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 (NB: a similar incident once occurred when we were in a fabrics souk in Morocco, and I mistakenly assumed the trader was referring to me, when he shouted ‘cheap pouf’).

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), 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 they 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 considered turning back to the cashier to show her I understood what she meant by putting two fingers up, I inadvertently dispensed another ticket from the machine, and scarpered.

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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.

Enjoy.

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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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BlogDay Cards

As I mentioned a couple of times on my Facebook page recently, my wife turned 40 at the end of November (although, in my humble opinion, she still doesn’t look a day over 39) and, aside from the gifts I bought for myself and the boys to give her (for which they – unfairly – took far too much credit), I decided to try and organise some rather special birthday cards for her.

Essentially, I thought it might be nice if she got a few cards from some of her favourite celebrities, and, having enlisted help from her siblings, a few months ago I compiled a list of famous people I intended to write to (via their PA or agency). I then set about purchasing as many different ‘40’ cards as I could lay my grubby little mitts on and began posting them out to the celebs on my list, with a covering letter explaining my plan and asking for their help. I also included a stamped addressed envelope, so that there was no expense involved to said celebrity (even though, I suspect, they were all in a far better financial position that myself to be paying for a stamp), in order to bolster my chances of persuading them to help me out.

In truth, from the list of ten famous people I created, I never expected more than a couple would even respond, let alone oblige (and – spoiler alert – they didn’t), but of the few I did receive back, they were most definitely the ones I had hoped for. From the remainder, most failed to get back to me at all, but that was still preferable to the two whose representatives did respond, but very firmly told me to go fuck myself*

*ok, they didn’t use those exact words, but was how it came across.

As a result, I have decided to publicly thank the famous people who took time out of their busy schedules to do something nice for a complete stranger’s 40th birthday, but also ‘name and shame’ those celebrities who were less than approachable.

In true ‘Middle-Raged Dad’ fashion, let’s start from the top and work our way down to the dregs, shall we?

Dan Snow

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Now, my wife doesn’t openly profess to having a celebrity crush like I do (Holly Willoughby, if you happen to read this, call me), but if she did, it would be Dan Snow.

Not only will I admit he a good-looking chap (although, as you will see further down my list, good looks count for shit if you don’t have the personality to match), he is – like my wife – a keen historian. And, if there is one thing my wife will surely find attractive in a man (other than his ability to produce a comedic weekly blog, and make repeated innuendo about his genitals), it is a man who loves a good castle as much as her.

Ok, this may be viewed by some as nerdy, but is it really any different to every heterosexual middle-aged man fantasising about Princess Leia in that gold bikini, Lois Griffin from Family Guy, or – dare I say it – Cheetara from Thundercats?*

(*shut up. Cheetahs are my favourite animal anyway, and she was a sexy one who didn’t wear much).

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Anyway, Dan was probably top of my list, as I knew how much she would love to get a card signed by him, so I was understandably delighted when his PA, Hilary, responded to say she would do her best to grab Dan when he returned to the UK from filming abroad.

And, Hilary didn’t let me down, because although it took a while to arrive, Dan not only signed a card, but took the time to write a personal message to my wife:

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Christ, get a room, you two….

All joking aside, I am very grateful to Dan for such a nice gesture, and if my wife does happen to run off with him in the future, at least she’ll have left me for a decent bloke.

Norwich City Football Club

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My wife is from Norwich, and is a big fan of the Canaries, so I decided to write to the club to see if they could perhaps get a few of the first team to sign a card for me.

Not only did they gladly oblige, with a card signed by most of the squad, they returned it to me within a few days (which was very good of them, as I did not get around to sending it until a couple of weeks before her birthday, so I was under a fair amount of time pressure by that point).

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I have no doubt that very few Premier League football clubs would have even replied to me, and certainly not so quickly, but having been to Carrow Road a number of times, this is indicative of what a friendly club they are. Well played, Norwich City.

Jason Manford

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My wife loves Jason Manford (although admittedly not in the same way she loves Dan Snow), so I was very pleased when a signed card returned from his people, particularly because he seemingly works around the clock on various television, radio and acting projects.

That said, he did only sign a card, with no additional message, so although I am grateful, it probably took a few seconds and he is therefore in third place (some way below the top two).

Still, he did better than….

Jason Donovan

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Jason Donovan and/or his team never got back me, but since he was a very late after-thought, with barely a fortnight until my wife’s birthday, I suppose I shouldn’t complain too much. Besides, I think he is on tour at present, which might also explain the lack of response. Jason is excused, and finishes 4th despite not actually doing anything to deserve it.

Eddie Izzard and Greg Davies

No, they have not suddenly announced themselves as a couple (although I would definitely go round for dinner if they did), but I have placed both of these gentleman in joint 5th, because although neither responded to my request, in fairness I again gave them / their representatives very little time to comply, only adding them to my list at a relatively late stage (albeit not as late as Jason Donovan). As such, they are (partially) excused for not getting back to me.

It also helps that I find both of them hilarious, and I don’t want that adoration tarnished in any way.

Graham Norton

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I have no doubt that Graham is an equally busy man, what with his own BBC1 show to prepare for and present, but I can’t believe he didn’t have time in his schedule to sign a quick card, and I gave him more than a month to get back to me, so he has dropped in my estimation now.

Ok, I highly doubt he even found out about the card, and he may very well have signed it if asked, so my gripe is probably with his team, but until I hear otherwise, I shall be holding him personally responsible.

7th place for you, Mr Norton.

Jamie Theakston

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Here we have an example of a good-looking fella (well, my wife thinks so – or certainly used to), letting himself down on account of his refusal to engage with fans. Again, it might be his publicity team who have taken the decision to block any requests for autographs, but is he really that busy/famous these days (Heart Radio’s breakfast show aside)?

Plus, he no doubt hired his publicity team in the first place, so when they responded with ‘Mr Theakston doesn’t do requests like this’, I took that to mean ‘Mr Theakston is an arrogant prick who thinks he is better than everyone else’. This may be unfair (which I will emphasise for libel reasons), but I doubt it (which I will also emphasise, because I think I am correct in my assessment).

John Barrowman

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In last place, rather surprisingly, is John Barrowman (my wife is a huge fan of musicals), who – until recently – I had a lot of time for.

Sadly, like Jamie Theakston, he is either extremely arrogant, or he has employed some particularly stand-offish people to represent him, because not only did I get a reply very firmly telling me to do one, but they went that bit further than Theakston & Co, by suggesting John would be willing to sign a book for me, if I bought tickets to one of his shows, and his book, then queued up after the show to ask him nicely.

I didn’t bother e-mailing back, as I felt ‘tell John to go fuck himself’ might have been poorly received. Last (9th) place for you, JB.

Honorary mention – Dick van Dyke

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The more astute among you will have realised that my list currently only numbers nine.

Step in (presumably with some assistance), Dick van Dyke.

Now, had I been able to secure a card signed by the owner of the single worst cockney accent in cinematic history, I think my wife may very well have lost her shit, but aside from the fact Dick is now well into his 90s, he also lives – to my knowledge – in America, and I had automatically discounted any overseas celebs (yes, Bryan Adams, that includes you), as being unachievable, not least because I couldn’t possibly cover their postage for sending the card back.

So, Dick features last in my list, but only because he is an after-thought, and not because I dislike him.

And, there you have it. If you take anything away from today’s blog entry, let it be this: Dan Snow is a thoroughly nice chap and, if my wife does run off with him, I can’t be too upset about it; while John Barrowman is a colossal bellend (or, at the very least, his representatives are).

Thank you for reading x

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Blog of the Dump

This Sunday is Isaac’s 5th birthday, but as we are away over the weekend visiting one of my favourite cities, York, we held his party last Saturday – at a local soft play centre.

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As it happens, this was the same soft play centre where the boys had a joint party last year (their birthdays are only three days apart), but since Ollie will turn nine next week, he fancied doing something a little more ‘grown up’ this year, and has chosen to take a few friends to the National Football Museum instead (followed by a trip to Nando’s, which I have agreed to on the strict understanding no one refers to it as ‘cheeky’).

Unfortunately, because we left it quite late to book Isaac’s party, there was no availability for the ‘exclusive’ hire of the venue (after normal opening hours), so we were forced to host it while they were still open to the public. This didn’t particularly bother us, as Isaac only had around fifteen of his friends attending anyway, but some of the other families there were, how can I put this…. rough as shit?

The other issue this posed, was that not every child arriving around 3pm was there for the party, and because Isaac only started school in September, we still don’t know who some of his friends are, so we had to ask him each time a family walked in whether he knew the child or not.

There was one child in particular, however, who clearly didn’t belong at the party. Not only was she too young (probably three, at a guess), but – without being snobby – to say she was scummy would be an understatement. Look, I am acutely aware that Isaac can be a dickhead at times, and I sometimes joke about him being feral, but this little girl actually was feral.  She was filthy, nasty, rude, and it wouldn’t have surprised me if she was carrying some kind of blade.

The first time we noticed her, was when she wandered over to our reserved party table – where all the parents were congregating while their kids played – took one look at the pile of gifts everyone had kindly brought, and said “I’ll take one.”

At this point, I just thought she was perhaps a little naive, and an embarrassed parent would come running over to retrieve her and apologise, but when no one appeared, my wife and I had to politely explain that these were birthday presents for our son, and weren’t for her.

Undeterred, she glared at us and said: “You have lots. I’ll just take one”, before making a grab for the gift nearest to her.

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“No, that’s not for you”, my wife said pleasantly but firmly (when my chosen language might have been a little harsher) but she still had to physically prize the girl’s filthy little mitts off the gift, as she wasn’t giving it up easily. Eventually, she did leave the table and wander off (presumably in search of something else to steal), but still no parent(s) seemed to want to accept responsibility for her.

Before long, she was back again, only this time she bypassed our table and headed straight for the food counter behind us, where she asked a parent in the queue to buy her a box of raisins. When the lady – who clearly had no idea who the child was – politely refused, the little girl then took the box up to the poor lad who was manning the counter, and put them down in front of him with a 1p coin (which she had presumably discovered on the floor somewhere).

When he, rather awkwardly, told her that wasn’t enough money, she stared directly at him, and said in a low, menacing voice: ‘take the money’.

Now, if there is one thing I have learned from many years watching horror films, it’s that nothing is quite so scary as demonic little girls, and even though she was facing away from me at the time, and was speaking to someone else, I damn near shit myself, so I have no idea how terrified he must have been.

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I was then briefly distracted talking to another parent, but the next thing I knew, the grubby little tree-dweller was eating the raisins, so she had either chosen to ignore the lad behind the till and steal them, or he had decided that his life was worth more than a box of shriveled fruit. A wise move, because had he continued to deny her the snack, and then suddenly dropped dead, it would not have surprised me in the slightest.

We were in the presence of pure evil.

Within minutes, she appeared beside me again (I’m not ashamed to admit I actually yelped, and may have soiled myself a little), and began demanding that someone take her on the ‘big slide’. At this point, a friend of ours suggested they go and find her parents instead, but I had begun to question whether they ever existed (there was an argument this child was not the offspring of a human woman); and if they did, whether she had at some point slaughtered them in their sleep – ok, I may have been overreacting by this point.

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As I suspected, no parents could be located (at least, none who wanted to claim her), and even though she was deposited on the other side of the centre to ruin someone else’s day, minutes later she was once again heading towards Isaac’s presents. By the time my wife and I got there, she was already in the process of unwrapping one of them, so again we had to physically remove her (whilst at all times avoiding eye contact, lest we burst into flames), before making the decision that perhaps I should take the gifts to the car.

When I got there, I have to admit I opened the boot very slowly, since part of me envisaged her jumping out of the enclosed space and sinking her teeth into my neck.

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Once all the presents were securely in the car, it was time for Isaac’s party tea, and thankfully she didn’t turn up for that (it was in a separate room), but I still kept an eye out for her sneaking in behind another parent, in a bid to steal some food, or perhaps eat/destroy/urinate on the birthday cake (which was frankly amazing):

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After the children had eaten and played games, there was just time for another half hour in the main room before the party was due to end, and Isaac decided he wanted to go into the toddler’s area with a few friends.

As this enclosure is designed for younger kids to play safely, the door has a magnetic button at the top, which only adults can reach. The idea is that parents can let their children into the caged area (which has a ball-pit, slide, etc.), and then relax with a coffee, knowing they cannot hurt themselves, or – more importantly – escape.

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Of course, when Isaac and his two friends went in, there was devil spawn once more, who immediately made it her mission to ruin their fun. It was only at this point, when I began to suggest her behaviour wasn’t very nice, my attention was drawn to a small, shriveled woman sat on the floor, like the ‘Psammead’ from Five Children and It, and she muttered something about being the girl’s aunt.

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I wanted to respond with something like “You do realise your disgusting, feral, street urchin of a niece needs to learn some fucking manners, don’t you?”; but if there is one thing I detest more than confrontation, it’s being brutally murdered in front of my family, so I decided to simply walk away.

Soon after, however, I could hear a commotion in the toddler area, and headed back to make sure Isaac and his friends were ok. Sure enough, the noise was coming from Satan’s offspring, who was demanding to be let out of the enclosure.  With no aunt in sight (she must have escaped), I calmly explained that I wasn’t allowed to let her out, and that it might be best for her to stay in there (for the safety of the other children, but also to acclimatise her to incarceration, ready for later life).

At this point, her eyes glowed red (or, at least, they have each time I have played the events back in my nightmares since), and she growled: “Let. Me. Out.”

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“Nope. You stay in there, you evil little fuck.”

Then, as I turned away to walk back to our table, I could hear her thrashing around behind me, but didn’t dare glance back in case her head was spinning around and she was vomiting green ooze in my direction.

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It was only a minute or two later, when I dared to look, I realised the noise had been her frantically destroying the ‘house’ Isaac and his friends had built from cushioned bricks, then using them to build a platform against the door. Within seconds, she had created a structure which enabled her to climb up, reach around the door, and release it herself. I had to hand it to her, she was a resourceful little critter.

Needless to say, when the door released and she came tumbling out, the aunt was nowhere to be seen, and it took another parent to come over and escort her back to a table on the other side of the room – where the aunt was sat with a couple who I later discovered were the girl’s parents. Yes, they had been there all along, ignoring not only their daughter, but more importantly her appalling behaviour.

At that point, I hated them even more than her. Ok, she was clearly possessed by some malevolent spirit, and I have no doubt there was a black pit where her soul should have been; but she was only young, and clearly had very little chance in life with these two toothless gibbons for parents. I almost felt sorry for her.

Almost.

Thanks for reading x

 

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Bloggykissangel

Last November, I introduced you to a good friend of mine from Law school, who I referred to as ‘Gerard’ – because, well, that’s his name (#139 https://middlerageddad.com/2017/11/10/blogged-determination).

If you read that entry, you may recall Gerard is somewhat hazardous for my health, as we have a history of undertaking crazy challenges for charity, however – due to having young families – we haven’t seen each other in years. Until last weekend.

Gerard is originally from Belfast, but now lives in Aughrim, County Wicklow, with his wife Nicola, and their two children. On Saturday, he turned 40, and earlier this year Nicola contacted me to say she was planning on a surprise party and would love it if we could attend. I didn’t take much persuading, and despite some initial problems sorting accommodation and ferries, the plans – which I have had to keep secret – have been in place since March.

Things were fine, until the middle of last week, when I discovered that mine and Ollie’s passports were missing.

Having checked online, we didn’t technically need passports to enter Ireland (although Ryan Air would have argued otherwise), so long as we had photo ID. However, whilst I had my driving licence, Ollie didn’t have anything, and so the website suggested alternatives, including: birth certificate; bank statement; and, I shit you not, ‘firearms certificate’. It seems the Irish authorities don’t mind kids travelling without a passport, so long as they’re packing heat.

To be on the safe side, I emailed the ferry company to double-check, and their reply was that we ‘should be ok’. How delightfully vague.

What follows, is an account of our trip….

 

SATURDAY

Having got up early to catch our ferry, I had to get over my fear of driving abroad. Now, you might think Wales is not technically ‘abroad’ – and I accept we do share a currency and drive on the same side of the road – but I would also argue that they speak a different language (well, they do when I’m around) and all seem to hate me. As such, it’s abroad as far as I’m concerned.

We got to Holyhead early, partly in case of unexpected traffic, but mostly because, with two missing passports, I wanted plenty of time to argue (in a loud voice in case they DIDN’T SPEAK ENGLISH), that I had an email confirming we would ‘probably be ok’.

Thankfully, our lack of passports posed no problem whatsoever, since they didn’t ask for any ID at all. In fact, anyone with a print-out of our booking could have boarded the ferry in our name without question. With a shotgun.

Once aboard, my wife produced a cool-box of snacks, which she jokingly referred to as her ‘bag of crap’. Unfortunately, Isaac overheard this, and started excitedly jumping around shouting “Yay! Bag of crap! Bag of crap!” He then proceeded to devour the contents before we had set off.

I then began teaching the boys how to say Gerard’s name properly, as I didn’t want them to suffer the same humiliation I had at law school, when calling him Jare-rard. Apparently, to pronounce his name correctly (with a Belfast accent), it must rhyme with ‘turd’.

Ollie, to his credit, at least attempted to pronounce it correctly while we were there; whereas Isaac, in typical Isaac style, insisted on addressing him as ‘Uncle John’, ‘Uncle George’ or ‘Uncle James’, just to spite me.

When we got off the ferry, I was relieved to discover our sat-nav not only worked, but seemed to recognise our destination, so we quickly sent a message to Nicola to give our eta, then headed off.

When we parked at their house an hour or so later, our arrival coincided with a number of other party-goers (mostly family) which reassured me that we had the right place – and thankfully just in time, as Nicola informed us that Gerard would be back from the pub (where his Dad had taken him as a distraction) in fifteen minutes. This meant we didn’t have time to change, so looked a little scruffy, but at least we made it in time for the big reveal.

It would be fair to say Gerard got a shock, when he opened his front door to about forty people getting drunk and shouting ‘surprise!’, and was pleased that we had been able to come over for his big day.

The party was a huge success (to Nicola’s credit); the cake she had ordered was amazing; and the evening was rounded off nicely by a visit to the pub to get drunk. Splendid.

 

 

SUNDAY

We had no plans for Sunday, and as we couldn’t check-in to our hotel until 3pm (not that I was safe to drive anyway), we decided to spend the day with our hosts.

Having not had chance the evening before, I gave Gerard our gift, which was a 1978/79 Ireland shirt (the season he was born), with his surname and ’40’ on the back, together with a Manchester United programme (his team) – again from the month of his birth, August 1978 – when they happened to play my beloved Stockport County.

We then took the kids to the park to enjoy the glorious weather, and bought ice creams on the way back; at which point Isaac started happily singing a tune of his own creation:

“My lovely legs

My lovely feet

My lovely face

It’s all cool.

(When singing this in your head, it is important to deliver the final line in a chilled-out ‘Jazz Club’ style, to accurately replicate the original)

We then bid farewell, and drove to Arklow (where we had a hotel booked for the next three nights), but made plans to meet the following day, as it was a bank holiday.

 

 

MONDAY

Having considered a few options for a family day out, we eventually settled on Wells House in Co. Wicklow, as it had lots of activities, such as a playground and Gruffalo trail, but also a cafe and ice cream kiosk.

The trail had a number of ‘fairy doors’ for kids to knock on – although I did wonder whether teaching them to knock on doors and then run away was a good idea, not least because some little fuckers had done it to our hotel room the night before, and I didn’t want my boys growing up as anti-social little reprobates too.

That evening, having bid farewell to Gerard and his family, we headed back to our hotel, and decided to treat the boys to a cinema trip. Our film of choice was ‘The Incredibles 2’ (which was decidedly un-incredible, but still better than ‘Hotel Transylvania 3’), and we then took them to Eddie Rocket’s for dinner – which is a burger chain of American-themed diners, if you’ve never heard of it.

After dinner, Ollie wanted to add the restaurant to his list of ‘public places to take a shit’, but not only insisted I stand outside the cubicle door in case anyone came in, he then wanted to discuss our favourite parts of the holiday so far. Apparently, my sarcastic response of ‘this moment right now’, was somewhat lost on him.

 

 

TUESDAY

My wife spent a lot of time on holiday in Ireland as a child (her mother is Irish), and wanted to re-visit some memories while we were there – the first being Glendalough.

Glendalough is a monastic settlement from the 6th Century (so, for all intents and purposes, it might as well have been another fucking castle), but adjacent to the settlement is a woodland walk leading to a large lake.

As you might expect, the scenery was spectacular, but I also found the settlement interesting, and tried to encourage the boys too. Sadly, Isaac was a little on the young side to appreciate it:

“Isaac, come here. I want to show you something.”

“Is it chocolate?”

“No.”

“Sweeties?”

“No!”

“Then I don’t want to.”

Ollie showed marginally greater interest, but even he struggled after about half an hour, so we set off in search of the lake.

Ollie then announced he was going on an adventure, selected a stick (for marking his route and clearing foliage), and a rock (the purpose of which was less clear), then headed up a steep embankment, rather than walking along the path with his family.

Even Isaac kept his complaints to an uncharacteristic minimum, and insisted on finding his own stick and rock (for beating small animals – and his brother – with, presumably), before marching off as the ‘leader’.

We shared some of the walk with a coach party from an indeterminate country – my guess would be somewhere South American – but, whatever language they were speaking, I did manage to pick out their word for picnic. Which is ‘picneek’.

When we reached the lake, which was beautiful, everyone stopped to take photos, including two young Canadian girls to my left, who took it in turns to pose for each other in front of the picturesque backdrop. Ever the gent, I offered to take a photo of the two of them together, which I thought was a nice gesture, although it was met with a puzzled, and then reluctant, ‘ok, sure’.

Only after I snapped a few pictures of the two girls, and they again (apprehensively) thanked me, did my wife point out – much to her amusement – their mother had been stood behind me the whole time. I don’t think the situation could have been any more awkward, had I taken the pictures on my own phone and then walked off.

Before heading back to our hotel, we detoured via the village of Avoca (which, I have since learned, is Gaelic for ‘Fuck All Here’), because apparently the popular 1990’s television series Ballykissangel was filmed there. We felt obliged to pop into the pub used in the series, Fitzgerald’s, but rather than be obvious and have Guinness (which, in hindsight, I should have) we opted for cream teas instead.

The place was quiet at first, but soon after we arrived a coach party of Americans turned up, and a group of ladies took the table next to ours, before loudly perusing the menu with confused faces.

“What’s ‘bangers and mash’? What’s a banger? I get ‘fish and chips’, because that’s fish, with chips, but what’s a banger and mash?”

Then, one of them discovered an English £5 note in her purse, and she really wasn’t happy.

“Why would someone do that? What good is that to me? We haven’t even been to England!”

I felt sorry for her, and suggested to my wife that I could offer to swap a €5 note for their £5 (after all, the exchange rate is virtually 1:1), but she advised against getting involved again (oh, sure, now she intervenes….) so I decided to leave it.

I’m glad I did, because it subsequently transpired not only had the Americans visited the Giant’s Causeway a few days earlier, which is famously in Northern Ireland (where the currency is Sterling), they actually had plans to include England in their travels. I then desperately wanted to intervene with:

“Sorry to interrupt, but I couldn’t help overhearing your conversation – mostly because you are SO FUCKING LOUD – and I wanted to explain a few things, before conveying that I truly hope you choke on your bangers.”

 

 

WEDNESDAY

Thanks to lack of sleep, the boys were foul for most of the drive back to Sandbach – topped off by Isaac screaming for ALL THE SNACKS; forcing his stinking feet into Ollie’s face (most of the M56 could smell them, so he didn’t need to move them any nearer); and insisting that in ‘rock, paper, scissors’, his rock defeated everything Ollie could offer (it blunts scissors, rips paper, and smashes other rocks, apparently), all of which made Ollie cry, before they both fell asleep.

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We are never going away again.

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Happy BlogDay, Son

On Monday, we celebrated seven years since

The day when (with rather more than a wince)

My wife gave birth to our eldest son

Her oven pushed forth a small wrinkly bun

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It’s fair to say we expected a girl

But everything happened in so much of a whirl

It took me a while to realise with joy

That our first ever baby, was actually a boy

My wife is a teacher at an all-boys school

And during her pregnancy set a strict rule

To avoid the names of some kids who she taught

Which made it quite tough, but after some thought

There was one we agreed on, so we told the midwives

That Oliver Martin had entered our lives

He was cleaned and weighed, an outfit arranged

Then I had my first cuddle, and everything changed

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I cried like a girl, I’ll gladly admit

Overcome with emotion, and scared half to shit

I was now responsible (along with my wife)

For the safety and wellbeing of this tiny life

As I sat there, proudly holding my lad

All I could think was “Fuck me, I’m a Dad!”

I’m sure that I speak for my wife and I, when

I say that it’s been quite the whirlwind since then

There’s been feeding, and screaming, and teething, and naps

Not to mention all manner and colour of craps

He learned to crawl, and then stand, and then walk, and then run

And before we knew it he’d gone and turned one

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Now here we are six more years along

It’s fair to say that I’ve got some things wrong

But I try the very best to do what I can

To raise a polite, well-mannered and respectful young man

He’s handsome and clever; he’s wacky and fun

I couldn’t be prouder to call him my son

He supports Stockport County, just like his Dad

But this particular Hatter, is especially mad

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There is honestly no feeling that I enjoy more

Than seeing his face light up when County score

We’ve shared joy and elation, disappointment and tears

(He even ignores all the swearing he hears)

I know that his childhood won’t always last

But it’s sad to think how he’s growing up fast

It’s his last year in Infants; done his first SATs exam

Match of the Day is his favourite programme

He’s learning guitar, and just lost his first tooth

I wish life could slow down, to tell you the truth

But for now, I’ll just watch him, and try to enjoy

The years we have left while he’s my little boy

It might seem quite soppy, but I’m just trying to say

How proud I am of him (in my own unique way)

Oliver Martin, you are second-to-none

So, this blog is for you…

Happy Birthday, son.

 

 

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Go Shorty, It’s Your BlogDay

As I alluded to in last week’s entry, Wednesday was my birthday, and I am now officially one year older (as tends to be the way with birthdays).

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My body clock has ticked around by one. I have added another mile to the odometer that is my life. The Earth has completed one more orbit around the sun, since the date of my birth, on 8th February 1980. The sands of the hourglass, which represent my existence… ah, fuck it, you get the idea.

I don’t tend to dwell on birthdays that much (although, if you read the corresponding blog entry from this time last year, you will know that I came up with 36 reasons why turning 36 was shit – https://middlerageddad.wordpress.com/2016/02/12/happy-blogday-to-me), but 37 does strike me as a particularly pointless age to be.

For starters, you can forget telling people you are in your ‘mid-30s’, because even though that may be arguable from a mathematical viewpoint, for some reason the year between your 36th and 37th birthdays, is the precise time of your life when everything on your body suddenly deteriorates, so no one will believe you. At 36, if you are lucky, you can pass for someone in their early thirties, or maybe even late twenties, but at 37, you bloody look 37 (and feel 47). It’s all rather upsetting.

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To be honest, I’d far rather have turned 40 – as at least that’s an excuse for a big party – than 37 (which, quite frankly, isn’t). I’m pretty certain that 37 is the most pointless age I have been since I was 15. Back then, I was old enough to celebrate my birthday properly, yet too young to (legally) drink, or drive, or do anything remotely grown up and fun. Now that I am grown up, and I am allowed to do whatever I want (so long as my wife grants permission), my body won’t allow me to. Ok, at 15 I was also spotty, hormonal, and socially awkward, but at least my fucking knees worked.

I don’t wish to drag the mood of this otherwise perpetually upbeat blog (shut it) into a downward spiral of despair, but I would like to explain why, for me at least, 37 is a profoundly disappointing age to be. Yes, I am well aware that this contradicts what I wrote about turning 36 last year, and that I promised: “there’s no way in hell, I’ll be able to do a list of 37 reasons to be grumpy next year”, but I was young and naïve then, and didn’t know how lucky I was. Besides, I still won’t be doing a list of 37 reasons why this age is even worse (I shall spare you that), but I will give you the main areas where I now feel older than ever. Because I am.

Memory

First up, let’s start with my fading memory.

I know I mentioned this last year (well, I’d forgotten, but I just re-read the corresponding entry), and I know everyone struggles to remember things as they get older, but in the last twelve months, I’ve suddenly started forgetting obvious stuff (who sang well-known songs, important dates, the names of our children…). It has now got to the point where it physically hurts to try and force myself to remember things, and the only positive to this, is that I can justify making more lists so I don’t forget. I bloody love lists.

A friend of mine (who, he won’t mind me saying, is a fair bit older than me) recently joked that his memory had got so bad, he had gone upstairs, reached the landing, then completely forgotten his reason for going up there. It was only as he descended the stairs again, and wet himself, that he recalled his initial intentions. I’m worried that this is where I’m headed. Which leads me nicely to my second point…

Bodily Functions

In particular, increasingly frequent trips to the bathroom. I have always had a relatively weak bladder, particularly when drinking alcohol, but in the past year, the time between my finishing a cup of tea, and being in critical need of a piss, has reduced to a little shy of seventeen minutes. In cold weather, you can virtually halve that.

I have also found that, as I approached 37, the balance between ‘stand up’ and ‘sit down’ wees, has shifted dramatically in favour of the latter. This is partly because I relish a nice sit down, far more than a man of my age should, but also because I can’t completely trust a fart anymore. This is not to say I am forever shitting myself, but there are times when, having opted for a sit down wee, it suddenly dawns on me that there is perhaps potential for a more ‘involved’ visit while I’m there (if nothing else, it’s a time saver, but I do worry that my advance warning system has started to falter slightly).

Sadly, much as I enjoy a good sit down wee (stop me if I dwell too much on my toileting habits, as I wouldn’t want to sink the blog into a mire of distasteful subject matter – seriously, shut it), this comes with the added danger of my knees locking if I spend too long sat down. Of course, this is the same for any prolonged sitting that I happen to partake in, but at least in other areas of the house I can ask for assistance getting up again, whereas I really don’t wish to burden my wife with helping me off the toilet (just yet).

Appearance

Ok, let’s move away from toilet humour (although there was nothing humorous about the above from where I was sitting – which was probably on the loo), and turn to hair.

In the last twelve months, I have discovered my first (and then second and third) grey hairs. Thankfully, it seems to have stopped at three for now, and I know many people my age will have several more, but three is a shit number of grey hairs to have. I have no problem going grey, but I would far rather wake up one morning looking like Phillip Schofield (who, I think we can all agree, has provided the definitive master class in going grey with style), than face the dilemma of whether to try and disguise the three I have. Thankfully, my laziness easily supersedes any shred of remaining vanity, so I’ve just left them.

My hair line has also started receding. I’m not quite at Ant (from Ant and Dec) levels yet, who frankly has a forehead so large it’s now a ‘five-head’, but it’s getting there far sooner than I would have liked.

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‘Five-Head’

As a side point to the above – but related to my appearance – I just bit into an apple while typing this, and squirted juice all down my work shirt. I merely glanced down, smeared it a bit, then left it there. Really couldn’t give a shit.

Birthday Gifts

When my family recently asked me what I would like for my birthday, I did wonder whether it would be acceptable to say ‘more socks’, barely five weeks after Christmas. I genuinely don’t know where they’ve all gone.

I also quite like getting new CDs, but I daren’t ask for some of the ones I really want, as I’ll only embarrass myself. You see, I’ve started to like some moderately trendy bands of late, and even hate myself for listening to chart music at my age, even though it was in no way an attempt to appear young.

Embarrassing Language

I have started to use the word ‘trendy’. Apparently.

Public Transport

I accidentally sat in a ‘priority seat’ on a train last week, and started to move when I realised my error, but then convinced myself that, if it came to it, I could probably argue my case.

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I have also now reached an age where, apart from any travel companions of my own, I hate every other person on a train. All of them. Every single one.

Turning 40

I have already started planning my 40th, as at least that should be fun, so I might as well get 38 and 39 out of the way quickly (as, I am sure, they will, since there is no fucking way my birthdays are still 365 days apart). I am literally wishing the next two years away.

And, as soon as I typed that, I realised that my 40th is three years away, not two, which means that when my memory recently departed, she took ‘basic maths’ with her.

Celebrating

I have not been able to deal with hangovers for a while, but now find that I will get hungover from even the smallest amounts of alcohol. Seriously, I had three lagers the other week and, ok, I’m not used to drinking lager much anymore (it’s a young man’s drink), but I felt like shit the next day. That’s woeful.

It also meant that celebrating my actual birthday, on Wednesday (a ‘school night’), was simply out of the question, so I have had to postpone any proper drinking until tomorrow night (I’m out this evening playing middle-aged badminton), when I will have Sunday free to deal with any consequences.

Even then, I will most likely restrict my celebrating to a few beers, perhaps a rum and coke, and the Terry’s Chocolate Orange that I have been saving in the fridge all week. Oh, and I’ll probably be in bed by 10.30.

Cheers!

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Blogging a Dead Horse

On Sunday, I turned 35.

Whilst this is not widely considered to be a significant age, certainly as far as your average Clintons is concerned, it was – for me at least – quite a poignant milestone, as it now means I am officially half-way to 70.

Of course, there will be plenty of people reading this who would just love to return to their mid-thirties; when it was only their fingers that clicked, and they didn’t have to worry about things like winter fuel allowances or ‘having a fall’. There is also the famous adage that ‘life begins at 40’, which, I am sure, has an element of truth to it, despite the fact it means I am now -5 years old.

So, whilst you might be expecting me to complain (who, me?) about my birthdays seemingly arriving faster than each new series of The X-Factor, I am going to try and be positive for once, and heed the advice given by Eric Idle during the musical conclusion to Life of Brian. I’m going to look on the bright side of life.

Don’t get me wrong, no-one (well, at least those of us over the age of 18) likes getting any older, but you can at least try to focus on the advantages of ageing, like looking forward to retirement, and daily naps. Sadly, my retirement is at least 30 years away (assuming I make it that far), and I’ve already mastered napping, so I’ve chosen to concentrate instead on the other benefit of growing older: the ability to not give a shit.

Whilst I am hopefully a few decades away from stopping suddenly in the street for no apparent reason; buying huge quantities of cat food (despite not owning a cat); or deliberately choosing the busiest times of day to go to the Post Office purely to buy one stamp and then publicly wet myself, I have at least reached an age where I don’t need to try and be cool anymore.

Some would argue I’ve never been cool, and they’d be correct, but I’m now finally at a point where I no longer need to try and prove them wrong.

So I’ve come up with a three stage plan.

Step One

I’m going to wear things that I think are comfortable, even if they look rubbish. For example, jumpers are becoming ever more prevalent in my wardrobe, as are sensible trousers.

I recently made the mistake of going into a ‘cool’ clothes shop (I forget which) to try and buy some new jeans. To my horror, the largest size they stocked was ‘slim fit’.

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Now, I know skinny jeans are all the rage with the youth of today, but surely you can’t classify ‘slim’ as being the fattest a customer can get, before they are so physically repugnant that they are no longer worthy of shopping with you?

Nevertheless, this particular shop had decided an appropriate business model, was to start with ‘slim fit’ as being the largest size they would stock, and then work their way down through ‘skinny’, ‘stretch skinny’ and ‘spray on’ until they presumably reached ‘Excuse me Sir, but is that your penis?’

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Step Two

I’m going to watch television programmes that I find entertaining, and that I enjoy, regardless of what others may think of them.

For example, I know Take Me Out is utter dirge, and Paddy McGuiness is essentially a monkey in a suit, but so help me God if it’s not the programme I look forward to the most during the week (with the exception of Pointless, obviously).

I think my love of this show, probably stems from the joy I used to get playing along to Blind Date when I was younger, only now there are lots of (slightly prettier) women to choose from, rather than just 3, and the selection process isn’t interrupted by rounds involving panels of men or pensioners.

Actually, I wouldn’t mind going on that show, if only to give my fragile ego a much needed boost, by having at least one or two lights left on after I’ve walked out of the ‘love lift’ and given my name. That said, I suspect I’d lose the interest of whatever stragglers were remaining after round two: “Now, here’s Greg’s wife to tell us a bit more about him….”

Cue immediate ‘black out’.

My idea for a show would be to merge the concepts of Take Me Out and The Voice, so that someone has to decide whether to turn around and go on a date with someone, purely from the sound of their voice.

Look, I don’t want to offend anyone here, but there are certain regional accents which, when particularly strong, are not in the slightest bit attractive. Equally, give me an average-looking lass who turns out to be from Newcastle, or perhaps Dublin, and my knees are all aquiver (or, perhaps, something more manly).

Step Three

I am going to listen to, and more importantly purchase, music that I like.

Yes, I like Def Leppard and Roxette, ok? Yes, I know they’re not cool, and never have been, but I like their songs.

Even worse, I’ve recently started downloading (oooh, hark at me) tracks from current artists. Don’t cringe, ok?

Taylor Swift? Check. Pharrell Williams? Sure. The All About That Bass song? Abso-fucking-lutely.

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I know it’s not very cool for me to like stuff that the young ‘uns are listening to, but screw it. Apart from Ed Sheeran. He’s a pointless ginger waste-of-space that I can barely form an opinion on, he’s so appallingly bland.

So, there you have it. My three step guide to turning 35, and not giving a flying fuck what anyone thinks anymore. Just think, in five more years my life begins, and I can buy a sports car.

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