Bloggy Kids

‘THE SCHOOL RUN’

A Short Play

40660307_10155805051478366_7042114101773860864_n

 

Dramatis Personae:

‘Daddy’ 

47494229_10156869451206350_8249457828478058496_n

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

‘Ollie’

40451958_10155795532208366_7464389767283605504_n

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

‘Isaac’

38744576_10156579938726350_326974275401547776_n

Ollie’s younger brother, four. A feral wolf child, with the face and hair of a pretty little girl, but the empty black soul of a malevolent demon.

***

Narrator:  The following play is based on real-life events, which occurred in a small town called Sandbach, in January 2019.

 

ACT I

[The lights come up on a Living Room. Daddy enters stage right, wearing nothing but an ill-fitting towel. He is wet, and the impression is that he has just exited the shower. He looks harassed and hurried]

Daddy:  Why are neither of you ready yet?!

Ollie:     I’m ready!

Daddy:  You’re not wearing socks.

Ollie:     Oh, yeah.

Daddy:  And you’re still watching that idiot play FIFA on YouTube. For the final time, turn it off. I said I wanted you both dressed and ready by the time I got out of the shower. Don’t do this to me again!

Isaac:     Do what?

Daddy:   Get me stressed and make us late.

Isaac:     Can I have more cereal?

Daddy:  No. You’ve already had two massive bowls and we don’t have enough time or milk. We’re leaving the house in less than ten minutes and I have no clothes on yet. Do you want me to do the school run in just this towel?

Isaac:      YES!

Daddy:   Shut up. I’m going for a shave, and I want you both ready to walk out of the door by the time I come back downstairs.

Ollie:       Ok.

[Daddy quickly exits stage left, clutching the small towel at his waist to save exposing himself as he takes the stairs three at a time. Both boys remain motionless, with Ollie staring at a laptop screen, and Isaac watching Scooby Doo on the television]

***

 

ACT II

[The lights come back up on the Living Room. Both boys are in exactly the same position as they were at the end of Act I. Daddy rushes in stage left, now wearing a suit, and hurriedly straightening his tie]

 

Daddy:  What the HELL?! Ollie, turn that laptop off NOW. Isaac, turn the television off and find your hairbrush. Ollie, put some fu… put some socks on NOW.

Isaac:      I can’t find my hairbrush.

Daddy:   Get Mummy’s instead then.

Isaac:      Ok, Geoff.

Daddy:   Stop calling me Geoff. Ollie, why are you crying?

Ollie:      You shouted at me.

Daddy:   Do you know why?

Ollie:      No. I’ve not done anything wrong!

Daddy:  Really? How about ignoring me and making us late for school yet again? How about not getting dressed before watching those stupid videos on YouTube? How about leaving your cereal bowl there for Isaac to trip over? We have the same conversation every fu…. We have the same conversation every morning, and, for once, I would like to arrive in the school playground without worrying that I might collapse at any given second. Go and get your bags, brush your teeth, get your shoes and coat on, and wait by the front door. We’re leaving in two minutes.

[Ollie runs off stage left, sniffling loudly. Daddy quickly brushes Isaac’s hair, then struggles with an orange ‘bobble’ as he tries to put it into a ponytail. At one point, when Isaac isn’t looking, he silently screams ‘FUCK!’, then punches the sofa next to him. He rubs his knuckles, evidently in some pain]

Daddy:   Right, that’ll have to do.

Isaac:     Does it look ok?

Daddy:  Sure. Now, go downstairs, put your shoes and coat on, brush your teeth, and wait by the front door.

Isaac:     Ok, Geoff.

[Isaac leaves stage left, followed shortly after by Daddy, who is still rubbing his knuckles]

***

 

ACT III

[The lights come up on an entrance hall and front door. Both boys are now wearing coats. Daddy is putting his shoes on]

 

Daddy:   Right, have you both brushed your teeth?

Boys:      Yes

Daddy:   Both of you?

Boys:      Yes!

Isaac:    Actually, I haven’t.

Daddy:  Do them. Now.

[Isaac dashes to the side of the stage]

Daddy:   Ollie, have you got your swimming kit?

Ollie:      Yes.

Daddy:   And your £1 for swimming?

Ollie:     Yes.

Daddy:  Guitar?

Ollie:      Yes.

Daddy:   Drinks bottle?

Ollie:      Here.

Daddy:    What about the permission slip for your school trip?

Ollie:      Hey, that rhymes!

Daddy:   Shut up. Do you have your permission slip?

Ollie:       It’s in my pocket.

Daddy:    Is there anything else you need?

Ollie:       My Match Attax.

Daddy:  Balls to your Match Attax. Is there anything else you actually need for school?

Ollie:       No. I have my Match Attax anyway, I was just saying.

[Isaac returns from the side of the stage]

Daddy:   Isaac, have you got your school bag?

Isaac:     Yes, Geoff.

Daddy:   I asked you to stop calling me that. Do you have your drinks bottle?

Isaac:     Yes.

Daddy:   Have you both got your snacks for breaktime?

Boys:      Yes!

Daddy:   And do you remember what you’re having for lunch?

Ollie:      Roast chicken dinner!

Daddy:   Correct.

Isaac:     I’m having a packed lunch.

Daddy:   No, you’re not.

Isaac:     I AM!

Daddy:  No, you’re fuc… you’re having chicken dinner, remember? I asked you half an hour ago and you agreed. You said you love chicken dinner.

Isaac:     I hate chicken dinner! I want a packed lunch!

Daddy:   Tough. We’re late, and I haven’t got time. You’re having chicken dinner.

[Isaac now starts to cry]

Daddy:    Please, Isaac, we discussed this. I don’t have time to make a packed lunch. You told me you love chicken dinner. It’s just chicken, potatoes and veg.

[Isaac suddenly stops crying]

Isaac:     Yay! I love chicken dinner!

Daddy:   You little f-

Ollie:      Can we play a game?

Daddy:   What?! No! We need to leave, NOW.

Ollie:      Can we play a game on the way?

Daddy:   No. Look, I have a splitting headache, I’m stressed, and you two have again been no help whatsoever. He’s been up since 5.45am, you’ve both spent the past hour fighting –

Both:      He started it!

Daddy:   – I don’t care. You’ve both spent the past hour fighting, and I’m sick of it. We’re leaving the house and you’re going to have to run because we’re VERY late.

[Ollie opens the front door]

Ollie:      Erm, Daddy….?

Daddy:   What now?

Ollie:       It’s raining.

Daddy:   Oh, for fu….. right, put your hoods up. I’m just going to swap my coat for the waterproof one.

[Daddy quickly changes coats]

Daddy:    Ok, now can we leave?

Ollie:        Hang on. I can’t find my pound.

Isaac:       I don’t have any shoes on. And I need a wee.

[Daddy starts to turn purple, and the stage lights fade to the sound of a scream]

Daddy:     FUUUUU-

THE END

Standard

The Snowman and The Snowblog

My eyes slowly blink open, as another day gradually comes into focus, like a laptop booting up. Not a good laptop, either; a shit one, from about ten years ago. A laptop which has to stay plugged in to the mains at all times, because the battery is knackered. A laptop which randomly carries out, on average, 47 updates a day.

And that was ‘Should’ve Been Me’, by Naughty Boy, featuring Kyla and Popcaan…..

The words from my radio alarm clock slowly register, and, as the last clouds of hazy sleep disperse, I quickly hit the ‘off’ button and draw a few conclusions:

  1. Although I only heard the final few seconds of that song, it was fucking dreadful;
  2. Of course, any song which ‘features’ more than one other artist (especially artists who sound like a reprimanded teenager, a stripper, and something a cockney would order at the cinema) is always going to be terrible;
  3. The voice I heard belonged to Nick Grimshaw – the worst thing to come out of Oldham since Yates Wine Lodge;
  4. That means I still haven’t changed my alarm clock from Radio 1 (I’m nearly 37, it’s getting beyond a joke now);
  5. This must be a weekday – I need to get to work.

Just as I contemplate maybe. ten. more. minutes, my second alarm clock springs into action, as Isaac contorts his body to somehow kick me in the nose, despite our faces being level in the bed. I would be impressed by his ability to get a foot up to head height, and to such an angle that he can gain enough momentum to strike me in the face, but stinging tears are filling my eyes through the searing pain, and it’s all I can do not to punch him.

Ok, I’ve deduced it’s a weekday and, judging by my stubble, it must be Friday (the day when I care least about my appearance in the office). The day when I look in the mirror before work and think ‘I’ll shave at the weekend, when I give a shit’. I swing my legs from under the covers, and stagger upright with a zombie-like groan.

Despite the fact none of my colleagues have ever seen me in my pants – as one might expect in a civilised office environment – I normally endeavour to choose nice boxer shorts for work, just in case circumstances conspire against me, and I am left trouserless at any point during the day. However, in keeping with my ‘couldn’t give a shit’ Friday attitude, old pants seem to be appropriate this morning.

Having placed one foot clumsily into my aging underwear, I stumble, swear loudly, then fall on my face. It’s only as I return to a state of verticality, swear again for good measure (albeit quieter), and secure my danglies in the now correctly-positioned boxer shorts, that I catch a glimpse of our street through a gap in the curtains: Snow.

download-4

NB: Not actually our street

I’d heard talk of snow the day before, but I thought it was just the doom-mongers wanting to scare us all – like when the Daily Mail claims that absolutely everything will give you cancer (eating bacon, not eating bacon, immigrants, swimming with dolphins…)

My wife stirs in our bed (she’s probably dreaming about baking), so I crouch over her and whisper: ‘Don’t panic, but I’ve just had a look, and it’s at least an inch.’ She mumbles something derogatory about my penis, but I choose to take the moral high ground (as is so often the case), and grab Isaac. I need to get the boys fed quickly – with snow like this, there is every chance the shops will be closed for the foreseeable future.

We eat breakfast, erm… fast, and I pack a bag for my wife. I ensure she has essential supplies for the walk to Isaac’s nursery, and then to her school: extra clothing, rope, a rudimentary first aid kit, distress flares, and a hunting knife. We pause as a family by the front door – my wife and I don’t want to alarm the children, so we simply embrace, and promise we will see each other again soon. After all, we’ve survived two trips to Ikea.

She wipes a single tear from her cheek, turns, and opens the door. A blast of moderately cold air takes us both by surprise and, pulling her hood up, and the pushchair near, she smiles, then is gone, enveloped by the slight mist. I quickly force the door shut.

I leave Ollie to play a game, while I finish preparing for the harsh elements outside. I try to anticipate every obstacle that this wintry apocalypse might throw at us on the walk to school, but, if I’m honest, I am more concerned about my drive to work. From what I saw through the window earlier, the roads look mildly icy – the worst kind of icy.

Soon, it’s time to depart. Wearing our ‘big coats’, I warn Ollie to stay close to me – if we get separated in these conditions, we may not be able to locate each other again, and the walk to his school is treacherous at the best of times.

He clasps my hand tightly, his little face pale through a mixture of fear, lack of sleep, and the fact that he won’t eat any vegetables. I try to convince him everything will be ok, with a reassuring smile, but I know deep down I am only trying to convince myself.

With a deep breath, I open the door, and we step outside. A sudden light breeze catches me off-guard, and I struggle to lock the door behind us, the keys nearly slipping from my fingers. After grabbing the car’s wing mirror for balance, while we acclimatise to the apocalyptic conditions, we set off.

Adopting a manoeuvre somewhere between trudging and skiing – which I improvise, having only been skiing once, on a dry slope in Rossendale when I was twelve (although I saw a trailer for Channel 4’s ‘The Jump’ about a year ago, and feel pretty certain that gave me the basics) – Ollie and I slide down the road, towards the haven of the school gates.

Progress is slow, primarily due to the deep snow (which is by now getting dangerously close to the tops of my shoes), but our journey is also littered with hazards – parents using prams as mock-sleds (and their children as impromptu Huskies), cars left abandoned by the side of the road, and the customary smears of dog shit on white pavements.

3dhw_northeast_snow_ingr_1

Artist’s impression

Ollie finds much of the trek harrowing, but I try to shield his face from the devastation where possible. Eventually, after a tortuous six minutes, we reach the school gates, and launch ourselves into the relative safety beyond.

Whilst still exposed (to the elements – my underpants seem to be holding up nicely), the trees lining the school path provide some shelter from the howling wind, which is now approaching gusty. A few more minutes in conditions like that, and we would surely have been whisked away down the street, Ollie being the Toto to my Dorothy.

Thankfully, with the worst of the biblical weather shielded from us, we reach the classroom door, and Ollie’s teacher opens it just wide enough for me to push him through (any wider, and the door would surely have been ripped from its hinges). Ollie offers a nervous smile, and I smile back, mouthing that I’ll be ok. He waves, and I leave before he can see me cry.

Without the extra weight, my trek back down the road is less arduous, but it takes time to compensate for the loss of ballast, and I end up performing a type of ‘camel spin’ figure-skating manoeuvre (I just Googled that, so you can piss off judging me).

Despite nearly Torvill and Deaning it straight past my car, and into our recycling bin, I manage to grab hold of the wing mirror again and, fighting against the zephyr surrounding me, I clamber into my car.

Mercifully, the engine splutters into life first time and, struggling against the elements (which are battering the car from every angle), I reverse off the drive, and head for one of the many country lanes, which stick out from Sandbach like the legs of a spider.

I need to concentrate at all times – so I don’t end up sideways in a ditch – but cannot resist a glance at the temperature gauge, as it drops to 2°c. I silently pray that Volkswagen have tested their vehicles in such Antarctic conditions (although even if they have, they probably cheated the results). I am not particularly technical, but suspect cars cannot survive for long in temperatures below 5°c, and hope I reach work before the engine dies.

I soldier on, as Mother Earth attacks the car with every adverse weather condition known to man: gusts of wind that cause five, six, sometimes even seven leaves at a time to hinder my view, mixed with bursts of light drizzle that splatter against the windscreen. At one point, the drizzle becomes so mild to moderate, that I have no choice other than to switch the wipers from ‘intermittent’ to ‘constant’.

I have never been so grateful to reach work. True, in the harrowing forty-eight minutes it has taken me to get to the office (it normally takes only forty-three), the snow, ice, wind and rain have almost entirely vanished, but I – along with my fellow commuters – know the nightmarish journey we have all endured. Endured, and, with the exception of a stricken few, survived.

As I reflect on my morning odyssey, far be it from me to suggest that it would make a tremendous blockbuster movie, but should the likes of Abrams, Spielberg, perhaps even Howard (Ron, not Russell) be reading this, might I propose that Jake Gyllenhaal play me in the lead role?

***

Disclaimer: This week’s entry contains some elements of artistic licence, and more than a mere smattering of sarcastic bullshit.

Thank you for reading.

Standard

Sick As A Blog

This week’s entry was intended to be a countdown of my favourite albums from the 1990s, following on from the ‘80s list I revealed a couple of weeks ago, but I have been ill since Sunday evening and, as I write this on Thursday, I am still unable to concentrate on anything more taxing than getting out of bed in the morning.

It isn’t very often that I get ill, and it is even more unusual that I am so ill I cannot go into work, so my absence from the office on Monday was something of a rarity.  In fact, it is approaching three years since I last took a day off through illness, as the last one was my birthday in February 2013. I know this, partly because you don’t tend to forget being ill on your birthday, but mostly because I managed to reverse my less-than-a-week-old Ford Kuga into a bollard, whilst trying to take some work I had managed to do at home into the office.

Anyway, the points is, I don’t take time off work lightly, however much I would often like to. I grade my illnesses in a similar way to how meteorologists rate hurricanes, and unless it’s a Category 7 sickness, I’m still going to work:

1 – Feeling a bit blue

2 – Bit of a sniff

3 – Bit of a sniff and a headache

4 – Queasy and lethargic

5 – Full cold

6 – Full cold and loss of appetite

7 – Aching, shivering/sweating, stomach ache, and not able to face having a brew

8 – Sickness and/or diarrhoea

9 – Unstoppable sickness and diarrhoea, black outs etc.

10 – Darling, tell the kids I love them…

As it happens, this was a classic Category 7 at the start of the week, so I reluctantly made that call on Monday morning (the one where, even though you genuinely feel like shit, you still try to make your voice sound worse, just so your boss knows how poorly you are). For the remainder of the day, I managed very little to eat or drink, and achieved nothing beyond watching Storage Hunters and a few Top Gear repeats under the protection of my favourite Star Wars blankie.

I was back in work on Tuesday, but perhaps returned a day too soon, as I felt terrible again by lunch time (when I ate nothing), and even worse by the time I left work. To compound my misery, my neck had also seized up during the afternoon, and this made driving home rather uncomfortable, not to mention dangerous, since I could not look right. In the end, I had no choice other than to negotiate roundabouts and junctions using only ‘the force’. It was ok though, as I used to bullseye womp rats in my T-16 back home.

Wednesday (yesterday as I write this) was a little better, but I had to leave the office a few times to get some fresh air as I felt run down, queasy, and light-headed. I did, however, manage to eat a proper evening meal when I got home, and wasn’t immediately faced with stomach cramps as I had been the day before. I was on the road to recovery, and I downgraded the illness to a Category 4.

Then, just as all seemed to be going well, Thursday morning happened.

It started well enough I suppose, in that I managed to make it out of bed without immediately adopting the foetal position, walk the dog without incident (albeit a little slower than normal), and help my wife get Isaac changed and ready for nursery.

Our usual morning routine is that my wife takes Isaac to nursery on her way to work, and then I do the school run with Ollie before heading to the office. So far, things were going according to plan.

So, at 7.40am, my wife closed the door behind her, leaving Ollie and I almost exactly one hour before we needed to leave the house ourselves – plenty of time.

What follows, is genuinely an account of the next hour of my life….

07:40 (60 minutes remaining)

I really didn’t want breakfast, as the thought of food was still making my stomach churn, but I knew I should try to eat something, so I forced down a small bowl of cereal while Ollie went back to his room to use the toilet.

07:45 (55 minutes remaining)

Despite his scrawny ‘Dobby The House Elf’ stature, Ollie can shovel a colossal amount of breakfast cereal into his vacuous gob at lightning speed, and will immediately start demanding a second helping before the last mouthful is swallowed. I therefore piled his bowl to the very top, in the hope that this would buy me enough time to have a shower before he would go searching for a refill.

07:50 (50 minutes remaining)

Having slowly encouraged my still weak and aching legs to transport me as far as the shower, (pausing briefly to consider the logistics of installing a stair lift in the house), I tried to get the water as hot as I could stand it, to ease the pain in my head and neck. This worked very well for a few minutes until, without warning, the shower head collapsed from the bracket and struck me on the back of my head.

08:00 (40 minutes remaining)

Having finished my shower, I had just started shaving when I heard Ollie crying from the lounge. Hurrying to him in just a towel, it transpired that he had begun watching a Harry Potter film on the portable DVD player, and in trying to skip back a scene he had accidentally gone to the main menu. He reacted to this like someone had punched him squarely in the face which, ironically, was very nearly what happened next.

08:05 (35 minutes remaining)

Time to get dressed. For the sake of everyone reading this I won’t go into detail, but I was in the process of putting on boxers, when I realised there was a gap in our bedroom curtains. Now, although we are three floors up, so any passers-by in the street wouldn’t be able to see me, I was suddenly very conscious of the neighbours opposite catching a glimpse of my naked glory.

Of course, I should have just hurried up, but in my illness-fuddled mind, I decided the best solution would be to turn around (since it is infinitely less embarrassing for your neighbours to see you naked from the back than the front – even though I prefer to avoid both eventualities if at all possible).

What I hadn’t counted on, was how difficult it is to turn around in a narrow space when your underwear is at shin level. Inevitably (I now realise this all too late), I immediately began to stumble, and what followed was a kind of solo sack-race across the bedroom as I tried to catch my balance.

I came to an abrupt halt when I arrived at, struck, and fell into Isaac’s travel cot on the other side of the room, ending up with my face in his pillow and my bare arse in the air.

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, so I tried a little of both.

08:10 (30 minutes remaining)

Having removed myself from the travel cot, I rectified the boxers-malfunction and added socks and trousers to the items of clothing I was now successfully wearing. Look at me, getting myself dressed like a big boy. All I needed to do now was put my shirt and tie on, and I would be good to go.

Except I couldn’t find where my wife had left my shirt.

You see, my wife does all the ironing, but this is nothing to do with laziness or misogyny on my part, and is purely down to the simple fact that I am terrible at it. My mum tried to teach me to iron before I went to University, and my wife has been trying ever since, but both will tell you I have some kind of mental block that will see me ironing for hours without making the slightest bit of progress. They have since given up trying.

So, I dashed to the lounge to see whether she had left my shirt there the night before. But it wasn’t there either, and I realised that she had forgotten to do one for me. Shit.

I could in no way blame her for this, as it’s my fault I can’t iron, and she gets so little sleep anyway that it really wasn’t her fault, but this didn’t stop blind panic setting in. I even contemplated going into work in ‘civilian’ clothing and trying to blag an excuse.

No, there was nothing else for it. I would have to iron.

08:15 (25 minutes remaining)

Why do they make irons so damn complicated? It took me ages to get the stupid contraption to even turn on, and then I sat there for ages without it getting even remotely warm, let alone hot. It would have been quicker to drive to a shop and buy a brand new shirt.

08:20 (20 minutes remaining)

Still ironing, I went through a mental checklist of things I needed to do before Ollie could go to school. I had already written the reading he had done the night before in his school planner, his uniform was ready once he had finished eating (we have learned not to get him dressed until he is at least 5 metres from the nearest food or drink), and I reminded myself to go and get him a (healthy) snack from the kitchen for playtime.

08:25 (15 minutes remaining)

No shirt should have taken this long, but I decided it would have to do. I would simply have to sit against the radiator in my office for a bit when I got in, to try and smooth it out at the back. Either that, or keep my suit jacket on all day.

I started shouting at Ollie to get dressed.

08:30 (10 minutes remaining)

Five minutes later, Ollie had achieved a state of undress rather similar to my travel cot experience, in that he had only succeeded in dropping his pyjama onesie to his ankles. Noticing the time and starting to get anxious, I demanded he turn the DVD off, and focus instead on getting dressed.

08:35 (5 minutes remaining)

I returned from the kitchen, having sorted the breakfast dishes and Ollie’s break time snack, to find that he now had underwear, socks and trousers on. I put on his polo shirt and jumper, tucked everything in as best I could, and sent him downstairs to start getting his coat and shoes on.

08:36 (4 minutes remaining)

In my rush to follow Ollie downstairs, I stood on a plug. More crying.

08:37 (3 minutes remaining)

I realised I needed to feed the dog, which meant opening a new bag of dog food, but I couldn’t find any scissors. I frantically searched for some, acutely aware that Ollie had made no progress with either the coat or his shoes.

08:38 (2 minutes remaining)

Bag opened, and dog bowl filled, I remembered that we feed the dog in the evening, not the morning, the same as we have done for the last ELEVEN SODDING YEARS.

I forced shoes onto Ollie’s feet, then onto the correct feet, before pushing him towards the downstairs bathroom to brush his teeth.

08:39 (1 minute remaining)

Following the quickest teeth brushing in history (don’t tell our dentist), Ollie decided he would inexplicably stand there open mouthed, resulting in frothy toothpaste falling out of his gob onto the front of his last remaining school jumper.

08:40

We fell out of the house, both looking (and in my case feeling) like we had been involved in a bar fight.

I upgraded back to Category 6.

Standard