Blog of the Dump

This Sunday is Isaac’s 5th birthday, but as we are away over the weekend visiting one of my favourite cities, York, we held his party last Saturday – at a local soft play centre.

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As it happens, this was the same soft play centre where the boys had a joint party last year (their birthdays are only three days apart), but since Ollie will turn nine next week, he fancied doing something a little more ‘grown up’ this year, and has chosen to take a few friends to the National Football Museum instead (followed by a trip to Nando’s, which I have agreed to on the strict understanding no one refers to it as ‘cheeky’).

Unfortunately, because we left it quite late to book Isaac’s party, there was no availability for the ‘exclusive’ hire of the venue (after normal opening hours), so we were forced to host it while they were still open to the public. This didn’t particularly bother us, as Isaac only had around fifteen of his friends attending anyway, but some of the other families there were, how can I put this…. rough as shit?

The other issue this posed, was that not every child arriving around 3pm was there for the party, and because Isaac only started school in September, we still don’t know who some of his friends are, so we had to ask him each time a family walked in whether he knew the child or not.

There was one child in particular, however, who clearly didn’t belong at the party. Not only was she too young (probably three, at a guess), but – without being snobby – to say she was scummy would be an understatement. Look, I am acutely aware that Isaac can be a dickhead at times, and I sometimes joke about him being feral, but this little girl actually was feral.  She was filthy, nasty, rude, and it wouldn’t have surprised me if she was carrying some kind of blade.

The first time we noticed her, was when she wandered over to our reserved party table – where all the parents were congregating while their kids played – took one look at the pile of gifts everyone had kindly brought, and said “I’ll take one.”

At this point, I just thought she was perhaps a little naive, and an embarrassed parent would come running over to retrieve her and apologise, but when no one appeared, my wife and I had to politely explain that these were birthday presents for our son, and weren’t for her.

Undeterred, she glared at us and said: “You have lots. I’ll just take one”, before making a grab for the gift nearest to her.

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“No, that’s not for you”, my wife said pleasantly but firmly (when my chosen language might have been a little harsher) but she still had to physically prize the girl’s filthy little mitts off the gift, as she wasn’t giving it up easily. Eventually, she did leave the table and wander off (presumably in search of something else to steal), but still no parent(s) seemed to want to accept responsibility for her.

Before long, she was back again, only this time she bypassed our table and headed straight for the food counter behind us, where she asked a parent in the queue to buy her a box of raisins. When the lady – who clearly had no idea who the child was – politely refused, the little girl then took the box up to the poor lad who was manning the counter, and put them down in front of him with a 1p coin (which she had presumably discovered on the floor somewhere).

When he, rather awkwardly, told her that wasn’t enough money, she stared directly at him, and said in a low, menacing voice: ‘take the money’.

Now, if there is one thing I have learned from many years watching horror films, it’s that nothing is quite so scary as demonic little girls, and even though she was facing away from me at the time, and was speaking to someone else, I damn near shit myself, so I have no idea how terrified he must have been.

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I was then briefly distracted talking to another parent, but the next thing I knew, the grubby little tree-dweller was eating the raisins, so she had either chosen to ignore the lad behind the till and steal them, or he had decided that his life was worth more than a box of shriveled fruit. A wise move, because had he continued to deny her the snack, and then suddenly dropped dead, it would not have surprised me in the slightest.

We were in the presence of pure evil.

Within minutes, she appeared beside me again (I’m not ashamed to admit I actually yelped, and may have soiled myself a little), and began demanding that someone take her on the ‘big slide’. At this point, a friend of ours suggested they go and find her parents instead, but I had begun to question whether they ever existed (there was an argument this child was not the offspring of a human woman); and if they did, whether she had at some point slaughtered them in their sleep – ok, I may have been overreacting by this point.

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As I suspected, no parents could be located (at least, none who wanted to claim her), and even though she was deposited on the other side of the centre to ruin someone else’s day, minutes later she was once again heading towards Isaac’s presents. By the time my wife and I got there, she was already in the process of unwrapping one of them, so again we had to physically remove her (whilst at all times avoiding eye contact, lest we burst into flames), before making the decision that perhaps I should take the gifts to the car.

When I got there, I have to admit I opened the boot very slowly, since part of me envisaged her jumping out of the enclosed space and sinking her teeth into my neck.

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Once all the presents were securely in the car, it was time for Isaac’s party tea, and thankfully she didn’t turn up for that (it was in a separate room), but I still kept an eye out for her sneaking in behind another parent, in a bid to steal some food, or perhaps eat/destroy/urinate on the birthday cake (which was frankly amazing):

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After the children had eaten and played games, there was just time for another half hour in the main room before the party was due to end, and Isaac decided he wanted to go into the toddler’s area with a few friends.

As this enclosure is designed for younger kids to play safely, the door has a magnetic button at the top, which only adults can reach. The idea is that parents can let their children into the caged area (which has a ball-pit, slide, etc.), and then relax with a coffee, knowing they cannot hurt themselves, or – more importantly – escape.

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Of course, when Isaac and his two friends went in, there was devil spawn once more, who immediately made it her mission to ruin their fun. It was only at this point, when I began to suggest her behaviour wasn’t very nice, my attention was drawn to a small, shriveled woman sat on the floor, like the ‘Psammead’ from Five Children and It, and she muttered something about being the girl’s aunt.

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I wanted to respond with something like “You do realise your disgusting, feral, street urchin of a niece needs to learn some fucking manners, don’t you?”; but if there is one thing I detest more than confrontation, it’s being brutally murdered in front of my family, so I decided to simply walk away.

Soon after, however, I could hear a commotion in the toddler area, and headed back to make sure Isaac and his friends were ok. Sure enough, the noise was coming from Satan’s offspring, who was demanding to be let out of the enclosure.  With no aunt in sight (she must have escaped), I calmly explained that I wasn’t allowed to let her out, and that it might be best for her to stay in there (for the safety of the other children, but also to acclimatise her to incarceration, ready for later life).

At this point, her eyes glowed red (or, at least, they have each time I have played the events back in my nightmares since), and she growled: “Let. Me. Out.”

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“Nope. You stay in there, you evil little fuck.”

Then, as I turned away to walk back to our table, I could hear her thrashing around behind me, but didn’t dare glance back in case her head was spinning around and she was vomiting green ooze in my direction.

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It was only a minute or two later, when I dared to look, I realised the noise had been her frantically destroying the ‘house’ Isaac and his friends had built from cushioned bricks, then using them to build a platform against the door. Within seconds, she had created a structure which enabled her to climb up, reach around the door, and release it herself. I had to hand it to her, she was a resourceful little critter.

Needless to say, when the door released and she came tumbling out, the aunt was nowhere to be seen, and it took another parent to come over and escort her back to a table on the other side of the room – where the aunt was sat with a couple who I later discovered were the girl’s parents. Yes, they had been there all along, ignoring not only their daughter, but more importantly her appalling behaviour.

At that point, I hated them even more than her. Ok, she was clearly possessed by some malevolent spirit, and I have no doubt there was a black pit where her soul should have been; but she was only young, and clearly had very little chance in life with these two toothless gibbons for parents. I almost felt sorry for her.

Almost.

Thanks for reading x

 

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Blogs Will Be Blogs

On Sunday, I took the boys to ‘Good Time Charlies’.

Now, I anticipate that you will have reacted to that opening line in one of three ways:

  1. If you have a particularly dirty mind, you might have assumed that ‘taking the boys to Good Time Charlies’ is an appalling euphemism for having sex. It isn’t (so far as I know), but even if it is, I would not be blogging about that kind of thing – I’m not that desperate for material…. yet;
  2. If you are not especially dirty of mind, but equally not from our neck of the woods, you might have thought that ‘Good Time Charlies’ is some kind of strip club. Again, it’s not, but don’t feel bad, as that’s what I assumed it was when I first heard about it. It certainly sounds like it should be a strip club (not that I would know, obviously);
  3. If you do happen to be from our little corner of Cheshire, and you have children of your own, there is a good chance you are familiar with the glorious haven that is ‘Good Time Charlies’, and will have reacted with a knowing smile, since it is, in actual fact, a soft play centre in Crewe.

It is by no means the greatest soft play centre ever designed, but when you consider that it is located in Crewe, a place so desolate that even the Halfords on Grand Junction Retail Park is rated as the second-best tourist-attraction on Trip Advisor (after the train station), it is – particularly for unimaginative parents like myself – the default means of tiring your kids out on a Sunday.

Like most soft play centres, Good Time Charlies has a huge maze of cushioned obstacles and slides for kids to throw themselves over and bounce off, and this particular one is designed to look like a castle:

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It’s like a medieval Fun House, only without the go-karts and those hot twins.

Adjacent to the main ‘castle’, there is also a smaller area for babies and toddlers to play in; a sensory room; a ‘party room’ (again, not a strip club, remember); an indoor football pitch and, rather bizarrely, a hairdressers (although I have never seen this open, but that might be because I always tend to take the boys on a Sunday).

Once I had signed us in and paid, we all took our shoes off (this is compulsory for going on the equipment, we weren’t just being overly polite), and I immediately noticed my first mistake – I was wearing the worst pair of socks ever. I mean, they weren’t distasteful or inappropriate (I got rid of that pair ages ago), but they were old, grey, bobbled and, as I discovered to my horror when I took my shoes off, holier than the Pope himself.

Bizarrely, I had been putting off wearing these socks all week (I actually intended to throw them out, but felt like I should get just one more wear out of them, for old time’s sake), in case anyone at work saw the state of them – irrational, really, bearing in mind no one at work was ever likely to see my socks. Instead, I chose to wear them on the very day I would be taking my shoes off (and crawling around) in public. I astound even myself sometimes.

Still, in hindsight, I only wish that my socks had been the most embarrassing thing about me that day.

Ollie is currently mad about football. It’s the only thing he plays during break times at school, and virtually all he talks about at home. Normally, as a result, he would head straight for the indoor football pitch as soon as his shoes were off (often while they are still in mid-air), but he could tell Isaac wanted to go in the ‘big castle’, so he agreed we should go there first.

The problem with the castle, is that it is the main attraction, and is generally aimed at kids around Ollie’s age, so when Isaac goes running off into the depths of colourfully padded apparatus, I have no choice other than to follow. Many parents don’t, and will allow their toddlers to venture off alone, but I have this horrible affliction where I actually care about my children, and I would rather avoid a trip to Leighton A&E if possible.

Unlike Ollie, who was an intolerable wimp until around a year ago (and still is, on occasion), Isaac is utterly fearless, and was straight up one of the ramps to the middle level of the castle, before I could get anywhere near him. He did, however, pause momentarily for a hurriedly taken – and consequently rather blurry – photo:

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By the time my ageing and decrepit legs hauled me up there, he was already around the corner, across some kind of bridge and walkway, and while he again paused with Ollie for a ‘thumbs up’ photo (a stalling tactic for me to try and catch my breath), he was then off again up another ramp to the top level:

He was like an adorable little monkey…. if monkeys wore dungarees.

Once he reached the top level, he fortunately headed for the shorter of two slides (the main one goes from the very top of the castle to the very bottom, and I would never have got to him in time), and since the end of the slide was near to me, I crouched down (collapsed) to await his arrival.

What I didn’t know, was that a much older kid (I later heard the ‘mother’ shout at him, and he had one of ‘those’ names, where you immediately know he’ll end up in prison one day) had pushed in, and when he arrived at the bottom of the slide rather than Isaac, he thought it would be funny to run up and scream in my face.

In hindsight, it probably wasn’t appropriate to tell a child to go fuck himself, but he really made me jump, and I had reacted before I knew what I was saying. In my defence, my heart rate was already high from running around after the boys, and this little shit damn-near finished me off. I’m not proud of myself, but he certainly didn’t do it again.

He was, however, just a child (albeit one that shared many similarities with a rabid howler monkey), and I guess his behaviour could have been due to a mixture of adrenaline and the excitement of being allowed out of his cage, but that doesn’t excuse the two grown men, who then commando-rolled past me a minute later. I’m not even sure they had brought any kids with them, and they were treating the place like their personal Krypton Factor assault course.

Their behaviour – particularly around young children – was appalling, and liable to cause an injury, so I stood and turned to face them, pushed my sleeves up (which was entirely unnecessary, as I was wearing a t-shirt), and then tutted very loudly, while making a mental reminder to write a strongly worded e-mail to the owners when I got home. That’d show ’em. Ruffians.

Once the boys had finally grown bored of the slide (what felt like three to four hours later), Ollie decided he wanted to go and practice taking penalties on the football pitch, so we began navigating our way out of the castle.

We ended up taking a different route down and, in my haste to keep up with the boys, I didn’t spot a particularly low beam, and managed to crack my head on it. Ok, it was well padded – as you would expect in such an environment – but I hit it at such speed that it really bloody hurt.

Once I had located the boys, with my head and pride still equally smarting, I steered them towards the indoor football pitch, making sure Isaac was near me, as I didn’t want him getting knocked over or hit by a ball. I know, from experience, that there is always one father who considers himself something of a semi-pro footballer, which invariably ends with a child getting hurt by an over-zealously struck ball, but I honestly didn’t expect that father to be me. I thought I was better than that (if we ignore the earlier swearing).

Fortunately, it was someone else’s child who took the full brunt of my twenty-yard free kick towards Ollie in goal, so at least I didn’t have to put up with the tears afterwards. Frankly, it serves them right for wandering across the pitch. I decided to leave Ollie to play with some other boys, and Isaac and I left for a bit of ‘quiet time’.

In the toddler section, there are lots of building blocks, and like most children Isaac enjoys nothing more than watching Daddy lovingly build a tower, for him to immediately kick the crap out of. This time, however, he started to build his own tower, followed by a castle and various other masterpieces. Here are a few of his finest works:

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Harbour with Cruise ships

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Preston Bus Station

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Sandbach Cobbles

As I sat there, watching Isaac create obscure works of art, I suddenly sensed another child behind me. I apprehensively turned around, and came face-to-face with a snotty little monster, who sniffled “Here” and handed me a particularly gloopy tissue. I was so taken by surprise, I actually put my hand out for it, before immediately dropping it in disgust, and looking around to see if anyone was going to claim responsibility for him.

If his parents were nearby, they certainly didn’t want to admit he was theirs, and things then got even more uncomfortable when he asked where the toilet was. I pointed him in the right direction, but he just looked at me blankly and held his hand out.

Now, if there’s one thing you want to avoid in a children’s soft-play centre, it’s taking someone else’s kid by the hand and leading them to the toilet. Parents – and, indeed, society in general – tend to frown on that kind of thing.

So, I did what any rational person would do in that situation – I turned around and pretended he wasn’t there. Look, I’m fully aware he may have pissed himself (or worse), but it wasn’t my problem. Besides, Isaac has had some kind of stomach bug since the middle of the week, and I’ll wager it was this little grubby little twat which gave it to him. I hope the parents also got it, and have spent every waking moment crouched over the toilet ever since.

I decided it was time for lunch, so once the boys had chosen their meals, we sat down and waited for them to arrive. I sent Ollie to get some cutlery, at which point Isaac started loudly shouting what sounded like “Nice! Fuck! Nice! Fuck!”

I knew he meant ‘Knife’ and ‘Fork’, but apparently the parents around us weren’t as fluent in his particular brand of toddler-speak, and gave me some very disapproving looks.

All apart from one pretty lady, who was looking at us and smiling. My immediate reaction was that she was attracted to me, and I started to smile back with my very best ‘Mummy left us for the window-cleaner’ puppy eyes, but I quickly realised that – even in Crewe – it was highly unlikely that she wanted me.

My next thought, was that she did understand Isaac, and had found the awkward humour in the situation, so she was smiling in a mixture of amusement and sympathy. Yes, that must be it, surely.

It was only then that I noticed my crotch was feeling wet, and I glanced down to see Isaac pouring his blackcurrant juice over the front of my trousers.  To make matters worse, the snotty little shit who had needed the toilet, was watching from the other side of the room and grinning.

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