun
As the shoppers were stupid and rude.

I have an office set up in the corner
And I’m working from home when I can
But my new colleagues are making things tricky
So my routine isn’t going to plan.

Ollie is tired and grumpy
The slightest thing sours his mood
While Isaac is increasingly feral
And spends most of each day in the nude.

In fact they’re as bad as each other
Ok, I’ve been days without socks
But at least I am putting clean pants on
I am sick of the sight of their cocks

Isaac’s hair is now straggly and knotted
You can’t predict when he’ll next attack
One second he’ll be playing with toys
The next he has jumped on your back

I am badly in need of a haircut
I haven’t had a shave for three days
I sometimes forget what the day is
And just wander around in a haze

I’m using up emergency loo roll
Which I grabbed in the panic-buy farce
But the damn stuff is so cheap and nasty
It’s like sandpaper wiping my arse

The posher stuff isn’t much better
As it’s balmed with deluxe coconut
If I want my arse smelling of Bounty
I’ll stick a bar straight up my butt

I’m drinking more booze than before this
It’s become an unfortunate trend
To suddenly proclaim Wednesday lunchtime
“Hurrah! It’s now the weekend!”

I’ve got through a bottle of spiced rum
But at least I am able to say
If I add a few slices of lime in
I’ve had one of my five a day

I’ve been snacking far more than I should be
And I’m certain my nob hasn’t shrunk
But when I look down in the shower
My gut now eclipses my junk

I did Joe Wicks’ workouts for one week
But rather than getting me fit
I then struggled to walk up the stairs
And cried when I sat down to shit

But for each isolation struggle
And for every time that we’ve cried
I try to find something uplifting
To look on the positive side

My family are (generally) healthy
And many folk have it much worse
I could be trained as a doctor
Or be working right now as a nurse

I’m saving a fortune in fuel costs
As I don’t have a daily commute
I can wear shorts at my desk if I want to
There’s no need to be dressed in a suit

Let’s applaud all of our key workers
Risking their lives for the rest
Think about what others are facing
Whenever you’re grumpy or stressed

Every one of us needs to work through this
Stick together whenever we can
Patience and friendship and laughter
Every child and woman and man

There is always somebody who’ll listen
To be there if you needed to chat
So whenever you’re struggling to focus
Please try just to focus on that.

Keep going folks.

Thanks for reading x

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Blogapest (Part III)

Ah, the final instalment of my trilogy, where all loose ends are tied-up, and our half-term city break in Budapest concludes.

If you haven’t yet read parts one and two, here are a couple of links, and the rest of us will have to wait while you catch up:

Part I – https://middlerageddad.com/2020/02/28/blogapest-part-i/

Part II – https://middlerageddad.com/2020/03/06/blogapest-part-ii/

Ready? Off we go then….

Wednesday 19th February 2020

For our final full day in this gorgeous city, before our flight home the following lunchtime, we had decided to visit the ‘Buda’ side of the Danube (I wasn’t aware until relatively recently, that Hungary’s capital comprised the separate regions of ‘Buda’ and ‘Pest’, until their unification in 1873), as this is the ‘older’ side of the river, and with my wife being a History teacher, she was keen to check it out.

Amazingly, for a couple who had only arrived less than 48 hours earlier, we now felt confident enough on the excellent public transport system to metro and bus our way over the river, and having disembarked by the funicular cable car, we decided this method of transport was preferable to walking up the giant hill to the top (albeit considerably more expensive, for what was a two minute journey tops).

Once at the summit, we spent some time admiring the views over the city, then wandered around for a bit (at one point passing a museum that did nothing whatsoever to draw us in, although that might have been due to the pile of bin bags left by the entrance, which my wife complained ‘stank like shit’, and I didn’t have the heart to tell her the smell was actually the side-effects of my hangover mixing with the spicy hot dog sausages I had consumed for breakfast), and we then headed down the twisting streets of Buda towards the Matthias church.

En route, we passed an underground cave network, called – rather appropriately – ‘Labyrinth’ – and since I had read about this online before our trip, we decided to go in. Once inside, there were certain aspects of this ‘attraction’ I had been expecting (paying a fortune to get in, dark tunnels with low ceilings, creepy music in the background, etc.) but there were certainly other aspects which came as a big surprise.

In order of weirdness, they were:

  1. Being followed around by a creepy Albanian lady – who, I have to stress, was another visitor to the caves, rather than an employee stalking us;
  2. Several rooms of entirely unexplained waxwork figures, who were terrifying enough anyway (they would not have looked out of place on a particularly shit-your-pants episode of ‘Dr Who’), but I could have sworn I saw a few of them move slightly out of the corner of my eye;
  3. However, head and shoulders above everything else on the weird scale, was the laminated picture of three guinea pigs attached to one of the cave walls, with no explanation whatsoever as to why it was there.

On our way out, we noticed a sign proudly exclaiming that ‘Labyrinth’ had apparently been voted the eighth best attraction in the whole of Europe, which is nonsense, because it wasn’t even the eighth best attraction in Budapest.

From there, we visited the Fisherman’s Bastion (which was not, as I had first suspected, a seafood restaurant, but rather a large terrace offering terrific views of the capital), and sat down to enjoy a traditional ‘chimney cake’ with a hot chocolate.

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Chimney Cake

After a bit of exploring – during which, my wife was extremely pleased with herself for correctly identifying which saint had been portrayed in a statue (if only she had put as much effort into my ‘guess which former footballer died in my dream last night?’ game *eye roll*), and we then decided to pay to look around the Matthias church, even though I generally object to paying for the privilege of visiting a place of worship.

Now, I can enjoy a beautifully crafted church as much as the next man (assuming he enjoys a beautifully crafted church), and this was right up there with the prettiest, but I was far more taken with some of the weird-as-fuck statues and exhibits they had inside as we looked around. For example:

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My first reaction to this particular figurine was that the mother and baby have exactly the same face (I know parents often look like their children, but that kid is at least forty), and then I noticed the deranged potato-headed man ‘upskirting’ the mother.

For lunch, I was determined to source some traditional Hungarian goulash (for the uninitiated, this is a sort of spicy soup or stew), and having found two cafes serving the country’s most famous national dish – and following twenty minutes of walking between the two, because I am so indecisive – we finally settled ourselves at a table and waited to be served.

Once we had ordered our drinks (I was becoming quite accustomed to Hungarian beer by this point in our trip), my wife nipped to the toilet, and had not returned by the time the waiter brought our drinks over.

As he approached our table, he carefully placed my wife’s hot chocolate in front of her empty seat, before lifting my pint off the tray in his hand, bringing a rather damp receipt stuck to the bottom of it. Then, as he passed my pint over to me, the receipt became unstuck, and we both watched as it slowly floated down and nestled gently on my crotch.

I know this was not intentional on his part, but I still looked up at him for a reaction, and he then looked back at me for the same. I stared at him, he stared at me. I stared down at the receipt on my crotch, and so did he. What felt like an age passed by, without either of us wanting to acknowledge the damp bit of paper clinging to the front of my jeans until, finally, he gleefully shouted “voila!” and walked off.

That unfortunate incident aside, my first experience of goulash was highly enjoyable, the selection of cakes for dessert was amazing (I opted for a slice of Kinder Bueno cake, which looked a little like the one below), and the cafe ended up playing both ‘Would I Lie To You?’ by Charles & Eddie and Roxette, so the music choices were impeccable as well. All in all, I would highly recommend this particular cafe, if only I could remember what the fuck it was called.

On our way back to the hotel, we briefly visited a BrewDog (like most Brits abroad, I cannot resist the temptation of trying something British to see if it’s the same in another country), but when I realised a half-pint of Punk IPA was going to set me back nearly £4, we moved swiftly on.

Having investigated plans for our final evening meal in Budapest, we decided to head to an American-style ‘Speakeasy’ bar called Fat Mo’s, and despite a brief mix-up when we initially entered the wrong part of the bar, and were quickly ushered elsewhere by a group of men who may well have been part of the Hungarian mafia, I have to say the recommendations online were bang on – the place was amazing.

Ok, it was deserted when we first got there, but in fairness it was only around 6.30pm, and the place soon filled up the nearer it got to the live music at 7.30pm. In fact, such was our enjoyment of the food, drinks and music on offer, we stayed there all night – and I racked up a bill of nearly £100 in the process. Oops.

In fact, the only thing which soured an otherwise enjoyable evening, was a trio of American men coming in and sitting at the bar, of which one was particularly sure of himself, and wanted the entire bar to know how wonderful and funny he was. Spoiler alert: he was a twat.

By way of example, at one point he asked the Hungarian barmaid if she knew any American phrases, and when she nervously replied with ‘erm…. what’s up?’, he bellowed, ‘Ha! What’s up? I’ll tell ya what’s fucking up, this fucking drink is what’s fucking up, sweetheart!’ Look, I enjoy swearing, perhaps more than most, but that’s just excessive.

Amazingly, however, he was not the most socially unacceptable American we would encounter on the remainder of our trip, as the following morning, while travelling on the shuttle bus back to the airport, my wife and I noticed a man with an American accent (and, from that, we deduced he was American), sat right behind the driver with a rucksack on his lap. Then, soon after leaving the city centre, he opened the rucksack and took out two items: a metal tin, and a giant red pepper, a bit like this one:

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He then proceeded to roll back the metal lid of the tin, filling the entire bus with the stench of fish paste (I’m assuming it was some form of mackerel), before dipping his giant pepper – not a euphemism – into the paste and eating it. What kind of delinquent sociopath eats pepper and fish paste as a snack, let alone on a crowded bus where at least one passenger was feeling delicate (and, therefore, homicidal) after consuming several rum and cokes in a speakeasy-themed bar the night before?

Even more amazingly, in the half hour journey to the airport, he devoured two of these giant peppers, dipped in four, yes four, tins of fish slop, which he then deposited on the floor of the bus. Who does that?

Thankfully, the shuttle bus arrived at the airport just before I resorted to inserting one of the peppers into him, and aside from an unusual incident inside the terminal, where one lady appeared to genuinely struggle with the normally straightforward concept of sitting down, our journey home was uneventful.

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Sitting: complicated

Thanks for reading x

p.s. – it was Peter Crouch who died in my dream.

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Blogapest (Part II)

Previously, on ‘Confessions of a Middle-Raged Dad’….

… this: https://middlerageddad.com/2020/02/28/blogapest-part-i/

Don’t be so fucking lazy and go read it for yourself.

Tuesday 18th February 2020

Following a delicious cooked breakfast in our hotel (although, why can none of our European neighbours do breakfast sausages properly? Spicy hot dog sausages with a cooked breakfast, really?), we headed out to explore Budapest – which, it has to be said, was far less intimidating than we had found the route to our hotel the night before.

In fairness, that may be because we took the wrong road from the bus stop (although, I maintain, only because they hadn’t labelled the map/streets properly) and ended up in what appeared to be their gangland district. It probably wasn’t, and was most likely just a not-quite-as-nice part of the city, away from the main tourist spots, but when you’re walking down a dark alley in a foreign country, and there are groups of men huddled together in the shadows, it’s hard not to be a little frightened. Look, I’ve seen Hostel (which was, admittedly, set in Slovakia, but it’s close enough).

Having wasted a couple of hours at two different shopping centres, looking for a Hungarian football shirt for Ollie’s collection, we then decided to visit The House of Terror; which is not – as the name might suggest – a form of jovial tourist attraction (like the dungeons in London and York), but a museum focusing on the fascist and communist regimes throughout Hungary’s 20th Century history (as well as being a fitting memorial to the victims).

Now, I try to keep my blog entries light-hearted and humourous whenever possible, and there is certainly nothing even remotely amusing about the interrogation and torture of innocent Hungarians, but our visit did feature two moments of inadvertent humour, both relating to pigs.

Firstly, one display featured an image of lots of pigs (the importance of which was not entirely clear) accompanied by the caption: “Proudly displaying their Porkers!” Now, call me childish if you like (and I’m sure you will), but to a man who enjoys nothing more than some genital-related innuendo, this was fucking gold.

Shortly afterwards, we entered a series of corridors, which twisted and turned through the museum, and all the walls appeared to be made of a white, wax-like substance. Sadly, photographs were prohibited inside the museum (and, if the solid-granite lump of security guard on the main door was anything to go by, I had no plans to risk a quick snap), but I have found the following image on Google:

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As my wife and I questioned what the waxy substance might be, a tour guide crept up behind us, then suddenly barked “PIG FAT!” at me, before walking away. Naturally, I responded with “Ok, love, no need to call me names”, but I don’t think she heard.

After a quick lunch at the highly-recommended Pizzica (I shall leave you to guess the cuisine yourselves), and an even quicker drink at the nearby ‘360 Bar’ – which offered stunning views from the rooftop – we headed to the magnificent Opera House, where we had tickets for the afternoon tour.

Now, I should stress from the outset, neither my wife nor I have ever been to the opera, neither of us have much of a desire to ever go to the opera, and neither of us have the first fucking clue what is going on at the opera (for some reason, it tends to be sung in Italian, which is all very lovely and romantic sounding compared to, say, scouse, but is also marginally harder to understand), however we had heard how impressive the building was, so we decided to go on a tour.

Unfortunately, it transpires that the main auditorium in Budapest’s Opera House has been closed for renovation for around two years (it was due to be finished by now, but rumour has it the work will take at least another two years to complete – bloody Hungarian builders, eh?), however the tour still allowed us access to some impressive areas of the building, and I have found the following image online, to add to my own collection of photos:

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The ticket price also included a short operatic performance, and while I have no idea what the man and woman were singing about, from the way he seemed agitated during his lines, and from the photos I managed to snap throughout the performance, I can only assume the general gist was ‘Hurry the fuck up, and choose something to wear, we’re late for dinner’.

Sadly, once the performance was over, so was the tour, and we were ushered out of the building before I had chance to try on one of the dresses (I don’t know what it is, but place me near to some elaborate dressing-up, and the urge to put on a dress is incredibly overwhelming):

Before dinner (for which I had special plans), we returned to our hotel, where I suggested my wife rest for a bit while I braved the nearby Post Office, to try and change my out-of-date currency. Fortunately, I located the Post Office without too much trouble, but that is where my luck ended, because once inside I had no idea what to do.

Having stood around for a while, I realised that everyone around me was holding a ticket in order to visit the correct cashier, but the only machine I could see turned out to be dispensing lottery tickets, so off I went in search of something else.

I then discovered what I assumed must be the correct machine and, having watched over the shoulder of the person in front, I discovered how to change the language settings, and my fortunes seemed to be improving. Only, once I had got the instructions into English, I was presented with eight different services, none of which seemed to cater for currency exchange. So, I opted for ‘personal banking’, assuming that was the closest to what I needed, and nervously took my ticket.

As I joined the queue, however, it struck me that only one of the ten counters seemed to be dealing with tickets starting with ‘8’, as mine was, and the person in front of me had been sat there for what seemed like an eternity. Indeed, at least twenty minutes passed, before a cashier at a different counter took pity and called me over.

Unfortunately, as I approached her she noticed my ticket and the old currency I was holding, and starting repeatedly shouting “NUMBER TWO!” directly into my face. I briefly contemplated explaining that I didn’t require the lavatory, thank you very much, but thought better of it. Thankfully, when she realised I was (a) English, and (b) utterly clueless, she quickly swapped my notes and ushered me away to fuck up someone else’s day.

Purely out of curiosity, I went back to the machine on my way out and, having checked again, it transpired the second option (“NUMBER TWO!”), referred in very small letters to ‘currency’, which I might have spotted had I not been so flustered in the first place. Oh well, I never needed to come back, and having briefly considered turning back to the cashier to show her I now understood exactly what she meant, by putting two fingers up at her, I inadvertently dispensed another ticket from the machine, and scarpered.

For dinner that evening, I had reserved a table on the Legenda Candlelit Cruise (I’m quite the romantic at times), which was a two-and-a-half hour, four-course, dinner cruise down the Danube.

I had only made our reservation the week earlier, and having noticed reviews online suggesting a table by the window offered the best views (well, duh), I contacted the company via Facebook to enquire whether it was possible to reserve such a table. To their credit, they responded within a matter of hours, to state that tables tended to be allocated in the order of booking, so I had no chance. However, when I replied to explain that the cruise was for my wife’s 40th, they said they would see what they could do.

Sure enough, as we boarded the boat, the kind people at Legenda had indeed reserved a seat right next to the window for us and, having ordered our complimentary drink, we sat down to enjoy the cruise.

In short, the meal was fantastic, the views stunning, and since there was an open-air section at the back of the boat, we decided to try and get a photo of the two of us with the spectacular Parliament building behind us as we sailed past.

Only, while stood outside awaiting the perfect moment for our selfie, my wife glanced back inside the boat and noticed a flustered looking waitress stood by our empty table. The couple to the right then pointed in our direction, the waitress spotted us out on the deck, and started to head our way – carrying my wife’s dessert with a candle in it. Typically, I had once again made a cock of things, by suggesting we pop outside the boat at the very moment they were bringing a birthday surprise for her.

In my defence, I probably spared her the embarrassment of the entire boat singing ‘Happy Birthday’ (which she would have hated), and how was I to know the organisers had decided to do this for her? Still, it was very sweet, and if you ever travel to Budapest I can highly recommend this particular cruise (perhaps, if my blog ever takes off, I might one day get paid for these plugs?).

Anyway, we then took the tram and metro back to our hotel, decided to brave the bar one more time (only to find it was the same barman as the evening before, and he still hadn’t forgiven me for accidentally tipping him 25p) and then called it a night.

To be concluded….

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Blogapest (Part I)

My friends, family, and those of you on Facebook who have been paying attention, should be aware that I recently took my wife to Budapest for a few days in half-term, as part of her 40th birthday present. In truth, she was forty in November, nearly six weeks prior to my own big birthday (so help me, I do like an older woman), but she hates surprises, so I gave her the tickets in November, along with a guide book to this beautiful city, in order that she could plan the trip with me.

And, since I seemingly cannot go anywhere without becoming embroiled in some sort of comical or embarrassing incident (I appear to be a magnet for the unusual, and bear in mind we didn’t have Isaac with us this time), I thought I would tell you all about it – in the form of a postcard home to my followers. Ok, we’ve been back more than a week, but when was the last time a postcard got back to the UK before you did? Exactly.

Hope you like it.

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Monday 17th February 2020

In order to make my wife’s birthday trip extra special, I decided to book the ‘Escape Lounge’ at Manchester airport, where, for around £20 each (I had a discount code), we could relax in style before our flight to Budapest, with all the complimentary food and drink we could manage. And, yes, that did include alcohol, but, fortunately, I still hadn’t fully recovered from my own birthday celebrations the weekend before (psychologically, rather than physically), so there was no danger of my becoming too inebriated to board the flight.

Anyway, when I booked this special treat just a few weeks earlier, I was blissfully unaware that I would be receiving my own ‘special treat’ before we even reached the lounge, in the form of getting felt up by a security guard at the baggage check. Look, I have flown before (albeit, not for a few years), so I am aware of the standard procedure for removing one’s belt – and sometimes shoes – before being patted down by a humourless airport employee, but on this occasion the chap in question insisted on running his gloved hands around the inside of my jeans waistband and then boxers, and in doing so caressed one of his long latex-clad fingers across my chap.

Worse, not only did he fail to react to becoming intimate with my intimates (so I assume it was intentional, rather than accidental), but when I made the snap decision to lighten the mood by giggling nervously and saying ‘Don’t worry, that’s not a weapon’, his facial expression remained entirely stoic. I therefore opted against suggesting he should take me for dinner before touching me up again in the future.

Following my own personal ‘baggage check’, The Escape Lounge itself was very nice, and the lady who greeted us perfectly pleasant, but it soon transpired that they would do everything possible to prevent me from getting my money’s worth out of the unlimited food and drink. Not only were the plates for the breakfast buffet ludicrously small (I smirked to myself when recalling the scene from I’m Alan Partridge, where Alan takes his own ‘big plate’ down to breakfast), but after I had been up twice the food started to run out – much to the annoyance of our fellow passengers – long before the lunch service was due to start.

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Then, when I made the decision that 11am was a perfectly acceptable time for a beer (at airports, time is irrelevant, so you can start drinking at 5am if you so wish), I approached the bar to see what draught beer they had on offer. Fortunately, the one beer available was acceptable, so I asked for a pint of that.

“I’m afraid we only serve halves, Sir.”

“But it’s unlimited, is it not?”

“Yes.”

“In that case, I’ll have two halves, please.”

Soon after I had worked my way through a few halves of beer (not to mention eyeing up the recently served lunch menu at the buffet table, with less than half an hour to our flight), we went to our gate and boarded the Jet2 plane waiting to take a load of Brits to Budapest.

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Obligatory plane photo

And, it would seem, a load of Brits cannot board a plane without entirely fucking it up, because not only did a group of people (I believe the technical term is ‘morons’), ignore the boarding procedure – leading to those in the front few rows holding up the entire queue while they fannied about loading their bags and taking their seats with no sense of urgency whatsoever – but shortly after my wife and I correctly took our seats (when instructed to do so), it quickly became apparent that there was an issue on the other side of the plane.

It later transpired, one couple had either accidentally or deliberately ignored their seat allocation (either way, I despised them), but when the passengers who should have been in those seats boarded the plane, they simply followed suit and sat somewhere else, rather than tell them to fuck off.

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Worse, Brits being Brits, all the remaining passengers then did exactly the same, rather than create a scene, which eventually created a scene anyway, as the final couple to board could not sit together – let alone anywhere near their original seats.

One poor flight attendant then had to make a quarter of the plane stand up and switch around, all because of the original couple who, to my horror, were not then thrown out of the fucking door at twenty-thousand feet as a punishment. Perhaps this is one of the many reasons why I would not make for a good flight attendant (indeed, any public service position requires at least rudimentary patience with the public, and I generally hate people at the best of times, let alone Brits going abroad).

Thankfully, this incident only slightly delayed our flight taking off, and we actually landed ahead of schedule, thanks to the tail-end of Storm Dennis (shit name) getting behind our tail-end, escorting us on our way across Europe a little faster than expected. Bless ‘im.

Upon arrival at Budapest’s Ferenc Liszt airport, the passport check was mercifully brief (aside from a plane load of confused Brits all questioning whether we should now join the EU or non-EU queue), and having collected our bags, I managed to purchase two travel passes for our three-day visit, as well as tickets for the airport shuttle bus to take us to the city centre. Thankfully, most Hungarians speak excellent English (far better than most of the Brits on our plane, as it happens), otherwise I might very well have found myself conjuring up a mime for ‘bus’, which is a situation I was happy to avoid.

Once we had checked in to our hotel (which was lovely), we then decided to brave the city for dinner and a few drinks.

Having taken advice before leaving, one place I was keen to check out was ‘Szimpla Kert’, one of the very first (if not the first) ‘ruin bars’ in the city. It was essentially an old factory, which had been transformed into a network of tiny bars and eateries (some without a roof, such was the dilapidation of the building), and having wandered around for a bit, we stumbled upon a tiny alcove bar serving burgers and other bar type food.

Having pondered the menu and our new ‘funny money’, we ordered, and then took our seats on a shared table with a few other couples.

Sadly, soon after taking the first few sips of my Hungarian beer, I realised the couple to my left were also British (I realised this, because they were extremely loud southerners) and, having caught my eye, the man decided to bring me into their ‘discussion’ over some of the artwork on the wall.

“Awight mate, help me out ‘ere, will ya? That picture up there, it’s a fackin’ man, right? The missus says it’s a woman.”

“Sorry, it IS a woman.”

“You sure?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, it’s not my fackin’ fault I can’t see properleeeee. That fackin’ barman gave me some fackin’ Plinko, dinne, and now I’m fackin’ pissed out me ‘ead.”

Lovely fella.

Turns out, he was half right. The drink he had previously been served (apparently around 2pm, and by now it was nearly 8pm), was actually Pálinka, a traditional Hungarian brandy (of sorts), but he was quite correct about one thing – being pissed. Annihilated, as it happens.

In fact, he was so drunk, at one point he knocked over his empty pint glass but failed to realise, and then a full ten minutes later accused his wife/girlfriend (who was also drunk, but not to his level of inebriation), of spilling it. She then pointed out he had finished it some time ago, before knocking the empty glass over himself, and he decided on that basis it was time to leave.

And not a moment too soon, either, as the group of pleasant Hungarians to my right were clearly starting to think we knew this couple, and were travelling as a foursome, so I wanted to distance myself from them as quickly as possible. Besides which, I had a very strong feeling he was probably a Chelsea fan, which only made me dislike him all the more.

After dinner and a few drinks in Szimpla Kert (where I, rather annoyingly, discovered some of the currency I had brought with me was no longer legal tender, and I would need to change it at a bank), we wandered back to our hotel, passing a curious looking Indian Restaurant called ‘Bum Bum Hole’ on the way (it was actually called ‘Bum Bum Bole’, but I was by now a few beers warmer myself, so I misread the sign, and Bum Bum Bole is nowhere near as funny).

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Having enjoyed one further drink in the hotel bar (and realising, retrospectively, that I had accidentally tipped the barman around 25p, as I had not yet got to grips with the exchange rate), we retired to the room where I found some German football channel on the TV (the only British channel appeared to be BBC World News, which was all doom-and-gloom).

And, rather amazingly, the German for ‘Trent Alexander-Arnold’, is apparently ‘Trent Alexander-Arnold’.  Who knew?

To be continued…

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Johannesblog

I may have mentioned this once or twice recently (or, if you know me in ‘real life’, every fucking day), but I shall be turning forty in just over two weeks’ time.

Now, the prospect of entering a fifth decade of existence does not exactly fill me with joy, and if I were a more reserved person (like my wife), I would undoubtedly mark the occasion by celebrating quietly with a small group of friends. But I am not like my wife, and I want a big fuck-off party, so a big fuck-off party I shall have.

(I will pause here to apologise to my mother and mother-in-law, for this being the sweariest opening to my blog ever).

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Anyway, I won’t mention the venue for my party, because some of you are just about unhinged enough to try and gatecrash, but suffice to say it’s close enough to where I live that I can walk home – unlike the vast majority of those attending (still, it’s my big day, not theirs, so tough).

Most of the arrangements are thankfully now in hand, such as the catering, band and disco, but a couple of weeks ago, I arranged to nip back to the venue to meet with the bar manager, in order that we could discuss the drinks available on the night.

I understand this may seem overly fastidious, but my reasons were as follows:

  1. On my first visit to the venue (when I made the booking), I had noticed that a couple of the beers were, for want of a better phrase, utter piss;
  2. I wanted to ensure the bar will have plenty of Jagermeister in stock, so that as many of my friends and family as possible can join me in a celebratory ‘Jagerbomb’ or six;
  3. I felt sure the bar would already have Prosecco in stock, but I wanted to make it clear to the manager precisely how many bottles of the stuff my wife and her friends can potentially get through of an evening.

So, having arranged to call in a couple of weeks ago, I prepared myself for a ‘firm’ discussion with the bar manager, about precisely what I wanted for my party.

Now, I should point out at this stage that, despite my job (I’m a solicitor, in case you are new to my blog) I detest confrontation, particularly when it is face-to-face, and I usually back down in the majority of disputes (I suspect this ability to surrender very easily is something I have picked up over fifteen years of marriage, rather than any French heritage I may ultimately discover in my distant lineage).

This is not to say I expected the bar manager to be confrontational in the slightest, but I was determined to leave the venue with what I wanted in place, and, as I opened the door, I had convinced myself that I would not be taking no for an answer.

This boldness lasted around three minutes.

The reason, I am ashamed to admit, is that I was instantly intimidated by the bar manager when I met him. Not because he was taller than me (I’m 6’3”), or because he was wider than me (which he was, but only marginally, and he was by no means threatening in a physical sense), nor was he aggressive in any way whatsoever – in fact, he was perfectly pleasant throughout our meeting.

No, the reason I was instantly on edge when I met him, was because he had a strong South African accent, and for whatever reason, rightly or wrongly, this is not an accent I associate with ‘friendly discussion’ (in much the same way I struggle to associate certain regional accents with any signs of intelligence*)

*and, if you think I’m telling you which regional accent that is, thereby alienating a chunk of my readership in Birmingham, you can guess again (that was a joke, obviously, as I happen to love Birmingham and it’s people very much. My maternal grandmother originated from there, so I felt it was the one part of the UK I could pretend to take the piss out of, without repercussion or fear of anyone taking me seriously. Unlike those fucking Londoners, who can never take a joke).

Moving swiftly on.

As soon as I met the bar manager, he greeted me warmly and offered me a beer on the house, which was extremely kind of him, but I still felt nervous declining in case he took it personally and snapped my neck (see how irrational I was being?). Thankfully, any fears of neck-snapping were quickly allayed, as it transpired the beers on offer behind the bar had changed since I was last in, with both the ale and lager being far more to my liking.

He then said he had received my e-mail about the Jagermeister, and had agreed to get two bottles in for the party, so long as we did our best to drink it all on the night, as they would struggle to sell it to their usual clientele afterwards. I reassured him this was not a problem, although I suspect I visibly squirmed when he joked about some people actually mixing it with Red Bull and making something called a ‘Jagerbomb’. Hopefully he will have forgotten me describing such drinkers as ‘idiots’, when it comes to me ordering a tray of Jagerbombs in just a couple of weeks.

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Having also re-assured me that he had more than enough wine and Prosecco for the party, he then turned to the bottles of spirits nestled gently in the optics behind the bar, and this is where everything took a distinctly frightening turn. You see, having worked his way through the gin and whiskey/whisky brands on offer, whereupon I hesitantly revealed I don’t drink either, I then made the mistake of admitting my tipple of choice (other than beer and red wine), is actually rum.

At this point, he became visibly excited, and said in his South African accent (which, when I have told this story in person recently, I have impersonated, and I have to say I fucking nailed it every time) “well, my friend, you must try some of this!”

Then, collecting a series of shot glasses from under the bar, he proceeded to pour me a measure of every single rum on offer (there were five), and insisted I down them all one after the other.

It was only after I had consumed four of these shots, and politely declined the fifth (because it was made with coffee, and I hate coffee), he informed me that one of the varieties was made with hemp (which, if you didn’t already know – and you shouldn’t, because drugs are bad, hmmmkay? – is essentially a strain of the cannabis plant).

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Now, it might have been the five shots I had just downed in a matter of minutes (because he offered me a fifth measure of Captain Morgan’s while explaining about the hemp rum), but I swear I noticed an even stronger twinkle in his eye at this point, and I began to fear that I was about to collapse, only to wake up a few hours later in a bathtub of ice, with one of my vital organs missing.

My unease was not helped by the fact he then asked me – again in his accent, which again I nail every time I impersonate it – “tell me, my friend, have you ever had a Springbok?”

I’ll admit this question took me by surprise a little, but having pondered my answer for far longer than was comfortable for either of us (I later blamed the hallucinogenic rum coursing through my blood stream when recounting the tale to my wife), I opted for the rather tame “no?”, offered in such a way as to hopefully infer I was nervous about trying a Springbok now (as that was surely where this scenario was headed). In fairness, for all I knew, ‘Springbok’ was what he called his penis.

Sure enough, he then insisted I have my first ever ‘Springbok’, and I only wish I had paid attention to what went into it, so I can be sure to never mix the same concoction ever again by mistake. What I can be confident of, is that it contained a cream liqueur – which I suspect was Bailey’s – and something green, which, if I did not know better, was probably Crème de menthe.

Hold on, I could probably Google this and find out for sure….

Yep, close enough. Apparently, the traditional recipe contains Amarula (which appears to be a South African Bailey’s alternative), with, as suspected, Crème de menthe. And the evil little fuckers look like this:

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Anyway, to cut a long story (with an astonishingly-accurate impersonation) short, the bar for my party should now be more than satisfactory, the bar manager is a lovely bloke (and I am not just saying that because I firmly believe he has killed before, and could easily kill again), and I returned home within half an hour to find that I could no longer feel anything below the waist, and the vision in my left eye was distinctly blurry.

Bodes well for my party, doesn’t it?

Thanks for reading x

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Blog Marley and the Wailers

I have said it before – and I am about to say it again – I love crappy TV.

I think this is, in part, due to the fact my job tends to be quite serious and stressful at times, and raising two children isn’t always a barrel of laughs, either (particularly when one of those children happens to be Isaac), but I also think my love of terrible TV is helped by the joy I get from laughing at stupid people.

Now, in the interests of keeping the peace, I should stress that I don’t like to make fun of the clinically dense in real life (unless they really bring it on themselves), because it would not be fair to mock anyone whose elevator perhaps doesn’t go all the way to the top floor, but as soon as said thicko chooses to appear on television, particularly where their inadequacies in the brain department are likely to be exposed, it’s open season as far as I am concerned. Joey Essex, I’m looking at you (not that he would be able to read this, even in the unlikely event he stumbled across my blog).

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As a result, there are certain television programmes I particularly enjoy winding down with after a busy day/week (although I should stress, having just mentioned Joey Essex, I have never seen a single episode of TOWIE), sometimes with a glass of wine or two, in order that I can sit and feel smug about having all of my batteries included. The fact I am knitting with both needles. That all the lights are still twinkling on my Christmas tree. Ok, you get the idea.

Consequently, I’ll freely admit that I like The X Factor (but only in the early stages, when they have the dreadful singers who genuinely think they are the next big recording artist), and, in March 2016 – [gulp] was it really that long ago? – I wrote an entire blog entry about one of the finest programmes to come from these shores in recent years, Take Me Out (https://middlerageddad.com/2016/03/11/let-the-blog-see-the-rabbit/), so you get an idea of my level when it comes to watching TV. Essentially, my standards in choosing something to watch of a weekend, are on a par with the United States standards in electing a president.

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You might think, therefore, that the latest crappy singing competition to grace our screens for 2020, The Masked Singer, would be right up my street, and in some respects you would be right (as I’ve watched three shows now, and I will have to finish the series to find out who everyone is), but I cannot deny even I am struggling to tolerate it, and there are certain aspects which are now getting on my usually-very-tolerant nerves (oh, shut up, I’m a fucking delight and you know it).

If you have mercifully dodged The Masked Singer thus far (and, if that is the case, please don’t start watching it now on my account, as I don’t want to be responsible for any of my followers slipping into a catatonic state, or, worse, doing something stupid with a machete in a shopping centre), let me explain the concept: Twelve celebrities (and, I should immediately stress here, only three singers have been revealed so far as I write this week’s entry, and the word ‘celebrity’ has never been more abused), dress up in overly-comical costumes to sing for a panel of four judges, who then have to try and work out who the singer is from their voice and the clues supplied to them.

Honestly, it’s like the bastard love-child of Stars in Their Eyes and Through the Keyhole.

To give you an idea of the costumes the viewing public are treated to, the twelve ‘contestants’ are: Butterfly, Chameleon, Daisy, Duck, Fox, Hedgehog, Monster, Octopus, Pharaoh, Queen Bee, Tree and Unicorn. And here they are:

Of course, when selecting twelve overly-elaborate outfits for someone famous to disguise their identity and sing for the viewing nation, a tree is a natural (excuse the pun) choice, isn’t it? Oh, how I would dearly love to have been at that production meeting:

“Ok, so we’ve got a butterfly, a unicorn and a hedgehog. Any other ideas?”

“Tree?”

“Excuse me?”

“A tree…. oooh, and a Pharaoh.”

“Fuck off, Dave.”

It would be fair to say ITV have pulled out all the stops with the judging panel, too (yes, this is sarcasm), as they comprise the following ‘A-listers’: Jonathan Ross, Davina McCall, Rita Ora, and ‘head judge’ Kim Jeong (who, if you aren’t familiar with the name, played Leslie Chow in the Hangover trilogy). A strange choice, perhaps, but if it helps to explain his particular involvement, he has already appeared on the US version of The Masked Singer, and it is our cousins from across the pond that we have to ‘thank’ for the format reaching our screens.

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Now, the judging panel should give you some idea of the calibre of celebrity behind the masks, but just in case you had an inkling the budget was perhaps spent on persuading movie stars to get dressed up incognito and belt out a show tune or two, there have been three ‘celebrities’ unmasked so far, and they were, in order of fame:

The Chameleon….

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Justin Hawkins from ‘The Darkness’ (yes, this IS in order of fame)

the Butterfly….

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Patsy Palmer (who, for the unitiated, played Bianca in Eastenders)

And the Pharaoh….

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Alan Johnson (Former Home Secretary). Yes, honestly.

I mean, fuck me.

What makes the first three reveals even more incredible, is that the panel genuinely offered guesses including Tom Cruise and Lady Gaga, only to be thoroughly disappointed when Alan fucking Johnson, a man who might not be recognised by his own children, was paraded around like the Dalai Lama.

Now, perhaps it is pure coincidence that the first three singers to be revealed (i.e. those deemed to have the worst voices), are simultaneously the three least famous among the characters, and we can only dream that the remaining nine participants are the real budget-stretchers, but I fear not. After all, would Tom Cruise really have a better voice than the fella from The Darkness?

Nevertheless, in the interest (and I have never used the term more loosely), of maintaining some, erm…. interest in the rest of the series, I have decided to come up with my own wild predictions of who might be behind the nine remaining masks. However, unlike the majority of those still watching this utter pish, and the British press for that matter, I am not going to take my guesses too seriously (as should become immediately apparent).

So, in alphabetical order, I have now determined (based on the pointless clues provided thus far), the remaining nine masked singers are as follows:

Daisy = Pope Francis

Argument For: His Holiness probably likes flowers

Argument Against: Daisy is clearly female

Duck = Bob Marley

Argument For: It justifies my use of this week’s blog title

Argument Against: He’s slightly dead

Fox = George Clooney

Argument For: George once played the lead in ‘Fantastic Mr Fox’

Argument Against: Would probably demand a higher appearance fee than, say, Former Home Secretary, Alan Johnson

Hedgehog = Pep Guardiola

Argument For: As the manager of Manchester City, he is used to being surrounded by pricks (I thank you)

Argument Against: Notoriously allergic to striped trousers

Monster = Vladimir Putin

Argument For: Requires little acting, as he is already a monster

Argument Against: Ol’ Vlad isn’t exactly known for embracing campness, is he? Well, not deliberately

Octopus = Prince Andrew

Argument For: Known to be ‘handsy’; diary is currently empty

Argument Against: Claims he cannot sweat, so would undoubtedly struggle in a heavy costume under studio lighting

Queen Bee = Beyonce

Argument For: Well, it’s her nickname, isn’t it? Plus, the bee can actually sing

Argument Against: Obsessed with Jonathan Ross, and not allowed within fifty feet of him

Tree = Tom Hanks

Argument For: Plays ‘Woody’ in the Toy Story films (woody = tree, geddit?)

Argument Against: Famous for his sense of humour, but even he has limits.

Unicorn = John Barrowman

Argument For: It’s clearly John Barrowman

Argument Against: None. Did you not hear me? It’s clearly John Barrowman

Disclaimer: The Middle-Raged Dad accepts no legal liability whatsoever, should someone reading this week’s entry choose to place a bet on any or all of the above predictions. If, however, aforementioned bet pays out at ridiculous odds, said reader is obliged to provide Middle-Raged Dad a ‘prediction fee’ of 35% of the sum paid, within 14 days of being placed in receipt of funds. Cash, or the equivalent value in Jaffa Cakes, are the only acceptable methods of payment. This does not affect your statutory rights. 

Thanks for reading, folks x

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Blog Geldof

“It’s Christmas time, there’s no every need to be afraid.”

Happy New Year, everyone. I hope you all had a great Christmas, with much love and laughter.

Before the joyous memories of yet another festive period fade into the utterly bleak shitness that is January, and while fans of my Facebook page might have seen some of what follows already, here are my fifteen festive highlights from Christmas 2019:

1. ‘Northern Christmas Eve’

Like many couples who have young children, every year we face the challenge of dividing our time between visiting my family in Cheshire, and my wife’s family in Norfolk. What we tend to do is alternate ‘Actual Christmas’, so the boys get to spend 25th December with my family one year, then my wife’s family the next.

This year, it was the turn of the latter, which meant we celebrated ‘Northern Christmas’ on Sunday 22nd December (it’s exactly the same as Actual Christmas, only we have roast whippet for dinner instead of turkey*) and, thankfully – despite his hectic schedule – we managed to persuade Father Christmas to do a dummy-run to my mum’s house a few days before the main event.

*joke.

As a result, the boys eagerly placed their sacks in front of the fireplace before going to bed on 21st December, and awoke the next morning to bundles of presents. Well done, FC, you fucking nailed it, mate.

Just look at those little faces.

2. Vomiting Gnomes

Following Northern Christmas, we returned to Sandbach on Monday 23rd December, to spend one night at home before heading to Norwich for Actual Christmas / ‘Norfolk Christmas’ (Norfolk Christmas is exactly the same as Actual Christmas, only with funny accents and incest*).

*another joke.

Prior to our long journey on Christmas Eve (Actual Christmas Eve, not Northern Christmas Eve – stop me if this gets confusing), I decided to treat my car to new tyres (for safety, as the front two were looking particularly battle-worn, a bit like some of my pants) and a wash (because it was covered in shit both inside and out, which is not like some of my pants).

While Kanye was having his well-earned clean (I like to name my cars, and my current motor is ‘Kanye the Kuga’, because he’s big and angry-looking, like his namesake), Isaac decided to put on the ‘Schmebulock’ mask he had received from Father Christmas the day before. For those of you who have never watched Gravity Falls (which, for a kids’ show, is actually very watchable), Schmebulock is a gnome who vomits rainbows. Obvs.

Unfortunately, it seems the delightful Albanian lady who was tasked with cleaning the insides of Kanye’s doors has never seen Gravity Falls (I suspect the humour doesn’t translate well), and when she opened Isaac’s door to be greeted by a goblin puking multi-coloured fabric, it would be safe to say she damn-near shit herself.

Hilariously, however, once she had composed herself, she mistakenly assumed he was dressed as Father Christmas, and very sweetly asked in broken English: ‘Do you have a present for me, Santa?’

To which Isaac rudely growled ‘I am NOT Santa! I am Schmebulock, the rainbow-vomiting gnome!’

In other news, I need to find another car wash from now on.

3. Colour-blind Violence

Continuing with my youngest son, and his penchant for being a bit of a twat (although, so help me, how little material would I have without him?), when returning from the car wash, Ollie suddenly howled in pain, after which the following conversation ensued between us:

“Ow!”

“What’s up, Ol?”

“Isaac punched me!”

“Isaac, why did you punch Ollie?”

“I saw a yellow car!”

“Where?”

“Well, it was yellow-ish.”

“What colour was it?”

“Red.”

4. Ruminant Bathing

When you arrive at the in-laws, and there’s a large, stuffed giraffe in the downstairs bathroom (wearing shades)…

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5. Glitter Warfare

… not to mention a strategically placed Christmas decoration, which is only ever likely to injure (blind) the one person in the family who is over 6’ tall:

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I didn’t take this personally.

6. While Shepherds Groped Their Flocks

At (Actual) Christmas Eve Mass, my wife wanted to get a nice photo of the boys in front of the church nativity scene. Naturally, Ollie tried to smile sweetly, while Isaac gravitated at alarming speed towards the nearest ovine rectum:

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7. Record-breaking parkrun

On Christmas morning, I braved the cold to take part in a special festive Norwich parkrun. And, not only did they smash the attendance record for Norwich (over 1,350 runners, compared to last year’s 800-odd), but it was officially recognised as the second-highest attendance at a UK parkrun ever.

Needless to say, the date/occasion brought out the very weirdest in people (even aside from the fact they were voluntarily running on Christmas morning, and mostly live in and around Norwich):

8. Fruit Farming

Isaac is astonishingly naive about where food and drink originates from:

“Mummy, what animal does blackcurrant come from? It is a pig?”

9. Making Your Mind Up

When your Mother-in-Law asks if anyone would like some Bucks Fizz, you make a joke about her whipping her skirt off, but she doesn’t get the Eurovision reference and thinks you’re asking her to get undressed.

10. Ollie’s Good Deed

Nothing funny here, but it was certainly a highlight.

Over Christmas, Ollie accompanied my in-laws onto the cold streets of Norwich to help feed the homeless. He enjoyed making hot drinks and doing something worthwhile, but (as hoped), it really drummed home how unfortunate some people are, how lonely they can be at Christmas, and how lucky he is to have a family and home around him.

We were immensely proud of him.

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11. A Slip Of The Tongue(s)

I suspect my in-laws may not thank me for the following two paragraphs, but they really made me laugh.

Firstly, at one point over Christmas, my mother-in-law (who I love dearly, and I’m not only saying that because she will read this), clearly intended to describe someone as either ‘mardy’, or ‘whingy’, only she got mixed up and called them a ‘minge’.

Meanwhile, I don’t know whether I missed my father-in-law informing everyone that they had both been woken in the early hours by four of their six grandchildren wriggling around the bed, but the first I knew was him saying: ‘Honestly, I was like a maggot when I got up this morning.’

Well, we’ve all been there.

12. Isaac’s Further Education

I suspect Isaac ever attending University may well be a pipe dream (and I don’t say that purely on the basis he thinks blackcurrants come from pigs, although it doesn’t help his case), but on a family walk between Christmas and New Year, we happened to pass the University of East Anglia, and he asked me what the funny-shaped building was.

Having explained what a University is, and that this is where Mummy and Daddy met, I asked Isaac what subjects he thought Mummy and Daddy had studied.

“Dunno.”

“What does Daddy do for a job?”

“Lawyer?”

“Right. So, Daddy studied….?”

“Boring stuff.”

“Close enough. And what does Mummy teach?”

“Boys!”

I then asked Isaac what he might study if he went to university, and he looked confused. In an attempt to help him, I queried what his favourite subject is at school.

“Lunch!”

I wouldn’t mind, but he never eats anything.

13. Happy Families

Once my brother-in-law and his family arrived after Actual Christmas, there was a day when all six grandchildren on my wife’s side were together, and they began playing ‘Mums and Dads’ upstairs. Being the two eldest, Ollie and his first girl cousin were Dad and Mum (Isaac later informed me that Ollie was called ‘Bob’ for some reason), and the others took varying roles for the rest of the family.

Naturally, not being one to conform to usual stereotypes, Isaac decided he did not want to play a child, and instead dressed as the family dog:

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After a while, ‘Dad’ was reading a bedtime story to their daughter (Grandchild #5), and proudly exclaimed she had ‘gone to sleep’, which panicked me as I was nearby and was under the impression a mid-afternoon nap might, for want of a better phrase, ‘fuck with bedtime’, so I asked Ollie to check his cousin hadn’t actually nodded off. Isaac then took it upon himself to explain:

“No, Daddy, it’s just a game! Ollie is the Dad, then there’s Mum, the children and their pet dog!”

Then, as if I needed clarification – bearing in mind his outfit – he leaned toward me and whispered: “I’m the dog.”

14. Life’s a Beach

On New Year’s Eve, we had a family outing to the beach.

On arrival, Ollie sat himself down in the cold sand to write some emo prose about the crashing waves, while Isaac busied himself ensuring not an inch of his body remained sand-free by the end of the day.

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Eventually, the boys did play together and, along with one of their cousins, built an impressive sand fortress – complete with moat.

Of course, having spent an hour or so playing ‘normally’, Isaac then decided to create a separate ‘seaweed castle’ by himself.

And, when Ollie suggested they could use that seaweed in the moat, because ‘it will look like water’, Isaac – in typical fashion – responded with: ‘no, it’ll look like seaweed’.

15. Addressing the Elephant in the Room Photo

Finally, to end the day (and, indeed, the year), we took the children to a nearby park, where my sister-in-law noticed Isaac and his cousin playing beautifully together on the see-saw. However, when she tried to take a photo of the moment, I ruined it by getting myself stuck in a springy-elephant in the background.

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***

Well, that was Christmas 2019 in the Middle-Raged Dad household.

Thanks for reading x

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‘Twas The Blog Before Christmas (2019)

‘Twas the blog before Christmas, two-thousand-nineteen

Thirty-six further entries, published and seen

For the fifth year running, here’s my audit

Of a year’s worth of blogging (and most of it’s shit)

 

JANUARY

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To kick off the year, the Christmas just past

With my family and kids the hilarious cast

A stain on the carpet, a book about cock

A visit to Stockport when I got quite a shock

A woman out shopping, living the dream

Wearing her dressing gown and drinking cream

Then in ‘Blog Habits’, I set out a year

of novelty months (the reasons weren’t clear)

And following that, for a little fun

I wrote a play all about our school run

 Both boys pushing me nearer my grave

When all I wanted was a shower and shave

To finish the month, my appraisal at work

(I re-wrote the questions because I’m a jerk)

 

FEBRUARY

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To kick start month two, we gave up the chocs

Even the boys went full-on detox

Isaac especially became rather quiet

(because chocolate comprises most of his diet)

I then wrote an entry about my hometown

And described how our ‘shared space’ was built by a clown

Pedestrians and cars must give way to all

And every day there’s a crash or a brawl

 

MARCH

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In a break from driving me around the bend

At the start of March, the boys got girlfriends

But just as my respect for each of them grew

It transpired that neither of the girls knew

Then ‘I’ll Have A P Please, Blog’, I went to a quiz

With colleagues, my boss and some friends of his

But, unfortunately, the place where we sat

Was next to a table of four stuck-up twats

Next it was ‘BrewBlog’, where beer got tasted

Out with my mate, and the two of us wasted

The ‘hyper’ Tallulah our annoying host

(but it was beer mixed with cheese which upset me the most)

Then over to Hastings, my useless insurer

Their service honestly could not have been poorer

And ending the month, it was entry two hundred

‘How the fuck’s he got this far?’ everyone wondered

But in my ‘Blogcentennial’, it seemed rather apt

To have four years of entries succinctly recapped.

 

APRIL

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Three blog posts in April was all you would get

The first one a list of celebs I have met

To anyone reading I made it quite clear

I’d like to meet someone A-List this year (I haven’t)

I explained how my anger is out of control

(if you didn’t like that one, then you’re an arsehole)

To finish the month, we thought for a lark

We’d go on an Easter Hunt ‘round Tatton Park

But it ended in shouting and tears instead

When Isaac fell from a tree onto his head

 

MAY

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I started with footy as we moved into May

My team were promoted and later that day

I treated young Ollie to the club’s gala dinner

(If there’s a Dad of the Year Award I must be a winner)

In ‘Blog of the Dump’ Isaac turned five

And a kid at his party scared me alive

The weird little rat-girl (who wasn’t a guest)

Tried to steal all his presents, the vile little pest

A trip then to York for a nice little break

Where Isaac was feral and mostly ate cake

Before I wrote ‘bout the phone system I have in my car

It sends pre-programmed texts, but I took it too far

By suggesting my own, like ‘I should go by train’

and ‘I’m stuck behind a fucking tractor again’

Lastly, I wrote about ‘Biff, Chip and Kipper’

And the books that I read back when I was a nipper.

 

JUNE

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Just three entries in June, with Sports Day to start

Typically, Isaac refused to take part

Eventually persuaded, he ran in four races

Two golds and two silvers, his collection of places

Our trip to the circus was a bit of a farce

It was no ‘Greatest Showman’ (and no Zendaya’s arse)

But Isaac had fun watching acrobats fly

Then the clown sprayed his face, which of course made him cry

 

JULY

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If you thought June was sparse, then July’s count was two

So, I tried to make both extra special for you

The first was all about Ollie’s first gig

A festival in Yorkshire (I thought I’d go big)

Stood right at the front in his massive band shirt

The crowd formed a barrier, so he didn’t get hurt

His class then cooked lunch for their parents at school

An ‘Italian Café’ which was pretty cool

The main course was pizza, which was nice but I gotta

Say that I preferred his dessert panna cotta

 

AUGUST

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I then tried out something I’d not done before

My first ever threesome I thought I’d explore

Don’t jump to conclusions though, I need you to note

The only ‘entries’ were the ones that I wrote

A trilogy, in fact, about our glamping trip

Stuck in a lodge, not getting much kip

‘Don’t Let The Bed Blogs Bite’, Parts 1 to 3

Carnivorous insects tried to eat me

Our hosts were straight out of Deliverance

(I think they’d have killed us if given the chance)

But both boys had fun, so I shouldn’t complain

Although, I doubt I’ll ever go glamping again

 

SEPTEMBER

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More outdoor fun as we moved to September

‘The Twiggles and Bloggles’ you might just remember

A trip to ‘Bewilderwood’, climbing up trees

(I got myself lost when I went for a wee)

Then ‘Blog to School’, an entry which featured

Putting my foot in it with Isaac’s new teacher

Following that, Isaac’s YouTube obsession

A girl group who fill me with rage and aggression

A family of sisters singing terrible songs

Everything about them is so fucking wrong

 

OCTOBER

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I then published ‘Another Blog In The Wall’

Going to parents’ evening in the school hall

My wife was away, so I went on my own

I might have refused, if only I’d known

I’d embarrass myself and book the wrong times

(to mention just two of my most heinous crimes)

Remaining with school, in ‘Blogz In The Hood’

I explained how this month I thought it would

Be nice to go drinking with my two oldest mates

Though one got accosted outside our school gates

Lastly I wrote about Ollie’s foul mood

He was grumpy, and sulky, and just downright rude

Then one of the mums scared the life out of me

By explaining he’s probably near puberty.

 

NOVEMBER

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I wrote in November about how I look

My body is shoddy, but I don’t give a fuck

If you’re healthy and happy, then really who cares?

(though I’d still add some length to the fella downstairs)

In ‘Mary’s Blog Child’ just a few weeks ago

We ended the month thinking reindeer and snow

For once it’s December it’s no longer absurd

If anyone mentions the dreaded C-Word

(No, Christmas)

 

DECEMBER

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Just two final entries to finish the year

(so my round-up is ending, and I’m off for a beer)

The first of the two was called ‘BlogDay Cards’

And I wrote about I found it quite hard

To get famous people to send to our house

Signed birthday cards addressed to my spouse

So thanks Norwich City and especially Dan Snow

(whereas John Barrowman knows where he can go)

And ending the year, as I fill up my cup

The ‘Blog Before Christmas’ – this poetic round-up

Another year done folks, and you know I adore

Each of you readers, so to you and yours

I raise up my glass and give festive cheer

Merry Christmas you rabble, and Happy New Year!

Thank you all, as ever, for reading. I hope each and every one of my followers has a fantastic Christmas and thank you for humouring me for another twelve months. You have no idea how much writing this blog and posting random garbage on my Facebook page keeps me sane at times, so thank you.

Merry Christmas x

 

 

 

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