Blogapest (Part III)

Ah, the final instalment of my trilogy, where all loose ends are tied-up, and our half-term city break in Budapest concludes.

If you haven’t yet read parts one and two, here are a couple of links, and the rest of us will have to wait while you catch up:

Part I – https://middlerageddad.com/2020/02/28/blogapest-part-i/

Part II – https://middlerageddad.com/2020/03/06/blogapest-part-ii/

Ready? Off we go then….

Wednesday 19th February 2020

For our final full day in this gorgeous city, before our flight home the following lunchtime, we had decided to visit the ‘Buda’ side of the Danube (I wasn’t aware until relatively recently, that Hungary’s capital comprised the separate regions of ‘Buda’ and ‘Pest’, until their unification in 1873), as this is the ‘older’ side of the river, and with my wife being a History teacher, she was keen to check it out.

Amazingly, for a couple who had only arrived less than 48 hours earlier, we now felt confident enough on the excellent public transport system to metro and bus our way over the river, and having disembarked by the funicular cable car, we decided this method of transport was preferable to walking up the giant hill to the top (albeit considerably more expensive, for what was a two minute journey tops).

Once at the summit, we spent some time admiring the views over the city, then wandered around for a bit (at one point passing a museum that did nothing whatsoever to draw us in, although that might have been due to the pile of bin bags left by the entrance, which my wife complained ‘stank like shit’, and I didn’t have the heart to tell her the smell was actually the side-effects of my hangover mixing with the spicy hot dog sausages I had consumed for breakfast), and we then headed down the twisting streets of Buda towards the Matthias church.

En route, we passed an underground cave network, called – rather appropriately – ‘Labyrinth’ – and since I had read about this online before our trip, we decided to go in. Once inside, there were certain aspects of this ‘attraction’ I had been expecting (paying a fortune to get in, dark tunnels with low ceilings, creepy music in the background, etc.) but there were certainly other aspects which came as a big surprise.

In order of weirdness, they were:

  1. Being followed around by a creepy Albanian lady – who, I have to stress, was another visitor to the caves, rather than an employee stalking us;
  2. Several rooms of entirely unexplained waxwork figures, who were terrifying enough anyway (they would not have looked out of place on a particularly shit-your-pants episode of ‘Dr Who’), but I could have sworn I saw a few of them move slightly out of the corner of my eye;
  3. However, head and shoulders above everything else on the weird scale, was the laminated picture of three guinea pigs attached to one of the cave walls, with no explanation whatsoever as to why it was there.

On our way out, we noticed a sign proudly exclaiming that ‘Labyrinth’ had apparently been voted the eighth best attraction in the whole of Europe, which is nonsense, because it wasn’t even the eighth best attraction in Budapest.

From there, we visited the Fisherman’s Bastion (which was not, as I had first suspected, a seafood restaurant, but rather a large terrace offering terrific views of the capital), and sat down to enjoy a traditional ‘chimney cake’ with a hot chocolate.

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Chimney Cake

After a bit of exploring – during which, my wife was extremely pleased with herself for correctly identifying which saint had been portrayed in a statue (if only she had put as much effort into my ‘guess which former footballer died in my dream last night?’ game *eye roll*), and we then decided to pay to look around the Matthias church, even though I generally object to paying for the privilege of visiting a place of worship.

Now, I can enjoy a beautifully crafted church as much as the next man (assuming he enjoys a beautifully crafted church), and this was right up there with the prettiest, but I was far more taken with some of the weird-as-fuck statues and exhibits they had inside as we looked around. For example:

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My first reaction to this particular figurine was that the mother and baby have exactly the same face (I know parents often look like their children, but that kid is at least forty), and then I noticed the deranged potato-headed man ‘upskirting’ the mother.

For lunch, I was determined to source some traditional Hungarian goulash (for the uninitiated, this is a sort of spicy soup or stew), and having found two cafes serving the country’s most famous national dish – and following twenty minutes of walking between the two, because I am so indecisive – we finally settled ourselves at a table and waited to be served.

Once we had ordered our drinks (I was becoming quite accustomed to Hungarian beer by this point in our trip), my wife nipped to the toilet, and had not returned by the time the waiter brought our drinks over.

As he approached our table, he carefully placed my wife’s hot chocolate in front of her empty place, before lifting my pint off the tray in his hand, bringing a rather damp receipt stuck to the bottom of it. Then, as he passed my pint over to me, the receipt became unstuck, and we both watched as it slowly floated down and nestled gently on my crotch.

I know this was not intentional on his part, but I still looked up at him for a reaction, and he then looked back at me for the same. I stared at him, he stared at me. I stared down at the receipt on my crotch, and so did he. What felt like an age passed by, without either of us wanting to acknowledge the damp bit of paper clinging to the front of my jeans until, finally, he gleefully shouted “voila!” and walked off.

That unfortunate incident aside, my first experience of goulash was highly enjoyable, the selection of cakes for dessert was amazing (I opted for a slice of Kinder Bueno cake, which looked a little like the one below), and the cafe ended up playing both ‘Would I Lie To You?’ by Charles & Eddie and Roxette, so the music choices were impeccable as well. All in all, I would highly recommend this particular cafe, if only I could remember what the fuck it was called.

On our way back to the hotel, we briefly visited a BrewDog (like most Brits abroad, I cannot resist the temptation of trying something British to see if it’s the same in another country), but when I realised a half-pint of Punk IPA was going to set me back nearly £4, we moved swiftly on.

Having investigated plans for our final evening meal in Budapest, we decided to head to an American-style ‘Speakeasy’ bar called Fat Mo’s, and despite a brief mix-up when we initially entered the wrong part of the bar, and were quickly ushered elsewhere by a group of men who may well have been part of the Hungarian mafia, I have to say the recommendations online were bang on – the place was amazing.

Ok, it was deserted when we first got there, but in fairness it was only around 6.30pm, and the place soon filled up the nearer it got to the live music at 7.30pm. In fact, such was our enjoyment of the food, drinks and music on offer, we stayed there all night – and I racked up a bill of nearly £100 in the process. Oops.

In fact, the only thing which soured an otherwise enjoyable evening, was a trio of American men coming in and sitting at the bar, of which one was particularly sure of himself, and wanted the entire bar to know how wonderful and funny he was. Spoiler alert: he was a twat.

By way of example, at one point he asked the Hungarian barmaid if she knew any American phrases, and when she nervously replied with ‘erm…. what’s up?’, he bellowed, ‘Ha! What’s up? I’ll tell ya what’s fucking up, this fucking drink is what’s fucking up, sweetheart!’ Look, I enjoy swearing, perhaps more than most, but that’s just excessive.

Amazingly, however, he was not the most socially unacceptable American we would encounter on the remainder of our trip, as the following morning, while travelling on the shuttle bus back to the airport, my wife and I noticed a man with an American accent (and, from that, we deduced he was American), sat right behind the driver with a rucksack on his lap. Then, soon after leaving the city centre, he opened the rucksack and took out two items: a metal tin, and a giant red pepper, a bit like this one:

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He then proceeded to roll back the metal lid of the tin, filling the entire bus with the stench of fish paste (I’m assuming it was some form of mackerel), before dipping his giant pepper – not a euphemism – into the paste and eating it. What kind of delinquent sociopath eats pepper and fish paste as a snack, let alone on a crowded bus where at least one passenger was feeling delicate (and, therefore, homicidal) after consuming several rum and cokes in a speakeasy-themed bar the night before?

Even more amazingly, in the half hour journey to the airport, he devoured two of these giant peppers, dipped in four, yes four, tins of fish slop, which he then deposited on the floor of the bus. Who does that?

Thankfully, the shuttle bus arrived at the airport just before I resorted to inserting one of the peppers into him, and aside from an unusual incident inside the terminal, where one lady appeared to genuinely struggle with the normally straightforward concept of sitting down, our journey home was uneventful.

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Sitting: complicated

Thanks for reading x

p.s. – it was Peter Crouch who died in my dream.

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Blogapest (Part II)

Previously, on ‘Confessions of a Middle-Raged Dad’….

… this: https://middlerageddad.com/2020/02/28/blogapest-part-i/

Don’t be so fucking lazy and go read it for yourself.

Tuesday 18th February 2020

Following a delicious cooked breakfast in our hotel (although, why can none of our European neighbours do breakfast sausages properly? Spicy hot dog sausages with a cooked breakfast, really?), we headed out to explore Budapest – which, it has to be said, was far less intimidating than we had found the route to our hotel the night before.

In fairness, that may be because we took the wrong road from the bus stop (although, I maintain, only because they hadn’t labelled the map/streets properly) and ended up in what appeared to be their gangland district. It probably wasn’t, and was most likely just a not-quite-as-nice part of the city, away from the main tourist spots, but when you’re walking down a dark alley in a foreign country, and there are groups of men huddled together in the shadows, it’s hard not to be a little frightened. Look, I’ve seen Hostel (which was, admittedly, set in Slovakia, but it’s close enough).

Having wasted a couple of hours at two different shopping centres, looking for a Hungarian football shirt for Ollie’s collection, we then decided to visit The House of Terror; which is not – as the name might suggest – a form of jovial tourist attraction (like the dungeons in London and York), but a museum focusing on the fascist and communist regimes throughout Hungary’s 20th Century history (as well as being a fitting memorial to the victims).

Now, I try to keep my blog entries light-hearted and humourous whenever possible, and there is certainly nothing even remotely amusing about the interrogation and torture of innocent Hungarians, but our visit did feature two moments of inadvertent humour, both relating to pigs.

Firstly, one display featured an image of lots of pigs (the importance of which was not entirely clear) accompanied by the caption: “Proudly displaying their Porkers!” Now, call me childish if you like (and I’m sure you will), but to a man who enjoys nothing more than some genital-related innuendo, this was fucking gold.

Shortly afterwards, we entered a series of corridors, which twisted and turned through the museum, and all the walls appeared to be made of a white, wax-like substance. Sadly, photographs were prohibited inside the museum (and, if the solid-granite lump of security guard on the main door was anything to go by, I had no plans to risk a quick snap), but I have found the following image on Google:

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As my wife and I questioned what the waxy substance might be, a tour guide crept up behind us, then suddenly barked “PIG FAT!” at me, before walking away. Naturally, I responded with “Ok, love, no need to call me names”, but I don’t think she heard (NB: a similar incident once occurred when we were in a fabrics souk in Morocco, and I mistakenly assumed the trader was referring to me, when he shouted ‘cheap pouf’).

After a quick lunch at the highly-recommended Pizzica (I shall leave you to guess the cuisine yourselves), and an even quicker drink at the nearby ‘360 Bar’ – which offered stunning views from the rooftop – we headed to the magnificent Opera House, where we had tickets for the afternoon tour.

Now, I should stress from the outset, neither my wife nor I have ever been to the opera, neither of us have much of a desire to ever go to the opera, and neither of us have the first fucking clue what is going on at the opera (for some reason, it tends to be sung in Italian, which is all very lovely and romantic sounding compared to, say, scouse, but is also marginally harder to understand), however we had heard how impressive the building was, so we decided to go on a tour.

Unfortunately, it transpires that the main auditorium in Budapest’s Opera House has been closed for renovation for around two years (it was due to be finished by now, but rumour has it the work will take at least another two years to complete), however the tour still allowed us access to some impressive areas of the building, and I have found the following image online, to add to my own collection of photos:

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The ticket price also included a short operatic performance, and while I have no idea what they were singing about, from the way he seemed agitated during his lines, and from the photos I managed to snap throughout the performance, I can only assume the general gist was ‘Hurry the fuck up, and choose something to wear, we’re late for dinner’.

Sadly, once the performance was over, so was the tour, and we were ushered out of the building before I had chance to try on one of the dresses (I don’t know what it is, but place me near to some elaborate dressing-up, and the urge to put on a dress is incredibly overwhelming):

Before dinner (for which I had special plans), we returned to our hotel, where I suggested my wife rest for a bit while I braved the nearby Post Office, to try and change my out-of-date currency. Fortunately, I located the Post Office without too much trouble, but that is where my luck ended, because once inside I had no idea what to do.

Having stood around for a while, I realised that everyone around me was holding a ticket in order to visit the correct cashier, but the only machine I could see turned out to be dispensing lottery tickets, so off I went in search of something else.

I then discovered what I assumed must be the correct machine and, having watched over the shoulder of the person in front, I discovered how to change the language settings, and my fortunes seemed to be improving. Only, once I had got the instructions into English, I was presented with eight different services, none of which seemed to cater for currency exchange. So, I opted for ‘personal banking’, assuming that was the closest to what I needed, and nervously took my ticket.

As I joined the queue, however, it struck me that only one of the ten counters seemed to be dealing with tickets starting with ‘8’, as mine was, and the person in front of me had been sat there for what seemed like an eternity. Indeed, at least twenty minutes passed, before a cashier at a different counter took pity and called me over.

Unfortunately, as I approached her she noticed my ticket and the old currency I was holding, and starting repeatedly shouting “NUMBER TWO!” directly into my face. I briefly contemplated explaining that I didn’t require the lavatory, thank you very much, but thought better of it. Thankfully, when she realised I was (a) English, and (b) utterly clueless, she quickly swapped my notes and ushered me away to fuck up someone else’s day.

Purely out of curiosity, I went back to the machine on my way out and, having checked again, it transpired the second option (“NUMBER TWO!”), referred in very small letters to ‘currency’, which I might have spotted had I not been so flustered in the first place. Oh well, I never needed to come back, and having considered turning back to the cashier to show her I understood what she meant by putting two fingers up, I inadvertently dispensed another ticket from the machine, and scarpered.

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For dinner that evening, I had reserved a table on the Legenda Candlelit Cruise (I’m quite the romantic at times), which was a two-and-a-half hour, four-course, dinner cruise down the Danube.

I had only made our reservation the week earlier, and having noticed reviews online suggesting a table by the window offered the best views (well, duh), I contacted the company via Facebook to enquire whether it was possible to reserve such a table. To their credit, they responded within a matter of hours, to state that tables tended to be allocated in the order of booking, so I had no chance. However, when I replied to explain that the cruise was for my wife’s 40th, they said they would see what they could do.

Sure enough, as we boarded the boat, the kind people at Legenda had indeed reserved a seat right next to the window for us and, having ordered our complimentary drink, we sat down to enjoy the cruise.

In short, the meal was fantastic, the views stunning, and since there was an open-air section at the back of the boat, we decided to try and get a photo of the two of us with the spectacular Parliament building behind us as we sailed past.

Only, while stood outside awaiting the perfect moment for our selfie, my wife glanced back inside the boat and noticed a flustered looking waitress stood by our empty table. The couple to the right then pointed in our direction, the waitress spotted us out on the deck, and started to head our way – carrying my wife’s dessert with a candle in it. Typically, I had once again made a cock of things, by suggesting we pop outside the boat at the very moment they were bringing a birthday surprise for her.

In my defence, I probably spared her the embarrassment of the entire boat singing ‘Happy Birthday’ (which she would have hated), and how was I to know the organisers had decided to do this for her? Still, it was very sweet, and if you ever travel to Budapest I can highly recommend this particular cruise (perhaps, if my blog ever takes off, I might one day get paid for these plugs).

Anyway, we then took the tram and metro back to our hotel, decided to brave the bar one more time (only to find it was the same barman as the evening before, and he still hadn’t forgiven me for accidentally tipping him 25p) and then called it a night.

To be concluded….

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Blogapest (Part I)

My friends, family, and those of you on Facebook who have been paying attention, should be aware that I recently took my wife to Budapest for a few days in half-term, as part of her 40th birthday present. In truth, she was forty in November, nearly six weeks prior to my own big birthday (so help me, I do like an older woman), but she hates surprises, so I gave her the tickets in November, along with a guide book to this beautiful city, in order that she could plan the trip with me.

And, since I seemingly cannot go anywhere without becoming embroiled in some sort of comical or embarrassing incident (I appear to be a magnet for the unusual, and bear in mind we didn’t have Isaac with us this time), I thought I would tell you all about it – in the form of a postcard home to my followers. Ok, we’ve been back more than a week, but when was the last time a postcard got back to the UK before you did? Exactly.

Enjoy.

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Monday 17th February 2020

In order to make my wife’s birthday trip extra special, I decided to book the ‘Escape Lounge’ at Manchester airport, where, for around £20 each (I had a discount code), we could relax in style before our flight to Budapest, with all the complimentary food and drink we could manage. And, yes, that did include alcohol, but, fortunately, I still hadn’t fully recovered from my own birthday celebrations the weekend before (psychologically, rather than physically), so there was no danger of my becoming too inebriated to board the flight.

Anyway, when I booked this special treat just a few weeks earlier, I was blissfully unaware that I would be receiving my own ‘special treat’ before we even reached the lounge, in the form of getting felt up by a security guard at the baggage check. Look, I have flown before (albeit, not for a few years), so I am aware of the standard procedure for removing one’s belt – and sometimes shoes – before being patted down by a humourless airport employee, but on this occasion the chap in question insisted on running his gloved hands around the inside of my jeans waistband and then boxers, and in doing so caressed one of his long latex-clad fingers across my chap.

Worse, not only did he fail to react to becoming intimate with my intimates (so I assume it was intentional, rather than accidental), but when I made the snap decision to lighten the mood by giggling nervously and saying ‘Don’t worry, that’s not a weapon’, his facial expression remained entirely stoic. I therefore opted against suggesting he should take me for dinner before touching me up again in the future.

Following my own personal ‘baggage check’, The Escape Lounge itself was very nice, and the lady who greeted us perfectly pleasant, but it soon transpired that they would do everything possible to prevent me from getting my money’s worth out of the unlimited food and drink. Not only were the plates for the breakfast buffet ludicrously small (I smirked to myself when recalling the scene from I’m Alan Partridge, where Alan takes his own ‘big plate’ down to breakfast), but after I had been up twice the food started to run out – much to the annoyance of our fellow passengers – long before the lunch service was due to start.

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Then, when I made the decision that 11am was a perfectly acceptable time for a beer (at airports, time is irrelevant, so you can start drinking at 5am if you so wish), I approached the bar to see what draught beer they had on offer. Fortunately, the one beer available was acceptable, so I asked for a pint of that.

“I’m afraid we only serve halves, Sir.”

“But it’s unlimited, is it not?”

“Yes.”

“In that case, I’ll have two halves, please.”

Soon after I had worked my way through a few halves of beer (not to mention eyeing up the recently served lunch menu at the buffet table, with less than half an hour to our flight), we went to our gate and boarded the Jet2 plane waiting to take a load of Brits to Budapest.

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Obligatory plane photo

And, it would seem, a load of Brits cannot board a plane without entirely fucking it up, because not only did a group of people (I believe the technical term is ‘morons’), ignore the boarding procedure – leading to those in the front few rows holding up the entire queue while they fannied about loading their bags and taking their seats with no sense of urgency whatsoever – but shortly after my wife and I correctly took our seats (when instructed to do so), it quickly became apparent that there was an issue on the other side of the plane.

It later transpired, one couple had either accidentally or deliberately ignored their seat allocation (either way, I despised them), but when the passengers who should have been in those seats boarded the plane, they simply followed suit and sat somewhere else, rather than tell them to fuck off.

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Worse, Brits being Brits, all the remaining passengers then did exactly the same, rather than create a scene, which eventually created a scene anyway, as the final couple to board could not sit together – let alone anywhere near their original seats.

One poor flight attendant then had to make a quarter of the plane stand up and switch around, all because of the original couple who, to my horror, were not then thrown out of the fucking door at twenty-thousand feet as a punishment. Perhaps this is one of the many reasons why I would not make for a good flight attendant (indeed, any public service position requires at least rudimentary patience with the public, and I generally hate people at the best of times, let alone Brits going abroad).

Thankfully, this incident only slightly delayed our flight taking off, and we actually landed ahead of schedule, thanks to the tail-end of Storm Dennis (shit name) getting behind our tail-end, escorting us on our way across Europe a little faster than expected. Bless ‘im.

Upon arrival at Budapest’s Ferenc Liszt airport, the passport check was mercifully brief (aside from a plane load of confused Brits all questioning whether we should now join the EU or non-EU queue), and having collected our bags, I managed to purchase two travel passes for our three-day visit, as well as tickets for the airport shuttle bus to take us to the city centre. Thankfully, most Hungarians speak excellent English (far better than most of the Brits on our plane, as it happens), otherwise I might very well have found myself conjuring up a mime for ‘bus’, which is a situation I was happy to avoid.

Once we had checked in to our hotel (which was lovely), we then decided to brave the city for dinner and a few drinks.

Having taken advice before leaving, one place I was keen to check out was ‘Szimpla Kert’, one of the very first (if not the first) ‘ruin bars’ in the city. It was essentially an old factory, which had been transformed into a network of tiny bars and eateries (some without a roof, such was the dilapidation of the building), and having wandered around for a bit, we stumbled upon a tiny alcove bar serving burgers and other bar type food.

Having pondered the menu and our new ‘funny money’, we ordered, and then took our seats on a shared table with a few other couples.

Sadly, soon after taking the first few sips of my Hungarian beer, I realised the couple to my left were also British (I realised this, because they were extremely loud southerners) and, having caught my eye, the man decided to bring me into their ‘discussion’ over some of the artwork on the wall.

“Awight mate, help me out ‘ere, will ya? That picture up there, it’s a fackin’ man, right? The missus says it’s a woman.”

“Sorry, it IS a woman.”

“You sure?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, it’s not my fackin’ fault I can’t see properleeeee. That fackin’ barman gave me some fackin’ Plinko, dinne, and now I’m fackin’ pissed out me ‘ead.”

Lovely fella.

Turns out, he was half right. The drink he had previously been served (apparently around 2pm, and by now it was nearly 8pm), was actually Pálinka, a traditional Hungarian brandy (of sorts), but he was quite correct about one thing – being pissed. Annihilated, as it happens.

In fact, he was so drunk, at one point he knocked over his empty pint glass but failed to realise, and then a full ten minutes later accused his wife/girlfriend (who was also drunk, but not to his level of inebriation), of spilling it. She then pointed out he had finished it some time ago, before knocking the empty glass over himself, and he decided on that basis it was time to leave.

And not a moment too soon, either, as the group of pleasant Hungarians to my right were clearly starting to think we knew this couple, and were travelling as a foursome, so I wanted to distance myself from them as quickly as possible. Besides which, I had a very strong feeling he was probably a Chelsea fan, which only made me dislike him all the more.

After dinner and a few drinks in Szimpla Kert (where I, rather annoyingly, discovered some of the currency I had brought with me was no longer legal tender, and I would need to change it at a bank), we wandered back to our hotel, passing a curious looking Indian Restaurant called ‘Bum Bum Hole’ on the way (it was actually called ‘Bum Bum Bole’, but I was by now a few beers warmer myself, so I misread the sign, and Bum Bum Bole is nowhere near as funny).

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Having enjoyed one further drink in the hotel bar (and realising, retrospectively, that I had accidentally tipped the barman around 25p, as I had not yet got to grips with the exchange rate), we retired to the room where I found some German football channel on the TV (the only British channel appeared to be BBC World News, which was all doom-and-gloom).

And, rather amazingly, the German for ‘Trent Alexander-Arnold’, is apparently ‘Trent Alexander-Arnold’.  Who knew?

To be continued…

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Blog Pudding

Hi there.

As alluded to in my previous blog entry, we spent last weekend in one of our favourite ever cities, York, celebrating Isaac’s 5th birthday.

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In truth, this wasn’t exactly Isaac’s idea, and the trip was primarily to meet up with my wife’s uncle and aunt, who were over from Canada (for obvious reasons, we don’t get to see them very often), but we still made the weekend about Isaac whenever we could.

This included transporting a huge ‘5’ balloon in the car without him seeing (well, it was in the boot, he’s not that fucking oblivious), leaving it with the reception staff in our hotel overnight, and then smuggling it into the room while he slept the following evening, so that it was by his bed – along with all of his presents – when he awoke Sunday morning.

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Before we had children, my wife and I would always stay at the same delightful little hotel whenever we visited York, because, although it wasn’t ridiculously expensive, it still felt extravagant for our budget, so it was a treat we would always look forward to.

Now that we have kids, however, it didn’t seem appropriate to stay at that same hotel, because not only was it too nice for our boys to stay in (arguably, most crack dens would be too fancy for Isaac), it also wouldn’t have been fair to ruin everyone else’s weekend too. To be honest, I couldn’t be bothered dealing with the judgmental stares of all the childless couples – or, worse, any parents whose kids were actually behaving themselves, and not like escaped zoo animals.

So, on this particular visit to York, we decided to stay at a Premier Inn, because as a chain they are still nicer than a Travelodge or Holiday Inn (which are, in turn, slightly nicer than your average crack den), but not so expensive that I feel the need to steal the cutlery, towels and television set in order to justify the cost.*

*That was, of course, a joke (we have plenty of cutlery already).

The most attractive thing about booking a Premier Inn, however, is the breakfast on offer. If there are three things I absolutely love about a hotel breakfast, they are:

1. The word ‘unlimited’;
2. When they offer black pudding;
3. When kids eat for free.

Now, Premier Inns boast all three of the above, and that places them very high up my list of (budget) hotel chains, and right at the very top when the kids are in tow.

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In short, Premier Inns are nice enough that staying in one is still something of a treat (although, admittedly, having an uninterrupted shit would be considered a treat these days), but not so nice that I feel I have to make excuses for Isaac’s behaviour every few minutes – and, according to my wife, ‘he can be a bit of a dick’ isn’t an appropriate excuse to tell appalled onlookers anyway.

Fortunately, Ollie shares my love for a decent hotel breakfast, particularly when it comes to pastries, and he appears to have made it his life’s goal to hunt for the world’s finest croissants (an accolade which, he maintains, currently rests with the Barcelona Airport Hotel, where he loudly exclaimed over breakfast one morning ‘the Spanish make the best croissants in the world!’ – much to the annoyance of some French guests at the next table*).

*Although, in fairness, the French look annoyed most of the time anyway, so it may not have been because of Ollie’s comment.

My eldest son was therefore just as excited as I was heading to breakfast on our first morning, to the extent he was still carefully planning his croissant gluttony as we got in the lift to go down to the restaurant, and this seemed to amuse the elderly chap who got in behind us.

As Ollie explained that he was planning on devouring ‘more croissants than there are trees in the world’ (we checked, and there are apparently 3.4 trillion trees on the planet, so this struck me as slightly ambitious on his part), the old man chuckled and wished Ollie all the best with his challenge.

I, on the other hand, was all about the full cooked breakfast, because I knew there was black pudding on offer, not to mention a generous choice of eggs (note to Travelodge: rubbery and fried, or wet and scrambled – which frankly looks like a cat has vomited in the dish – is not an appealing choice).

In fact, the cooked breakfast menu was particularly impressive:

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So much so, when we had been shown to our table, I decided to challenge Ollie with selecting a cooked breakfast containing only five of the above items (this was purely a theoretical challenge, you understand, as I was happy for him to eat as much as he wanted).

As he pondered his decision, I revealed that my personal choice, if restricted to just five items, would be:

1. Sausages;
2. Poached eggs;
3. Hash browns;
4. Black pudding;
5. Beans.

Ollie’s response to that was ‘No, I need my bacon. I’d swap the egg for bacon. And I’d  definitely swap the black pudding for…. erm…. more bacon.’

This evidently gave him an idea, because he then disappeared and came back moments later with a bacon sandwich containing so many rashers, I genuinely feared for his health as I watched him devour it.

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Still, it kept him quiet, and at least it was a change from stuffing his face with pastries. As it was, he still managed three croissants, four pain au chocolat AND a huge bowl of cereal, so he really got his money’s worth (figuratively speaking, since the boys’ breakfasts were free). I’ve never been prouder of him.

I, on the other hand, am quite particular about my bacon, and although Premier Inn do a better job of it than any Travelodge I have ever stayed in (who appear to train their chefs to cook the rashers for no more than thirty seconds on each side), I still opted to minimise the bacon on my plate to just the one crispy piece I could find in the dish, reserving the remainder of the space for my preferred items – including two poached eggs. Ok, they weren’t as runny as I might have preferred, but, in fairness, this was hardly The Savoy.

The black pudding, in particular, was superb, although Isaac did make some of the staff (and a number of other guests) laugh when he pointed at it on the cooked breakfast counter, before loudly shouting that he wanted a chocolate cookie too. I very nearly put some on his plate, if only for the shits and giggles of watching his expression sink when he took his first bite. I was intrigued to see how he would react, when the ‘chocolate cookie’ was much softer and meatier than he had been expecting.

As Ollie and I were intent on consuming our respective body weights in food, and we can both be slow eaters anyway, Isaac and my wife were finished long before us, and decided to head back to the room (once Isaac had been to the toilet, to once again try for the shit he had been threatening for three days solid*), and I was later told they had – by pure coincidence – bumped into the same elderly man in the lift back up to our floor.

*perhaps a poor choice of word in the circumstances, as when it did eventually ‘arrive’, it damn near cracked the toilet bowl. It was like a fucking paperweight.

Anyway, it transpired the old man recognised them as well, because he asked whether my wife’s ‘son’ (evidently assuming, like so many others, that Isaac is a girl) had ‘managed his 3.4 trillion croissants’.

My wife’s response?

“Where do you think he still is?!”

Thanks for reading x

***

p.s. – If you have read – and hopefully enjoyed – this week’s entry, feel free to:

  1. Like and share it on Facebook;
  2. Comment on my Facebook post with the five items you would select from the cooked breakfast menu above. Don’t explain it, just comment with your five items. It’ll really confuse everyone who follows my page but doesn’t read the blog, which frankly serves them the fuck right.

p.p.s – Travelodges aren’t that bad, I suppose.

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Bloggykissangel

Last November, I introduced you to a good friend of mine from Law school, who I referred to as ‘Gerard’ – because, well, that’s his name (#139 https://middlerageddad.com/2017/11/10/blogged-determination).

If you read that entry, you may recall Gerard is somewhat hazardous for my health, as we have a history of undertaking crazy challenges for charity, however – due to having young families – we haven’t seen each other in years. Until last weekend.

Gerard is originally from Belfast, but now lives in Aughrim, County Wicklow, with his wife Nicola, and their two children. On Saturday, he turned 40, and earlier this year Nicola contacted me to say she was planning on a surprise party and would love it if we could attend. I didn’t take much persuading, and despite some initial problems sorting accommodation and ferries, the plans – which I have had to keep secret – have been in place since March.

Things were fine, until the middle of last week, when I discovered that mine and Ollie’s passports were missing.

Having checked online, we didn’t technically need passports to enter Ireland (although Ryan Air would have argued otherwise), so long as we had photo ID. However, whilst I had my driving licence, Ollie didn’t have anything, and so the website suggested alternatives, including: birth certificate; bank statement; and, I shit you not, ‘firearms certificate’. It seems the Irish authorities don’t mind kids travelling without a passport, so long as they’re packing heat.

To be on the safe side, I emailed the ferry company to double-check, and their reply was that we ‘should be ok’. How delightfully vague.

What follows, is an account of our trip….

 

SATURDAY

Having got up early to catch our ferry, I had to get over my fear of driving abroad. Now, you might think Wales is not technically ‘abroad’ – and I accept we do share a currency and drive on the same side of the road – but I would also argue that they speak a different language (well, they do when I’m around) and all seem to hate me. As such, it’s abroad as far as I’m concerned.

We got to Holyhead early, partly in case of unexpected traffic, but mostly because, with two missing passports, I wanted plenty of time to argue (in a loud voice in case they DIDN’T SPEAK ENGLISH), that I had an email confirming we would ‘probably be ok’.

Thankfully, our lack of passports posed no problem whatsoever, since they didn’t ask for any ID at all. In fact, anyone with a print-out of our booking could have boarded the ferry in our name without question. With a shotgun.

Once aboard, my wife produced a cool-box of snacks, which she jokingly referred to as her ‘bag of crap’. Unfortunately, Isaac overheard this, and started excitedly jumping around shouting “Yay! Bag of crap! Bag of crap!” He then proceeded to devour the contents before we had set off.

I then began teaching the boys how to say Gerard’s name properly, as I didn’t want them to suffer the same humiliation I had at law school, when calling him Jare-rard. Apparently, to pronounce his name correctly (with a Belfast accent), it must rhyme with ‘turd’.

Ollie, to his credit, at least attempted to pronounce it correctly while we were there; whereas Isaac, in typical Isaac style, insisted on addressing him as ‘Uncle John’, ‘Uncle George’ or ‘Uncle James’, just to spite me.

When we got off the ferry, I was relieved to discover our sat-nav not only worked, but seemed to recognise our destination, so we quickly sent a message to Nicola to give our eta, then headed off.

When we parked at their house an hour or so later, our arrival coincided with a number of other party-goers (mostly family) which reassured me that we had the right place – and thankfully just in time, as Nicola informed us that Gerard would be back from the pub (where his Dad had taken him as a distraction) in fifteen minutes. This meant we didn’t have time to change, so looked a little scruffy, but at least we made it in time for the big reveal.

It would be fair to say Gerard got a shock, when he opened his front door to about forty people getting drunk and shouting ‘surprise!’, and was pleased that we had been able to come over for his big day.

The party was a huge success (to Nicola’s credit); the cake she had ordered was amazing; and the evening was rounded off nicely by a visit to the pub to get drunk. Splendid.

 

 

SUNDAY

We had no plans for Sunday, and as we couldn’t check-in to our hotel until 3pm (not that I was safe to drive anyway), we decided to spend the day with our hosts.

Having not had chance the evening before, I gave Gerard our gift, which was a 1978/79 Ireland shirt (the season he was born), with his surname and ’40’ on the back, together with a Manchester United programme (his team) – again from the month of his birth, August 1978 – when they happened to play my beloved Stockport County.

We then took the kids to the park to enjoy the glorious weather, and bought ice creams on the way back; at which point Isaac started happily singing a tune of his own creation:

“My lovely legs

My lovely feet

My lovely face

It’s all cool.

(When singing this in your head, it is important to deliver the final line in a chilled-out ‘Jazz Club’ style, to accurately replicate the original)

We then bid farewell, and drove to Arklow (where we had a hotel booked for the next three nights), but made plans to meet the following day, as it was a bank holiday.

 

 

MONDAY

Having considered a few options for a family day out, we eventually settled on Wells House in Co. Wicklow, as it had lots of activities, such as a playground and Gruffalo trail, but also a cafe and ice cream kiosk.

The trail had a number of ‘fairy doors’ for kids to knock on – although I did wonder whether teaching them to knock on doors and then run away was a good idea, not least because some little fuckers had done it to our hotel room the night before, and I didn’t want my boys growing up as anti-social little reprobates too.

That evening, having bid farewell to Gerard and his family, we headed back to our hotel, and decided to treat the boys to a cinema trip. Our film of choice was ‘The Incredibles 2’ (which was decidedly un-incredible, but still better than ‘Hotel Transylvania 3’), and we then took them to Eddie Rocket’s for dinner – which is a burger chain of American-themed diners, if you’ve never heard of it.

After dinner, Ollie wanted to add the restaurant to his list of ‘public places to take a shit’, but not only insisted I stand outside the cubicle door in case anyone came in, he then wanted to discuss our favourite parts of the holiday so far. Apparently, my sarcastic response of ‘this moment right now’, was somewhat lost on him.

 

 

TUESDAY

My wife spent a lot of time on holiday in Ireland as a child (her mother is Irish), and wanted to re-visit some memories while we were there – the first being Glendalough.

Glendalough is a monastic settlement from the 6th Century (so, for all intents and purposes, it might as well have been another fucking castle), but adjacent to the settlement is a woodland walk leading to a large lake.

As you might expect, the scenery was spectacular, but I also found the settlement interesting, and tried to encourage the boys too. Sadly, Isaac was a little on the young side to appreciate it:

“Isaac, come here. I want to show you something.”

“Is it chocolate?”

“No.”

“Sweeties?”

“No!”

“Then I don’t want to.”

Ollie showed marginally greater interest, but even he struggled after about half an hour, so we set off in search of the lake.

Ollie then announced he was going on an adventure, selected a stick (for marking his route and clearing foliage), and a rock (the purpose of which was less clear), then headed up a steep embankment, rather than walking along the path with his family.

Even Isaac kept his complaints to an uncharacteristic minimum, and insisted on finding his own stick and rock (for beating small animals – and his brother – with, presumably), before marching off as the ‘leader’.

We shared some of the walk with a coach party from an indeterminate country – my guess would be somewhere South American – but, whatever language they were speaking, I did manage to pick out their word for picnic. Which is ‘picneek’.

When we reached the lake, which was beautiful, everyone stopped to take photos, including two young Canadian girls to my left, who took it in turns to pose for each other in front of the picturesque backdrop. Ever the gent, I offered to take a photo of the two of them together, which I thought was a nice gesture, although it was met with a puzzled, and then reluctant, ‘ok, sure’.

Only after I snapped a few pictures of the two girls, and they again (apprehensively) thanked me, did my wife point out – much to her amusement – their mother had been stood behind me the whole time. I don’t think the situation could have been any more awkward, had I taken the pictures on my own phone and then walked off.

Before heading back to our hotel, we detoured via the village of Avoca (which, I have since learned, is Gaelic for ‘Fuck All Here’), because apparently the popular 1990’s television series Ballykissangel was filmed there. We felt obliged to pop into the pub used in the series, Fitzgerald’s, but rather than be obvious and have Guinness (which, in hindsight, I should have) we opted for cream teas instead.

The place was quiet at first, but soon after we arrived a coach party of Americans turned up, and a group of ladies took the table next to ours, before loudly perusing the menu with confused faces.

“What’s ‘bangers and mash’? What’s a banger? I get ‘fish and chips’, because that’s fish, with chips, but what’s a banger and mash?”

Then, one of them discovered an English £5 note in her purse, and she really wasn’t happy.

“Why would someone do that? What good is that to me? We haven’t even been to England!”

I felt sorry for her, and suggested to my wife that I could offer to swap a €5 note for their £5 (after all, the exchange rate is virtually 1:1), but she advised against getting involved again (oh, sure, now she intervenes….) so I decided to leave it.

I’m glad I did, because it subsequently transpired not only had the Americans visited the Giant’s Causeway a few days earlier, which is famously in Northern Ireland (where the currency is Sterling), they actually had plans to include England in their travels. I then desperately wanted to intervene with:

“Sorry to interrupt, but I couldn’t help overhearing your conversation – mostly because you are SO FUCKING LOUD – and I wanted to explain a few things, before conveying that I truly hope you choke on your bangers.”

 

 

WEDNESDAY

Thanks to lack of sleep, the boys were foul for most of the drive back to Sandbach – topped off by Isaac screaming for ALL THE SNACKS; forcing his stinking feet into Ollie’s face (most of the M56 could smell them, so he didn’t need to move them any nearer); and insisting that in ‘rock, paper, scissors’, his rock defeated everything Ollie could offer (it blunts scissors, rips paper, and smashes other rocks, apparently), all of which made Ollie cry, before they both fell asleep.

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We are never going away again.

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E-Blog The Letter

(That’s an R.E.M. reference, in case you didn’t know. Random, but it fits this week’s entry)

For those of you who don’t follow my Facebook page, we were on holiday last week, but I kept in touch by uploading a daily ‘postcard’. This entry is a compilation of those postcards, because:

  1. It’s a nice summary, both for me to look back on, and for you to (hopefully) enjoy – particularly if you haven’t already read them;
  2. For those with a job like mine, where nothing gets done in your absence, I have returned to a shitstorm of e-mails and post, and don’t have time to come up with anything more original….

Monday

  1. This morning, we drove to Stratford-upon-Avon, to visit a playground we discovered last year. Ollie jumped straight in to the lido, wearing a swimming costume far too small – it left little to the imagination – while Isaac sulked by the side, claiming he ‘doesn’t like water’ – presumably because he is part-Gremlin.
  2. He eventually dipped one foot in, before crying because it got wet.
  3. My threshold for other people’s brats, who soak everyone in sight (while squealing like fucking banshees), is two minutes. After that, I have visions of taking off a shoe and throwing it at their face, because the crying would be a welcome change.
  4. Isaac waited until we had to leave, before deciding he loves paddling, and refused to get out.
  5. We must stop taking our children to nice places for lunch. It would be easier, and cheaper, to take them to McDonald’s, and let them beat the shit out of each other there.
  6. Back at our campsite, I joined the boys for a swim in the outdoor pool. Ollie got straight in, whereas Isaac forgot his earlier experience, and was back to hating water.
  7. My recollection of how freezing the pool was last year (it took three months to relocate my testicles) was unwarranted, as the water was lovely and warm – probably thanks to the dozens of children pissing in it.
  8. Having eventually dipped his feet in, Isaac’s bravery returned, and he began jumping for me to catch him. This quickly became tedious, but was apparently the most fun he has had in months.
  9. Why is there always one little shit, who ignores the signs and cannonballs repeatedly?
  10. Why does that kid always belong to the monstrosity sat miles away on their phone? And why, no matter how hard I wish, does that kid never hurt himself?

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Tuesday

  1. The market we went to as kids has gone downhill – unless you want giant old lady underwear, 1970’s crockery, or knock-off DVDs.
  2. The amount of time an adult can spend in a ‘model village’, before becoming bored, is around seven minutes. Children last longer, because ‘everything is TINY’.
  3. Our Children + Heat = Post-apocalyptic savages.
  4. If you cheat on ‘My Fitness Pal’, you can get a cream tea for 284 calories.
  5. All parking machines in The Cotswolds were designed by fucking morons. In Bourton-on-the-Water, one insisted I pay depending on my vehicle, but only offered four options: Coach, Minibus, Motor Home, Honda Civic*. It then asked me to select the duration in 1.5-hour increments, before demanding payment via card (despite having a coin slot).

*I can’t remember the final option, but it wasn’t ‘car’, and with the average resident being 92, it was either ‘Honda Civic’, ‘mobility scooter’, or ‘coffin’.

  1. The boys wanted to go in the pool again. Isaac got on my back and insisted on shouting ‘gallop, horsey, gallop through the deep blue sea’.
  2. My ‘galloping horsey’ apparently looks more like ‘mincing velociraptor’.
  3. A kid jumped in near Ollie, who cried like he had been mortally wounded, claiming he had water in the back of his eye.
  4. We took the boys to a nice pub for dinner, despite their behaviour earlier. On the walk, Isaac wanted to play ‘I-spy’, and started with “something beginning with TR”. The answer, we discovered, was ‘leaves’ (because they are on TRees).
  5. Ollie decided the children’s menu was beneath him, and ordered a 10oz steak. I would have objected, had I not been so damn impressed. He cleared it, the fucking legend.

Wednesday

  1. Today, we visited ‘Birdland’, which was – rather disappointingly – not a strip club.
  2. On the drive, we challenged the boys to spot animals. Within seconds (and with no animals in sight – not even a bird in the sky, or distant cow), Isaac claimed victory. I called bullshit, and insisted he point out this mystery animal. Turns out, he thinks trees are animals (and will scream at anyone who suggests otherwise).
  3. At Birdland, Ollie insisted we head straight to his favourite animals: penguins. In fairness, they were the highlight (flamingoes are fine, but nowhere near as much fun), and Isaac grabbed his pencil and started to draw. Suitably impressed, I braved speaking to him (he doesn’t like it when I address him directly) and complimented his lovely penguin. He then screamed that the drawing was, in actual fact, a robot.
  4. Isaac continued drawing over lunch, sketching ‘kisses’ (hearts) for mummy, flowers for Daddy, and footballs for Ollie. When asked what he was going to draw for himself, he answered: “Jaffa cakes”.
  5. We then visited the ‘Dragonfly Maze’, where you have to not only find the centre (standard maze rules), but also solve clues along the way. Issac insisted on leading, but proved about as useful as a blind, hyperactive puppy.
  6. Next, we drove to Stow-on-the-Wold, and having walked around the shops for an hour, we decided Daddy should have a beer (because Daddy was looking pissed off). Having found a pub, which was promptly ruined for everyone by the arrival of our children, I smacked my head on a low beam for the second time today.
  7. Isaac thought spending the day being horrible warranted a treat, and asked us to buy him a Peppa Pig toy. I wanted to laugh and tell him to fuck off, but opted for the more diplomatic “Isaac, you have been incredibly naughty, and you are getting nothing.”

“My been good!”

“You haven’t.”

“My have!”

“When?”

“Next week.”

  1. I took the boys to the pool again, and thought it would be funny to reference Stephen King’s ‘IT’, by teasing Isaac into the water with ‘Come on, Isaac, you’ll float. We all float down here.’ Everyone heard me. No one got the reference. Twats.
  2. The boys demanded I carry them like a donkey, then Ollie wanted to stand on my back and ‘jet ski’. His foot not only pulled my shorts down (exposing me), but he buried a toe in my arse-crack. I squealed like a pig.
  3. Isaac finally dropped off the colossal shit he has been threatening for two days, but waited until dinner to go fully dilated. After eating, he needed another, and it was Daddy’s turn to dash him back to the caravan. Whilst cleaning, post-splashdown, Daddy got actual shit on his finger.

Thursday

  1. Today’s ‘trip for our kids to ruin’, was, erm, a ruin. Kenilworth Castle, to be precise. It wouldn’t be a family holiday if we didn’t go to a castle (fortunately, now we have kids, my wife usually rations herself to just one per holiday).
  2. When faced with an Elizabethan dressing-up box, you can count on me to head straight for the lady garments. I’m starting to think, if there was such a thing as Elizabethan Drag, it’d be right up my street.
  3. We visited ‘the Queen’s privy garden’ (the Queen being Elizabeth I) and, because he had read the word ‘privvy’ elsewhere, Ollie asked “is this where the Queen went for a wee?”. Yes, Ollie, Liz One was a huge fan of pissing in the bushes.
  4. At lunch, Isaac demanded a ‘kipper’, and got very upset when he couldn’t have one. It was only later, when he started grabbing Ollie’s ‘Calippo’, that we clicked.
  5. I got stung for an ‘English Heritage’ membership, which means I might as well grab the diary when we get home, and pencil in ‘another fucking castle’ every Sunday for the next year.
  6. I was then back in the pool for the fourth day running, pretending to be a jet ski, and causing irreparable damage to my spine. As we were getting out, Isaac begged me to play one more game. Say what you like about him (I often do), but Isaac never fails to surprise. What was his game? “Let’s pretend we’re Vikings and go on a hunt for feet!” That’s one fucked-up kid.
  7. I went for a run – my second of the week – to earn extra calories on the ‘My Fitness Pal’ app. Sadly, it was that hot, I only managed three miles, and then immediately consumed my ‘bonus’ calories, by downing three Coronas.
  8. I cooked pasta for dinner, and burnt myself on the oven. The boys learned a new swear word. They insisted on ham and cheese wraps as ‘starters’, which meant they didn’t each the pasta I lost two fucking fingerprints making.
  9. Over dinner, Ollie found something so funny, he farted. Isaac decided to join in (turns out, Isaac can fart at will, which may be his only talent), and in stereo it sounded like ‘The Frog Chorus’.
  10. I then wanted more beer, so we went to the clubhouse for the boys to burn off energy in the soft-play. Isaac performed ‘jimastix’ (gymnastics), which involved him doing rolls, before they recreated ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ – with Ollie being the judges, and Isaac the contestant. Isaac’s act – ‘Pranks’ – was a combination of football and jimastix. He claimed to be 64.

Friday

  1. During the night, we were woken by something on the roof. My wife thought it was a rat, but I decided it was a pigeon (aka ‘rat with wings’). Over breakfast, she asked me to climb up and find out, but I didn’t fancy getting my face bitten off should she be correct.
  2. The kids were more inventive with their guesses. Ollie decided it was ‘rain…. or Isaac’, whereas Isaac opted for ‘Spongebob’ (but also didn’t rule himself out).
  3. Having watched ‘The Cat In The Hat’ for the third time this week, Isaac now wants to be called ‘Chocolate Thunda’.
  4. We drove to Gloucester, and my wife headed to a shopping centre for some ‘me time’. This lasted around thirty seconds, because Isaac wouldn’t leave her alone, and was back to being vile (after a brief attempt at behaving).
  5. In M&S, we found a mirror for the boys to recreate ‘Snow White’ (Isaac’s request). Isaac stood behind the mirror, while Ollie asked “mirror, mirror, on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?” Isaac’s reply? “Well, it used to be Snow White. But then I killed her.” Standard Isaac.
  6. Went to Nandos for lunch (Ollie’s choice) and Isaac only wanted chips with “ALL the ketchup”, until he saw Ollie’s chicken strips and demanded the same. We stood our ground, so Isaac retaliated by pouring half a bottle of ketchup onto his chips, before claiming he no longer likes ketchup (which is bullshit, because he likes ketchup more than oxygen).
  7. Isaac then began drawing more hearts for Mummy, but only used the black crayon – to represent his cold, dead heart.
  8. After lunch, I visited the toilet, but stupidly followed my wife’s directions and ended up in the kitchen, much to everyone’s surprise.
  9. After a final trip to the pool (which Isaac changed his mind about so many times, we had ten minutes before it closed), we went back to the clubhouse for dinner one last time. Bizarrely, of the families to our left, one had a son called Ollie, and the other an Isaac. I suggested we swap our kids with theirs, but my wife wasn’t keen.
  10. We were then subjected to the lamest of entertainment, bingo. Not only was the microphone too loud, and the caller too fast, he didn’t know any of the phrases. Even I know 88 is ‘two fat ladies’, and not ‘one eight, then another eight’.

Thanks for reading x

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Mr. Blog

Earlier this week, my Facebook page reached 500 likes, and I’m rather chuffed (or at least I was, until I realised a friend of my wife has over 25,000 Twitter followers…)

As my readership continues to grow at an alarming speed (alarming only in its sluggishness), I feel the need to recap slightly for those just joining us.

I am 38 years old, and a father of two boys (although I panicked recently at a comedy club, when asked by the comedian how old my children are, and having answered to the room that they are eight and four, he then asked me if I have one of each – to which my mind went blank, and I answered ‘yes’, assuming he meant one child aged eight, and one aged four).

I am married (sorry ladies – or gents who are that way inclined) and my wife is a teacher, which means she will be skipping around the house this evening, because her school is breaking up today until September, and the quota of obnoxious children she must deal with on a daily basis will drop considerably – from a couple of thousand, to just our two little shits.

For those of you not in education, let me assure you that, when a teacher protests – as is so often the case – that they earn this six-week summer break (longer in some cases), they really fucking earn it. This goes for all teachers (apart from maybe P.E. teachers, who, from recollection, largely do bugger all).

When I look at our two boys, and some of the other miscreants in the playground each morning, I can only sympathise with primary school teachers, and offer them my sincere gratitude for giving the rest of us a break each day. They deserve every single second of this summer holiday (together with a lovely present from all the children in their class – and, if you happen to be organising this for your child’s teacher, my suggestion would be all the alcohol you can feasibly carry, and a cushion to scream into, ready for September. Failing that, cold hard cash). Primary school teachers are saints.

In contrast, my wife teaches at an all-boys secondary school, but she – along with her colleagues – deserve just as much admiration and respect (apart from the P.E. department). Ok, they may not face the same imminent danger of being pissed or shit on that their primary school counterparts risk each day; but by secondary school this has been replaced by the very real possibility of being beaten up by an irate pupil instead.

Along with doctors, nurses, our armed forces, and the guy whose job it is to fit indicators to BMW cars (poor, pointless bastard), teachers deserve our utmost admiration for the often thankless work that they do.

I, on the other hand, work as a personal injury solicitor, and in contrast we are almost universally disliked. In fact, as far as Joe Public is concerned, we are only slightly higher up the popularity ladder than politicians, tax inspectors and traffic wardens. And people seem to listen to Joe Public (even though he strikes me as a bit of a prick at times).

Look, being a personal injury solicitor is not what I set out to do for a living, and I’m not particularly proud of it, but I worked damn hard to secure my law degree (and qualifications thereafter), and it pays the bills – so, for now, it is my life.  If I could change my occupation, I would, but I do (generally) like my colleagues, and we personal injury lawyers are not all ambulance-chasing predators like the press would have you believe. Just wait until you actually need one of us (and I pray you never do) before making your mind up.

Anyway, it will come as no shock that, if I had my way, I would write for a living. I love nothing more than making people laugh, and since I don’t have the confidence (or the material) to go into stand-up comedy, this right here is my passion. Posting on my blog every Friday, and uploading quirky little bits and pieces to my Facebook page in between, really gets me through the week. Nothing makes me happier than finding something amusing, then discovering lots of you do as well.

You may think that, with ‘only’ 500 followers after a few years of writing, I am largely wasting my time – and you would probably be right – but truth be told, I was just as happy writing my blog when I had a fraction of that number (although, having said that, if my readership did suddenly multiply overnight to tens of thousands, I wouldn’t complain).

Unfortunately, only those bloggers who amass a serious following can hope to make a living out of it, and with two young kids to feed and clothe, and a wife with a shoe-addiction to cater for, I cannot afford any career changes just yet.

Besides, whilst I have only really practised Personal Injury litigation since qualifying as a Solicitor, at least it’s not dull. Ok, corporate law at a city firm is where the big money is, but it strikes me as incredibly dull, and at least – to a certain extent – working as a PI lawyer does offer some comedic potential.

It’s not that I would ever laugh at a client’s injury (well, not often), but sometimes, every once in a while, you encounter a real character. Someone, almost so obscure or ludicrous in their personality, mannerisms or actions, that they might as well be one of the Mr Men.

In fact, if we ignore the obvious personal injury associations with the likes of Mr Bump and Mr Clumsy, then I can more or less give you a real life example from my sixteen years in the job, for most of the others (whilst preserving client confidentiality, obviously). I’ll just select a few though…

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Some would argue that all personal injury claimants are greedy, but the law is designed to recompense those who have been genuinely injured as a result of negligence, to restore them to the position they should have been in, had the injury never occurred.

However, one client, many years ago, phoned me having received the medical report which detailed his minor back injury (of six months’ duration), to explain that he had watched a documentary on injury litigation in the United States, and had valued his own case at £1.5m. I had to let him down gently (by asking him to write out £1,500,000 on a piece of paper, and then start removing zeros until he reached £1,500).

Also known as: Mr Unrealistic Expectations

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Ok, it’s a different interpretation of the word ‘wrong’, but I once had a client phone me and throughout the call he sounded distracted and his voiced strained. After a full ten minutes of discussing his case, I then heard a flushing sound, and he asked me to hang on a second while he ‘wiped’. Now, that’s just plain wrong (bear in mind he phoned me).

I didn’t stay on the line long enough to discover whether he was also Mr Messy.

Also known as: Mr Inappropriate

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The client who complained, after just four weeks, that his case was ‘dragging on’.

Also known as: Mr Impatient Prick

Mrmischiefbook

Not everyone knows the phonetic alphabet, and some of the ‘alternatives’ I hear are often comedic, but one particular client, whilst trying to spell his own surname, suffered a bout of impromptu Tourette’s: “S for…..erm…. shit…. sorry that’s all I could think of. T for…. damn…. erm….. twat? So sorry about this. My mind has gone blank….” I stopped him when he got to ‘C’.

Also known as: Mr Sweary Pants

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I was once approached outside the office by a creepy looking man, in a long black trench coat, who asked if I could arrange a restraining order for him. Apparently, my negative response did not dissaude him, and he went on to explain he was a satanist, and wanted a restraining order against ‘all Christians’. Seriously.

When I explained that I am in fact a personal injury solicitor, he then questioned whether that meant I had lots of photographs of really nasty injuries – and mutilations – in my office, before letting out a groan like he was aroused.

Also known as: Mr Fucking Creepy

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How about the elderly gentleman, who, when asked for photographs of the pothole which caused his accident (to see if we could accept his case), chose to also send me rather graphic shots of his mangled penis?

When asked for an explanation (bearing in mind I had spoken to him just once), he told me that, at the time of his fall, he had gone to collect the morning newspaper in just a dressing gown, and when he tripped it had flown open. For a few, glorious seconds, he had soared through the air (very much like a flying squirrel, I should imagine), before crash landing, his shrivelled old man junk making sweet love to the pavement as he skidded to a stop.

Also known as: Mr Geriatric Exhibitionist

Mr Happy

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I am yet to discover a client who fits this one.

Oh, and before I go, let’s not forget the females…

Little Miss Naughty

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I once had a client who wanted to pursue a claim against the care home where she worked, but not only was liability for her accident denied, her personnel file revealed an unexpected twist. Seemingly, the care home in question had one particular resident who was notorious for asking female members of staff to – for want of a better phrase – pleasure him.

Naturally, most had politely declined – except for my client, who was caught mid-act, and promptly dismissed by her employers on the spot (before becoming, very swiftly, an ex-client).

Also known as: Little Miss Woodpecker

And that’s just a small selection of the people I encounter on a daily basis, so I think I have earned a bloody holiday too.

Fortunately, we’re going away next week, so there won’t be a blog entry next Friday, but – fear not – I’ll be back the week after.

Unlike all those sodding teachers.

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