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:

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

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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:

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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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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.

*no picture available.

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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The Twelve Blogs of Christmas

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me:

drummersblog

Twelve Drummers Drumming

pipersblog

Eleven Pipers Piping

lordblog

Ten Lords a Leaping

ladiesblog

Nine Ladies Dancing

maidsblog

Eight Maids a Milking

swansblog

Seven Swans a Swimming

geeseblog

Six Geese a Laying

ringsblog

Five GOLDEN Rings

birdsblog

Four Calling Birds

hensblog

Three French Hens

dovesblog

Two Turtle Doves

partridgeblog

… Alan Partridge in a Pear Tree

Happy New Year, folks. Normal blogging will be resumed next week.

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‘Twas The Blog Before Christmas (2017)

‘Twas the blog before Christmas, a third year completed

Forty-four more entries, to which you’ve been treated

And now that it’s customary, here’s my review

Of the last twelve months – lucky old you.

 

JANUARY

 

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We started in January, with blog ninety-nine

New Year’s Resolutions – a problem of mine

I sought inspiration from a website

But their ten suggestions turned out to be shite

The following week, in entry one hundred

I explained how, for a while, I had wondered

Whether quitting this blog was the right thing to do

I love all my readers, but there’s only a few

My fanbase is tiny, the numbers are shit

But at the last second, I chose not to quit

If one blog goes viral, I’ll conquer the net

I remain ever hopeful (though it’s not happened yet)

I battled the weather on the morning commute

A full inch of snow caused a treacherous route

Then, as the month ended, more travelling hassle

As I struggled by train, up to Newcastle

I recounted each station, some desolate places

A pair of young lovers, the sucking of faces

The angriest man, who seemed quite unstable

Purely because I had sat at his table.

 

FEBRUARY

 

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A look at your horoscope is where Feb began

Our future in stars? I’m not a big fan

Boring Pisceans, giving Librans a miss

(I hope you all saw I was taking the piss)

I then had a birthday, and provided detail

About all the parts of me starting to fail

Pissing too often, and receding hair

I wish I was older, so I didn’t care

Then – without warning – a change to be had

Re-branding to ‘Confessions of a Middle-Raged Dad’

A new Facebook page, my own website domain

(it was a pain in the arse, and won’t happen again)

 

MARCH

 

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As we moved into March, I hit the end of my tether

When the UK was ‘battered’ by terrible weather

And I posted a blog filled with terrible jokes

About how we name storms after elderly folks

Then a lifestyle change, my biggest this year

I started back running (to combat the beer)

A specialist shop where – thanks to my mate

I tried to run in my pants, so they could see my gait

A misunderstanding, and I looked rather silly

(turns out they weren’t keen on seeing my willy)

Then more awkwardness, as I explained how

I took a trip to my dentist – the sadistic cow

Before ending the month with the country’s worst drivers

And how, if I’m pushed, there will be no survivors.

 

APRIL

 

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At the beginning of April, I agreed like a fool

To give a talk to some students who are at my wife’s school

Then the following week, I gained a new niece

And thought it appropriate to write a quick piece

Offering advice for new fathers-to-be

About labour, push presents, and ‘shitastrophies’

We took the boys on a trip to CBeebies Land

Never mind that it cost the best part of a grand

We met very weird people – without doubt the best

Was the peculiar lady with a big hairy chest

Lastly came cooking, and why Masterchef

Would be far more appealing were I blind and deaf

This popular show has become a disgrace

Thanks to John Torode and his awful ‘sex face’

 

MAY

 

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A weird start to May, as some of you read

About my odd thoughts and the ‘sperm’ in my head

Back-to-back birthdays, as Isaac turned three

And the absolute horror that was his party

Then Ollie turned seven – ‘Happy BlogDay, Son’

I explained about how he is second-to-none

While as May concluded, I got poorly sick

And struggled to control my unruly dick

In a bout of fierce coughing, with sore throat and nose

I went to the toilet and pissed on my toes

 

JUNE

 

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At the beginning of June, I had the nerve and the cheek

To write a blog entry in the middle of the week

A series of questions: just make your selection

Then decide how to vote in the general election

A short trip to Norwich and two things which haunt me

Playing sport with old people, and dips in the sea

Another poem followed in ‘The Blogs and The Bees’

When Ollie asked me how to make babies

I prepared a handy verse, in a desperate bid

To help you when explaining sex to a kid

While in ‘Cracking The Blogs’ I got rather irate

It was so bloody warm I could not concentrate

I gave several reasons why, believe it or not,

We pasty Brits aren’t designed to be hot

And as the month ended, a new kind of heat

With romantic messages in a packet of sweets

They’ve modernised Lovehearts, but I don’t think ‘Swipe Right’

Or ‘Cwtch Me’ is something middle-agers would write

Far more appropriate is ‘I have a headache’

Or ‘Don’t get excited, that orgasm was fake’

 

JULY

 

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At the start of July was a James Bond-esque farce

About a bint in a Volvo trying to drive up my arse

She followed me daily – I’ve still no clue why

If it was meant to be stealth, she’s the worst fucking spy

Then back onto running with some marathon tips

Like ‘create a mantra’ and ‘grease up those nips’

But no amount of pain, or running through walls

Will see Vaseline slathered over my balls

In the middle of the month, my wife left us alone

So I uncharacteristically had a big moan

She flew off to Germany, on a trip with her school

And Isaac, naturally, behaved like a tool

But despite single-parenting being quite frantic

I forgave her, and the next blog was rather romantic

A poem to celebrate the love of my life

And the thirteen years that she’s been my wife

 

AUGUST

 

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Our summer holiday comprised this month’s blogs

We spent a week in a caravan, confined with our sprogs

The first entry of three was hastily written

As I explained why it’s good to vacation in Britain

There followed a ‘doubler’ – in ‘Blog Cabin Part One’

I shared my diary from our holiday just gone

We had a great time, though I suspect that I swore

When describing the chavs in the ‘van next door

Two massive women, each the size of a tanker

Seven vile children and one ‘full kit wanker’

Then the conclusion, ‘Blog Cabin Part Two’

Some Evesham skanks and a trip to a zoo

The outdoor pool, where my body went numb

And it took me an hour to locate my scrotum

 

SEPTEMBER

 

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Just a few months back, you may all remember

Football club nicknames kicked us off in September

Then more of my running as I spent a Sunday

Taking part in my first (and last) Sandbach 10k

There were times when I struggled and though it sounds dumb

I distracted myself with the girl in front’s bum

Next, my law conference at a posh hotel

An attempt at networking that didn’t go well

Surrounded by show-offs and arrogant fuckers

(not to mention two girls who were most likely hookers)

But the month ended well, when our eldest lad

Was the mascot at County – one very proud Dad

 

OCTOBER

 

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More poetry next, as I’d had a bad week

But I tried to explain that when everything’s bleak

Embrace what you have and enjoy every day

Because sometimes ‘fuck it’ is the best thing to say

In ‘Ernst Stavro Blogfeld’, I wrote about Bond

(a subject on which I have always been fond)

Imagining him as if he were retired

Would he still be so loved and admired?

Volcano lairs, ‘Operation Grand Slam’

Replaced by an eye test and prostate exam

And as the month ended, I became the proud owner

Of two special tickets to watch Barcelona

There’s no doubt that our trip has made Ollie’s year

No Christmas present can hope to come near

It cost me a fortune, but the expense was worthwhile

Just to see my son’s face with the world’s biggest smile

 

NOVEMBER

 

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I concluded our trip in ‘Blogelona – Part Two’

Enjoying a match at the massive Camp Nou

Sat with my boy, I’ll have to confess he

Brought a tear to my eye while grinning at Messi

Even some low-life stealing from me

Couldn’t spoil our trip, and the memory

Next up – sorry – more running content

As I described my latest fundraising event

Despite saying that 10k still fills me with fear

I’ll be running ten more through the course of next year

Next, for ‘Movember’, I repeated my post

From this time last year – about how it’s the most

Important thing for men to debunk

The myth that they don’t need to check out their junk

And lastly I wondered whether it’s right to get surly

At the mention of Christmas – is November too early?

 

DECEMBER

 

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In – ‘Bloggy Hell’ – I went for a run

In freezing cold weather, and when I was done

Because I was soaked, and badly unfit

I clung to a bin that was filled with dog shit

Then when I got home, I spent half an hour

Feeling sad for myself looking down in the shower

With E.T.’s red belly I wished I was skinny

But worse, my penis went ‘outy’ to ‘inny’

Finally, last week (with parental warning)

I wrote about the magic of each Christmas morning

The myth of dear Santa, the world’s greatest lie

A fat man with reindeer high up in the sky

So now as St. Nick prepares to take flight

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night

 

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That my dear friend, brings us to now

So I’ll take my leave, say goodbye, take a bow

I wish you and your loved ones much festive cheer

And fear not, I’ll be back, with more bullshit next year.

 

Merry Christmas, and thanks for reading x

 

 

 

 

 

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Bloggin’ Around The Christmas Tree

Disclaimer: Warning! This week’s entry is about Father Christmas, so if you have young children nearby, you may want to cover the screen / read it later, and make sure you don’t leave it open on the laptop or tablet for them to inadvertently stumble across. I accept no responsibility whatsoever, for anyone’s Christmas being ruined because of your carelessness. Look, children shouldn’t be reading most of what I write about anyway. Fuck. See, told you…

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Ah, Christmas. The time of year when it is perfectly acceptable to lie to your children (as well as gorge yourself stupid; act like a drunken tit; play Chris Rea very loud in the office, etc….).

In truth, parents lie to their children all year round, but this is generally for three very good reasons:

1. We want to protect them from the harsh realities of real life (thereby preserving their innocence that little bit longer), e.g.:

“No, darling, Bambi’s mummy is going to be absolutely fine. She’s just having a lie down because she’s tired.”

2. We, as adults, want our lives to be just a tiny bit easier, and sometimes lying is the only way to achieve this, e.g.:

“The television seems to be broken. Never mind, time for bed”;

or

“I know you hate parsnips. That’s a chip, I promise.”

3. Sometimes, we screw up, and have no other choice, e.g.:

“I have no idea where your Easter Egg went, sweetheart, I haven’t seen it in days.” (said whilst discreetly wiping away a chocolate smear from the corner of your mouth);

or

“Mummy was just giving the window cleaner a cuddle, because he was sad that he had lost his trousers. There’s no need to tell Daddy about this….”

I accept that very few people condone lying (rightly so), and fewer still actively encourage it, but that is the beauty of parenthood, especially at Christmas time: you get to do things that would be considered unacceptable in other walks of life, all for the sake of your children.

The great thing about lying to kids, particularly when they are young, is that you will almost certainly get away with it. When they are babies, you can say what you like to them, because they probably won’t understand, and, even if they do, they can’t answer back to question the validity of whatever bullshit you happen to be spouting this time.

Then, when they get a little older and can talk, the whole world will be an exciting mystery to them, so they will believe everything that you – as a responsible parent – tell them. After all, why would you lie? They trust you more than anyone else in their universe, and it will be many years before they understand the concept of lying to protect someone, or, in their case, to preserve the innocence of youth. Better still, because they do not yet understand the intricacies of this cruel world in which we live, they are really fucking gullible.

Perhaps the greatest lie in the history of mankind (apart from Keyser Soze), is Father Christmas – or Santa Claus for any Americans reading.

Father Christmas embodies all that is good and magical in the world, even though everything (and I do mean everything), that we are taught as children, should set alarm bells ringing about him. He supposedly breaks into your house once a year, sneaks around while you are sleeping, helps himself to your food and drink, and then leaves.  Fair enough, he leaves gifts, but that’s still fucking creepy. Plus, he even looks like a BBC presenter from the 1970’s. How Operation Yewtree have never investigated him is a mystery.

But, when December arrives each year, the concept of ‘stranger danger’ no longer applies, as parents all over the world thrust their young child onto the expectant knee of someone from the local Round Table; a fellow parent from school; or perhaps just a plump bearded man in Debenhams (tip: do make sure he actually works there before offering him your child. If he’s in a grotto, surrounded by elves, that’s generally a good sign. If, however, he is browsing the lingerie section and sweating, it’s best to steer clear).

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Has any parent ever asked for evidence of a criminal background check on a department store Father Christmas? No. And the reason for this, is that we don’t ever suspect Father Christmas of being anything other than a figure of kindness and virtue (although we said the same about Rolf Harris, didn’t we?).

The bottom line is, we as adults would dearly love to believe in Father Christmas too (it would make our lives considerably easier – not to mention cheaper), and every time we are reminded that the jolly man in the suit is actually Geoff from Accounts, or Sally’s husband from three doors down, it kills us a little.

Ultimately, though, Father Christmas is any parent, or grown-up relative, in the company of young children at this time of year. It’s you, me, and millions of others all over the world. It’s the greatest (and nicest) mass lie ever told.

Fortunately, young children are naïve and desperate to believe in magic, so we are able to maintain what is, quite frankly, unbelievable bullshit, for far longer than should be possible.

Aside from the sheer logistics of visiting all seven billion people on the planet in just one night (when, as we all know, it would be damn-near impossible to circumnavigate the M25 in one evening, let alone the Earth), we are expected to simply accept that he then squeezes down your chimney – a physical impossibility – leaves gifts, and then zooms off again, in a carriage towed by flying ruminants with silly names.

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None of this is even remotely plausible, but children are gullible when it comes to the lies told by their parents, and they want to believe it could be true – because they are innocent, adorable, and, most of all, they really want that new bike.

So, we, as parents, tell ourselves that it is acceptable to lie to children, because it helps to protect them, and preserve their blissful ignorance of how shit the real world can be. They will have many years throughout their lives, to come to terms with all the horrors of being an adult, so we allow them to believe in things like Father Christmas, the Tooth Fairy, and a Conservative Government, while they still can.

The problem is, because it is so easy to lie to our kids about Father Christmas, we often exploit that for the very reasons mentioned earlier – to make our own lives easier, and because we just can.

At home, we have a burglar alarm, which comprises motion detectors around the house, and these will flicker with a red light at the mere sight of any movement nearby. I know it’s a burglar alarm, my wife knows it’s a burglar alarm, and any intruders to our house would know it’s a burglar alarm. But not our boys. To them, it’s ‘Santa Cam’, and they genuinely believe that he has nothing better to do that sit there and monitor their behaviour all year round.

The other night, Isaac (our youngest) had just gone to sleep – having had two fake calls from Father Christmas by way of a threat – but Ollie (our eldest) was reluctant to get his pyjamas on and head up to bed.

So, in the end, my wife resorted to using the latest App on her phone, which involves setting a timer so that ‘Father Christmas’ can phone your child. The genius behind this App, is that you can input your child’s name, age, and their current misdemeanour, so that the man in red can then berate them on an individual basis – giving the entire charade an element of plausibility, for any slightly-older (and therefore sceptical) children.

Hiding her phone to one side on the sofa, I could see my wife setting up the call as Ollie made a fuss about getting ready for bed and brushing his teeth, and then, sure enough, her phone started ringing. The ‘caller ID’ showed that Father Christmas was ringing, so my wife made Ollie answer it.

A recorded message then revealed that Ollie’s behaviour had not escaped his attention, he was aware Ollie is now 7 and should be being good – especially so close to Christmas – and he needed him to listen to his parents if he wanted any presents this year. It’s fair to say Ollie was dubious at first, but once his age and latest offence were revealed, he wasn’t willing to jeopardise that sodding Barcelona kit for any remaining doubts he may have had. I’ve never seen him get into his pyjamas so fast in my life.

The best part was, as he then half-sprinted from the living room to go upstairs to bed, and thinking that my wife and I could not see him, he turned half-way up the stairs, gave a ‘thumbs up’ to the burglar alarm (which was of course flashing red because he had just run past it), and then smiled as he headed to his room. Father Christmas had seen him, so all was ok.

This was simultaneously hilarious and adorable in equal measure, but it brought home to us that this is probably the last year we can maintain the lie. It breaks my heart a little to think about revealing the harsh truth to him, shattering his little world for every December thereafter, but I can’t keep it up forever (which, as I approach middle-age, is a concept I am going to have to get used to).

Lying is bad. We all know that. But sometimes, when your intentions are good, and the alternative is only going to hurt someone, it’s acceptable. Better still, when it comes to the lie that is Father Christmas, it gives you a lovely warm glow inside.

Thanks for reading.

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Argos Catablog

This week’s entry is all about Christmas.

Now, I imagine most of you will have reacted to that opening line in one of two ways. Firstly, there will be those reading this, who – in the words of Roy Wood and Wizzard – wish it could be Christmas every day, and the 25th December cannot come fast enough.

To compensate for this, you begin preparing for Christmas at some point in early June, because it’s never too early to start planning. You reacted to that opening line with a warm glow inside, and a broad smile on your face. By this stage of the year, with December just around the corner, you can barely contain your excitement.

The second group, on the other hand, will have reacted with sheer repulsion at the mere mention of Christmas just yet. Those people who refuse to even acknowledge that Christmas exists until the 1st December each year, and if they happen to spot a mince pie on a supermarket shelf, or hear Shakin Stevens’ Merry Christmas Everyone (undoubtedly the finest of all the Christmas songs, by some margin) being played while they peruse the freezer section, they will go fucking mental. Not only that, they will make damn sure every customer within hearing range will know of their displeasure at being subjected to ‘Christmas stuff’ so early in the year.

I am somewhere in between those two camps. On the one hand, I love Christmas, and it is without doubt my favourite time of year; but by the same token, I also love Easter, yet I don’t feel the need to start stockpiling masses of chocolate in late January. I’m all for sensible planning, but there comes a point where it starts to get a bit silly. I do not necessarily subscribe to the idea Christmas should be banned until the start of December, but I do object to the sight of baubles and tinsel, when it’s still warm enough to wear shorts outside.

I know this is largely the fault of the retailers, who will start to quietly infiltrate their stock with mince pies and decorations before the August Bank Holiday weekend is out of the way, but is there really any need? If we all took a stand, together, and refused to purchase anything Christmas-related until say, after Bonfire Night, they’d soon stop it.

Sadly, my wife is very firmly in the ‘Christmas cannot come early enough’ category. This is partly because she loves nothing more than buying and wrapping presents for everyone, but mostly because she is a secondary school teacher, and Christmas means getting away from the repugnant little shits that she teaches for two whole weeks.

Unfortunately, this also means that she begins planning for Christmas as soon as she goes back to school in September (as a coping strategy, I suspect). It gives her something to aim towards, to keep her sane. As a result, she will begin buying gifts ‘to put away’ – mostly for our two boys – at the start of each academic year. This is fine at first, but the more she buys, the harder it becomes to hide the growing mountain of gifts from prying little eyes.

Admittedly, our boys are largely unaware of anything they cannot eat or destroy, so we tend to get away with hiding presents in plain sight (in fact, Ollie is generally so oblivious to what is going on around him, that we could probably store presents under his bed), but by this time of the year, we are always faced with a problem.

You see, such is my wife’s obsession with both shopping and Christmas, that she starts buying gifts at the end of summer, but doesn’t then stop until mid-December. Now, I wouldn’t mind so much if she just did all the shopping early, then ceased spending come Halloween, but the speed at which she purchases Christmas presents never falters for the final four months of the year.

The result of this, is that by mid-November, when we have our annual ‘let’s get everything out in the living room, to see what we’ve bought, and who we still need gifts for’ evening (which she enjoys far more than I do), we could honestly build an extension onto the rear of the house with all the boxes we appear to have amassed.

No word of a lie, we got the boys’ presents laid out on the carpet last week, and it looked like someone had ram-raided Argos, filled a van, and then dumped the loot between our two sofas.

A girl plays on an artwork made of unwanted toys at the solo exhibition of Japanese artist Hiroshi Fuji, in Tokyo

Actual footage

I suppose I shouldn’t complain, as she loves Christmas shopping so much, that she takes control of buying not only the boys’ presents, but also both our families’ gifts, and those for all our friends too. In fact, the only person I have to buy for, is her – and I swear that, even then, she will send subliminal messages to me when she knows I’m not listening, so that I later think I’ve had a great idea for what to get her, and it was her suggestion all along. Oh well, at least she gets what she wants this way.

The problem I foresee this year, however, is that neither of our boys is behaving particularly well at present, so unless there is a dramatic improvement over the next month, we may have to hold some of the gifts back for their birthdays (which are three days apart in May), as I don’t want them thinking bad behaviour goes unpunished.

Sure, we still have the option of Father Christmas ‘swapping’ some of their presents for potatoes (our usual threat each year, although coal works just as well if you prefer), but such is their current level of naughtiness, I fear sticking to that threat would see them with no presents whatsoever, and more spuds than McCain (the frozen food manufacturer, not the US Senator – although he does look a bit like a potato).

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Mr Potato

This year, Ollie has decided he doesn’t want his usual long list of toys from the Argos catalogue, and claims he will be happy with just a Barcelona kit, and some massive Lego ‘Scooby Doo Mansion’ he has set his sights on. In some ways, I’m pleased he now acknowledges that growing up sometimes means receiving fewer (but more expensive) presents; however at the same time, it shows a complete ignorance of just how much those two gifts happen to cost.

I admire his apparent restraint, but not only is the gesture undermined when the two presents seemingly cost more than a decent family holiday, I also know he’s a lying little shit.  Sure, he can make such a bold statement now, but even if he did receive both the Barcelona kit and Scooby Doo Lego on Christmas morning (which he won’t), is he honestly going to sit there, content, while Isaac continues unwrapping gifts for the next half an hour? No, he’s going to sulk like a little bitch.

Saying he only wants two very expensive gifts for Christmas, is like me saying I only want an Aston Martin and Holly Willoughby this year (which, if my wife is reading this, is exactly what I would like, please). Ok, the logistics of arranging this are somewhat complicated (one promises to be a luxurious and thrilling ride…. and the other is an Aston Martin), but it’s what I truly want, and Christmas should be a time of making your loved ones happy.

Still, socks are nice too. I always need socks.

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Jingle Blogs

In last week’s entry, I revealed that one of my favourite things about the festive period is the good old-fashioned Christmas song. This is despite the fact that they are all, without exception, crap. But, if you can look past the poor tunes, terrible lyrics, and appalling outfits, there is a great deal of fun to be had.

If you don’t agree with me, let me explain why, in my opinion, Christmas songs should be embraced in all their camp festive glory.

You see, Christmas is a magical time of year, when even the terrible things in life – like sprouts and Cliff Richard – are suddenly tolerated and, indeed, widely-accepted. Once December hits, we immediately do all sorts of strange things purely because, well, it’s Christmas isn’t it?

For example, we will inexplicably start drinking hot wine, even though it is so obviously disgusting. At any other time of year, if someone offered you a cup of hot spicy wine, with all manner of shit floating around in it, you would immediately grab said cup and insert it into them, big end first. But at Christmas, you will politely smile, graciously accept the drink, and try not to choke on a cinnamon stick as you force the rancid contents down your gullet.

We also move trees – you know, those big wooden things commonly found in gardens, parks and forests – inside our houses, and then try to make them look pretty by hanging bits of glass and metallic paper from them.  It’s not like we suddenly need the extra oxygen, so why are we doing this? At any other time of year, unnecessarily felling millions of trees would be frowned upon, but not at Christmas. It’s lunacy. You wouldn’t divide your kitchen up with a privet hedge at Easter, or plonk a topiary swan in the corner of the bedroom for Valentine’s Day, so what made Christmas so obsessed with inappropriate indoor foliage?

It’s not just any old trees, either, it’s specifically ones that will drop razor-sharp needles all over the floor, within a day of being positioned in your living room. If you’re lucky, you can spot these needles and dispose of them, but more often than not they vanish into the carpet, only to re-appear several months later, painfully embedded in your arse when you happen to sit in that exact spot. This, along with the added danger of broken baubles and prickly holly, means that your house suddenly becomes an SAS training facility.

Oh, and rather than have a nice box of chocolates, we stick twenty-four of the tiniest, plainest ones into a cardboard box, and then restrict ourselves to just one a day, as some kind of homage to the Baby Jesus. You have to work for them too. Even if you manage to get the badly-perforated paper door open (without putting your fist through it in a blind rage), you are often then faced with an additional wall of tinfoil to get through, before the challenge of prizing the damn thing from its plastic mould. Both of these latter obstacles will invariably end with a clump of chocolate lodged firmly under your fingernail. Worst of all, we do this twenty-four times, for a total haul of chocolate less than you would get in one fucking Freddo.

Why do we do this to ourselves?

Sorry, I think I might have become distracted. Basically, what I’m trying to say, is that Christmas is a time for embracing the most ridiculous shitty things in life… and there is nothing more ridiculous and shitty than a Christmas song. But that’s why we love them.

You might have noticed, however, that in my opening paragraph I referred to them as ‘good old-fashioned’ Christmas songs, and that is because there hasn’t been a decent one since about 1987. With that in mind, it wouldn’t be fair to dismiss Christmas songs because they have poor tunes, terrible lyrics, and appalling outfits, because that was the 1980s.

Everything that was terrible/great about the 1980s, is everything that is terrible/great about Christmas songs. They go together like mince pies and sherry. Who was going to record one in the 1990s, Oasis? How about Scissor Sisters (ft. James Blunt) for the ‘00s? Give me strength. Nowadays, the charts are ruled by people like Adele and Sam Smith, and they’ve already fucked up doing Bond themes, so don’t let them destroy Christmas too.

No, we have a great back catalogue of Christmas tunes as it is, and that should not be messed with. Sure, it means every Christmas compilation album is more or less identical (but with a slightly different track listing), but that just means you only have to buy one of them, and it’ll last you a lifetime.

“But, if you had to compile a list of your ten favourite Christmas songs, in descending order, what would they be?” I almost certainly don’t hear you cry. Tough. This is happening.

But remember, these are my own personal choices and preferences, so don’t get your jingle bells in a twist if your favourites are missing, or you don’t agree with my order. There are, after all, quite a few to choose from… and they’re all gorgeously rubbish.

10. The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl – Fairytale of New York

This is the choice I have agonised over the most. My top eight or nine songs were easy to select, and relatively straight-forward to put into order, but that final tenth song to make the list has caused me some trouble, and I changed my mind countless times. Ultimately, I have opted for Fairytale of New York (which I know would be many people’s overall favourite), not because it’s any good – it’s really not – but because it is now so synonymous with Christmas, and always gets played at the end of a Christmas night out (when, coincidentally, everyone is so pissed, they end up sounding a lot like Shane MacGowan). It’s basically the Yuletide equivalent of New York, New York. And speaking of Sinatra….

9. Frank Sinatra – Santa Claus Is Coming To Town

This song has been recorded by dozens of different artists – seemingly every few years – since its first release in 1934, but Frank Sinatra’s version remains my favourite, and is arguably the most instantly recognisable. It’s all that is lovely and warm about Christmas, and it features at the end of my favourite festive film, Elf.

8. Slade – Merry Christmas Everybody

Everything about this song screams total disaster, and if it wasn’t such a festive institution I would utterly hate it. It’s essentially a group of Brummie Cocker Spaniels being tortured, but oh my how we love it. “It’s CHHHRRRRIIIIISSSTMAS!!”

7. Wizzard – I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday

And this one is no better. Roy Wood is simply terrifying in this video, and whoever thought that a Christmas song should begin with the sound of a till being opened, followed by a high-pitched creepy voice and someone farting, should be banished forever. Bizarrely, we have taken this song to our hearts, and no Christmas compilation would be complete without it.

6. Band Aid – Do They Know It’s Christmas?

It remains a mystery how Bob Geldof could organise tying his own shoelaces, let alone a global rock concert and massive Christmas song, performed by some of the world’s best-loved artists – plus Bono – but organise it he did. Either that, or Midge Ure did all the work, and Bob was just the loud drunken man shouting about it. Thank God Shane MacGowan wasn’t involved too, or it would have been completely indecipherable.

5. Greg Lake – I Believe In Father Christmas

I’ll admit that, up until a few years ago, if someone had mentioned this song to me I would have stared at them blankly. I had no idea what it was called or who it was by. But, as soon as I succumbed and bought my first Christmas CD at the ripe age of 32, I listened to this song and was immediately transported back to the Christmases of my childhood. And that’s as good a reason as any to include it in my top 5.

4. Chris de Burgh – A Spaceman Came Travelling

If you thought Cliff Richard was creepy, he is positively charming compared to Chris de Burgh. His surname even sounds like someone vomiting. However, this song, like I Believe In Father Christmas, is another more relaxed and classy selection to counter-balance the brash noise of Slade and Wizzard.

3. Elton John – Step Into Christmas

And the creepy men keep on coming. Elton, in contrast to his two predecessors, does have some other decent songs in his repertoire, but this is Christmas camp-ness at it’s very best.

2. Chris Rea – Driving Home For Christmas

I don’t care what my wife says, she clearly has no taste whatsoever, because this is a superb Christmas song that makes you feel all warm inside (even if Mr Rea wasn’t, when he wrote it stuck in traffic).   It takes something truly special to top this…

1. Shakin’ Stevens – Merry Christmas Everyone

Ok, I know my favourite Christmas song will differ from most people’s choices, and I am liable to receive some abuse, but this to me is Yuletide perfection. It has the cheesy video, a very ‘80s fade out scene (00:52), the ‘dad dancing’ in a gaudy jumper (01:59), and above all else it’s actually got a catchy tune. I love it, and I couldn’t have Christmas without it.

“It’s the season, love and understanding. Merry Christmas everyone…”

Ba-da-bum-bum.

 

 

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