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Last weekend, we decided to spend Sunday as a family, and have a ‘nice day out’.

Of course, with our boys, having a nice day out is unlikely at best, but my wife and I nevertheless persevere, in the hope that one day we will take them somewhere for a treat and they won’t be ungrateful little shits about it.

Also, I say ‘we’ decided on a family day out, but this was very much my wife’s suggestion, for the following reasons:

  1. You should spend time with family at Easter;
  2. The forecast promised (and delivered) glorious weather;
  3. Ollie and I were at the football on Saturday and Monday, so Sunday was our only chance to go out as a family before my return to work;
  4. No rational person can survive three consecutive days with only Isaac for company.

Naturally, I couldn’t argue with any of her points, because not only were they all valid, but after nearly fifteen years of marriage I know better than to argue with her at all.

So, having carefully researched our options (while I dozed on the sofa and periodically nodded at what I assumed might be appropriate points), my wife decided we should visit Tatton Park, as it’s less than half an hour from us, and they seemed to have a lot of Easter activities organised over the weekend.

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When we arrived soon after 10am, we firstly headed towards the gardens, where I was persuaded to fork out £33 for a ‘Totally Tatton Ticket’, granting us access to the three main ‘attractions’ – Gardens, Mansion and Farm (I use the term ‘attractions’ loosely, because my personal view is that Nemesis at Alton Towers is an attraction, whereas gardens are merely ‘somewhere the elderly visit’; however my wife is a history teacher, so a 19th Century manor is like history-porn to her).

Having handed over my bank card, while muttering something under my breath about it being ‘so fucking expensive I can’t even use contactless’ (putting my pin in these days seems so last decade), we then entered the gardens themselves, where we were informed there was an ‘Easter Hunt’ going on. Better still, the hunt involved collecting a series of clues (which Ollie loves), by searching for hidden fairy doors (which Isaac loves), and the prize for completing the trail was a bag of chocolate each (which they both love).

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Afterwards, the boys wanted to climb trees in the woods, which always fills me with dread (because they have inherited my clumsiness), so it was bound to end in tears. Sure enough, while Ollie busied himself making a ‘lookout’ roughly six inches off the ground (honestly, he was still below my nipple-height, and I’m not that tall), Isaac opted to scale an entirely smooth part of the tree, with no branches to cling on to. See exhibit A:

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Sure enough, barely seconds after that photo was taken, Isaac did indeed slip, and smacked his head on the floor with such a bump, I honestly felt sick and started working out which was the nearest hospital. Fortunately, the injury wasn’t that bad, because although he immediately screamed bloody murder (which was a good sign, because it showed he didn’t have concussion), it transpired I had underestimated both (a) his protective pony-tail; and (b), the healing power of scoffing the entire bag of Smarties he had just won for completing the trail. Within minutes, he was fine again (albeit with a face covered in tear stains and chocolate smears).

Ollie, on the other hand, was by this point sobbing, because I had shouted at him. I tried to calmly explain that Daddy had only shouted because we thought Isaac might be paralysed, and at that precise moment in time, no, I didn’t give a flying fuck about a building he had spotted that looked like something out of Scooby Doo, but that did nothing to placate him, and he continued howling for far longer than Isaac had. And therein lies a summary of our kids: one is a bit of a wimp, while the other can take a direct – and potentially fatal – blow to the noggin, but recover within minutes.

When Ollie did finally stop crying, and following a further argument between us over the best route out of the gardens (which, rather annoyingly, he won – meaning I never got to perform the victory dance I had carefully choreographed), we stopped off for a quick picnic lunch, before making our way to Tatton Hall itself.

Once inside the Grade-I listed building, we realised there was another Easter hunt going on (with a further bag of Smarties on offer), only this time we had to walk around the house spotting clues to famous fairy tales. At this point, the ‘princess’ we had passed on the way in (a lady in a gold dress and tiara, who I had thought at the time was somewhat over-dressed, particularly considering most of the men around us were shirtless) suddenly made sense, and Isaac decided it was ‘Belle’ from Beauty and the Beast.

My wife therefore suggested we search for ‘the Beast’ (although didn’t appreciate me immediately pointing to my crotch and shouting ‘found it!’), and we discovered him in the next room. Both boys then surprised me, since the previously timid Isaac immediately went to hug the Beast for a photo, while Ollie pulled out a semi-decent joke, by wishing him ‘Happy Beaster’. Ok, it’s never going to win best joke at the Edinburgh Fringe, but for Ollie it was a comedic triumph (I honestly thought the elderly lady next to us was going to wet herself, although the same might have been true regardless).

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As the hunt continued, we ended up downstairs in the servants’ quarters, where my wife went into history teacher mode, educating our boys about the 19th Century class system. It was at this point she spotted a costume box, where kids could dress up like the impoverished youth of that period.

Now, if there is one thing I (apparently) find irresistible, it is the opportunity to dress like a Victorian maid, because that was the first costume I instinctively grabbed – shoving Isaac out of the way in the process. Please understand, it’s not that I enjoy dressing in women’s clothes per se, but for some reason I was drawn to the maid’s outfit over that of, say, the chimney sweep. I can’t explain it, but it’s not the first time this has happened (in the second photo below, taken a few years ago, we didn’t even have our kids with us), so it’s dangerously close to becoming a weird fetish.

Having successfully completed the hunt, the boys were awarded their chocolate prize by, quite frankly, the oldest fairy godmother I have ever seen, and we emerged from the adumbral (thank you, online thesaurus) Tatton Hall corridors, back into the Easter sunshine.

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As luck would have it, we overheard someone say the princess (who, it transpired, was Cinderella, not Belle), was posing for photographs nearby, so Isaac insisted we head straight there, and we found her soon afterwards, alongside one of her ugly sisters – who made my earlier attempt at drag look positively sexy.

When Isaac reached the front of the queue, my wife decided to avoid any awkward misunderstandings by introducing him as a ‘prince meeting a princess’. To her credit, Cinders got the hint, and even went so far as to crouch down to tell Isaac that his hair was fantastic, that more boys should have long hair, and he should never, ever, cut it.  This made his day. Bless her.

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From there, we headed to the farm, where we were informed ‘story time’ had just started in one of the buildings. Having dashed over, we discovered a lady reading ‘The Gingerbread Man’ to a group of children, but space was limited, so I was left on one side of the room with a strange family (I’m sure they were perfectly pleasant, but they were strange to me), while my wife and boys sat opposite.

As if this weren’t weird enough, another couple then arrived and squeezed in through the door next to me, meaning I had to stand/crouch immediately behind my newly adopted family, while the latest arrivals blocked my exit (I had been planning to make a quiet escape when no one was looking).

Worse, they were clearly not my kind of people, as they were both extremely aware of how good-looking they thought they were (he had his ‘guns’ out in a vest-top, while she was wearing a long dress more suited to Marbella than a farm, together with enough fake tan to drown a fucking horse, and the sort of ludicrously-long false eyelashes that would have looked better on said horse before its mahogany-coloured demise).

In fact, she appeared to be the only person less-impressed to be there than me, whereas at least muscles attempted a few animal noises at the appropriate parts of the story (when, incidentally, Isaac nailed his pig impression, and I don’t think he’s ever made me prouder – which says a lot about his achievements to date).

To end the day, because the boys had achieved a cumulative total of seventeen minutes where they hadn’t been completely dreadful, we decided to go for dinner at a nearby pub as a final treat (read: reward for Daddy for not killing anyone).

Here, Ollie informed us that Easter Sunday is his ‘third favourite day of the year’ (after Christmas Day and his birthday), because ‘you get to eat chocolate all the time, even for breakfast in bed’. I had to then point out that, actually, he wasn’t allowed to eat chocolate in bed, because there was no way Daddy would be sniffing any brown stains on his sheets to check if they were Cadbury’s or shit.

And, while we’re on the subject of shit (sorry), Isaac yet again decided he needed the toilet just as our food arrived, and since he was very much anti-Daddy by this point, it fell to my wife to accompany him to the bathroom.

When they returned several minutes later, I asked if it had been a successful visit (Isaac encounters a lot of false alarms), and my wife’s response of ‘I can’t un-see what just happened’ told me everything I needed to know. I certainly didn’t need Isaac to loudly announce to the entire pub:

“My poo was so big, the water splashed my bum!”

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Thanks for reading x

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Charlie and the Blogolate Factory

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the recent trend of giving up vices in aid of charity, such as last months’ ‘Dry January’ (no alcohol), ‘Veganuary’ (no meat, fish or animal products) and ‘Januhairy’ (women not shaving their legs and unmentionables).

I also mentioned how myself, my wife, and our two boys are taking part in the British Heart Foundation’s ‘Dechox Challenge’ this year, which means we are giving up all forms of chocolate for the entire month of February.

Originally, this was the boys’ idea, but my wife and I have decided to participate as well, for a few reasons:

  1. To support Ollie and Isaac in their month-long challenge, because neither will find it very easy, and if they are making the sacrifice, so should we;
  2. To see whether we too can make it through an entire month without chocolate; because my wife is a self-confessed chocoholic, I cannot be apart from chocolate hobnobs for more than a few days without developing an embarrassing twitch, and those fuckers at Tesco currently have Terry’s Chocolate Oranges (the very pinnacle of confectionery, in my opinion) for just a quid;
  3. To see if we lose any weight, or notice any other health benefits;
  4. To raise money for a very good cause (and, should you feel like chipping in, the boys have their very own Just Giving page: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/ollieandisaac);
  5. If my wife and I continued to eat chocolate throughout February, not only would that be unfair on the boys, but the little gits would no doubt discover our stash and devour it. Far better that we banish all chocolate from our home, to avoid any temptation.

Unfortunately, however, we are just one week in to our challenge, and it’s already going to shit. I must stress that none of us have caved in and eaten any chocolate (I would be far too embarrassed to blog about our failure, if we had lasted less than a week), but there are certain signs already which indicate the impact on our family could be devastating by the end of the month.

Let me explain.

Me

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Firstly, as the patriarchal head of our family unit (even if my wife is the actual boss), I feel it is incumbent on me to set an example to our boys, and maintain a façade of chocolate defiance* – even if I am secretly thinking about chocolate hobnobs every six seconds (thereby relegating thinking about sex into second place, in the old ‘what men think about’ league table).

*note to self: consider ‘Chocolate Defiance’ as a potential band name, if you ever get around to learning an instrument.

The problem, however, is not that I fear my resolve will waiver, and I will succumb to the temptations of chocolate by the end of the month, but more that I have the worst memory, and may consume some purely by accident.

For example, on Sunday, just three days into February, I went to buy a nice breakfast for the family from Waitrose, and, having picked up croissants for Ollie (his favourite), I then – without thinking – grabbed some pain au chocolat for Isaac (his favourite). It was not until I got home that I realised my mistake, much to the amusement of my wife, who may or may not have called me an ‘epic bellend’.

This was just three days into the challenge. As one of my more sarcastic colleagues informed me when I told them what I had done the following day (whilst offering around the unopened pain au chocolat), ‘the clue is in the name – it even has the word chocolate written on the packaging’. Of course, I tried to pedantically argue that, actually, it has the word chocolat on the packaging, and since I don’t speak French, I had no idea what this meant when I bought them, but no one was falling for it. I was a laughing stock.

I am therefore extremely concerned that I will inadvertently find myself half way through a delicious brownie, chocolate doughnut, or some other delight by month end, before realising my mistake and spluttering the contents of my mouth everywhere.

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My Wife

Now, I need to point out here, that this is the next part of the blog dealing with my wife’s love of chocolate, hence the heading ‘My Wife’ (which, in hindsight, might look a little like a caption to the gif above it, but that was never my intention – mostly because I value my genitals too much).

I don’t think my wife will mind me saying (which almost certainly means she will), that her love of chocolate is only matched by her love of shopping, Dick Van Dyke, and me injuring myself in the most ridiculous of ways.

I have no doubt that she will remember to avoid eating chocolate (because her memory, common sense, and knowledge of French is far better than mine), but I do worry that the lack of snack options of an evening may have an adverse effect on her mood – which, after a day of dealing with brat children (she is a school teacher at an all-boys secondary school), followed by an evening of dealing with ours, usually means she often craves Prosecco, chocolate, or both.

Ollie

 

Next, we have our eldest son, Ollie, who isn’t as bad when it comes to chocolate addiction as his younger sibling (we’ll come to him in a second), but the only dessert he will eat when we go to a restaurant is either chocolate brownie or chocolate fudge cake, both of which he is currently forbidden from. Which means our family meal on Sunday (for my birthday) will be a complete disappointment to him, the poor lad.

Isaac

 

Last, but by no means least, is the feral wolf child we refer to as Isaac.

To say Isaac adores all forms of chocolate would be an understatement, and the fact he even agreed to this challenge in the first place, is down to one of two factors:

  1. He didn’t realise it meant all chocolate, so he is not only denied chocolate bars until March, but also chocolate cake, chocolate ice cream and hot chocolate (which comprises his four staple food groups);
  2. He wasn’t listening properly.

Whatever the reason, if I was concerned about the lack of chocolate affecting my wife’s mood, this is nothing compared to the change in Isaac since last Thursday. He cannot sleep, he is (even more) confrontational, and he cries a lot. Admittedly, he was like that before, but never as bad as he is now, and his behaviour is like that of a withdrawing junkie going cold turkey. I swear I saw him shaking uncontrollably on Tuesday evening.

I have come to realise that chocolate is like Valium to Isaac – it keeps him sedated and able to function as a part of normal society. Without it, we might as well release him back into the wild woods from whence he came. And we still have three weeks to go.

I’m just grateful February is three days shorter than most of the other months to give us that little fighting chance of seeing this thing through.

Thanks for reading – wish us luck x

 

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Mince Pies and EggBlog

Well, it’s December, and that can mean only one thing – it is now acceptable to discuss Christmas.

I know some people begin getting all festive before the embers have fully died out on the bonfire, but for me you need to wait until midnight has ticked by on 30th November before you scoff that first mince pie, or even consider braving the loft to retrieve those decorations (which, incidentally, I am convinced I only shoved back up there about a month ago).

We all know Christmas is a magical time, particularly for the kids, but the real magic of Christmas, is that it is the one time of year when anything goes. You will eat, and drink, and behave like a totally different person from now until Boxing Day, all with one simple excuse – it’s Christmas. Christmas is like a month-long ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ card. In short, at Christmas time, the unacceptable suddenly becomes acceptable.

Here are seven examples of unacceptable Christmas behaviour, that no right-minded person would even contemplate at any other time of the year….

1. Fancy Dress

 

There are only two categories of adult human being who consider fancy dress as normal acceptable behaviour – actors, and the medically unstable.

Look, I am willing to turn a blind eye when it comes to Halloween, because I get that some parents will dress up for their kids, and I suppose the occasional stag/hen party is permissible, so long as they show some imagination (although, the last hen party I encountered – in Stockport – had clearly opted for the theme ‘drunken slags’), but for the remainder of the year fancy dress should be restricted to children only.

Not at Christmas though. Oh no. Once 1st December arrives, all bets are off, and you won’t make it through a twenty-four-hour period without encountering a Santa Claus, a ‘Mrs Santa’ (note for the ladies, not all of you can actually carry off a ‘sexy’ Mrs Santa outfit, so proceed with caution), a snowman or an elf.

I should know, because I hate fancy dress, but if you are reading this on the day of publication (Friday 7th December), then I am currently dressed like this for the Alzheimer’s Society’s ‘National Elf Day’ (which I’m pretty convinced my colleague made up, to make me look like a twat in front of clients):

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As you can see, I’m delighted about this. Ah well, it is Christmas, I suppose.

And I guess some festive fancy dress is ok…..

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2. Sprouts

No one in their right mind would consume these evil little balls of foulness at any other time of the year, so why do we allow them to infiltrate our dinner plates come Christmas? They smell of fart, they taste of fart, and they make you fart.

And, before you pipe up with ‘I honestly like them!’, no, you fucking don’t. You’re either lying to yourself (and the rest of us); or, worse, you honestly believe you like them, in which case you are a danger to society, and should be quarantined post-haste. See also: granola, kippers, olives (black and green).

Sprouts are awful, and disgusting, and my dinner plate come Christmas Day will be absolutely crawling with them. Because I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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3. Christmas Songs

26th December to 30th November:

“Shall we put some Mariah Carey on?”

“Fuck off.”

 

1st December to 25th December:

“Shall we put some Mariah Carey on?”

“I-I-I DON’T WANT A LOT FOR CHRISTMAS, THERE IS JUST ONE THING I NEEEEEED!”

4. Breakfast

For eleven months of the year, I will hazard a guess that your daily breakfast consists of something like cereal, or toast, or fruit. Now and again, you may treat yourself to sausages, or bacon, or eggs – or even all of the above, in that most glorious of treats, the full English breakfast.

Then, December begins, and any sense of self-restraint goes straight out of the window. You will justify that third bacon sandwich of the week, because it’s nearly Christmas. You might even scoff a mince pie, or a chocolate bar, before the school run, because it’s nearly Christmas.

But this is nothing, and I do mean nothing, compared to Christmas Day itself. On Christmas Day, all sense of decency vanishes, and sheer, unadulterated gluttony takes over, as you devour an entire Terry’s Chocolate Orange, or half a tin of Quality Street (orange creme, thanks for asking) before 7am.

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Even at Easter, a religious holiday now seemingly devoted to chocolate (amazing how the chocolatiers – and, to a lesser extent, the bunny community – managed to wrangle control of that one), most sensible adults wouldn’t dream of scoffing every last bite of a giant Toberlone before sunrise, yet at Christmas we seemingly think nothing of it.

And, best of all, we get to wash it all down with…..

5. Weird Alcohol

Assuming you are not an alcoholic, then aside from Christmas, there are only two other occasions when drinking alcohol first thing in the morning is considered acceptable: when you are at an airport about to fly away on holiday, and on your wedding day (when the bride may have a glass of champagne with her Maid of Honour, and any bridesmaids of sufficient maturity, and the groom will neck something a little stronger, to numb the pain of the horrible mistake he is about to make*).

*joke, dear.

However, it is not the timing of the alcohol consumption which really worries me about Christmas, it’s what we drink. For example, at no other point throughout the year, would I even entertain the notion of sipping a glass of sherry of an evening, but I can easily clear a bottle by myself during Christmas week alone.

Look, I know it’s not a manly drink in the slightest, but I don’t think downing a litre of Harvey’s Bristol Cream in the last week of the year is going to make me seem any camper than I already am, so I’m not overly concerned.

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Then, ladies and gentlemen, we have eggnog. What in the name of all things sacred is eggnog? And don’t say ‘Advocaat’, because we both know full well you haven’t got a fucking clue what that is either. You can’t explain one mysterious drink with another mysterious drink.

Even the name concerns me, because no alcoholic beverage should ever feature the word ‘egg’ (or, for that matter, the word ‘nog’). A nog, for those unaware, is a small block of wood. Nowhere else in the off licence would we accept a drink with a name formed from a dairy product and a small block of wood. Anyone fancy a quick cheese-peg or cream-wedge? No, didn’t think so.

And don’t even get me started on mulled wine.

6. Rubbish TV

I don’t watch soap operas, apart from with my mother-in-law at Christmas. I don’t tend to watch reality shows, except at Christmas. And even though I don’t mind the Queen, if someone offered me the option of watching a woman in her 90s give a meaningless speech in June, or July, or even on any other day in December, I’d politely decline or make up an excuse not to.

But this is Christmas, and so help me God I need to find out who shot so-and-so on Corrie.

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7. Christmas Shopping

Christmas has been almost entirely commercialised, whether you agree with that or not, but for someone who has never been a huge fan of shopping anyway, schlepping around stores looking for gifts at the same time as the rest of the country is not my idea of fun. In fact, I would far sooner drizzle my gentleman’s area with honey, then dangle it in front of a bear’s face.

Yet people seem to tolerate, no, love, pushing their way from one shop to the next in the build up to Christmas, fighting to grab those last minute gifts for relatives you don’t even like, and won’t see again until the same time next year (if any of my relatives are reading this, I don’t me you, obviously).

Even my wife, who treats Christmas shopping as her all-time favourite sport, and who once spent three days in the Trafford Centre buying gifts (honestly, we had to set up a ‘base camp’ outside Clintons), now avoids the place once December starts. It’s ridiculous. The Trafford Centre is so vast that it is twinned with Luxembourg, but if you visit on a Saturday throughout December, you won’t find a spare parking space among the 47,000 available if you don’t arrive before 9am.

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No, I much prefer to do my Christmas shopping in my underwear*, and since the Trafford Centre kicked me out the last time I tried it there, I now purchase nearly all of my gifts online. Not that I have many to buy, as my wife takes control of purchasing for most of our family.

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Of course, nowadays we also have the ‘Christmas Markets’ to contend with, where cities and towns have taken the concept of crowded shopping, and moved it outdoors into the freezing cold.

Never mind, at least we can all stay warm with a steaming cup of disgusting hot wine.

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Thanks for reading x

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