The Twiggles and The Bloggles

Before the boys went back to school on Tuesday, we decided to spend last week visiting my in-laws in Norfolk and, unlike our main summer holiday in Northumberland (which Mother Nature seemed hell-bent on fully submerging during our stay), we enjoyed a week of glorious sunshine.

While we were there, my in-laws treated the four of us to a day out at Norfolk’s premier forest-based adventure park, BeWILDerwood, which is essentially a woodland activity centre, filled with tree-houses, mazes, rope-swings, bridges, and slides.

When I discovered we would be spending a day with the boys at BeWILDerwood, it would be fair to say my reaction was somewhat mixed. On the one hand, I like adventure (some would say ‘Adventure’ is my middle name, but it’s not, it’s James), the activities looked like a lot of fun, and it meant I got to spend some quality time with my boys. On the other hand, while I do like adventure, I love napping more, and a day at BeWILDerwood also meant I had to spend some quality time with my boys.

Most importantly of all, however, was the fact that, following our recent glamping weekend in the New Forest, where I was bitten by every fucking insect known to man (and, for which, I am still suffering several weeks later), spending time in the woods was way down my list of priorities. In fact, as far as priorities go, it was somewhere near shaving my gentleman’s potatoes with a rusty hacksaw. Still, I didn’t want to seem ungrateful, so off we went.

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Having arrived nice and early, in order to beat the queues for the boat ride (which takes you from the main entrance to the park itself), we collected our wrist bands and managed to board the second boat of the day.

Here, we were greeted by our driver, ‘Riley’, who regaled us with tales of the ‘Boggles’ and ‘Twiggles’ supposedly living in the woods, pointing out the various tiny houses and communes which the owners of the park had constructed either side of the riverbank. It would be fair to say Riley was very theatrical, which the kids on the boat loved, but I found irritating within seconds. That said, his boat steering skills were second-to-none, and a few minutes down the river we were safely moored up at the main park.

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Once we had gathered our bearings, as well as making a mental note of the various ‘story times’ for later in the day, the boys clambered around one of the smaller assault courses for a bit, completed the ‘sky maze’ (which we would have finished far sooner, had we not allowed Isaac to lead the way), and then set about doing some ‘den building’.

Ollie, naturally, had his own very precise methods of designing a camp purely from logs and sticks, which inevitably resulted in a den that made Boris Johnson look stable, while Isaac – in typical Isaac fashion – quietly went about his business on the opposite side of the forest clearing to his brother, and I think the results speak for themselves:

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Ollie’s ‘den’

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Isaac’s ‘den’

Having opted for an early lunch (again to beat the queues – which happens to be one of my favourite things to do on a day out), where Isaac spent more time crying than eating, because he only had three bags of crisps and wanted four, my wife then overheard the finest example of parenting we would encounter all day, as a frustrated father barked at his child “Look, I’ve paid forty quid for you to come and play here, so go and fucking play!” Lovely.

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Continuing the theme of obnoxious families (as a general rule of thumb, if our kids are some of the best behaved in any given situation, the other parents need to take a long hard look at their own offspring), I then encountered the most revolting brat I have seen for some time, which bearing in mind I was playing with Isaac at the time, is really saying something.

As Isaac clambered up a sloped wall via the rope and footholds designed to assist a child’s ascent, a mouth-breathing little shit appeared at the top of the apparatus and shouted down at Isaac to “MOVE!” because he wanted to slide down the ramp the wrong way. Worse, as I politely pointed out that this perhaps wasn’t a very good / safe idea (in case his much larger father happened to be in the vicinity, ready to punch me for challenging his son), the kid snarled at me and slid down anyway, nearly knocking Isaac flying off the wall.

Grinning in my direction at his achievement, I satisfied myself that the boy’s parents were not in fact nearby, before growling at the kid “do that again, and I will break your fucking ankles, you little turd”, which seemed to go unnoticed, but certainly made me feel better.

Still, as he wandered off (no doubt in search of another child to pick on), I did notice he was singing Starship’s ‘We Built This City’, so although I still thought he was an obnoxious little shit, at least he was an obnoxious little shit with some taste in music (oh, shut up, it’s a classic and you know it).

After lunch, it was time to listen to a story about ‘The Boggles of BeWILDerwood’, ably narrated by frustrated drama student, James, and his team of puppeteers. In fairness to him, despite being highly irritating (which seemed to be a pre-requisite to work there), James had the crowd of children captivated for at least half an hour, and once he had finished, he invited them all back later in the afternoon for the ‘Bouncing Bubble Party Parade’. I had no idea what this meant, but I had a feeling it would not be my particular idea of fun.

In order to be suitably dressed for the occasion, the boys decided they wanted to visit the ‘create your own crown’ area, where children were ‘encouraged’ (albeit, not by their parents), to design a resplendent headdress for the afternoon’s procession out of a variety of brightly-coloured craft items.

Naturally, Ollie took great care to meticulously recreate the colours and badge of the ‘football team’ he has established at school (which he is adamant all of his classmates are obsessed with, even though it is perfectly clear to everyone bar him that nobody gives a flying shit), while Isaac attempted to stick as much tinsel and glitter to his headdress – and himself – as possible. Our children summed up in one arts and crafts activity, folks.

Having just arrived back to the storytelling area with seconds to spare, my wife and boys joined the Parade behind ‘Mildred the Crocklebog’, and gleefully marched around the woods for ten minutes, while I busied myself locating a bin to dispose of the soggy ice cream cone Isaac has insisted he would eat if we bought it for him.

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‘Mildred’

By this point, the wee I had been needing for the past hour was reaching critical urgency (the pressure on my aging bladder had eased slightly when the boys and I went down a large slide a short while earlier, but I suspect that is only because the slide was very steep, and I cannot rule out some wee having leaked out mid-descent), so I decided that once the parade was over I would go in search of the toilet.

Naturally (and I could not be using the term more sarcastically), there only seemed to be two toilets in the entire park – which, bearing in mind it was a long walk between them, and kids tend to leave their decision that they need the toilet until the last possible second, seemed a little foolish* – and so it took me ages to find my way.

*although, I guess, the assumption must have been that since the entire park was woodland, at least the boys (and some men) would relieve themselves up – or behind – the nearest tree.

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(NB: I found that image on Google, just in case you think I had either asked my wife to snap me taking a piss, or, worse, I had photographed a stranger myself).

My particular situation was not helped by the urgency with which I needed to urinate, mixed with increasing frustration that the little map of the park I had been given at the main entrance was about as useful as an inflatable dartboard, so I only just located the gents (and emptied my agonized bladder) seconds before I suspect I would have passed out through pain. Which, bearing in mind that would have almost certainly meant doing so inside the toilets, with ‘the beast’ partially, if not fully, released to the viewing public, it was an outcome I was pleased to avoid.

However, because I had half-jogged the latter stages of my dash to the toilets, in a frantic panic to reach them in time, I could not fully remember the way back to my wife and boys, and so I had to once more consult the useless map of pointlessly-named regions of the park.

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Thankfully, having passed through the seven levels of the candy cane forest, through the sea of swirly-twirly gum drops, and finally through the Lincoln Tunnel….. no, wait, that’s a line from Elf. Still, it might as well have been like that, for all the use the fucking map made, and by the time I was eventually reunited with my family, it was almost time to visit the toilet again.

In fairness, though, we had a great day, and best of all I avoided being bitten by any more flesh-eating insects. And, ultimately, if you can go for a nice family day out and avoid being eaten alive, that has to be considered a win.

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Thanks for reading x

 

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

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

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

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

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

***

Sunday 28th July 2019

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

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

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

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

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

“You’re a fucking idiot.”

“I know.”

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday 29th July 2019

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

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

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

“Going home today?”

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

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

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

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

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

“Excuse me?”

“Never mind.”

***

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

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

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

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

Cockney: “Discovered it?”

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

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

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

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

Fuck’s sake.

***

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

Thanks for reading x

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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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Hootie and the Blogfish

I’d like to introduce you to some friends of mine.

Well, I say ‘friends’, but I’ve never actually met any of them. Nor have we spoken. In fact, we’ve not communicated in any way whatsoever (so that rules out ‘weird internet group’ – which I know is what you were thinking) and, here’s the real kicker, they almost certainly don’t know who I am.

I better explain, before you think I’ve completely lost the plot.

You may recall that, around a year ago, my little office in Sandbach – which was just a few minutes’ walk from home – was closed down, and I am now required to commute fifty miles a day instead.

As you might imagine, doing the same journey twice a day, for five days a week, can start to get rather tedious after a while, so I have developed a couple of ways of preserving what little sanity I have left, as I crawl along in traffic for a large part of my day.

Unfortunately, one of these methods – which involves me trying to reach certain ‘landmarks’ on my journey by set times (and I use the term ‘landmark’ very loosely, since although Jodrell Bank could be considered of interest, I suspect ‘the Shell garage in Chelford’ wouldn’t quite make the top 50 attractions in Cheshire) – has limited entertainment value; and the other – pretending I am in an ‘air rock band’ – can not only be considered quite hazardous (particularly when it’s my turn to be on drums) but also more-or-less undermines the whole ‘preserving my sanity’ objective. I am fucking awesome on air drums, though.

Anyway, after a while I realised that I was encountering the same people on my commute every day, and although I don’t really like all of them (which will become clear shortly), it got reassuring to see them, and they became my ‘commuting buddies’. It has now got to the stage where I become uncomfortable if, for whatever reason, our paths don’t cross. I mean, just because I don’t like some of them, it doesn’t mean I wish them any harm. Well, maybe ‘Crazy Toyota Dwarf Bitch’.

Let me introduce you to a few of them.

Mr Always Late

No matter what time I happen to drive through Alderley Edge in the morning, I usually pass Mr Always Late, and give him a little smile as he hurriedly speed-walks down the road, purple-faced and panting. Unlike most Alderley-Edgers seen speed-walking of a morning, he’s apparently heading somewhere, in a suit, and isn’t just doing it for ‘fun’ (with a couple of ludicrously coloured dumbbells pumping up and down at his sides).

Where he is going, I do not know, but it’s always in the general direction of the train station, so that’s probably a safe bet, and would explain his need to rush. The weird thing is, the time that I drive through Alderley Edge each morning can fluctuate by up to fifteen minutes – depending on the level of traffic I have encountered up to that point, and whether my air-drumming has caused me to accidentally accelerate faster than I should (that damn foot pedal always gets me) – yet, despite this, I always pass Mr Always Late on the same stretch of pavement. Weird.

Crazy Toyota Dwarf Bitch

My nemesis.

The first time I encountered her crappy Y-reg Toyota Celica just under a year ago, which was as it dangerously overtook me and two other cars on a blind bend near Holmes Chapel, I thought it was being driven by a ghost – since there appeared to be no one at the wheel. I don’t necessarily believe in ghosts, but it struck me that only the deceased would perform such a suicidal manoeuvre, safe in the knowledge that their state of health could not really get any worse.

Then, when I inevitably caught up with the car at the next bout of congestion, I looked closer and noticed the faintest slither of a female head peeking out above the window. Certainly not at a height where the driver could see the road ahead of her or any other motorists, but I was at least reassured that I wasn’t encountering an apparition.

Amazingly, her reckless overtaking manoeuvre wasn’t a one-off lapse of concentration either, and for the remainder of the journey that we shared before I turned off, she continued to drive like a fucking lunatic, weaving in and out of traffic, and tail-gating whichever poor motorist was unfortunate enough to be in front of her at the time.

Her driving was so bad, and so dangerous, that I found myself memorising her number plate in case she did end up causing a major accident (which I felt sure she would unfairly – and obliviously – drive away from), but I didn’t realise I would be seeing her regularly for the next year.

I’m not sure whether the ‘Napoleon Complex’ (the theory that short people try to compensate for their diminutive stature by displaying overly-aggressive social behaviour) becomes more concentrated the shorter someone gets, but she cannot be much over four foot in height, and has an awful lot of anger stashed away.

I don’t know why she doesn’t just buy a booster seat and chill-out a bit.

The Nice-bottomed Jogger

Don’t judge me, or label me a pervert, ok?

I’ve already explained that my journey to and from work is boring (remember the Shell garage in Chelford?), and I have needs, so excuse me if I take some comfort and enjoyment from watching the very pertest of derrières, as it gleefully bounces along the pavements of Alderley Edge each morning.

Besides, if you are out jogging during rush hour, in shorts so tight they must surely be cutting off the blood supply to your legs, you are a shameful exhibitionist who clearly yearns for their posterior to be adored by passing motorists. I am merely giving your glorious gluteus the attention it craves.

I often wonder what he does for a living.

The Angry Cyclist

You might think this one is nothing unique, since there are thousands of cyclists up and down the country during rush hour, and each – without exception – is a quivering, sweating, bundle of furious rage. All cyclists are angry, primarily at those fellow commuters who are ostentatious enough to be travelling on four wheels rather than two, but this particular helmeted sociopath takes road rage to another level. He is white-hot angry at everything, and everyone.

I suspect that, as with many cyclists, he’s actually quite reasonable in real life. He most likely leaves the house each morning, fondly kissing his wife and children goodbye and wishing them a nice day, before going to retrieve his bicycle from the garage. On the way, he might encounter his neighbour, and jovially greet him over their boundary hedge:

“Morning Bob.”

“Hey there, Mental Dave! Off to shout at cars?”

“Sure am. Might even kick one if I can reach. Have a great day!”

Then, as he lowers the cycling helmet over his head, a dark cloud forms in his mind, a twitch begins in one eye, and the sides of his mouth sink lower on his increasingly-haggard face. All he can focus on is getting to work, and distributing as much misery to any occupants of motorised transport as possible.

He starts off slowly down his road, but by the time he reaches the main junction, he has already spat at the postman (he used to like the postman when he too had a bicycle, but now he has a fucking van) and has kicked a child in a go-kart. Close enough.

The remainder of his journey to work is an endless torrent of abuse, vitriol and spite, directed towards anyone unfortunate enough to be travelling in or on something that is not powered by strangely-misshapen and entirely hairless legs.

I thought I got angry on the road sometimes, but this guy is something else. Hopefully one of these days, the kisses that I blow at him as I zoom past from my warm, dry car, will soften his mood and cause him to re-think his ridiculous lifestyle choices.

Fiat Fitty

Oh how she brightens my morning.

Strangely, I have seen only slightly more of her than I have Crazy Toyota Dwarf Bitch, because for some reason I am always travelling directly behind her red Fiat 500 (I’m not stalking her, honest), and so I can only base what I believe to be her astonishing good looks, on the big brown eyes that I gaze adoringly into, when she checks her rear-view mirror occasionally.

I’ve tried driving a little too close to her at times, in the hope she might glance back for longer and notice me properly but, alas, I fear that our love is to be forever separated by two bumpers (and, potentially, a restraining order if this carries on).

I bloody hate Fiat 500s, as well, so she must be special.

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And there you have it.

I hope you enjoyed meeting some of my commute friends. They’re like a second family to me, and I dream that one day we might all get together for a drink (I’d need to give Crazy Toyota Dwarf Bitch a leg up onto the bar stool though). Or, better still, maybe I am unwittingly part of a different commuter’s ‘second family’, and it comforts them to see me each day, as I air-drum my way past them travelling to/from work? I might be known as ‘Handsome VW Air-Drummer’. I’d like that.

Addendum: I’ve just read this entry back before publishing it, and I am now acutely aware that I am in desperate need of a holiday.

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