Some Like It Blog

You may have noticed that the UK has been enjoying some rather nice weather of late. Sure, it has been interspersed with our usual dark clouds, and downpours of heavy rain, but generally speaking it has been sunny, and, best of all, hot (well, hot by our standards).

This, folks, is summer (or was summer, if you happen to be reading this a few days after publication, by which time I feel certain we’ll be back to ‘overcast and chilly’).  Make the most of it, because soon it will be July, and then the following will happen:

  1. The schools break up;
  2. Glastonbury;
  3. Wimbledon;
  4. People start optimistically buying barbecues.

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Glastonbury: Shit

On their own, any of the above list would be sufficient to jeopardise our current nice weather, but since all four will happen in a relatively short period of time, there is no doubt that we will be cold and soaking by mid-July. Welcome to the British summer.

But is summer all it’s cracked up to be anyway?

Answer: no, not really.

Look, it’s not the worst of the seasons by a long shot (Autumn, I’m looking at you), but bearing in mind I am grumpy most of the time anyway, I can find fault in pretty much anything if the mood takes me (apart from perhaps Holly Willoughby).

So, on the basis there will be people reading this thinking, ‘go on, give me one good reason why summer is a bit shit’, I’ll do better than that – I’ll give you ten reasons (and that’s on top of the aforementioned Glastonbury and Wimbledon).

1. Suncream

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NB: Not my leg

I am well aware that the alternative to wearing suncream, is sunburn (or worse), so obviously I don’t think it should be avoided altogether, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it, either. It’s time-consuming to apply, leaves you greasy and/or sticky, attracts every insect and grain of sand within a five-mile radius, and more often than not it smells of fucking coconut. I hate coconut. If I wanted to smell of coconut, I’d take a bath in some Malibu, then stick a Bounty up my arse.

2. Wasps

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Vicious. Little. Bastards.

I don’t care if they are one of God’s creatures, and apparently do serve an actual purpose (in addition to bringing misery to millions of people, by spoiling their picnics and stinging them), they are evil, and should be exterminated.

We recently had a particularly aggressive wasp in the office, and my colleague berated me for trying to kill it – to the point she ‘rescued’ it from the toilet where it was trapped, and released it back into the wild. Let’s not forget, it was the wasp’s decision to actually fly under the toilet seat, then lie in wait for some poor unsuspecting butt cheeks to pierce; but, oh no, apparently I was the monster for trying to help it on it’s way with a gentle flush (oh, and I may have peed on it first for good measure).

I tried to argue that there was only room for one nasty looking prick in that bathroom, and it wasn’t the wasp’s, however my colleague still set it free (I sincerely hope the wasp then flew directly to her car, to wait for the drive home).

We have other insects for pollination, so wasps add absolutely nothing to society other than misery, so the sooner they become extinct the better.

3. Sleeping

Sleeping in the summer is a bloody nightmare. Ok, getting into a cold bed during the winter months can initially be a little unpleasant, but you quickly warm up, and that’s why we have electric blankets and hot water bottles (even if I don’t use either).

But in the summer, you get into bed all hot and sticky, and you remain that way, until you finally give up on sleeping and go back to work. Sure, you can leave some windows open for cooler air once it goes dark, but this invites every bug in the area to enter the room and attack you during the night.

4. Hayfever

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Arguably the shittest of all the debilitating inflictions, because it is essentially just itchy and streaming eyes and nose, interspersed with occasional sneezing, but if you don’t suffer with hayfever, you will never understand how truly fucking annoying it is, and how miserable it can make you.

Plus, you have to listen to every person over the age of fifty, when they explain to you their own personal guaranteed method for curing it: “get some local honey, and rub it on your scrotum on the second Tuesday of each month…”

5. Sunglasses

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Sunglasses generally make people look cool. I am not cool (you may have noticed).

Coolness is not the issue, however. My main problem with sunglasses, is that my eyesight is only marginally better than Stevie Wonder’s, so in order to wear them when it is bright and sunny outside, means one of the following:

  • Contact lenses – Except, I don’t wear contact lenses regularly, so it can take up to fifteen minutes to prod the sodding things into my eyes (by which point they are so red and sore, I regret my decision anyway). Plus, I suffer from hayfever – see above – so my eyes are already itchy as it is, and not particularly keen to have salty plastic discs stuck onto them;
  • Exchanging my normal glasses for sunglasses, then hoping I don’t walk into lampposts, other people, and dog shit. This usually means my wife guiding me around like, well, Stevie Wonder;
  • Wearing prescription sunglasses – because prescription sunglasses are almost like actual sunglasses (in the same way that Quorn is almost like actual meat). Almost.

These are all, however, better than the final option…

  • Wearing those ‘clip-on sunglasses’ last seen in 1989:

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I’m probably better off sticking to my normal specs, and just squinting a lot.

6. The Lack of Football

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Now, as far as my wife is concerned, having her husband and eldest son available on Saturdays again, even if only for a couple of months a year, is a bonus (although, the novelty usually wears off by mid-June); but for Ollie and I, losing our fortnightly fix of live football until the start of August is devastating.

We love our team (shit and perpetually disappointing though they are), and no amount of Russian World Cup can scratch that itch, I’m afraid.

7. Ice cream

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I quite like ice cream (despite my pathetically sensitive teeth), and there is nothing finer on a hot summer’s day, than enjoying an ice cream cone with your family.

For three minutes.

Then, after that fleeting moment of summery bliss, it becomes a battle against time, as you frantically try to stem the flow of melting dessert from trickling towards your hand. And, even if you manage to finish the ice cream before it reaches your fingers and makes you all sticky (not to mention irresistible to those fucking wasps), enough of it has escaped to soften the cone, which then collapses and covers you anyway.

The only thing worse than trying to successfully eat an ice cream yourself, is handing one to a child.

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8. Teachers

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I have to tread carefully here, as I’m married to a teacher, but my God they start to get smug by the end of May, and downright unbearable come July, as that colossal six week holiday approaches. Don’t get me wrong, teachers work very hard, and my wife is often marking and planning lessons beyond midnight, but all of the stress and abuse has to be at least worth considering, for six weeks off in the summer.

At least if I was a teacher too, we could go away for most of the summer (thereby avoiding the likes of Glastonbury and Wimbledon, and all the middle-class twats who attend them), but I get a very limited amount of annual leave, and when we do go away it has to be when the schools are off, which means paying twice as much.

9. Convertibles

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There are two types of convertible car owners.

The first, are those really smug drivers, who put the roof down in the middle of March, (when the sleet eases slightly, and the temperature creeps above freezing), to try and justify their ridiculous purchase. Then, when the weather genuinely turns nice around this time of year, they drive up and down the roads of Britain, wearing sunglasses, and laughing at the glorious world which surrounds them.

For three days a year, their car is perfect, and wonderful, and we’re all jealous. It matters not, that most convertible drivers are bald, middle-aged estate agents, with bugs firmly embedded between their teeth, because for once they are winning at life.

Then, we have the second category: those truly hopeless convertible car owners who, when faced with a gloriously sunny day (the one chance they have to finally enjoy their nearly-pointless automobile), they leave the top on. Why on earth would you buy a convertible car in this country, if you don’t fucking use it on a sunny day?

10. Roadworks

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For those of us who commute to work each day, roadworks are our enemy (together with cyclists), but at least during the winter, they are kept to a minimum (unlike cyclists).

However, as soon as the schools break up for summer, every Council in the country sees this as a green light to start digging up all the roads that they have been neglecting since the summer before.

I understand the reasoning behind this, as there are supposedly less cars travelling, so the disruption is minimised, but school holidays are the one chance we commuters get to enjoy a slightly easier journey to work, and yet we are denied this minor respite time and time again.

In fact, the only people who benefit from roadworks being delayed until the school holidays, are parents who don’t work, and teachers – and, frankly, we’ve already established that the summer holidays are the one time of year when teachers deserve bugger all.

Why doesn’t anyone ever think of the lawyers?

Ok, don’t answer that.

Thanks for reading x

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Bloggy Hell

A couple of weeks ago, I took part in my usual Parkrun event in Congleton, and I would like to share with you what happened.

For those unaware, Parkrun is a charity which organises 5k running events all over the world every Saturday. From humble beginnings in 2004, there are now nearly five hundred events around Britain, a similar number elsewhere across the globe, and more than four million runners registered worldwide.

If you are getting somewhat weary of me writing about running, then fear not – this entry is less about running, and more about one man’s struggle against adversity, the elements, his own ineptitude, and an elderly man in a red bandana.

In truth, I am very, very proud of myself for even going to Parkrun the Saturday before last, because – those of you in the North of England may recall – the weather was apocalyptically bad. When I woke up around 7:00am, and cast a cautious glimpse through the curtains, the scene which greeted me was not dissimilar to something from The Day After Tomorrow.

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Sandbach – 25/11/2017

The conditions, together with my crippling indecisiveness, caused me to change my mind at least ten times about whether I was going or not.

Whilst weighing up my decision, I reminded myself that I always feel a sense of achievement when I’ve finished, and I certainly need to keep my competitive running going, if I hope to complete the 10 x 10k challenge I’ve set myself for 2018. Plus, I still need to shed some paunch, so a failure to go to Parkrun, would mean a longer run the following day to compensate.

On the other hand, I had to consider my health, because I needed to spend three nights in Newcastle for a trial the following week, and didn’t want to jeopardise that by making myself unwell running in Arctic conditions. In fact, the more I glanced out of our living room window, the more it dawned on me that there was every chance this Parkrun could fucking kill me.

Such is my inability to make decisions, I got into my running gear and as far as the front door, before a blast of icy air caught me right up the shorts, and I sheepishly headed back upstairs to my family. I couldn’t bear the thought of our boys growing up without a father. I had to stay at home for them.

Of course, my wife then gave her very finest ‘it’s up to you, dear, whatever you think is best, no one is making you go’ performance, which might as well have been ‘get out there, and stop whining like a bitch’, so my final decision to remain home was immediately reversed, and I found myself leaping from the house to the safety of our car (a distance of roughly six feet), then sitting on the drive and wondering what the hell I was doing.

The short drive from Sandbach to Congleton was horrendous, with rain and sleet lashing against the windscreen (so much so, I had to increase the wipers from ‘constant’ to ‘fuckinell’), and there were cars passing me with an inch of snow covering them.

Even once I had parked up at Astbury Mere in Congleton, it took every ounce of my strength to not turn around again and go home. As I put my running shoes on, and opened the car door, I seriously questioned my sanity.

I was apparently not alone, because once I had jogged the half lap around the lake to the start line (partly to warm up, but also because my indecisiveness had made me a little late), the general conversation was that this was all a terrible idea. Not one person was looking forward to running – even though, by this point, the sleet had mercifully stopped.

My mood was not improved by the fact my arch nemesis, ‘Bandana Man’ (not to be mistaken with 1980’s cartoon, Banana Man), then arrived, looking all smug and confident. For the record, not only is he probably a nice guy – we’ve never actually spoken – but I have no reason for disliking him, other than the fact he constantly finishes just ahead of me (which is not really a reason to treat someone as your mortal enemy). Still, he was grinning, and in that weather no sane person should have been grinning, so for once my hatred was justified. Plus, he always wears a bandana, for fuck’s sake.

Following the usual introduction from the ‘Race Director’ – which involves a description of the route for any first-timers (‘three laps around the lake, keep the water on your left…’), a round of applause for the volunteer marshals, and an instruction to let faster runners overtake – we were counted down from 3, 2…. and, at that precise moment, what I can only describe as ‘end of the world hailstones’ began striking us with a vengeance…..1.

I have never had so little motivation to run in my life, except for perhaps the half lap around the lake back to my lovely warm car so I could drive home.

My mood was not improved when, shortly after setting off, one of my fellow runners refused to keep to the left (despite the firm instructions less than a minute earlier), and because there was no space to her right, I was forced to undertake – straight through a huge puddle, which completely submerged my left foot.

The remaining two-and-three-quarter laps were spent with my face being lashed by freezing rain, while my foot squelched, and my chest pounded as I struggled to breathe the icy morning air.  Such was my agony and misery, the only way I could get through the final lap was to count my own breathing as a distraction.

When I finished, I stopped my trusty Casio, and was pretty delighted that I had achieved my second fastest Parkrun ever, despite the terrible weather conditions, and the fact I had consumed an entire bottle of red wine the night before.

My glory was, however, fleeting.

Firstly, having passed through the finish, I immediately headed for my usual wooden post, which I like to lean/collapse on, as I try not to vomit or cough up a lung. Essentially, it keeps me upright just long enough to compose myself, thereby avoiding an embarrassing fall into a bush.

Except, on this occasion, some utter bastard had beaten me to it, and because I needed to lean on something quickly (before I fell down), I made a snap decision and clung to a nearby bin instead. It wasn’t until, a few seconds later, when I noticed a few runners looking at me, and the sudden stench of dog shit burning my nostrils, that I realised I was hugging no ordinary bin.

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Sadly, my embarrassment didn’t end there.

If you have never taken part in (or attended) Parkrun before, let me explain how the timing works. Everyone sets off together, and once you have finished the 5k, you collect a small plastic tag with your position and a barcode on.

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You then take this, along with your own personal barcode (which is sent to you when you first register), to one of the volunteers behind the finish line, who scans them both to register your time.

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NB: This is an example I found online. I do not run under an Indian pseudonym

Until two weeks ago, it had never dawned on me that a paper barcode would not mix particularly well with rain, but as I prized myself away from the dog bin, and put my hand into my soaking shorts (it was raining heavily, remember, I hadn’t pissed myself), I slowly pulled out clumps of murky pulp, and realised I had been rather foolish.

To make matters worse, I did this in front of one of the volunteers, who looked at me and said “I don’t think I can scan that.”

Gee, ya fucking think?!

Utterly despondent, I squelched over to the Race Director to explain what had happened, and he unhelpfully suggested I should have laminated it. In response, I wanted to explain that I had contemplated doing this when I first registered with Parkrun, but thought it was better to simply print lots of copies, and then replace them when they became worn; naively forgetting – to my embarrassment – that rain would completely destroy them within minutes.

Sadly, in my exhausted state, all I could manage was a pitiful wail, like a wounded animal (I’d intended to at least say ‘I know’, or ‘I will’, but even that proved too articulate for my current oxygen levels). Afterwards, I wished I’d quipped something vitriolic, like ‘go laminate yourself’, but you always think of these things when it’s too late, don’t you?

I did, however, manage to explain – via a mixture of grunts and hand signals – that I had a spare barcode in the car, and would go fetch it. So, having squelched the half-lap back to my car, collected a replacement barcode, and returned to hand it to the Race Director so he could record my time, I finally headed home.

I have never longed for a hot shower so much in my life, and as I stood there, the water slowly reviving me, I couldn’t help but notice that my body was ruined. My legs and feet were dark brown, yet the rest of me was ghostly white. It was like I was a character from that board game, Misfits, and had been created my mixing the legs of 1980’s Michael Jackson, with the torso and head of 1990’s Michael Jackson.

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That is, all except for my belly, which was inexplicably red raw. As I stared down, all I could think of was the scene towards the end of E.T., where everyone thinks the little fella has sadly passed away, and then his stomach starts to glow with life.

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And, speaking of little fellas, as I stared at my belly, something infinitely more worrying struck me. Such was the impact of the freezing weather on my body, my penis had gone from an ‘outy’ to an ‘inny’.

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Fear not, ladies, normal service has since very much resumed.

And, with that…..

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It’s Raining Cats and Blogs

Last week, the UK was battered (not my words, the words of the British Broadcasting Corporation) by Storm Doris.

I’ll just let that sentence settle for a minute.

The UK, was battered, by Storm Doris.

This came as a complete surprise to many, since the only malice that Doris had ever displayed up to that point, was when she deliberately sabotaged her arch-rival Edna’s lemon drizzle cake at the Chatsworth Bake Sale in 1993. Well, clearly that little foray into petty vandalism gave Doris a taste for more widespread destruction, because last week she returned to completely fuck the UK for a day or two.

The British Media went into a frenzy. The Telegraph and The Guardian followed the BBC’s lead, by referring to Doris ‘battering the UK’; while the Daily Mirror focused on the ‘Wrath of Doris’. The Sun, in typical classy fashion, opted for a headline beginning ‘Floody Hell…’, but I couldn’t read on, as I got distracted by Tina, 24, from Croydon.

Likewise, The Daily Mail stuck true to form, by blaming the storms on immigrants and gay people, The Daily Express swore blind they could see Princess Diana’s face in some of the clouds (‘wasn’t she just wonderful though?’), and Donald Trump denied the storm had ever happened, claiming the press were making it all up.

Look, I’m not going to launch into a rant about how we panic about the slightest adverse weather conditions here in the UK, as I did that a few weeks ago (https://middlerageddad.com/2017/01/20/the-snowman-and-the-snowblog), and actually, unlike the light sprinkling of snow which brought the UK to a near standstill in January, Doris did in fairness create a fair amount of strong wind – as is common in ladies called Doris.

What I would like to consider, however, is why in the name of all things sacred, we decided to start naming our storms after old people. It’s not like too many comparisons can be drawn:

                              Doris                                                         Doris

The current system was introduced following the St Jude’s Day storm of October 2013, when 17 people were sadly killed across Europe, but it wasn’t until two years later, in November 2015, that we were introduced to the first of the new-name storms here in the UK: ‘Abigail’ (which is, like Doris, another name widely associated with violence and destruction, apparently).

Maybe I’m reading too much into this, but if I had lost my house, or a loved one, in adverse weather conditions, and then some dickhead came up with a system to give storms ever-so-slightly quirky names, I’d be pretty pissed off.

I get the reasoning behind classifying storms, so that there is no confusion within the media, or between meteorologists, but who on earth decided we should give them names like Angus, or Barbara? We might as well name them after Teletubbies (“News just in, and Storm ‘Tinky Winky’ is set to reach parts of the UK by this evening, causing widespread damage and panic. Eh-oh.”)

Just imagine being at the brainstorming meeting where this was all decided:

“Ok guys, thanks for coming. I’ve been giving this some thought, and what about naming the storms after Greek Gods, like Poseidon, Zeus, and Apollo?”

“Or Athena.”

“No, we can’t use Athena. Everyone will just think of that poster from the 1980s, with the hot tennis player scratching her arse.”

“Good point. I guess Hermes is out as well then?”

“Exactly. Imagine naming a storm after a shit delivery company. Hey guys, there’s a big storm coming, but it’ll probably just fuck around with your recycling bin for a bit, ok?”

“Agreed. Let’s put Greek Gods on the back burner for now. What about Roman Emperors? You know, like Caeser, Nero and Augustus?”

“You mean dog food, coffee shop and the fat kid from Charlie and The Chocolate Factory?”

“Ok, I see your point. Plus, if we take out all the strong, commanding Roman Emperor names, all we’re left with is the likes of Julian.”

“There was a Roman Emperor called Julian?”

“Yep. He was the cousin of Constantius II, and ruled for three years, from 360 AD to 363 AD, before being killed in battle.”

“You making this up, Dave?”

“No, I fell asleep in front of the TV the other night, and must have nudged the remote, because when I woke up, the History Channel was on.”

“You really need a girlfriend, mate.”

“Thanks. Ok then, smart arse, if we rule out Greek Gods and Roman Emperors, what else do we have? Stormy McStorm Face?”

“Don’t be so hasty. I quite liked Julian.”

“Julian? But that’s a terrible name for a storm.”

“Exactly. It’s the last thing they’ll expect, and it’ll make the storms sound fun and less scary.”

“Do we not want people to be scared though? I thought we were meant to be warning them about the threat to their homes, their belongings, their very lives?”

“Calm down, Dave, this is the UK we’re talking about. The worst we ever get is a tree falling over, or some local reporter getting soaked on Blackpool Promenade. It’s the weather equivalent of You’ve Been Framed. Besides, I’m in charge, and I say we go with ‘names that no one has used in forty years’. Get the Met Office on the phone.”

And that’s pretty much how it went, I should imagine.

So there we were, last week, as if the UK wasn’t a big enough laughing stock already with the whole Brexit fiasco, announcing to the world that we were in the process of getting blown by Doris (behave).

The worst part is, the rest of the world was just starting to forget about us, and what a colossal mess we have made of our country, because an even bigger idiot was jumping up and down, flailing his arms around, and diverting their attention across the pond.

We could have just kept quiet, and dealt with the storm on our own (after all, it only lasted a day or two), while everyone else across the globe sat down with a large tub of popcorn, to see what President Chuckles would come up with next (“I wanna build a big satellite in space with a laser on it, and I wanna turn Miami into a massive trampoline so we can just bounce across to The Bahamas, and I want a law which makes it acceptable to grope women, and…. oooh, are those sweeties?”). We should have just kept our mouths shut, but we’re British, and we don’t like not being the centre of attention for more than five minutes.

The Americans must bloody love us. Every time the world’s focus is very firmly on them, laughing hysterically at the professional clown they have elected to lead their country, they can always rely on their runt cousin, the one with the funny accent and bad teeth, to deflect some attention away from them.

“I say old chap, look over here! We have a pathetic little storm coming, and we’ve called it Doris. I know, aren’t we just adorable?”

And adorable kind of sums it up, really. Look, I know people have been killed in this latest storm, but when you look at parts of the US, and Canada, where they’re up to their tits in snow for more than a month, it really does make a mockery of what we consider to be bad weather.

Maybe that’s the reason we give our storms such daft names. Proper storms, like the ones in the US and Canada, get powerful, commanding names, like Otis, Zelda, Gert and Greg. We can’t compete with that kind of masculinity, so we give our storms more appropriate labels, by flicking through ‘Baby Names Of The 19th Century’.

Whereas the Americans will come up with the likes of Bret, Dirk and Nate (good, solid names), we’re more likely to opt for namby-pamby names like Boris, Donald and Nigel, to make everyone feel more at ease. Because, at the end of the day, how much damage can honestly be caused by names like Boris, Donald and Nigel?

Oh, wait.

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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.

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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.

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