Don’t Let The Bed Blogs Bite (Part III)

What follows, is the concluding chapter in a trilogy of blog entries about our recent glamping holiday in the New Forest. If you haven’t read the first two installments of our adventure, then you had better catch up using the following links to each, and the rest of us will have to wait until you get back….

https://middlerageddad.com/2019/08/02/dont-let-the-bed-blogs-bite-part-i/

https://middlerageddad.com/2019/08/09/dont-let-the-bed-blogs-bite-part-ii/

Up to speed? Good. Let’s see how the trip concludes, shall we?

***

Sunday 28th July 2019

Ok, so my decision to leave the containers of left-over Chinese takeaway next to the sink last night, rather than wash them up, turned out to be a bad idea. Not because we were suddenly infested with bugs and woodland creatures (even though, by all accounts, we were), but because I awoke this morning to my wife’s scowling face, which she tends to reserve for those occasions when I’ve properly fucked up.

“Why did you leave the takeaway containers next to the sink last night?”

“Erm, partly because I was tired and being lazy, but mostly because I thought if any bugs came in, they might be tempted to eat the leftovers rather than my danglies.”

“Well, just so you know, I got up in the night to find the bite cream, because I’ve been attacked again, and in the dark I accidentally put my hand on your sticky beef…… why are you sniggering?”

“You said you put your hand on my sticky beef.”

“You’re a fucking idiot.”

“I know.”

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Following a quick breakfast (ate mostly in silence), I decided it was about time I braved the communal shower block – because, after two days glamping, not to mention a trip to the beach on a hot summer’s day, I didn’t want to end up smelling worse than the farm animals just along the lane from our lodge.

Having gathered only the bare-essentials (shower gel, shampoo, towel, hairbrush, body butter, exfoliating cream, rape alarm), I headed off through the woods and down the country lane – bidding good morning to the goats, sheep and pigs as I passed.

When I arrived at the shower block, any relief I experienced at the discovery of two individual showers with locks on the doors (rather than, for example, a shed containing one of the owners armed with a hose and menacing grin), was overshadowed by the subsequent realisation that neither of the windows were frosted glass. This meant that anyone of my height or taller (or, indeed, any local pervert with a chair/ladder/trampoline at their disposal), could quite easily observe my ablutions.

Not to be dissuaded (I really needed a shower), I convinced myself that, if I faced the back wall of the cubicle at all times, then at worst it would only be my arse on view (or, heaven forbid, online), rather than the infinitely more-embarrassing prospect of my ‘gentleman’s sausage’ making it’s debut on http://www.newforestshowercam.co.uk (don’t click the link, I made it up – hopefully).

Facing the back wall at all times posed a problem, however, as it transpired the shower only had two settings (which it fluctuated between, regardless of whether you moved the dial or not): boiling hot or freezing cold. As a result, I spent more time spread-eagled against the wall like I was being hosed down in prison, trying to avoid having my skin frozen/burnt off, than I did actually washing myself.

***

Our plan for today was to take Isaac to Peppa Pig World, as he has been begging us to go for ages, despite the fact he hasn’t watched the programme in years, and has actually been twice already (even though he claims he can’t remember either occasion). In fairness, our first visit was when he was only two months old, so I’ll allow him that particular memory-lapse, but the last time was only a couple of years ago.

Nevertheless, he thoroughly enjoyed himself, and I honestly don’t think I’ve seen him as happy as he was today.

As with our previous visit, the weather was glorious, which meant aside from going on all the rides, the boys also got to play in the water park for an hour to cool down; while I consumed not one, but two strawberry milkshakes from ‘Daddy Pig’s Big Tummy Café’. I don’t care if I looked manly or not (I almost certainly didn’t, as I never look manly anyway, so I doubt a large pink drink with a straw improved my lack of ruggedness), I’d genuinely consider moving down here for those bad boys.

As Isaac has no patience whatsoever, he immediately struggled with the concept of queuing for rides, and my wife had to distract him for the duration of each. On one particular ride, she challenged him to a game of ‘I spy’, but when she spotted ‘something beginning with F’, and Isaac looked towards an overweight woman and shouted ‘is it FAT?’, we decided to try silent queuing for a bit instead.

It was only as we approached lunch, and I started subconciously scratching my arm while in a queue, that I realised I have been bitten quite badly (presumably overnight), so any smugness/relief I had previously enjoyed at avoiding the insects in our lodge, was immediately replaced with genuine sympathy for my wife’s suffering thus far, together with extreme self-pity.

Before leaving Paulton’s Park, there was just enough time to try a few of the bigger rides in the main site, and unsurprisingly Ollie was scared by most of them, whereas Isaac was utterly fearless (and now wants me to take him to Alton Towers so he can go on Nemesis).

By the time we arrived back at our lodge this evening, the bite on my arm had become unbearably itchy and sore, so I have covered it in cream (insect, not whipped) and I only hope it gets better by the morning (addendum: little did I know at the time, the bite would later become infected, necessitate a visit to hospital on the first night of our main holiday in Northumberland, and still be irritating the hell out of me as I typed up my diary notes nearly three weeks later).

I’m now so scared of being bitten again (I have this evening discovered two on each arm, one on my shoulder, one on the back of my neck, and three on my throat – which means I’m not shaving any time soon), I just prolonged my pre-bed wee for far longer than medically advisable – to the point I developed stomach cramps.

When my wife questioned why I was doubled-up on the sofa, and I explained that I didn’t want to go to the toilet in case I was bitten on the unmentionables, she offered no sympathy whatsoever, and merely suggested that not only would the offending insect need to have an incredible aim to strike such a small target, but the worst of the side-effects would be some mild swelling, and this doesn’t usually bother me in that particular region. Charming.

In the end, I did manage a quick visit to the toilet when the urge/pain became unbearable, which I achieved while wafting my hands around in front of me to hopefully keep any hungry little critters away from the baby-maker (while being extra careful not to stray too close to the stream, lest I accidentally piss on my own hands), and I have to say that urinating by candlelight does have one advantage: if I stood close to the lantern, the shadow I cast on the opposite wall was rather impressive to say the least. I looked like a tripod.

Monday 29th July 2019

Well, I think (and I use the word with some trepidation), my wife and I avoided any further bites last night – presumably because we both wore trousers and jumpers to bed, which also had the benefit of us losing about three stone in weight – but the ones we do have are becoming unbearable.

We’re essentially now taking it in turns to berate the other for scratching, and I suspect – if it were not for the fact we’re heading home today, and I have a lot of driving to do – we would genuinely consider taping oven gloves to our hands to prevent this (we get a lot of our ideas from old episodes of Friends).

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Having packed the car, I went to settle up with the ‘honesty shop’, and had the misfortune of bumping into Becky (real name, Vicky):

“Going home today?”

“Yes, just settling up, then we’ll be on our way.”

“Enjoyed your stay?” [asked with no sincerity whatsoever]

“Loved every minute.” [replied, with similar insincerity, while scratching the most aggressive bite on my arm]

“Good. Just add up what you owe, and there’s a jar marked ‘honesty jar’, so you put in your money and take any change you need.”

“Oh, is that what ‘honesty jar’ means? I assumed you were after our darkest secrets. Good job I didn’t share that time I put on one of my wife’s dresses and insisted she call me ‘Susan’!”

“Excuse me?”

“Never mind.”

***

Well, we’re home, but we decided to detour via Stonehenge on the journey back, as Ollie has wanted to visit for a while (he studied it at school, and obviously shares his mother’s love of history). Plus, I suppose as far henges go, it’s not bad.

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As with most historical features in Britain (and we have a few), the place was swarming with tourists when we got there, and I was slightly (read: very) infuriated by the fact the queue for those with pre-booked tickets was actually longer than the queue for the disorganised chancers who had simply turned up on the day with no forward planning whatsoever. If we don’t punish these people with long queues, how will they ever learn?

Then, on the bus ride from the ticket office (I don’t want to sound unimpressed or uncultured, but who would have thought a circle of rocks would be so popular that it requires a fucking bus transfer to get there from the car park?) I became intrigued by a conversation taking place next to me, between an American and a cockney:

American: “I hope we find out who discovered it.”

Cockney: “Discovered it?”

American: “You know, the person who found the rocks.”

Cockney: “They weren’t discovered, mate, it was built.”

American: “Built? You mean someone actually put the stones there?”

Cockney: “Of course it was built, mate, it’s a henge, innit?”

Fuck’s sake.

***

In summary, for a (mostly) free weekend away, we had a good time, but if you were to ask me if I would be dashing back to sleep outdoors in the New Forest any time soon, my answer would have to be a resounding ‘Hell no’.

Thanks for reading x

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Spaghetti Blognese

My wife and I don’t always agree on everything – but one thing we do agree on, is that Italy is at the very top of our ‘countries we would both like to visit, that neither of us have ever been to’ list.

Say what you like about the Italians (unless you happen to be Prince Phillip, in which case you had better stay quiet), but there aren’t many things they do badly – except, perhaps, pop music, and choosing sides during a world war. They look good, they sound great, and most things they turn their perfectly bronzed hands to they excel at: food, art, cars, football, architecture, the making of the love*, riding a moped without a helmet…. as a nation they are just so damn sexy.

*this is an educated guess, as I have never slept with an Italian.

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In fact, Ollie’s current topic at school is ‘Italy’ (which is actually the reason behind this week’s entry, but we’ll get to that in a bit), so I just asked him to name something the Italians are rubbish at, and the best he could come up with was ‘knowing when to run away from a volcano.’ I think that speaks volumes, really, don’t you? According to my nine-year-old, the last time the Italians were truly shit at something was a little under two thousand years ago (although, in fairness, we didn’t let him stay up for Eurovision this year). In contrast, I don’t think we Brits could last two thousand minutes without badly fucking up something. And we don’t have volcanoes to contend with.

Anyway, I don’t wish to appear uncultured, as I do appreciate Italian art and architecture to an extent (well, at least as far as my 1996 A-grade in GCSE Art will allow), but my two main reasons for desperately wanting to visit Italy are firstly to watch a Serie A football match (just don’t tell Ollie, as he’s been pestering me to take him to Juventus ever since we got back from Barcelona a couple of years ago) and, secondly, to eat their food. All their food.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Chinese and Thai food as much as the next man (assuming the next man really loves Chinese and Thai food), and given the choice of a meal out I would always opt for a curry; but Italian is the one cuisine where I could happily order most of the menu and not be disappointed. Apart from tiramisu. Tiramisu is shit.

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Shit

Such is my admiration for Italy (and I say this without ever having visited, so I suppose the reality may disappoint, but I doubt it), around a decade ago I took a course of Italian evening classes to try to learn a bit of their language. I’m not sure what I hoped to achieve from this, as languages have never been my strong point, but the classes took place at my wife’s school (so they were not only convenient, but I got them for half price), and I suspect deep down I was just desperate to make myself a little sexier. And, yes, I know what you’re all thinking, ladies, ‘how on earth do you improve on that?’, but even Adonis-like specimens such as myself can strive to better themselves. Anyway, I promptly forgot everything I had learned within around a month of the course finishing, so the whole exercise was entirely fucking pointless.

Honestly, I can’t even remember how to count to ten in Italian now, and it frankly scares me how little I retained (particularly when this was pre-fatherhood, so there was no excuse for my brain turning to mush). Then again, over the course of twelve weeks, at no point did we ever cover ‘food and drink’, or ‘saying something sexy to make women go weak at the knees’, so arguably it was a waste of time anyway. Why would I ever visit Italy for a week or two, and need to ask someone when their birthday is, or the best way to the library? I can’t even count to ten in Italian, so what the fuck could I hope to achieve in one of their libraries?

Anyway, as I mentioned earlier, Ollie’s topic at school this term has been Italy (following on from Ancient Rome and Pompeii last term) and, to conclude their time in Year 4, on Wednesday the class created their own Italian cafe, so they could cook for their parents as a treat. How delightful (said with only a hint of sarcasm).

Having been split into small groups a couple of weeks ago, the children then set about creating their own menu (from an admittedly limited range of options suggested to them by the teachers), and Ollie’s group decided to serve margherita pizza, followed by panna cotta with strawberries. Ok, perhaps not my first choices from an Italian menu, but still perfectly acceptable, and I suspect the children were restricted by what the teachers knew how to cook in the first place. Besides, when the alternative dessert option was tiramisu (which, as we all know, is Italian for ‘creamy work of the devil himself’), Ollie could have done a hell of a lot worse – pun intended.

Then, to save the expense/hassle of each child having to bring a vast array of ingredients into school, each group divided the shopping list between them to lessen the burden, and Ollie was given the task of sourcing the following:

‘00’ flour

Mozzarella

Cornflour

Whole milk

Ok, the list could have been easier, because we only had one of those ingredients in the house at the time (cornflour, for anyone who is curious), but when I spotted that one girl’s parents had been lumbered with ‘gelatine leaves, vanilla pods and yeast’, I decided not to complain too loudly. At least two of our ingredients didn’t necessitate a trip to sodding Waitrose.

Now, had the meal itself been a disaster, I would have felt sorry for Ollie and his classmates, as I know how much effort they put into designing and running ‘Café Italiano’, but equally it might have made for a funnier and more entertaining blog entry. As it happens, however, the event was a complete triumph.

When we arrived, the classroom had been emptied, with all the desks moved outside next to the playing field so we could dine ‘al fresco’. Each table of four then had place settings, and generally speaking there were two children plus an adult each per table, but Ollie and I were sat with a couple of boys whose parents couldn’t be there. Oh well, at least that meant I didn’t have to make polite conversation with a parent I didn’t know/like.

Once seated, the teacher came round with water for everyone (I did think about jokingly asking to see the wine list, but then stopped myself when I realised she was probably quite stressed, and therefore not in any sort of mood to be dealing with dickhead jokers like me).

While the drinks were being served, and some late comers were still being seated, one man spotted his daughter returning from the kitchen/classroom, and went to greet her – at which point she immediately burst into tears right next to our table. It transpired that she wasn’t expecting either of her parents to be able to attend, and was so overcome with emotion when she saw her father, she started crying with happiness.

Typically, at the same time, my hayfever must have flared up, because my eyes started watering too (shut up). It was like one of those videos you see on Facebook, where the little child doesn’t expect Daddy to make it home for Christmas, because Daddy is in the army and stationed somewhere like Iraq or Afghanistan, but then the Santa Claus in the grotto pulls his beard down and there’s Daddy and everyone cries and…. Fuck it, I’ve gone again.

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Anyway, soon after, Ollie returned from the kitchen with our first course of margherita pizza, and I have to say it looked and tasted far better than I was expecting:

While tucking in, one of the ‘Café orphans’ nearby sat down with his starter of ‘freshly baked ciabatta with olive oil’, and, having taken one bite, commented on how strong the olive oil was. Upon hearing this, a child at the table behind him, who was enjoying the same starter, piped up with ‘well, it is extra virgin, after all’, and I damn-near spit my water everywhere laughing.

Once the first courses were finished, the children disappeared back to the kitchen to fetch either their mains or desserts, depending on what second course they were offering, and Ollie presented me with a particularly lovely panna cotta, complete with strawberry compote:

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Again, this looked and tasted better than I had anticipated, and when Ollie didn’t particularly enjoy his, I even finished it for him (using the argument that I didn’t want him to get into trouble for not eating his lunch, when actually I was just being greedy).

As it happens, because my expectations of ‘Café Italiano’ had been low, I had already eaten a quick lunch before leaving the office, and secretly confided this in Ollie – while phrasing it in such a way as to not hurt his feelings. I needn’t have worried, however, as he then told me he had scoffed a roast gammon dinner in the school canteen about half an hour before I arrived, so clearly neither of us had much confidence in the café’s success.

More fool us, because the whole event went very well, and I even jokingly asked the teacher where the tip jar was situated because I was so impressed. Of course, I then immediately regretted making another joke, when she loudly announced to all the parents that they would indeed be accepting tips, and people started glaring at me.

My attempts to quickly distract everyone with some exotic sounding Italian didn’t work, either, as it transpired one of the parents spoke the language far better than me, and immediately started directing me towards the fucking library.

Thanks for reading x

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Billy Blog Hat

One of my strongest memories of primary school (well, other than hating it for the first term, and being forced to wear the shittest uniform in the history of primary school education – it was predominantly brown and yellow with, rather inexplicably, a huge eagle on the front of the jumper), was learning to read via the ‘Roger Red Hat’ series of books.

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Bizarrely, most of what I learned at high school and university has since evaporated from my brain (presumably because it was of little practical use), and nowadays I struggle to remember events from the week before, but I can still clearly recall that the books featured Roger Red Hat, Billy Blue Hat, and Jonny and Jennifer Yellow Hat (who I think were twins), and they all lived in the ‘village with three corners’.

In fact, having just checked online, it turns out the series was known as ‘One, Two, Three and Away’ (which rings no bells, whatsoever), and other than the fact Jonny is actually spelt ‘Johnny’, I was pretty much spot on – even down to the fact he and Jennifer were twins. Just look at the state of them:

Initial reactions:

  • Roger is an overly-dramatic, beret-wearing tosser;
  • Billy needs to stop the hillside manspreading;
  • Johnny should rethink his wardrobe, as the ‘off-the-shoulder dungarees’ look is just sooooo Deliverance

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I have to say, I don’t remember Percy Green, who is mentioned as a fifth character in the series, but what has really surprised me, looking through the list of books apparently released over four decades, was the number of truly disturbing titles available:

  1. Jennifer Yellow-Hat and Mr Brown’s Goat – let’s just pray ‘goat’ isn’t a euphemism;
  2. No, Percy Green! – I might have to track down a copy of this, to see what the hell Percy did;
  3. The Big Man and the Little Mouse hey, it’s not the size of your mouse which matters.
  4. Stop it, Percy Green! – Christ, what’s Percy done now?
  5. Stop, Cried Alex this is genuinely the next book in the series, so I can only assume Percy Green did something unspeakable to poor Alex;
  6. The Donkey went to School Well, it was the 1980’s, and the Village with Three Corners does look pretty ‘rural’, so this should come as no surprise;
  7. Jennifer Yellow-Hat Went Out in the Sunshine followed by Jennifer Went Out in the Dark and then Jennifer Yellow-Hat Went to Town – like all great trilogies, I’ll wager the second installment of ‘Jennifer Went Out’ was the shittest;
  8. Roger, the Stick and the Old Man – I dread to think what went on here *glances down the list, to check for future releases titled ‘Roger Receives Life for Murder’*;
  9. Percy Green and Mr Red Hat’s Car – a tale of juvenile theft/joyriding, or a sinister child-abduction? Perhaps we’ll never know, as the next release was ‘Crash! The Car Hit a Tree’, quickly followed by ‘A Funeral in the Village with Three Corners’ (ok, I made the second one up);
  10. The Old Man and the Wind – standard. Happens to the best of us;
  11. Jennifer in Dark Woods – she’s out again. I hate it when they ruin a perfectly good trilogy with a dubious spin-off. I’m starting to think there was something sinister about Jennifer;
  12. Sita Climbs the Wall – I wonder if Sita was Mexican, and this was a terrifying premonition of Donald Trump’s presidency;
  13. When the School Door Was Shut – they were really dragging the barrel in the later series, weren’t they?
  14. The Big Man, the Witch and the Donkey – a bit ‘specialist’, but each to their own;
  15. The Little Old Man and the Magic Stick – put it away, little old man.
  16. Dancing Ann and the Green-Gruff Grackle – erm…. what?
  17. The King of the Magic Mountains – I suspect the author was on heavy medication by this point;
  18. The Horse that Flew in the Moonlight – yep, she was.

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Anyway, before those of you who didn’t grow up with these books get all judgmental, they formed an important part of my childhood, and helped me learn to read. In hindsight, some of those titles (none of which I remember), may also explain why my own writing can be so obscure, but that’s not for me to say.

Sadly, not only did the series apparently finish at some point in the 1990s (which I initially assumed to be when the author passed away, but it turns out she died in 2014, at the ripe old age of 93), they are no longer available for today’s youth, so I have been denied the opportunity of re-reading them with Ollie and Isaac, as a fond reminder of my own childhood.

Instead, my boys – like many other children around the country – have been subjected to a new gang of delinquents, known as ‘Biff, Chip, and Kipper’ (cue parents developing a Vietnam-style nervous twitch, at the very mention of those names).

Whatever you may think about the ‘One, Two, Three and Away‘ books, at least those children had normal names, and, to this day – despite having read most of the series – I’m still not sure which of Biff, Chip and Kipper is the girl. Not that it matters, necessarily, because the parents should be investigated for giving their children such ridiculous names anyway (I was just relieved to discover ‘Floppy’ is the dog, because no boy needs to go through adolescence with that for a name).

As I was reading one of these books with Isaac last week, slowly losing the will to live as he struggled over the same word he had already read seventeen times, it struck me that this series is no better than the ones we had as kids.

In the end, the more Isaac read, the more concerned I became about the story; so I ended up photographing each page, in order to illustrate the various issues I have with this particular title, which is simply named ‘Spots’….

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  • Why has Kipper surrounded himself with the angriest looking toys I’ve ever seen?
  • What has he done to that bear to make him so mad?
  •  Why is Dad’s ear purple?
  • Why are his sideburns a different colour to the rest of his hair?

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  • Why do Biff and Chip have matching 1970’s jumpsuits on?
  • What kind of shopping list comprises apples, bread, dog food and a doorbell? I can only assume they shop in Aldi;
  • Who buys a ‘terraced houses’ calendar?
  • How does Dad not spend the remainder of the book in hospital, being treated for third-degree burns?

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  • I would be dubious of any doctor who turned up with hypodermic needles sticking out of her fucking handbag;
  • Is that a picture of George Michael on the girl’s wall?
  • What’s the fox grinning at?
  • What have the bear and the cat been up to?

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  • That is one truly awful dressing gown. She looks like a stick of rock. Or a deckchair.

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  • Look how smug Dad is, serving a breakfast of what appears to be hotdog, lentils, and a bottle of lucozade – together with a giant bowl of what I sincerely hope are grapes and not green olives;
  • Does the newspaper say ‘Dagenham Post’? If so, I assume the headline ‘New Disaster Horror’ is all about living in Dagenham;
  • Those sideburns really make me uneasy.

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  • Is the man holding the dog up so it can see over the fence, or has it jumped?
  • What has the man done wrong, for his wife to glare at him like that? (Experience tells us, when he asks her later, the answer will almost certainly be ‘you know‘);
  • Is it because he appears to be staring at Mum’s knickers on the line (assuming they aren’t Dad’s)?
  • Only a moron would hang the bed sheet like that, dragging it across the lawn where Floppy has presumably left lots of ‘treats’ lying around – and I don’t mean that bone.

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  • On behalf of men everywhere, I resent the suggestion we never go to the supermarket, and that, on the rare occasions we do, we try to pay for our weekly shop at the ‘basket’ checkout with a fucking cheque book;
  • In Dad’s defence, what’s the point in sticking the ‘8 items or less, Cash only’ sign half way down the aisle?
  • Is it just me who finds that hammer a bit sinister (and I was right, they do shop in Aldi)?
  • Has he dropped the frozen turkey on yet more grapes? Mum will be shitting through the eye of a needle at this rate;
  • The bloke behind Dad needs to sort his waistline out, particularly if he’s going to insist on wearing double-brown;

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  • How old is that TV?
  • Why is it switched off? Is it because Dad is too lazy to get up and turn it on, or was he watching something mucky before they walked in?
  • Who did Mum’s make-up, Stevie fucking Wonder?

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  • Dad seems pretty pleased about contracting whatever illness the rest of the family had;
  • Someone needs to tell Mum to look in a mirror and sort her face out;
  • This family is terrible at catering for the sick. You want soup when you feel unwell, not chicken, potatoes, and a bottle of wine;
  • Why is Dad’s ear no longer purple? It obviously wasn’t a birthmark at the start of the book, so what happened? Had he slept in some Ribena?

And the book ends there, so clearly no one gives a shit what happens to poor Dad after he gets poorly, and I also resent the fact the moral of the story appears to be ‘men don’t understand how difficult women have it.’

Sexist pigs.

Thanks for reading x

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Bloggy Kids

‘THE SCHOOL RUN’

A Short Play

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Dramatis Personae:

‘Daddy’ 

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A tall, good-looking man, who is struggling with the pressures of early middle-age, and who regularly overuses the word ‘fuck’.

‘Ollie’

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An eight-year-old boy, wiry, over-emotional at best.

‘Isaac’

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Ollie’s younger brother, four. A feral wolf child, with the face and hair of a pretty little girl, but the empty black soul of a malevolent demon.

***

Narrator:  The following play is based on real-life events, which occurred in a small town called Sandbach, in January 2019.

 

ACT I

[The lights come up on a Living Room. Daddy enters stage right, wearing nothing but an ill-fitting towel. He is wet, and the impression is that he has just exited the shower. He looks harassed and hurried]

Daddy:  Why are neither of you ready yet?!

Ollie:     I’m ready!

Daddy:  You’re not wearing socks.

Ollie:     Oh, yeah.

Daddy:  And you’re still watching that idiot play FIFA on YouTube. For the final time, turn it off. I said I wanted you both dressed and ready by the time I got out of the shower. Don’t do this to me again!

Isaac:     Do what?

Daddy:   Get me stressed and make us late.

Isaac:     Can I have more cereal?

Daddy:  No. You’ve already had two massive bowls and we don’t have enough time or milk. We’re leaving the house in less than ten minutes and I have no clothes on yet. Do you want me to do the school run in just this towel?

Isaac:      YES!

Daddy:   Shut up. I’m going for a shave, and I want you both ready to walk out of the door by the time I come back downstairs.

Ollie:       Ok.

[Daddy quickly exits stage left, clutching the small towel at his waist to save exposing himself as he takes the stairs three at a time. Both boys remain motionless, with Ollie staring at a laptop screen, and Isaac watching Scooby Doo on the television]

***

 

ACT II

[The lights come back up on the Living Room. Both boys are in exactly the same position as they were at the end of Act I. Daddy rushes in stage left, now wearing a suit, and hurriedly straightening his tie]

 

Daddy:  What the HELL?! Ollie, turn that laptop off NOW. Isaac, turn the television off and find your hairbrush. Ollie, put some fu… put some socks on NOW.

Isaac:      I can’t find my hairbrush.

Daddy:   Get Mummy’s instead then.

Isaac:      Ok, Geoff.

Daddy:   Stop calling me Geoff. Ollie, why are you crying?

Ollie:      You shouted at me.

Daddy:   Do you know why?

Ollie:      No. I’ve not done anything wrong!

Daddy:  Really? How about ignoring me and making us late for school yet again? How about not getting dressed before watching those stupid videos on YouTube? How about leaving your cereal bowl there for Isaac to trip over? We have the same conversation every fu…. We have the same conversation every morning, and, for once, I would like to arrive in the school playground without worrying that I might collapse at any given second. Go and get your bags, brush your teeth, get your shoes and coat on, and wait by the front door. We’re leaving in two minutes.

[Ollie runs off stage left, sniffling loudly. Daddy quickly brushes Isaac’s hair, then struggles with an orange ‘bobble’ as he tries to put it into a ponytail. At one point, when Isaac isn’t looking, he silently screams ‘FUCK!’, then punches the sofa next to him. He rubs his knuckles, evidently in some pain]

Daddy:   Right, that’ll have to do.

Isaac:     Does it look ok?

Daddy:  Sure. Now, go downstairs, put your shoes and coat on, brush your teeth, and wait by the front door.

Isaac:     Ok, Geoff.

[Isaac leaves stage left, followed shortly after by Daddy, who is still rubbing his knuckles]

***

 

ACT III

[The lights come up on an entrance hall and front door. Both boys are now wearing coats. Daddy is putting his shoes on]

 

Daddy:   Right, have you both brushed your teeth?

Boys:      Yes

Daddy:   Both of you?

Boys:      Yes!

Isaac:    Actually, I haven’t.

Daddy:  Do them. Now.

[Isaac dashes to the side of the stage]

Daddy:   Ollie, have you got your swimming kit?

Ollie:      Yes.

Daddy:   And your £1 for swimming?

Ollie:     Yes.

Daddy:  Guitar?

Ollie:      Yes.

Daddy:   Drinks bottle?

Ollie:      Here.

Daddy:    What about the permission slip for your school trip?

Ollie:      Hey, that rhymes!

Daddy:   Shut up. Do you have your permission slip?

Ollie:       It’s in my pocket.

Daddy:    Is there anything else you need?

Ollie:       My Match Attax.

Daddy:  Balls to your Match Attax. Is there anything else you actually need for school?

Ollie:       No. I have my Match Attax anyway, I was just saying.

[Isaac returns from the side of the stage]

Daddy:   Isaac, have you got your school bag?

Isaac:     Yes, Geoff.

Daddy:   I asked you to stop calling me that. Do you have your drinks bottle?

Isaac:     Yes.

Daddy:   Have you both got your snacks for breaktime?

Boys:      Yes!

Daddy:   And do you remember what you’re having for lunch?

Ollie:      Roast chicken dinner!

Daddy:   Correct.

Isaac:     I’m having a packed lunch.

Daddy:   No, you’re not.

Isaac:     I AM!

Daddy:  No, you’re fuc… you’re having chicken dinner, remember? I asked you half an hour ago and you agreed. You said you love chicken dinner.

Isaac:     I hate chicken dinner! I want a packed lunch!

Daddy:   Tough. We’re late, and I haven’t got time. You’re having chicken dinner.

[Isaac now starts to cry]

Daddy:    Please, Isaac, we discussed this. I don’t have time to make a packed lunch. You told me you love chicken dinner. It’s just chicken, potatoes and veg.

[Isaac suddenly stops crying]

Isaac:     Yay! I love chicken dinner!

Daddy:   You little f-

Ollie:      Can we play a game?

Daddy:   What?! No! We need to leave, NOW.

Ollie:      Can we play a game on the way?

Daddy:   No. Look, I have a splitting headache, I’m stressed, and you two have again been no help whatsoever. He’s been up since 5.45am, you’ve both spent the past hour fighting –

Both:      He started it!

Daddy:   – I don’t care. You’ve both spent the past hour fighting, and I’m sick of it. We’re leaving the house and you’re going to have to run because we’re VERY late.

[Ollie opens the front door]

Ollie:      Erm, Daddy….?

Daddy:   What now?

Ollie:       It’s raining.

Daddy:   Oh, for fu….. right, put your hoods up. I’m just going to swap my coat for the waterproof one.

[Daddy quickly changes coats]

Daddy:    Ok, now can we leave?

Ollie:        Hang on. I can’t find my pound.

Isaac:       I don’t have any shoes on. And I need a wee.

[Daddy starts to turn purple, and the stage lights fade to the sound of a scream]

Daddy:     FUUUUU-

THE END

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Blog Relatives

Well, it’s now officially 2019 (not that anyone was claiming it was unofficially 2019 prior to midnight on 31st December, mind), and I would like to wish you all a Happy New Year.

I don’t have many wishes for the coming twelve months, but I would like to increase my audience, to edge me nearer to that lucrative book / film / YouTube / adult entertainment deal. Seriously, I’m not that fussy (except, perhaps, in the last category), just so long as I can earn enough to bid farewell to my shitty commute.

To put things into perspective, I now have nearly 700 followers on Facebook, so it would only require each of them to encourage 100,000 of their friends to sign up, and I would then have a fan base roughly equivalent to the population of the United Kingdom. I’d be content with that.

I am less popular on Twitter, however, where I have approximately one-tenth of the followers (so each would need to recruit 1,000,000 friends to achieve the same result, which I accept is a bit of an ask), and don’t even get me started on Instagram. No, seriously, I haven’t got started.

I wouldn’t mind so much, as I am hardly active on Twitter, but I’ve just checked and the three most followed people are seemingly Katy Perry, Justin Bieber and Barack Obama. Really? Sure, they can all dance, but two of them are as thick as mince (and if you can’t decide which is the odd-one-out, frankly, so are you).

Anyway, the main thing is, you are here – which makes you very special to me. And, until someone tells me otherwise, I’m still here too, so let’s crack on, shall we?

I have said before that my family – particularly our two boys – are an almost constant source of comedy material, and the Christmas period was no exception. If we add in my wife’s family (of which there are frankly dozens), it is no exaggeration to say our festive period was a smorgasbord of hilarity.

Here are my six comedic highlights of Christmas 2018:

Motherscrubber

With three adult children, two daughters-in-law, and three young grandchildren all invading her house for Christmas, it was inevitable that Mum was going to struggle to keep everything pristine for the few days were we there.

Our mum is so house-proud*, but she dealt with the shit-storm of wrapping paper with her usual aplomb (and massive bin bag); however, later in the evening, she was clearly agitated as she dashed to gather cleaning products from her kitchen.

*©Madness/Sony/ATV Music Publishing (not that they will read this)

It transpired that, in the corner of her lounge, there had been a spillage – which had lightened her beige carpet to a shade between ‘Barley Twist’ and ‘Desert Wind’ on the Dulux Paint Scale (the latter not to be confused with ‘Dessert Wind’, which is something I suffered with following my second helping of cheesecake an hour earlier).

As the scrubbing intensified throughout the evening (occasionally interspersed with brief periods of ‘letting it dry’), it became clear the stain was not shifting, and the carpet had apparently been bleached.

This, naturally, was terrible news to everyone (although it did at least mean Ollie, Isaac and I were innocent, as none of us possessed anything likely to cause such damage), and Mum was obviously upset. Christmas was on the brink of being ruined.

Enter my wife (wait, I’ll rephrase that), who nipped to the kitchen shortly afterwards, and on her return burst out laughing. It transpired that, when she placed her foot in a particular spot near to the affected carpet, the ‘stain’ vanished. Yes, mum had spent at least an hour – and several litres of Mr Muscle – scrubbing what was nothing more than a patch of light reflected off a nearby shiny gift.

Isaac: Child Genius?

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Christmas would not be complete (for us, at least) without a family quiz, and since I forgot to bring anything with me this year, I had to search online for something suitable instead.

Unfortunately, we were already well into my choice before I realised it was clearly created by – and aimed towards – Americans. I know this because:

  1. The ‘Football’ round referred solely to the NFL;
  2. The ‘England’ questions all related to our royal family and Harry Potter, as if we have nothing else;
  3. The ‘History’ round only dated back a couple of hundred years, and refused to acknowledge any major event outside the US.

Nevertheless, we persevered, and eventually stumbled across a geography section which featured countries other than America (and I’m talking actual Europe here, not just Canada and Mexico).

One of the questions was ‘Which country hosted the first Winter Olympics?’, and after a few mutterings around the room, Isaac burst in from the kitchen, shouted ‘France!’ and then buggered off again triumphantly. I still don’t know how he got it correct, but have a feeling it’s the only country he knows other than ours.

Stockport: Capital of Indulgence

I was born in Stockport, have spent half my life living and working in the area, and I’m an avid supporter of Stockport County – all of which makes me suitably-qualified (and perfectly entitled) to admit certain parts of Stockport are rough.

For example, Edgeley (the home of Stockport County), does have some nicer areas, but these are largely surrounded by a desert of shit (not to be confused with a dessert of shit, which is also something I suffered with following my second helping of cheesecake).

Castle Street, the main shopping area in Edgeley, is honestly so run down and nasty, you could be mistaken for assuming the American military had recently swept through looking for WMDs.

To illustrate my point, here is a picture of war-torn Iraq:

war-torn-iraq

And here is a picture of Castle Street, in Edgeley:

download

See?

Anyway, whilst walking down Castle Street on Boxing Day, prior to County’s victory over neighbours Altrincham (which, conversely, makes Kensington look a bit dodgy), I encountered the greatest vision of couldn’t-give-a-fuck indulgence I have ever seen.

A young-ish woman (I say young-ish, because it’s often hard to tell in Edgeley on account of the fact most women are grandparents by their late thirties), resplendent in fluffy white dressing down and slippers – which she presumably received from one of the fathers to her children at Christmas – was drinking, I shit you not, a large pot of double cream like it was a can of coke.

Bearing in mind this was around 2pm, and she appeared to still be in possession of her senses, there is no other explanation than she had effectively abandoned what little etiquette remained – and couldn’t care less. I had to applaud her (albeit mentally, as she was probably armed under that fluffy exterior).

‘Explicit Cooking and Other Stories’

This Christmas my wife and her siblings (together with the three of us daft enough to marry them), agreed to swap gift ‘hampers’ per couple, rather than individual presents.

However, when it came to exchanging them a few days after Christmas, my direct sister-in-law (by which I mean my wife’s sister, as opposed my wife’s brother’s wife, who is my wife’s sister-in-law, but I still refer to as my sister-in-law too – clear?) immediately apologised for one of the gifts in our hamper, warning that it was intended for me, and should not be opened in front of the children.

Here it is:

51VAgg4sEZL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

As a keen cook, and purveyor of all innuendo, this book is a joyous gift to me, and I very much look forward to gobbling…. nope, can’t do it, sorry.

However, the anecdote does not end there. Whilst discussing the book between us all a few hours later, and immediately after someone had joked “I do enjoy a bit of cock”, my mother-in-law entered the room (following an entirely unrelated conversation she had just finished with my father-in-law in the kitchen), and announced ‘….to quote your father….’

I laughed so much, I swear a little sherry escaped out of my nose.

Isaac: Child Model?

Whilst shopping in Norwich’s Chapelfield Mall a few days after Christmas, Isaac asked whether he could go into the Norwich City FC store; and so (despite the fact he has no interest in football – and if he did I would far rather he support Stockport County) my wife took him in while the rest of us waited outside.

A few moments later, we all heard the tapping of glass, and turned round to see that Isaac had somehow managed to break into the window display, and was proudly stood with all the mannequins waving at passing shoppers. He, naturally, found this hilarious.

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The Unorthodox Mixer

Shortly before midnight on New Year’s Eve, I announced to the room that I was going to the kitchen, should anyone want their glass filling ready for Big Ben.

My mother-in-law, having initially declined, then decided she would like a glass of port – in a particular glass (which was kept in the conservatory), with a splash of the ‘cloudy lemonade’ she informed me was in the fridge in the utility room.

Already on my way to inebriation, and conscious that my in-laws have a tendency of using the words ‘conservatory’, ‘dining room’, ‘kitchen’ and ‘utility room’ interchangeably, I tried to memorise my instructions and set off, like a shit episode of Challenge Anneka.

Having located the glass and port, I then searched both fridges for the ‘cloudy lemonade’, and having found nothing more accurate based on that description, returned triumphantly with this jug:

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In hindsight, I can see this is less ‘cloudy lemonade’, and more ‘you’ll be needing a course of antibiotics’, but bear in mind I was slightly drunk, in a hurry to make it back to the lounge for midnight, and I only had the light of the fridge to guide me at the time, you can hopefully understand my error.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is that lesser-known mixer, ‘gammon fat’.

Fortunately, I queried my decision before pouring a healthy splash into the port, and was promptly ridiculed by all in attendance.

Thanks for reading x

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Nobody Puts Bloggy In A Corner

You may be aware that last week was national ‘anti-bullying week’ (frankly, every week should be anti-bullying week, but I do understand the rationale behind selecting one particular seven-day period to focus everyone’s attention on the issue).

Naturally, head teachers up and down the country dealt with this in different ways; but our boys’ primary school participated in ‘odd socks day’, inviting all the pupils to wear mismatched (and brightly-coloured) socks, as a symbol of unity against bullying, and to celebrate everyone’s individuality.

If you don’t follow my Facebook page (although I suspect the vast majority of those reading this do), you may not be aware that, on ‘odd socks day’, I posted a photograph of my two boys from the knees down, displaying their chosen footwear for the day. Here’s the photo:

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Yes, in true Isaac fashion, he refused to take part; and whilst my wife and I obviously accepted his choice, we were still concerned that he might change his mind once he arrived at school to be greeted by all the other pupils in colourful socks – or, worse (and rather ironically), that he might be teased for being the odd-one-out – so we shoved a spare (mismatched) pair in his bag just in case.

Bullying is an important issue, and whilst the focus tends to be on children during anti-bullying week, this is usually because:

  1. It is best raised early, before any adverse behavioural patterns are formed which might be harder to change in later life;
  2. Children are often less aware of the devastating effects that bullying can have (whether they happen to be the ‘bully’ or the ‘victim’);
  3. Children may be unaware of the various forms bullying can take, and that it needn’t be physical – or even in person – to still have terrible consequences;
  4. If adults think bullying is acceptable, then they are most likely beyond help, and should be sent away to live in a far-off land.

So, in a rare turn of events, the remainder of this week’s entry is aimed towards children, and whilst you adults are naturally invited to read on, I would appreciate it if you could share what follows with your own kids, or any that you happen to know.

Thanks.

***

Hi.

You probably don’t know me, or ever get to read what I write about, but that’s because I tend to be a bit rude and swear a lot. Hopefully, your Mum or Dad (or whichever grown-up has asked you to read this) likes my blog, and finds it funny.

I wanted to talk to you about bullying because, statistically, you will experience bullying at some point in your life (whether directly or indirectly), and it’s an issue which needs addressing. I am by no means an expert, but I have amassed a few readers over the years, and if the message gets through to just a few people, it was worth it. Besides, I was bullied at school, so I know what it’s like, and that’s a pretty good starting point.

Firstly, let’s get one common error out of the way. Bullying is not always physical, and can just as easily (perhaps even more easily) take the form of words rather than punches. You may even have bullied someone yourself in the past – even if you don’t want to admit it – because if you have ever teased someone, and taken the joke too far, that’s bullying.

Look, I like to make people laugh, and sometimes I do that at the expense of others, but I would like to think I know when to stop, and if the person who is the subject of the joke doesn’t find it funny, then that’s not right. I’ve made this mistake myself over the years, and hate to think I might have upset people, but I now try to find humour in other situations – preferably at my own expense, to be on the safe side. Fortunately, I embarrass myself quite a lot, so I’ve usually got plenty of material.

Bullying doesn’t even need to be in person, and that’s the really scary thing, because the internet (which, believe it or not, didn’t exist when I was your age), now makes it so much easier for bullies and – even worse – makes it much harder to detect and stop.

If a child comes home from school with a black eye, or a bloody nose, or a bruised arm, this is a visible sign that hopefully their parent(s) or teacher(s) will ask them about. Ok, it might be down to a simple accident (and my kids are always having accidents), but it could equally be the result of bullying. However, if that same person is being bullied online, or via their phone, it’s not as easy to spot, and that child’s misery may go undetected – or could be mistaken for something else.

I want you to take a second and think about your friends, classmates, siblings, and anyone else you are in contact with each day, and really think if you might have crossed that line at some point. If, like me, you have ever taken a joke too far at someone else’s expense, ridiculed them, or even physically hurt them, there’s still time to apologise and change.

Alternatively, maybe you are the one who has been bullied in the past, or you might even be the victim of bullying right now, and it’s you that I really want to talk to, because you can – and must – do something about it.

I am pleased to say I have never physically bullied anyone, but that is for one very simple reason, and it’s this:

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Just look at me. I’m not exactly physically threatening, am I? And that’s me now. Believe or not, I’m a lot more appealing as an adult than I was as a child/teenager. When I was at primary school, I had over-sized glasses and the hair of a fifty-year-old woman. Don’t believe me? Take a look at this:

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Then, when puberty hit, I developed even worse hair and terrible skin. Being skinny, wearing glasses, having acne, or being socially-awkward, is usually enough for any bully to work with, and I had all four going on at once.

I was an easy target, for most of my teenage years, and I’m just glad I was mentally strong enough to cope, because some days I was utterly miserable at school. It frightens me that not everyone has that inner-strength, and some victims of bullying fail to see a way out. Believe me, there is always a way out, because there is always someone out there willing to listen and help.

My escape was being funny (or, at least, trying to be).

I realised, when I was growing up, that I had a knack for making people laugh, and it gave me a buzz when others found me amusing. I slowly managed to alter people’s perception, so that rather than laughing at me, they laughed with me. Not everyone, obviously, and there were still some of the bigger kids who picked on me, but it only ever resulted in physical violence on a few occasions, so I suppose some people might see that as fortunate, even though psychological bullying can have longer-lasting effects.

Because I wasn’t ever blessed with good looks – some would say I’m still not – not to mention the fact I needed glasses from a young age (and, back then, wearing specs wasn’t as cool as it is today), I never had the distractions of going out lots, or girls, and so I worked hard at school instead.

I didn’t know it at the time, and if you’re in the same situation you may not appreciate it either, but being ‘geeky’ was one of the best things to happen to me. I got really good grades in my GCSEs, and even though I didn’t do as well in my A-levels (thanks, in no small part, to the fact I had been rejected by several girls in my year, and it started to get me down), I still went to a good university, then law school, and now I have a decent job.

Better still, when I was at university, I met a girl who was able to look past the crap hair and glasses (even though she later persuaded me to change both), and she fell in love with me for who I am. We got married in 2004, had our first son in 2010, and our second son in 2014. I still wish my school life had been happier, and perhaps filled with more female attention in the later years (ok, any female attention), but my point is this: everything worked out.

Popularity, sporting achievements, and having a boyfriend or girlfriend isn’t everything, I promise you. If you try to be a good, kind person, things will work out. You will be popular. You will find love. If I can get married, have kids, and enjoy a relatively successful career (I added the word ‘relatively’, because I’m typing this on my lunch break, and it ended about twenty minutes ago), then there is hope for us all.

Each and every one of us is amazing in our own way, and that includes you. Don’t ever let anyone make you feel worthless, or inferior, because it usually only means they are compensating for something missing from their own life.

And, if anyone does make you feel that way, whether their actions take a physical or psychological form, it is absolutely ok to tell someone, and get help. You never need to suffer on your own, and even if you don’t think you can speak to your parents, or teachers, or friends, there are charities like Childline. Their number, if you or anyone you know needs it, is 0800 1111.

Basically, just be you, because you are bloody brilliant.

Thanks for reading x

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The Blog Witch Project

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

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

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

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

gty_halloween_mask_nt_111027_wmain

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

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

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Parma violets: Incomprehensibly shit

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

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

Halloween, however, has changed for the worse.

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

I’ll happily explain why Halloween is now shit…

The ‘Children’

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

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

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

east-17.jpg_effected

Delinquents 

The ‘Outfits’

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

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

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

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

The ‘Treats’

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

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

The ‘Tricks’

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

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

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

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

Pumpkin carving

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

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

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

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

Other parents….

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…. Me.

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

***

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

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

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

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

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