Blogz II Men

Over the past few months, I have become increasingly conscious that my blog entries, and my Facebook posts in particular, have become a little, well, Isaac heavy.

I think I can be excused for this, to an extent, because Isaac – as should be perfectly clear by now – is a seemingly endless source of comedic material. For example, last month alone, he:

  1. Determined that cows eat sausages;
  2. Caught a Daddy longlegs at school, gave it to a girl in his class as a gift, then ‘meditated for a while thinking about donkey poo’;
  3. Decided he wants to ‘save all the trees’, because if he doesn’t, he might run out of paper for drawing, and that would be far worse fate than any resulting lack of oxygen;
  4. Fell in love with his own toes and decided he would quite like to marry them one day;
  5. Drew the following rather unflattering portrait of me:

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  1. Walked to school with his arms inside his coat, insisting I hold his empty sleeve all the way there, only for me to discover that he was sticking a lone finger out from underneath the coat, so everyone passing us thought he had his knob out;
  2. Wrote his first ever love song, which went a little something like this:

Ah, love you

Oh no

Oh no, yeah, yeah

Oh no

Oh no, yeah, yeah

Yeah, oh no, oh no

Oh no, yeah, yeah.

  1. Wrote an angry note to my wife and I, which he penned with such rage and fury, he then couldn’t read his own handwriting;
  2. Drew ‘Zog The Evil Rabbit’, complete with ‘male genitals mouth’, nipple tassels, and rather excessive public hair:

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  1. Punched me in the leg for no apparent reason, then apologised with the excuse ‘I thought you were Ollie’.

And that was just his top ten in September (I know, because I’ve been back through my Facebook posts for the month). In short, the kid is one unpredictable little bundle of totally fucked up.

But, every so often, he can be the sweetest child in the world. As I posted on my page last weekend, I took the boys to the cinema for the day (so that my wife could work on her MA in peace), but knowing I was feeling dreadful, he asked her to pop to the local shop while we were out to buy ‘a chocolate bar the size of his head’ to cheer me up.

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And, if that were not cute enough, who can forget the time he drew a face on his hand before leaving on the school run, and when questioned he explained to me that it was ‘Mr Hand’, who he likes to talk to at school sometimes when he gets lonely.

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*sniff*

Bugger. I was supposed to be starting this week’s entry by apologising for my blog posts and Facebook page being so Isaac-focused of late, and I’ve just – rather ironically – wasted one-third of my (self-imposed) word count writing about him. Worse, I have completely neglected to mention my first-born child, Ollie (well, I guess I referred to him once, but only in the context of Isaac twatting me in the leg thinking it was him).

Poor Ollie doesn’t get a look-in sometimes (and I mean that purely in the sense of my online persona, it’s not like we neglect him at home…. much), but that’s only because he doesn’t possess the sheer, unadulterated quirkiness of Isaac. He has his odd moments, like all kids, but he has never once pretended to be giving birth on the classroom floor at school – to our knowledge – and I doubt he would randomly start talking Spanish when asked what he did at school that day (when he hadn’t studied any Spanish at school that day – or, indeed, ever).

So, in an attempt to redress the balance (not that either of my boys give a flying fuck what I write about in these blog entries, because I tend to use phrases like ‘flying fuck’, which means they aren’t allowed to read them), this week’s entry is all about Ollie. Well, from this point onwards, anyway. He may not ever read these words, but I’ll feel better knowing I have devoted some online attention to him for a change.

Here goes, then….

Ollie is a right mardy little knobhead at the moment*

(*that may very well be the most northern thing I have ever said in my blog, so for any southern – and, indeed, foreign – readers among you, I shall translate: ‘Ollie has been something of a grumpy little nuisance of late.’)

The thing is, like any child Ollie is prone to mood swings, but my wife and I have noticed that, particularly over the last month or so, he has restricted himself to swinging purely between ‘sulky little twat’, and ‘stroppy little twat’.

In Ollie’s defence, we put some of his current vileness down to lack of sleep, because he and Isaac still share a room – and, as most of you know, Isaac is the Nocturnal Prince of Darkness, who seldom succumbs to his subconscious netherworld until he is fully satisfied that everyone’s evening has been suitably ruined. But that cannot be the only reason.

Funnily enough (and I use the term somewhat ironically, bearing in mind what follows is not funny in the slightest), a couple of weeks ago one of the mums at football training mentioned that her son is exactly the same at the moment, and there followed a general murmur of agreement among the parents gathered by the side of the pitch, to the extent  that everyone was encountering the same behavioural downturn with their own son.

At which point, the same mum explained that, in her view at least (and she is a teacher, which does lend some weight to the suggestion), our boys are going through the early stages of [gulp]… puberty.

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Now, bearing in mind I was cradling baby Ollie in my arms what feels like a few months ago, I am NOT ready for puberty just yet (and I refer solely to Ollie going through ‘the change’ here, as I have been fully developed myself for at least two-and-a-half decades now, with everything dangling and hairy as it should be), but if Ollie is developing into a man early – or, at least, earlier than I recall it happening to me – I can only hope he will emerge the other side equally early, and we’re not looking at suffering these mood swings until he is about fifteen. If that happens, then by the time Ollie is a fully-formed bloke, Isaac should be well into puberty himself, and I’m not going to get any respite until around 2030 (the year, rather than 8:30pm).

Worse, puberty not only means all the uncomfortable conversations I will have to have with Ollie over the next few years (because my wife and I agreed, prior to becoming parents, that she would have ‘the chat’ with any daughters we might produce, but I was responsible for the boys – and then she knocked out two sons just to fucking spite me), but if he is anything like me – and just look at him, he is exactly like me – then it could very well be a miserable period in his life. A terrible thought, bearing in mind he’s a grumpy little shit already.

If nature takes its course with him, as it did with me during most of the 1990s, he has chronic acne and his voice breaking to look forward to (not that it took a decade for my voice to break, you understand), and this will all happen at precisely the same time he suddenly decides girls are actually pretty awesome, rather than ‘disgusting’ and to be avoided at all costs (I’ve always thought it unfair that we humans become sexualised when we are at our least attractive stage of life).

I only hope he doesn’t face the endless bitter rejection that I faced throughout my latter teens (although, if any of the girls who rejected me at school / work / university are reading this – and there are plenty of them out there, so the odds of at least a few stumbling across these words are pretty high – then consider this: you could be married to the sixth most popular blogger in the whole of Sandbach now, so there).

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It’s not all bad news though, because if Ollie’s development does take a similar path to my own, then it is simply a waiting game. If he perseveres, one day the acne will fade, the facial hair will become less sporadic, and he should be blessed with a monstrous ‘middle-wicket’ for the remainder of his life – winky face*.

(*I should clarify here, I haven’t worked out how to insert emojis into my blog entries yet, just in case anyone assumes I call my penis ‘winky face’, or, worse, that I occasionally draw an eyes, nose and mouth on it…. which I only did once. It’s actually called ‘Monty Bojangles’, and isn’t that impressive if I’m honest.)

Anyway, when that day comes, Ollie will hopefully find a girl who loves him for who he is (assuming he hasn’t bored her to death with football talk in the meantime), and he will ultimately be far happier as a result, with puberty a distant – yet harrowing – memory.

I just hope all of this happens quickly, though, as I can’t take much more of his fucking sulking.

Thanks for reading x

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Blogz In The Hood

Cast your minds back to 1984 (the year, not the novel by George Orwell).

Indira Ghandi – who remains the only female Prime Minister of India (to date) – was assassinated, the Grand Hotel in Brighton was bombed, and George Michael released ‘Careless Whisper’.

But it wasn’t all tragic news. In the same year, the Macintosh computer was released, the first solo transatlantic flight took place, and some of the biggest artists in the World gathered together to record ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’, raising £8m to help relieve famine in Ethiopia.

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Oh, and a pale, skinny, dark-haired little boy from Cheshire started primary school.

Of course, I’m assuming most of you reading this will recall 1984 (the year, not the novel by George Orwell), because, even though many of my followers were not yet sperm floating around inside their father’s man-plums at the time, it tends to be the more ‘mature’ among you who go to the trouble of reading this weekly blog.

I suspect this is because those of us with a few years under our belts have nothing better to do of a Friday, while the younger generation seem more than content with the shorter quips I post on my Facebook page (particularly those with pictures), and prefer to spend their spare time hanging around in car parks wearing hoodies, sexting each other, or playing ‘Candy Crush’ on their phones.

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Ok, perhaps that’s a sweeping generalisation (it definitely is, I haven’t the first clue what the ‘yoof’ get up to these days), and I am happy to be proven wrong, but I still fear that my early mention of 1984 (the year, not the novel by George Orwell) will have immediately lost some of my younger fans, so let’s fast-forward to something a little more recent, shall we?

1989 (the year, not the album by Taylor Swift).

By 1989, that pale, skinny, dark-haired lad was also bespectacled (as if he didn’t have enough on his nerdy little plate), and in September started his penultimate year at that same Primary School, before heading into the much wider world of secondary education in 1991. Little did the world know at the time, but that young man would one day become the sixth most popular blogger in the whole of Sandbach.

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(NB: for anyone who hasn’t realised it yet, that young boy was me – although, if that did come as a surprise, perhaps you might prefer something a little less challenging than reading this week’s blog, as there are some big words coming up, and I fear you may struggle).

Anyway, due to the diminutive (see?) size of my primary school, the years were merged into joint classes, so the ‘Year 4/5’ room actually contained around a dozen children who were one academic year younger than the rest of us (but who were judged to be bright enough to keep up), along with another lad who joined the school having moved into the area from down south. And that lad, together with one of the younger pupils, became two of my very best – and now oldest – friends.

Indeed, it was only a month or so ago that we realised September 2019 marked three decades of us being mates, so we decided to honour the occasion by meeting up in the village where we went to school (and, rather conveniently for me, where I now commute to work), so we could reminisce and – more importantly – get pissed.

Obviously it would have been preferable to have met up on the exact anniversary of our friendship, but aside from the fact none of us could work out precisely when that was, and it made more sense to go drinking on a Friday anyway, the main hurdle was that one of our trio (known as ‘Golden Boy’, ever since I labelled him with that nickname back in the ’90s), is harder to organise than Brexit.

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Anyway, after weeks of diary checking on his part, ‘Golden Boy’ finally confirmed that he was also available to meet up last Friday, and the date was set. Our other friend, who we shall simply refer to as ‘Tim’ (for that’s his name) was already on annual leave that day, so I booked the afternoon off in order that we could start drinking earlier.

And, because at least two of us were now available to meet mid-afternoon, I decided to contact our old school, on the off chance they may allow us in for a little nosy around after all this time. Sure enough, I got an e-mail back the same day from someone in the office called Sarah, who confirmed that a tour would be possible, so long as we arrived by no later than 4.30pm (because all primary school staff are ruined by that time on a Friday, and desperately need to return home, to get drunk and cry themselves to sleep in a darkened room*).

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*I imagine.

I therefore arranged to meet Tim outside our old gates at 4pm, and shortly beforehand set off to re-trace my childhood walk to school, which I had done most days through the mid-to-late 1980’s.

On my way there, I decided it would be courteous to phone the school to remind them that we would be dropping by, and when a female voice answered I assumed it was the Sarah I had swapped e-mails with the week before. Only, it turned out to be someone else, so I began explaining why I was calling:

‘Ah, ok, sorry. Basically, my friend and I are meeting up this afternoon, as we’ve realised it’s thirty years since we first became friends, and we were hoping to have a look around our old primary school to see how much it has changed.’

‘Oh, yes, Sarah did mention it. That’s no problem, just come to reception when you arrive. Sarah is still here, but she’s had to go to the main gate as we’ve had… erm…. a bit of an incident.’

It was at this point, as my thoughts clicked into place, I had a sneaking suspicion I knew what that incident might be, as I had arranged to meet my now forty-year-old mate outside the gates to a primary school, and I suddenly realised that this could look potentially, well, dodgy as fuck.

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I restrained myself from asking ‘would the incident happen to be about 5’5” tall, with dark hair and stubble?’ and merely confirmed that I would be arriving in around five minutes. Sure enough, when I got to the gate, there was my friend Tim, who nervously grinned and said ‘You’ll never guess what’s just happened to me!’

‘Oh, I think I can guess. Have you just been accused of hanging around outside a primary school, by any chance?!’

‘How did you know?!’

‘Because you’re hanging around outside a fucking primary school, mate.’

I went on to tell him about my conversation with the office, and Tim explained that he had indeed been challenged by a few members of staff, including Sarah, who were understandably concerned about reports – one of which from a young girl – about a strange man hanging around outside the gates.

Thankfully, Tim had quickly told them why he was there, Sarah had remembered our earlier e-mail exchange, and had cancelled the local police from arriving to escort Tim to a cell for the night (joke, I don’t think the police had actually been called by that point).

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We then went to reception, where it would be fair to say Sarah wasn’t seeing the funny side of the altercation, and it was left to her colleague to show us around instead.

Despite the intervening three decades, the school looked remarkably similar, if a little smaller than we had remembered, but that’s perhaps because at least one of us has grown a lot taller since then (NB: it’s not Tim), and I was especially pleased to note that our old brown and gold uniform had finally been replaced by a much more appealing burgundy instead, so at least future generations no longer have to suffer the wardrobe embarrassment myself and my peers went through all those years ago.

In fact, my mum had managed to find some of my old school photos, so I showed these to the lady from the office, although she was understandably apathetic (I’m not sure why I expected her to be impressed, to be honest), and she merely smiled politely.

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Note: If you can spot me, that’s a shadow behind my head, not a mullet.

She did, however, explain that one of the dinner ladies still worked at the school three decades on, and actually remembered us (which should have been heart-warming to hear, but only made me realise that the office had clearly asked around to verify Tim and I were genuine, and not a pair of deviant sexual predators, before agreeing to our visit).

Anyway, after a brief tour – which, in fairness, was only brief because the school is so small – we thanked our host for her hospitality, and set off to get as drunk as is humanly possible for two middle-aged men.

Having learned that Golden Boy was running ‘a little late’ (which shocked no one), Tim and I devised a wager on our friend’s actual arrival time – bearing in mind the original plan had been for us all to meet outside the school at 4pm – with the forfeit being a shot of something unpleasant for the loser.

Needless to say, I won the bet – albeit only by a few minutes – when Golden Boy eventually arrived shortly after 6.30pm, but Tim’s forfeit of downing a Jagerbomb (on top of the several pints we had already consumed), somehow ended up involving me having two Jagerbombs – as I happen to enjoy them very much.

From that point on, it was a slippery slope, and I ended up crawling back to my Mum’s house shortly after 1.30am (if you are under thirty and reading this, that’s fucking late for us middle-aged folk, ok?) and felt incredibly rough the next day.

Still, a good night was had by all, and it’ll be our forty-year reunion before we know it.

Thanks for reading x

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Another Blog In The Wall (Part I)

I mentioned previously, that I’d like to treat this blog as something of an autobiography so that, in years to come, my two boys can hopefully read over it and learn a bit more about their father that I’ve perhaps forgotten to tell them. Who knows, maybe even my grandchildren will get to read it? This is assuming, of course, that the internet doesn’t go out of fashion or, more likely, completely implode and destroy the universe. Maybe I should be keeping a hard copy as a back up somewhere…

Anyway, I suppose that, if this really were my autobiography – with Dustin Diamond (‘Screech’ from Saved By The Bell) playing me in the movie adaptation of my life (as Hugh Jackman presumably wasn’t available) – I’d describe my formative years first. So, disregard the previous five blogs for now, as this bit should probably come before all that.

I was born on a cold, dark, stormy night in February 1980. Truth be told, I can’t remember exactly what the weather was like when I was born, as it was nearly 35 years ago now and I was far more focussed on arriving into the world in all my pink, shrivelled, glory (steady). I’m assuming it was cold, dark and stormy though because, well, it usually is in February, isn’t it? I should know, it’s when my birthday is (but then, you knew that already if you’ve been paying attention). In fact, it’ll be the start of February in just a few days’ time, and it’s so cold outside you could cut glass with my nipples, so chances are I’m right. Besides, saying it was dark and stormy adds some much-needed drama.

Erm, what next? Shit, I haven’t thought this through really. Ok, best fast-forward a few years as my first proper memories are of starting school (and even then, they’re somewhat hazy).

I grew up in the reasonably-sized village of Poynton in Cheshire. Nowadays, it’s mostly famous for having the worst roundabout system in the country (based on a Swedish model, I’m told, although I imagine the Swedes made a far better job of it), and for being a ‘shared village’, which is a tree-hugging-hippy way of saying that all the people and cars have equal rights.  For some reason, it didn’t occur to the Council that perhaps it might be dangerous to let everyone think they have right of way at a junction, particularly bearing in mind the human body is decidedly more squishy than your average motor vehicle, but the powers-that-be seem quite happy with the comparatively low number of fatalities since the work was finished. Well, comparative to somewhere like Afghanistan.

Although, what do we expect from a Council which decided, in 2009, to split the County into ‘Cheshire East’ and ‘Cheshire West’ (based on a German model, I’m told, although the Germans made a far better job of it) for no good reason? I haven’t checked, but I suspect we even have our own Berlin Wall replica somewhere between Winsford and Northwich, and David Hasselhoff is just itching to get on top of it and sing his ageing lungs out. Anyway, Poynton sits in the more-affluent East (unlike Cold War Germany). That’s not to say Cheshire West isn’t affluent (which really would piss the people of Chester off), but we got Alderley Edge and Prestbury in the deal, so we win. Ha.

Poynton had, and still has as far as I’m aware, five primary schools, and where I grew up was almost half-way between Lower Park and Lostock Hall. I’d have to ask Mother dear what prompted the decision for me to go to Lostock Hall, but I seem to recall enjoying my seven years there, before moving on to Secondary education. This was despite the uniform I had to don every morning which was, quite frankly, disgusting. I can only assume that, whoever was assigned the task of choosing the school uniform for Lostock Hall originally, either fell asleep in the meeting and awoke to discover they’d been left with the reject-bin scraps (the other four primary schools sniggering at them and calling them names), or else they were colour blind, because no one in their right mind would look at the combination of brown and gold and think, “Yep, that’s the uniform for us”.

Then, incredibly, as if that didn’t look shit enough, they decided to stick a huge picture of a fucking eagle on the front of it. The mind boggles. Even the Headmaster of Browny-Gold Eagle Primary School wouldn’t have put their pupils through the embarrassment of that uniform.

To make matters worse, Lower Park had a lovely dark-blue uniform, not dissimilar to County’s home colours which I now proudly wear every other Saturday. Shame.

Still, Lostock was a good school with a good reputation, and I made two of my best friends in Mark and Tim, who I’ve known since I was nine, and who are both still very much a big part of our lives – Mark (‘Golden Boy’) was my best man in 2004 and is Godfather to Ollie, and Tim recently became Godfather to Isaac. I’m sure I’ll be writing about both of them again in due course (Tim, especially, is like a magnet for hilarious stories), but for now I’ll just leave it that I love them both dearly and they’re like extra brothers.

The only other aspect of my life to remain with me from my Lostock days, is the fact that, even now, I cannot stand butter on sandwiches. This stems from one hot, summer day I can remember in the playground, where I was sat with my packed lunch looking forlornly down at a ham sandwich that was thick with butter. Well, it had been thick with butter when it was lovingly made by Mum that morning, but come lunchtime in the baking heat, it was now dripping out of my sandwich and mixing with the tears streaming from my face, to make a yellow, salty, puddle all over my chocolate biscuit (I’m using some more artistic licence here, perhaps, but that’s certainly the image my mind conjures up when I think back).

So, as I sat there, with the rumbling sounds of Peter ‘Bucket’ Massau pretending he was a stock car and doing laps around me (anyone who went to Lostock Hall will remember this, as he did it every bloody break-time, but it’ll mean nothing to the rest of you), I swore I’d never have butter on a sandwich again. Even now, the thought makes me nauseous. I can understand why people like butter on ‘normal’ sandwiches, of course, as that’s their prerogative, but I have an inherent distrust of anyone who would ruin something like a sausage sandwich, or worse a burger, with butter. In simple terms, butter and meat don’t mix, and if you think they do, you’re a fool.

Have I just spent two paragraphs talking about butter? Christ, my first 10 years or so really were dull, weren’t they? Either that or I’ve forgotten the good bits. Hopefully, when I come to write about secondary school, I’ll be able to recall something slightly more interesting to say.

After all, any Pink Floyd fan will tell you that Another Brick In The Wall (Part II) was superior…

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