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.

22886279_10156061324841844_8162617922074569596_n

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

Image result for deliverance gif

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.

fede88e7e5171c1e4054c2d8750048c0--yellow-hats-red-hats

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’….

20190523_075129

  • 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?

20190523_075202

  • 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?

20190523_075235

  • 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?

20190523_075320

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

20190523_075341

  • 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.

20190523_075409

  • 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.

20190523_075431

  • 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;

20190523_075514

  • 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?

20190523_075540

  • 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

Standard

Bloggy Kids

‘THE SCHOOL RUN’

A Short Play

40660307_10155805051478366_7042114101773860864_n

 

Dramatis Personae:

‘Daddy’ 

47494229_10156869451206350_8249457828478058496_n

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

‘Ollie’

40451958_10155795532208366_7464389767283605504_n

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

‘Isaac’

38744576_10156579938726350_326974275401547776_n

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

Standard

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?

49213493_10156057592378366_7350899843511877632_n

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.

49192921_10156937248281350_138943274357358592_n

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:

49864839_10156939041141350_8342524534217244672_n

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

Standard

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:

46060558_2265223447044831_4592106185942892544_n

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:

38701208_10155742022128366_8510702487022338048_n

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:

46514200_10156829093686350_7899438850215247872_n

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

Standard

The Blog Witch Project

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

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

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

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

gty_halloween_mask_nt_111027_wmain

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

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

0002900_swizzels-parma-violets-3kg

Parma violets: Incomprehensibly shit

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

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

Halloween, however, has changed for the worse.

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

I’ll happily explain why Halloween is now shit…

The ‘Children’

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

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

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

east-17.jpg_effected

Delinquents 

The ‘Outfits’

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

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

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

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

The ‘Treats’

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

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

The ‘Tricks’

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

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

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

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

Pumpkin carving

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

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

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

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

Other parents….

IMG_0840

…. Me.

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

***

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

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

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

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

Standard

Always The Underblogs

Last weekend, I became a Footy Dad.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See, don’t they look similar?

Wish us luck for tomorrow, and thanks for reading x

Standard

Blog Boy School

On Tuesday, Isaac started primary school – and, as expected, it could have gone better.

Don’t get me wrong, it could have easily gone much worse (this is Isaac); but compared to some of the little angels at the school gate, who behaved impeccably for their parents – practically skipping into the reception classroom – ours still claimed a podium finish in the ‘sulky little twat’ event.

Admittedly, it’s not like his refusal to accept school came as a shock, since there were plenty of warnings:

  1. He was the same when he went to pre-school (and even, on a few occasions, at nursery – which he loved);
  2. Ollie was the same, when he started reception four years ago. In fact, he not only screamed when my wife dropped him off each morning, he refused to take part in P.E. for months (even, on one occasion, running away and hiding under a desk in an empty classroom). To this day, he still refuses to take his socks off when doing any kind of sport, lest his classmates catch a glimpse of his perfectly ordinary feet;
  3. I was also the same at his age, when I went to primary school (a point my mother has raised on more than one occasion since Tuesday); and, until DNA tests prove otherwise, I assume that Isaac’s genetic make-up is roughly 50% mine.

So, on the basis the male side of our family is comprised solely of wimps, who don’t deal well with change, we really had no reason to believe Isaac would take the transition into primary school education with anything other than a massive fucking tantrum.

Still, ridiculous as it may sound, my wife and I still clung on to the slight possibility he might just ‘pull it out of the bag’ at the last minute.  Of course, the only thing he actually pulled out of the bag at the last minute was his P.E. kit, which was then launched across the room with a banshee-like scream, but this was the least of our worries.

You see, all parents have concerns before their child starts school; but whereas some might panic that their son or daughter will struggle to make friends, or may even get bullied, my three main worries were as follows:

1. Toiletting

The stubborn little bastard won’t go to the toilet. At all.

It’s not that he doesn’t need to go, more that he cannot bare the thought of anyone knowing he is having a wee (including, sometimes, his own parents). He would far sooner give himself stomach ache (and Christ knows what other medical issues), by storing it up all day until home time, than just go to the toilet like any normal child would.

Thankfully, my wife also appears to be part-camel, and he has inherited his strong bladder from her (another Daddy-DNA bullet dodged, since I have the bladder of a particularly-incontinent tea-drinking pensioner), so at least there is only a limited risk of wetting himself.

2. Writing

He writes backwards. This is entirely because he is left-handed, and it is apparently quite normal with left-handed children, but his letters are sometimes so obscure, I did have a niggling concern that his teachers might assume he is a Russian spy;

41170166_10155807980318366_3611269310623776768_n

That’s his name at the top

3. His hair

I wrote in a recent blog entry about his long hair (https://middlerageddad.com/2018/06/01/blogs-and-girls/), and how much he adores it, but he has recently started worrying about being picked on because of it – and even, the day before starting school, confessed that he was scared the other children might think he is a girl.

Aside from this breaking my heart a little, it also gave me the rather unnatural concern that he may try to prove he is a boy by getting his willy out for all to see. It was a fleeting worry – since he won’t even announce going to the toilet in front of others – but it was a worry nonetheless.

33618697_10155589238133366_5199550931103907840_n

I also have the rather selfish concern that, for three days a week, I will be doing the morning school run, and I was meant to spend the summer practising doing pony-tails, pig-tails, French plaits etc., but time ran away with me.

What I had not anticipated for his first day, was that it would take nearly an hour of screaming and kicking to even get his underpants on (I should stress that the screaming and kicking was all him), and at one point the thrashing became so violent, I contemplated phoning our local priest.

In the end, my wife patiently went through every pair he owns (and he seemingly has hundreds), in an attempt to calm him down, and somehow succeeded just in time for us to leave the house.

Ok, he refused to wear the school jumper, and would only put on the embroidered polo-shirt if he was allowed to wear a dinosaur t-shirt underneath (which was, incidentally, highly visible), but we chose to pick our battles, and the very fact we got him out of the door with any clothes on at all was frankly a miracle. We even managed a couple of obligatory ‘first day’ photos in the garden, which up until this year have only featured Ollie.

When we got to the playground, I have to admit I could see why it might be daunting for Isaac – or any child – to enter that environment for the first time.

The intake at our school is sixty children, and all of them had at least one, if not both parents with them for their first day; so there were upwards of two-hundred bodies swarming around the classroom door (and that’s not including the children and parents of the neighbouring classrooms, which comprise the ‘Infants’ half of the school).

To pass the time before the bell (and subsequent scene I was expecting Isaac to make), I looked around at all the other parents, to see if I could determine which had experienced the ‘first day’ before with older siblings, and which were newbies. The difference was very obvious.

For example, the newbies often looked more nervous than their children, and some were already emotional at the thought of their little baby going off on their own. Many were uttering the usual phrases, like ‘where has the time gone?’ and ‘it’ll seem so quiet at home now’, between tearful sniffs (hey, I’m not judging, I cried like a little girl at Long Lost Family the other week).

In contrast, the seasoned parents like us (and we only have two kids; some of these idiots with three or more really need to show some self-control), had adopted the same universal expression – which was a mixture of sympathy for the newbies (‘I remember when we were like that’) and sheer fucking glee that the latest/last of our offspring was finally someone else’s responsibility for a large chunk of each weekday.

The difference between the two types of parent was even more obvious when the bell finally went, and the reception teachers came out to collect their new recruits for the academic year.

All the newbie parents squeezed their little darlings tightly one final time, wished them a wonderful first day, and sobbed as they watched them disappear through the door. They then hung around outside, hoping to catch a glimpse of their son or daughter smiling and having fun already, as a form of comfort for their childless journey home.

Some even made a point of talking to the teachers, to try and cram all of their child’s little foibles into one barrage of verbal diarrhoea – as if the teachers haven’t already dealt with every kind of weird child many times before (apart from, perhaps, Isaac). It was as though these parents simply couldn’t bear to leave the playground.

Then, there was the rest of us. The battle-hardened parents with older siblings, who had given up caring some time ago. As one, we simply ushered (in some cases, pushed) our kids towards the teachers, offered a half-hearted ‘you’ll be fine’; ‘have fun’; or ‘don’t fuck this up’ (to our children, not the teachers); then turned and ran with unbridled joy and freedom.

None of us looked back, and we certainly didn’t hang around (in case our particular child did try to escape). Most importantly, we didn’t even make eye-contact with any of the teachers, let alone talk to one of them, in case it slowed down our escape.

Even if we had spoken, it would only have been along the lines of:

“He’s your responsibility now, so you fucking deal with him! You’re only in teaching for the holidays anyway, admit it, so you’re going to damn well earn them this year. Try not to let him break you by 3.15pm on the first day!”

(Then turn and run away, cackling gleefully).

In our case, Isaac immediately clung to us when he noticed other children going through the gate, and had to be physically detached by his favourite teaching assistant from pre-school, who we shall call Mr Shaw (because, well, that’s his name). I doubt Mr Shaw will ever read this, but we owe him our thanks; because he came over, gave Isaac a hug, and then quickly carried him through the gate before he had chance to react.

Thankfully, it transpires the limited amount of concern we had dedicated to Isaac’s first day (compared to when Ollie started, and I couldn’t concentrate at work through worry), was completely unwarranted; because – by all accounts – it had gone about as well as we could have hoped.

As I said at the outset, it was by no means perfect, because he apparently hardly spoke all day, and didn’t seem to make any new friends; but at least we didn’t get a phone call around lunch time asking us to collect him and never bring him back.

When it comes to school collection time, particularly in those first few weeks, you dread being the parent who the teachers come over to for a ‘chat’; because as soon as that happens you know it’s your child who has created an issue. It’s like a walk of shame, only it’s the teacher doing the walking.

In contrast, there is no greater feeling of relief, than when the teacher heads towards you, only to detour or walk past at the last minute. It’s the playground equivalent of your airport transfer bus arriving at a shitty hotel when abroad, then discovering it’s for someone else.

Isaac even seemed relatively enthusiastic about returning the next day (which was something of a relief, because I was due to do the school run on my own) – that is, so long as he could have new shoes for the second day (and every subsequent day thereafter).

See, I told you he’s odd.

Standard