The cold caller.

Its tea time and I’m busy on my mobile phone trying to fend off a cold caller.

I’m not interested in life cover at the moment,” I say and stir the peas. I readjust the phone and trap it between my shoulder and chin. “Im happy with the one I’ve got…” I say and feel a strong tug on my shirt. It’s my wife. She is mouthing the words ‘Just tell them to fuck off’.

I glance over to my kids who are sat at the dinner table reluctantly waiting for food. I mouth back to my wife ‘I can’t tell them to fuck off. The kids will hear me’.

She mouths back, ‘Tell them to fuck off, or I will do it.’

I start to circle gentle away from my wife who is now upping her game by jabbing me in the kidneys. I can’t seem to get away. It’s like having a bee in your hair, but for some reason I feel that if I stop stirring the peas they will not cook properly. This is a common fear for the untrained cook.

Sorry…” I say, “You want to know who my current policy provider is?” My kidneys receive another jab; my back spasms and I lose a few peas. I start to think that it might be a good idea to increase my life cover.

I move away from the peas to check the fish fingers under the grill. They look like they’ve just tried to reenter the earth’s atmosphere. Unfortunately, my daughter refuses to eat anything scorched. I finger wrestle them out, drop them on a plate and start to pick off the burnt bits. I arch my back to shield the scene from my daughter whilst being jabbed in the kidneys.

Well,” I say, “I appreciate…aaaagggh, it just takes a few seconds to change supplier…aaaaghhh…” I swat wildly away at my wife with my burnt fingers. Suddenly, my wife’s phone bursts into action. She scurries over to get it. This unexpected torture break gives me a golden opportunity to stir the peas.

My wife picks up her phone and confidently flips the cover. “Hello,” She says. “Fuck off,” she says and puts the phone back down.

Who was that?” I ask.

Your mother,” she taunts.

I seriously doubt that was actually my mother on the other end of her phone. For a start, my wife’s never usually on the phone to her for that long. Three words starting with ‘hello’, ending in ‘off’ and sandwiched by ‘fuck’ would be the longest they’ve chatted for six months. But cutting to the chase is something I love about my wife. It’s the reason she doesn’t waste her life being nice to cold callers, the reason she somehow manages to drive the kids to school quicker than me. I think about how much I love my sweary wife as I stir the over-boiled peas. And that’s when I make the decision…

Just hold on,” I say to the caller, “I think we can get this sorted pretty quickly.”

Great,” replies the caller.

In fact, “I say, “I think it will only take three words,” and I pass the phone on to my wife, who corrects me by mouthing, ‘Two words’.

How it works: The teenage boy.

What do they spend their money on?

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All teenage boys become obsessed with buying fireworks and thongs. It’s the ultimate combination of sex and danger. If someone invented an exploding thong, they’d hit the motherload.

I honestly don’t know why pop princesses dance around suggestively licking their fingers and shaking their bums. To get teenage boys hooked, all they need to do is set off a catherine wheel in the lingerie section of Marks and Spencers.

New hobbies.

As they physically grow and become stronger it’s a great opportunity for them to try out new hobbies and pastimes, but they can become quite expensive. My son has just started a new secret hobby that involves him using 5 bog rolls a week.

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Hobby-Jobby

On the upside, my son’s new leisure pursuit has helped me create a supply chain that’s reduced my family’s impact on the environment. I harvest the used toilet roll tubes from son’s bedroom and feed them straight to the guinea pigs, who absolutely love eating them and sometimes… eachother. They don’t tell you that at the pet shop.

Recreating a sonic boom.

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I hear on the news that teenage boys are falling behind in the sciences, but this doesn’t reflect my experiences. My son and his friends regularly try to recreate a sonic boom by slamming my car doors.

It can be quire a shocking experience, especially if you have an elderlery relative in the car or you’re transporting tropical fish. I’ve solved this problem by wrapping my elderly passengers in bubble wrap, and I’ve wound up my tropical fish delivery business which was called, Eels on Wheels.

Expressing themselves through art.

Regular readers of this blog may remember the pleasure & pain chair that my son made in primary school…

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…as you can see it’s normal from the front but all spikey on the back. The chair scares the life out of me and has been banished to the loft where I occasionally hear it rocking. I’ve read many books on the behavioural psychology of children and they all say it’s totally norrmal for children to make scary green furniture.

The books also go onto say that it is just a phase and they should grow out of it when they hit their teens. This was confirmed when my son sent me a picture of his latest art project…

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…and then I noticed that he’d given it a dog’s body…

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Dog’s body eagle is now hanging in the spare room, where I occasionally hear it squawk barking.

Window shopping.

My wife and I once made the school boy error of employing a pretty waitress in our cafe. This attracted teen boys from all over the local region who stood outside my window and stared at her. And they would have had a pretty good glimpse of her too, if all the middle-aged men would have moved out of the way.

The large crowd was becoming a hazard, so I checked with the Board of Health and Safety and they said that the best way to get rid of a group of leering teens was to hit them with a broom. Which I did, and I’ve got to say they were pretty useless at getting out of the way. And with broom attacks being a daily occurance for teens, I really think they should put broom dodging on the syllabus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If I could turn back time…

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I know this is going to be hard, but can you look like you’ve been hypnotised?

Where is it?” shrieks my wife.

My small suitcase?” I ask.

No.”

Your large suitcase?”

No. The other child. Where is it?”

As the children are getting older my wife’s finding it increasingly hard to keep a lid on her emotional coldness, and frequently referrs to them as inanimate objects. A trait I find unnerving because I am surely next.

We have spent the last week in an ancient cottage on a cliff-side in Devon, and now it’s time to leave. I spot my 7-year-old daughter saying a final goodbye to objects in the garden she has bonded with. She approaches a tree, strokes it gently and says, ‘Goodbye tree’ and gives it a reassuring pat. I see this sweet scene as a great opportunity to see how cold my wife has become.

Quick. Look at this. Our daughter is being really cute,” I say and look back to my wife, who is reading the heartfelt comments in the visitors’ book and laughing at them.

You wont believe what this guy’s written,” she says. “Listen to this, ‘Thank you so much for our amazing honeymoon. We loved every second. We’re so lucky to have spent 7 wonderful days here with…Auntie Jan, Uncle Barrie and Jerry’.” Her eyes widen. “Who the hell brings their Auntie Jan and Uncle Barrie on honeymoon with them? And who is this mysterious, Jerry?”

I shrug my shoulders and look over to my daughter who is saying goodbye to the shed. “Goodbye shed,” she says. I glance back to my wife who is flicking wildly through the book to see if Jerry went on honeymoon with anyone else.

My teenage son shuffles into the room. “The internet’s not working,” he huffs, then shuffles into the kitchen and eats my chocolate. I open my wallet and look at a picture of my teenage son when he was 7, and wish I’d had a chance to say goodbye to the boy he once was; just to relive that precious moment, but the teenage years take your child away from you like a thief in the night, and leave you with a chocolate-fuelled wanking machine.

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The pic in my wallet. I’ve edited out the chip van.

My daughter and I are the last to leave. I hear my wife impatiently beeping the horn. Our daughter runs around the cottage to say a final goodbye to all the rooms. I stand alone at the foot of the stairs with my memories, small suitcase and her Dora Explorer rucksack, which is full of stuff from the garden that she couldn’t bear to say goodbye to.

We lock the door one last time together. She hides the key under the mat and we make our way up the crunchy pebble pathway to the car. My wife smiles, sticks her head out of the window and says “Just put that in the boot.”

“The suitcase or the child?” I say.

Village Life. A week in review.

Revenge.

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My cafe’s arch rival has pinched my A-frame blackboard. I have hastily convened a meeting of our village’s version of Cobra to decide what to do. Village Cobra consists of the local chemist, because he is influential and has the ear of prominent law makers in the area, and the Honey Man, because he has access to bees.

The team decided that the best way of moving forward was to recruit the local wayward teen to vandalise my rival’s board by changing, ‘Eat Fresh Here’ to ‘Eat Flesh Here’. Initially, the Chemist was a little reluctant to do this but we promised to keep on the right side of the law by offering Wayward Teen the national living wage.

Sign Wars.

Two prominent business owners have lost their heads in this recent heatwave and gone nuclear by displaying outlandish claims on their signage.

Our local barber kicked it all off with this…

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Which was soon followed by the local high street jewellers…

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Crossed Wires.

A technician came to fix the landline to our cafe. He was an innovate chap and told me how thinking outside the box was enabling him to meet his strict targets.

He said that working in a van all day meant that he had nowhere to pee. The traditional thinking was to go to a shop and ask to use their toilet, which takes up valuable time. To beat this some of his colleagues piss in a bottle in the back of the van. But not him, he does it in a frying pan and then empties down the drain.

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More next week…

Things I hate in my house that I have to look at everyday. Parts 1 & 2.

Part one:

Overstuffed bowl of crap.

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This thing will haunt me till I die and then it will somehow gain the power of walking and visit my tombstone; the bastard. Passers-by will see the bowl and add their own crap to it, until one day it becomes so vast that my mortal remains become part of the bowl of crap itself. It’s the circle of life: birth, death, bowl of crap.

As you can see, the overstuffed bowl of crap is full of all the things you need to keep handy in case of an emergency such as, a red stapler with no staples in it, just in case I want to pretend to staple something. One snap card, that basically sums it all up. A Peppa Pig purse you can’t fit anything in and a plastic tray full of grapes.

The grapes appear from nowhere. They burst onto the scene somewhere between the hours of 4 and 5pm on Wednesdays. I am planning to stake out all entrances next week so that I can spot the leak in my defences and then block up their point of entry. I don’t mind the grapes myself, it’s just the plastic tray. I know that once the grapes have been eaten, the plastic tray will stay in the bowl of crap for a further two weeks before it is jettisoned from the mother ship, at which point all the other bits of crap will hold their traditional farewell party, which involves buying more grapes.

We could all learn about how to deal with immigration from the crap bowl; anything and everything is welcome within its borders. Black or white, stapler or spent battery, all are treated equally. It’s essentially a swinger’s club for bric-a-brac.

The Pleasure & Pain Chair.

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My kid made this thing at primary school and it scares the life out of me, but I am unable to get rid of it because my wife is sentimentally attached to it. If she could find a magnet big enough it would be on the fridge door right now.

It looks like any other craft item from the front, but on the back it is full of spikes; pleasure and pain. Plus, to add to the freakish nature of what is just essentially just some Crunchy Nut boxes painted a luminous green, he made it with a kid at school who I have always been wary of because he is a sloppy eater; give that kid a bowl of spaghetti hoops and you better buy yourself a raincoat.

Using the stairs as shelves.

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If any member of my family is unable to stuff anything more into the overstuffed bowl of crap, they put it on the stairs. They think that the stairs are a never ending parade of shelves, that they can also use to get upstairs.

This is either a symptom of rank laziness on my family’s part, or they are trying to kill me. I once found three bowls of jelly and an empty tray of grapes on there. By found, I mean stood in and then toppled over and crashed to the bottom.

Part Two:

Cups I never use.

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I don’t even know where the Marmite cup came from. It’s a cup nobody uses that features a picture of food nobody eats. It may as well just kick me in the nuts.

Don’t get me started on the fun kid’s egg cup. That thing’s never seen an egg. I’ve more chance of having an orgy on a Monday night than that thing has of being used. On the upside, if I did have an orgy I’d have enough cups to go round, which has always been my major concern about hosting an orgy.

Coats I never use.

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I brush past these every time I go out the back door to hurl Marmite cups at the wall. I have to do a slight body swerve to get round the overstuffed coat rack, a sort of sideways limbo dance. It’s the kind of move you see Flamenco dancers do when they’re letting an imaginary bull whizz past them.

Do they stress-test coat racks? Based on the amount of stuff that’s already crammed on mine, I reckon it could hang a rhino. To be honest, if you hung a rhino from my rack and then stuck a bubble coat over it I’d never notice.

If you look closely at the pic, you’ll see that the salmon-coloured summer jacket has done the decent thing and committed coat suicide. Either that or it’s decided to spearhead it’s own search party to try and find my gloves. Good luck with that.

Comedy toilet ornament.

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How incapacitated would I have to be to ring a bell for more bog roll? I know for certain that if I screamed, “Help! Fire!” it wouldn’t be enough to stop my kids watching Scooby Doo. Hearing the dainty tinkle of a bell would only make them think that I’ve started taking a playful budgie into the toilet with me.

And anyway, it would take away a golden opportunity to scare the neighbours by shuffling past the kitchen window with my trousers round my ankles. Throw in a jaunty limbo move round the overstuffed coat rack and it would look like I was throwing a bag of cocks out the door.

The phantom sleepwalker strikes again.

“Shush. What’s that noise?” whispers my wife in the darkness.

How can I shush and tell you what it is?” I reply.

It’s coming from the cupboard on the landing. It might be…don’t laugh, but it might be a spirit. Do you think it could be my grandmother checking up on me?”

No,” I reply.

How can you be so sure that it’s not her?”

“I can’t smell gin.”

To be honest, a tiny part of me hoped it was her because I quite fancied a mini Mars bar. But common sense tells me that the noise in the cupboard is not her dead grandmother visiting us from the fourth dimension. It’s probably our son who has recently started sleepwalking. It’s disturbing seeing him sleepwalking, mainly because he wears boxer shorts and he’s all balls-out. It’s like being stalked by an angry turkey.

“You’re the man. Go and check,” whispers my wife, and gives me a little shove.

“I can’t,” I say.

Why?” she asks.

“Because I didn’t like visiting your granny when she was alive, and I was hoping that after she died, we’d see a little less of eachother.” I receive a further – more motivational – shove and I let the momentum propel me out of bed. I think the next time they’re struggling to get the space shuttle off the launch pad, they should get my wife to give it a little slap.

I put my slippers on and reach under the bed to activate my new home security system, a baseball bat I’ve nicknamed, Stick Astley.

Mr Astley and I make our move.

Stop,” whispers my wife rather alarmingly. 

What’s wrong?” I whisper back.

You’re naked,” she replies.

So?”

I don’t want my grandmother seeing you like that,” she says, and chuckles to herself. This goes on for a while.

With great caution, I edge out on to the dark landing, expecting to see a pair of bollocks in a trance searching for a Superdry store, but it’s deserted. I hear a scrabbling noise coming from the landing cupboard.

I open the door…

Suddenly, something moves inside. It’s the unmistakeable scurrying of a guinea pig. If they’d have told me at the pet shop that guinea pigs like to take a UK short break every night to visit their holiday home in the cupboard, I’d have bought them a mini van so they could do it in style. But they didn’t, so potential guinea pig buyers – beware.

I close the door and tiptoe back into the bedroom.

My cautious entry startles my wife. “Don’t get me!” she screams.

It’s me. It’s me,” I say in a soothing voice.

What was it?” she asks.

To be honest, I can’t be positive. You know I don’t believe in these things, but it could have been your grandmother.”

Really?”

Sure, and you know what else?”

What?”

“If it was her, I don’t think it was the first time she’s seen a scared, naked man with a baseball bat.”

The day I’m dreading has finally arrived…

It’s Friday evening and my wife is relaxing on the couch… in my favourite spot.  I am concerned that this may be the start of a hostile takeover. I am forced to sit on the crap side of the sofa – her side. But I have a plan…

A phone pings. 

Is that you pinging?” she asks. “Who is it?”

I glance at the screen. “I’m surprised it got through,” I say. “The internet’s really patchy over here.”

Tell me about it,” she replies. Her phone pings. She looks at the screen and laughs.

I miss the good life. I want to ping and laugh again, so I try to sit next to her. She doesn’t move her legs – so I sit on them. “Legs! Legs!” she cries. My phone pings again.

“Two pings in two minutes. Are you having an affair?” she asks.

“Afraid not. Women don’t want a guy with this many wifi blackspots. It’s a party invite.” 

From who?” she asks impatiently. I mention the name of a couple who are daft enough to still send us party invites. “Ok, who else is going?” she asks. I reel off a list of names. My wife stops me when I mention a couple we have known for a long time, and says, “If they’re going – I’m not going.”

Why?” I ask.

“I don’t like them,” she reveals.

Really? Why?”

To be honest…I can’t remember.”

This is odd, my wife usually remembers the cause of all her vendettas. Her last one started in our cafe when a customer came in and made some pretty unreasonable demands…

You know what he did?” she boomed down the phone to me.

“What?” I said.

“He asked for jacket potato and beans. The bastard.”

“Isn’t that your…Dish of the Day?” I reply.

“Shut up. So I give him it and he says: ‘That looks hot. I don’t like hot food,’ and walks out. Who thinks jacket potato and beans is served cold? He’s dead to me.”

It’s during these dark times that I have to remind her about all the good times.Come on, think about the positives,” I said. “The vicar comes in every day, and when he runs out of tea you get to say that joke to him.”

Yes, I suppose.”

And does he like it when you ask him?”

No,” she replied and a little warmth returned to her voice.

Talking down angry chefs is something I’ve become really good at. I should open up an angry chef hotline, or a coldline depending on whether you think it should be hot or not.

I am still musing about this and all the unsung support I provide to my wife as she kicks me off the couch. I scurry back to the third world: the signal-free area of the couch.

The door opens slowly and our 13-year-old son skulks in. He is now large enough to wear my clothes, so he does. He sits next to his mum, in my favourite spot, in my favourite top. I hear two pings. Not one of them is me. They both get out their phones, swipe screens and start typing. I check myself just to see if I’m dead or worse…a customer in my cafe.

The great untold joke…

I‘m desperate to tell my wife one of my amusing observations but I haven’t been able to catch her in a good mood…until now.

Hi darling,” I say.

“Go away!” she replies and continues to unload the dishwasher. Ok, so I didn’t find the right time, but it’s hard to keep the lid on a whimsical observation.

I nervously shuffle towards her. “You know,” I say and move further into her personal space – hindering her ability to put the dishes away, “how I’ve had this really weird run of good luck for the past seven days?”

Get out of my face! Get out my face!” she shrieks.

The preamble to my amusing observation has made her so mad that she just throws the cutlery into the drawer without separating them into their correct compartments. I feel it necessary to point this out.

Darling,” I say, “when I put the cutlery away, I always separate them.”

My wife is on her knees attempting to grab a rogue spoon – desperate to escape its fate of being hurled through the air – by lying lifeless at the bottom of the washer. With rosy cheeks and hair askew she looks up at me and says, “When you ‘put away’, you don’t have Jimmy fucking Cranky up your arse trying to tell you a joke.” Then I hear the familiar ‘shunk’ noise of more cutlery being launched into the drawer. I see the spoon looking distraught in the fork compartment. At this point I am tempted to abort, but I don’t.

“Well,” I say but I’m interrupted by my son who gets up from the dinner table and scrapes his food into the bin. It misses and the chilli trickles down the sides – splattering on the floor. He throws the plate down on the counter top, looks down at his mother and says, “The chilli wasn’t very nice,” then shuffles away. 

My wife moves onto the cereal bowls, so I block her way to the cupboard. “Well,” I continue, “my good luck all started last Sunday…” I trail off as I notice that one of the bowls still has a bit of dried-up porridge on it. I feel it necessary to point this out.

Later that night we make our way to bed. We lay next to each other in silence. The tension between us is amplified by the darkness. The bed, a place that usually feels like home, feels alien. I’m a spoon in a fork drawer. I can’t bear the tension any further. I turn to my wife and say, “Well, my good luck all started last Sunday when…” 

Eurgh – other people’s kids.

It’s Thursday evening and I am watching on in horror as my son’s messy friend is drinking out of my favourite cup. This cup is now dead to me. My wife appears behind him, smirking. I usher her out of the room.

Did you deliberately give him my favourite cup?” I ask.

Ha. I’ll get you another. It’s no big deal.”

He eats spaghetti hoops with his hands,” I say.

Haha. I know. The other mothers and I call him, Edward Spaghettihands.” She laughs at her own joke and then flounces off to watch Pointless.

This may seem trivial but the cup is a cherished souvenir from our trip to The Kennedy Space Centre at Cape Canaveral. It commemorates the last shuttle launch, and features a picture of the shuttle, underscored by the cheesy, gung-ho mission statement: ‘Failure is not an option’. It’s the kind of thing bolshy idiots say just before they fall flat on their face, but I love it because it reminds of a great family day out. Now, it’s ruined; covered in a pre-teen’s spaghetti dribble.

Make no mistake, I will seek revenge. I just need to wait for another weird kid to visit so I can get them to ruin something she covets. I didn’t have to wait too long…

Two days later, my daughter invites her friend round for a sleepover. My wife is dealing with the parent handover. This is when we are given the precise bedtime routine we must follow to prevent hysterics or administer medicine. Usually I don’t eavesdrop on these chats – usually I pretend to be busy – but today was different. The parent was complaining about something that happened at our school.

The cheek of the man. Do you know what he said to me?” booms the parent.

No. Go on, what did he say?” asks my wife. I can almost hear her drooling.

He said my daughter is obese.” Then I hear shuffling. My wife obviously ranks this gossip as top drawer material because she is ushering the woman out of the cold, dark corridor into a warm, lit room.

Who did?” asks my wife.

Her teacher. Obese! How can a 7-year-old child be obese?

That’s shocking,” exclaims my wife. This is followed by lots of tutting and reciprocal arm folding.

The rant continues. “How can a teacher, someone who is ten years younger than me – and has NO children of his own – tell me what to do?” My wife makes the appropriate sympathetic noises and then the woman’s phone pings. Look, I’ve got to go,” she says. “Thanks for having her.”

Is all her stuff in the bag?” asks my wife and points to a bag on the floor which has a massive teddy bear poking out of it.

Yes. It’s all there. Toothbrush. Pyjamas. Massive teddy bear and 6 Barbie dolls. You know, the essentials,” they both laugh. As the parent reaches the door, she turns and says, “Oh, I forgot, can you give her a couple of these with a glass of water just before she goes to bed, and two more in the morning. And – God forbid – if she wakes up in the middle of the night, just give her another one and she should go off.” She passes my wife a box in a plastic bag.

What are they?” she asks.

“Sausage rolls.”

The trap is set. Failure is not an option.

To be continued…

Enter, stage left, my new alter ego.

Note. For privacy reasons, I now refer to my two kids as, Hall & Oates. Daryl Hall is a 12-year-old boy and John Oates is a 7-year-old girl.

My 7-year-old daughter, John Oates, is starring in a play at primary school in 30 minutes and I’m stuck in traffic on the other side of town.

My phone rings.

I want you inside me now,” whispers a voice through the speaker.

“Who is this?” I reply.

I’ll give you a clue. I’m not a blood relative.”

Are step-cousins blood relatives? I can never remember.”

Stop ruining this. I’m trying to do sex talk.”

Where are you?”

I’m in the school playground.”

Sacrilege! You can’t talk dirty on school property. They mentioned it at the PTA meeting.”

I want to tickle your balls.”

Aaaaagh! Stop it!”

And you know what else? I’m stood with other parents. If I say, ‘I want to tickle your balls’ again, they might be able to hear me.” She sings the last two words.

My wife is tapping into my irrational fear of being ridiculed by other parents. It’s a particularly useless phobia because I’ve only been publicly mocked once in the last five years, and that was by 6 teenage girls on roller skates. They called me a ‘fat, bald bastard’, and then fled, but it was their first time on roller skates, so they escaped really, really slowly. It was the UK’s slowest roll-by attack.

Are you going to make it?” she asks.

Looks doubtful.”

That’s a real shame. These moments don’t come back. It’s her first speaking part.”

But she’s playing a donkey.”

The drama teacher’s from Spain. What can I say.”

I’m sat waiting patiently in heavy traffic caused by road works. The car behind me isn’t. I look in my rear view mirror and I can see the car is full of teenagers; heads bobbing around all over the place. Suddenly, the car drives around me and along the cordoned-off lane. If they can break the rules just because they want visit KFC or pick up some drugs, then I can do it to see a talking donkey.

I activate my hazard lights and follow the chicken-loving druggies. The rush is amazing. “I’m coming little donkey!” I shout. 

The passengers in the stationary cars look at me in shock but I don’t care anymore; I’m a risk taker now. I even turn off Radio 2 and put on a commercial station. It’s playing the same song over and over again, interrupted by adverts for Autoglass, but that doesn’t bother my new, more confident alter ego, who I have named, Sir Charles Baskham. Royal dandy by night – disregarder of traditional road etiquette by day.

I have ten minutes to complete a fifteen minute journey, but I have faith in Sir Charles’ intimate knowledge of the short cuts around Lower Wortley.

Sir Charles jinks through the rabbit warren of terraced houses and onto the home straight. He reaches the school and screeches to a halt. By screeching to a halt, I mean parking safely, well away from the school no parking zone.

I get out, rush to the gates and press the buzzer. It doesn’t seem to be working so I press it multiple times.

Can you stop pressing the buzzer?” asks the voice inside the speaker.

Hi, can you let me in?” I ask.

Who is this?”

I’m the father of John Oates. She’s in year two.” The speaker falls silent. I press the buzzer again.

Can you stop pressing the buzzer?”

It wasn’t me. It was Sir Charles Baskham.”

I hear the lock click open and the gate swings wide. I run to the entrance. The head master is stood at the inner door, waiting for stragglers.

Ticket please,” he asks. I empty my pockets. No ticket.

Oh no,” I say. “I don’t have it.” He smiles and let’s me in. Which I think is good, but also a drop in standards.

I shuffle along the back in the dark. My wife is sat on the front row. She hears me ripping apart the Velcro on my big bubble coat, as do all the other parents. They all turn around, my wife raises her hand and mimes tickling my balls. Then my daughter trots on to the stage to a fanfare of maraccas.

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Congratulations to my beautiful daughter. The best talking Spanish donkey I have ever seen. For privacy reasons, please forget that you have seen this picture.

The kids are getting older. Things are changing…

It’s a shade before 7am and I’m still in bed. The phone bursts into life.

Hi,” it says.

Hello,” I reply.

Just to let you know. I’m running a bit late. I’ll be round in ten minutes.”

OK. Bye,” I say.

Who was that?” asks my wife.

Your guest is running ten minutes late.”

I don’t have a guest coming round.”

“Well, who was it then?” I ask.

“I don’t know. Why didn’t you ask who it was?”

I just thought…”

You really are…”

What? I really am what?”

You really are rubbish at taking messages while you’re having sex.”

“Can you do any better?” I ask.

“I’m doing it right now,” she laughs and I hear the familiar whoosh sound of a text being dispatched.

I can tell by the look of sheer concentration on my wife’s face, that she is now seeing this as a project. Dual satisfaction within ten minutes, then get dressed and answer the door. I, on the other hand, am more of an educator. I’m viewing this an opportunity to let my oldest child take on door-opening responsibilities.

Our oldest is nearly thirteen. Lately, I have been introducing him to important life skills. Little steps, building up to the big day where he gets to slice cheese using the big knife.

Stop rushing,” I say.

“Normally, I like the fact that you take ages,” she replies. “But can you speed things up a bit?”

Just relax. Why don’t we let the boy answer the door?”

Shut up. Does anything happen if I do…this?” The bed covers flutter dramatically. I don’t exactly know what she did but it allowed me to keep to her schedule.

The doorbell chimes. I can hear my son’s bedroom door open, followed by heavy footsteps thundering down the stairs. My wife gets up and slides her feet into slippers.

Stop,” I say. “Let him do it.”

But…he’ll never reach the top bolt on the door.”

At least let him try.”

My wife and I lay on the bed and try to decode the muffled sounds coming from below. I am going through the door opening routine in my head: keys, bottom bolt, top bolt – chain. I look at my wife, who also seems to be mentally running through a routine. If it’s based on the last ten minutes, it would be: grab, throttle, yank – repeat.

I hear a bolt slide open. Keys jangle and then, finally, another bolt slides open. The door creaks. We hear muffled voices. It sounds like they know each other.

Who do you think it is?” asks my wife.

I don’t know,” I reply. “But does anything happen if I do…this?” The bed covers flutter dramatically. My wife giggles.

Dad!” yells a concerned voice from downstairs.

What?”

We can hear what you two are doing from down here.”

My wife looks at me in shock and whispers, “Who can hear us? Who?”

The answer is: yes. The last line of this post does work on two levels, but I only benefit from one.

It’s Saturday night and my wife and I are watching a romantic film, featuring a couple who are freakishly similar to us when we first started dating. Through a peculiar mishap they become separated and go through many trials and tribulations to be together again. Just as the film reaches the tear-jerking pivotal scene, where they eventually find one another, my wife looks over to me and says with some emotion, “You twat. You left the iron on again this morning.”

“Are you sure?” I say. “That doesn’t sound like the kind of thing I would do.”

“Do it again – I kill you.”

I look back at the screen. The couple embrace as the camera pans around the bombed-out remains of a war-torn city. I think the bleak landscape is used to reinforce the message that love can blossom anywhere, even in the most hostile environment. I look over to my wife who is eating crackers without a plate.

“Plate!” I shout. “Get a plate. Plate!” She gives me the finger and takes an exaggerated bite out of the cracker. Crumbs explode all over her dressing gown. A gorgeous white, fluffy spa robe that has ‘Do not remove! Property of Marriot Hotels’ stitched across the breast.

I try to get back to the film but my eyes keep flashing over to her every time I hear the crunch of a cracker. The crunch is followed by an energetic brushing of the crumbs on to the carpet. It’s like watching an electric planer spitting out wood chips.

The frustrated lovers decide to take shelter. They find an abandoned hotel. He takes her by the hand and leads her into the bedroom; she looks coy but willing. My wife has gone quiet. I glance over and catch her trying to secretly smuggle the lion’s share of a chocolate orange out of her pocket.

The couple start to make love – loudly; forcing my wife and I to flip open our ipads. We both begin to scroll and occasionally look up to the big screen, hoping for the sex to end. It doesn’t. He’s got the staying power of a thoroughbred horse. And she is louder than a foghorn. Pump – honk! Pump – honk! It goes on and on. So long in fact that I manage to razz round all my social media sites.

I flip the ipad shut. They are still having sex. My wife is still scrolling, making me paranoid that she has found something interesting on the Internet that I have missed. What on earth could she be looking at for this long, I wonder. Then she starts typing. Classic signs of someone having an affair.

“What you typing?” I ask.

“Just Googling.”

“Googling what?”

“Who holds the world record for leaving an iron on for the longest time.”

Eventually, the sex ends.

My wife has accidentally hacked into my son’s Instagram account.

For the record, I don’t exactly know how this happened, but my wife has accidentally hacked my son’s Instagram account. My best guess is that she fell over his discarded shoes, and one of her flailing arms punched in his 9 digit password.

Scrolling through his private messages it soon dawns on me that my son is confused by Instagram. He thinks you have to take a picture every time you want to make a comment. So he has been snapping shots of anything near him just to keep chatting. His timeline is peppered with shots of: vases, abstract views of the couch, brass ornaments and the bowl of crap on the sideboard. This was all followed up by an angelic shot of my son perched precariously on a roof.

Whose roof is that?” shrieked my wife, looking at me for answers. I am struggling to recall the conversation I had with her when I revealed my superior knowledge of all the roofs in the local area.

I scrunched my forehead and took a more detailed look at him on the roof and said in astonishment, “Is he…is he wearing my slippers?

Eventually we worked out who owned the roof and decided not to get in touch with them, as the stunt may have been our son’s idea. And anyway, for all we know, these parents may have accidentally hacked their son’s ipod, and could be stomping their way round to us, saving us a stomp round to theirs.

When I was a child in the 70s, I spent most of my time making dens in the local woods with my mates. Back then we made do with the basics, in fact we only wished for two things: one was a big spade so that we could dig a trap to snare intruders, and the other was a magic peephole into girls’ bedrooms.

Through the miracle of modern technology, Instagram has given my son a digital peephole into girls’ bedrooms, which he and his mates use to send pictures of vases to each other. Just in case you were wondering, he also has access to a spade. My son wants for nothing.

My wife and I are sat in the kitchen waiting for my son to return from school. We are faced with a conundrum: we dearly want to chastise him, but if we do, he will know that we’ve hacked his private account.

I look over to my wife, who is hunched over the ipod, her face etched with a mixture of smugness and guilt. It’s an expression that greeted me frequently during the start of our relationship, but no so much anymore; I only ever see it now after she’s eaten fish and chips.

I can’t look at this anymore,” admits my wife, as she continues to scroll down the images. “We shouldn’t be prying into his private life,” scroll, scroll. “I feel terrible,” scroll, scroll. “Put the kettle on,” scroll, scroll…

 

Can you really learn anything from parents’ evening?

It’s Wednesday teatime and I am feeling a bit glum. My dark mood is exacerbated by the fact that I’m trying to remove a stubborn pan stain with a worn-out scouring pad. My wife barrels into the kitchen – full of bloody energy.

Hi, what’s up with you?” she asks and enthusiastically rips open the mail.

Why can’t something exciting ever happen? Where’s the drama?”

Have you been watching Hollyoaks again?”

“I just need something to get the juices flowing,” I say.

“You’re in luck. It‘s parents’ evening tonight.”

How is that exciting?”

It’s not, but why don’t we make it exciting. Most of the teachers are new – they don’t know us. Let’s pretend to be more interesting than we actually are. Have a think. What could you do to be more dynamic?”

I could wear that tight T-shirt I bought with all the zips on it.”

“Excellent. It takes balls to wear something like that in a room full of middle-class parents. To be honest, it would take balls to wear that top at a gay Mardi Gras.”

“True. What about you?” I ask.

When I said ‘we’ – I really meant ‘you’.

The wager was set. To win, we had to convince a primary school teacher that we were more zesty than normal. The loser was the one who came across as nature intended. A dirty pan and a frazzled scouring pad awaited the runner-up.

Table one. English teacher.

Hello. I am Mr Mitchell and I’d just like to…”

Do you like my top?” I ask, peeling off my coat. My wife glares at me, as do a few other parents.

“That’s…erm,” he stammers, “that’s a lot of zips.”

“Yes, yes it is. Too many, if I’m being honest. They really irritate me when I’m trying to write my award-winning blog.”

“Oh, really,” he says. “What sort of blog is it?”

“I’m a Dad Blogger.”

“What’s that?” he asks.

“Ha. Exactly!” shrieks my wife, smugly.

Table two. Maths.

Hi. I’m Mr Fletcher. But please call me…he stops mid-sentence because he can hear many things being unzipped.

After losing the first two rounds, my wife is grumpy. We are sitting in the queue for our next appointment in an angry silence, much like the other parents.

I find my daughter’s school draw and leaf through her work. My daughter is 6 years old, and so far her school years have been something of a challenge. Our son, who is 12, is more academic. Our daughter, well…she’s more of a free spirit.

The first few years of her knuckling down to work were tough. We own a cafe next to the primary school and when the kitchen window was open you could hear her in the playground crying for her mummy. Sometimes it would last all day; it was heartbreaking. Occasionally, we would crack under the pressure and rush to the railings to calm her down through the bars.

The more work I look through, the more emotional I become. The teacher’s comments were getting better. More red ticks. More ‘Good work Gracie’ comments. I pull out one of her drawings. It’s a bright picture of a sunflower with a warm, smiley face. Tears begin to well up. It’s our daughter who is being more dynamic – not us.

So, I think you can learn something at parents’ evening. Wearing the tight European-raver top has shown me what it’s like to try and stand out from the crowd, but my daughter has shown me how much courage it takes to just try and fit in.

Choosing a pet for your child. This month: Gerbils – sorry I mean the other ones, Guinea Pigs.

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After the horror of seeing both my daughter’s rabbits being eaten by the local village fox (and no, I’m not talking about the brunette who works in the post office -Hi Darryl!) we’ve gone for guinea pigs.

They’re the reliable rabbit understudies, waiting in the wings to jump into your child’s affections. That is, of course, after you’ve trotted out the usual adult pet-death lie (does anyone still think kids believe this?) of telling them that you can’t go to the ‘farm’ to visit their old (dead) rabbits, because it’s very far away.

But what are they really like? Firstly, don’t be disappointed. I know it’s a comedown from the glory days of having a rabbit, but guineas are full of benefits. So prepare to flick the cute dial to: Mick Hucknall. Here’s what you get for splashing out £35 on a pair.

They come with a long list of Gremlin-type maintenance instructions.

You have to buy them in pairs, or they get lonely…and die.

Sadly, this is true, but because they spend all day together they end up having a tumultuous Dirty Den and Angie Watts-type relationship; with a major ratings-winning bust-up around Christmas time. At some point, two bald gerbil brothers in leather jackets turn up demanding all sorts of things, but I’ll say no more, I don’t want to give the plot away

Can you call them gerbils when you can’t be arsed to say guinea pigs?

Yes, but this is only advisable to do in the company of adults. Kids like the full name or a cute contraction such as, The Guineas. Double act names are also good. Ours are called: Hall & Oates, or you can get a bit more creative. There’s a girl in my daughter’s class who has two, and they’re called, Fred & Rose. We haven’t invited her round for tea.

Are they obsessed with bog roll tubes?

Again, sad but true. They could eat bog roll tubes all day. Funding for bog roll rehab is way off, so do what you can to keep them down to five a day.

Power display.

Guinea pig experts have termed this as,Strutting’. It’s a power dance that one does in front of the other to show dominance. It’s very camp. Imagine a furry Mick Jagger prancing around in a cage and you’ll get the picture. But that’s not all, the other one doesn’t just sit there and take it, he replies with his own little Rod Stewart power dance. The winner gets the bog roll all to themselves. Throw in a carrot and they do it all again.

Top tip: If they don’t want to eat the carrot, just tell them it’s an orange bog roll.

They make noises without moving their mouths.

Say what? Yes they do. Just imagine cuddling your favourite ventriloquist. Guinea pigs: where your dreams of cuddling a children’s entertainer become a reality. The guinea pig marketing board are missing a trick here.

They do a host of noises and then just look at you as though its not them. Purring, whooping, gottle of geer – they do all the standards. I had to Google the noises to find out what they mean, which allowed me to have this conversation with my wife.

Can you turn the TV down?” I asked.

As my husband, you’re on limited time,” she replied. “You only have three more occasions when you can ask me to turn down Hart to Hart before I divorce you. Why do you need it turning down? This better be important.”

So I can listen to some guinea pig noises on YouTube.”

I’ve never fancied you more than I do now.”

I decided to undercut her sarcasm by calling her bluff. “OK. Let’s have sex now.”

We can’t, because the person you want to have sex with is very far away.

Next Month: Guinea Pigs – sorry I mean Gerbils.

How it works: The Hipster cafe.

In-depth customer footfall analysis.

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I’ve never owned a cafe before, so the ebb and flow of customers is all new to me, but slowly, an in-depth pattern of customer footfall is steadily emerging.

Mondays are quiet. In fact, on Mondays I could easily dance around the cafe naked to Nutbush City Limits and nobody would notice.

Wednesdays are also quiet. I could stand in the window and wank off to God Save the Queen, without being spotted standing in a window wanking off to God save the Queen.

Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday are packed. We get people waiting around the block; just like when Star Wars first came out.

So if I had to do a powerpoint presentation to prospective cafe owners about the experiences I’ve gathered so far, I would break it down like so: If you want to wank off in the window to the national anthem or Nutbush City Limits, I would do that on Mondays and Wednesdays –  but don’t do it on the other days. I would highlight this bit as important.

Advertising – Get creative.

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As we all know, it’s standard social practice that if you went to university 20 years ago with someone who becomes famous – in my case, Dermot O’Leary – and then you open up a tea shop in Leeds, the celebrity has to drop everything and open it; that’s just how it is – I don’t make the rules.

I tried to cash my cheque by ringing up his agent, who passed me onto his assistant, who passed me onto the assistant to the agent’s assistant. I’m not daft, I appreciate he is a busy man and it would be challenging to get to Leeds at short notice, so I asked if Dermot could mention the opening of the cafe while he was presenting the X Factor.

I was thinking something like: DERM: “Next onto the X Factor stage is Wagner…and don’t forget, Boff’s Baps is open for: hot drinks, sandwiches, panninis and afternoon teas. Now here’s Wagner with, Everybody Walk The Dinosaur.” Fireworks – applause. It didn’t happen, but on the upside, Dermot doesn’t view me as just some guy he went to Uni with, he now views me with a great deal of suspicion.

Window display wars.

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The window displays at Harrods are always spectacular, but are mere rags and baubles compared to what the chemist, my neighbour in our little muse of shops, can come up with.

This year he has gone for the classic, shiny pink paper and santa rabbits surrounded by cotton wool balls, with a Gillette shaving pack as the centre piece.

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I am new to all this shop game but I always thought that a chemist didn’t get much passing trade. It’s a specific shop for a specific need, mainly athlete’s foot powder and cream for your itchy cock or fanny.

In fact, I think all chemists should be renamed: The Foot, Cock and Fanny shop. I assume, from the products he’s selling, his prime customer is an hermaphrodite with trench foot, and I doubt an hermaphrodite with trench foot is going to be lured in by a Gillette bumper pack.

My missus has just pointed out that the chemist sells a wider range of products than I have suggested, and that people also visit the chemist if they have a cold or an itchy arse – fair point.

How to spy on your staff.

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Sir John Harvey Jones, MBE, was one of Britain’s greatest industrialists. He is mostly remembered for his TV show ‘Troubleshooter’ where he tried to breathe new life into ailing businesses.

In order to get some ideas for my own cafe I bought his book, ‘Managing to Survive’, but I was disappointed to find that nowhere in the entire book did he advise that you could increase profitability by spying on your staff from a bush over the road – which is what I did yesterday.

The business leader also didn’t advise taking pictures of them from a stranger’s bedroom – which I also did yesterday.

I ended up in the bush and the bedroom because I managed to get a job fitting shelves at a house directly opposite the cafe. And I think anybody in my position would have done the same.

The internationally renowned business guru also forgot to recommend ringing up your head waitress – in my case Vinegar Tits (she’s a bit bossy) – and revealing that you know what she is wearing and where she is standing; just to see if she can still serve hot panninis (only £4.99!) whilst in fear of being shot through the window by a crazed gunman.

I am glad to report that Vinegar Tits passed this standard business test with flying colours.

Eat my biscuits! Eat my biscuits!

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Owning a cafe means that sometimes you come into contact with strange characters; characters that have slipped through the net and inhabit the darker corners of society.

Every Wednesday morning a man stands in the doorway and shouts: “Dalek don’t work! Dalek don’t work!”

It’s not clear if it is a broken toy Dalek that he’s referring to, or he’s infuriated by the lack of job opportunities for Daleks. Nobody has the balls to ask him.

Now, we’ve attracted another random shouter. By the end of the year we’ll have gathered enough to form a very angry choir. This new guy looks like Oddbod from Carry on Screaming and shouts: “Eat my biscuits! Eat my biscuits!” He then ambles to the counter, pulls some biscuits out of his pocket and we have to eat them.

I would like to take this opportunity to tell the heavenly spirit or body that designates cafes for people to shout at, that we are running at full capacity, but my rival down the road, Big Keith’s Butty shop, is taking on new shouters. Thanks very much.

How to make you kids a pair of boots for the price of a loaf of bread.

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When you first start out in the cafe business, you end up with a lot of stock left over because you are not attuned to your customer’s demands. It’s gut-wrenching to see your profits go straight into the bin, so to combat this, I would eat whatever was left over. In our first week of trading, I think I ate 15 quiches and drank 24 cans of Lilt.

Then, obviously, I wised-up and started using the excess food to make clothes for my kids.

My most popular creation was this pair of boots I made for my son, which are finely crafted from two loaves of Warburton’s Toasty bread.

After road testing them for a few days, he concluded that they weren’t very good in wet conditions, or dry for that matter. Plus, going outside in them increased his chances of being attacked by pigeons.

I even got a commission to make a pair of bespoke bread boots from my good friends Paul and Nina Gillette. By commission, I mean they didn’t ask me to do it. I just made them and left them on their doorstep, but I hear they brought joy to their kids for up to 2 minutes before they fell to bits.

Turns out I’m neither Batman or Robin in my relationship; I’m the Joker. Or am I?

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“Holy Google Image search Batman. Does this mean you couldn’t find a decent picture of the Joker for this post?” “Yes, yes it does Robin.”

Its all your fault,” announces my wife and then gives me the stink eye.

This is not how I wanted to start New Year’s Eve. Plus, when I’m getting a rollicking, I like a bit of foreplay first. On the upside, if she’s microwaved the build-up to the verbal roasting, then hopefully she’s microwaved the rest, so I could be in and out in two minutes.

What have I done?” I ask.

We’ve only had two visitors over the Christmas holidays. Two! You scare people away with your…humour.” Suddenly, my speed bollocking is interrupted by the doorbell. “Quick! The doorbell. Its go-time,” she says.

“Before I get the door, can we both agree that this is the last time you say, ‘It’s go-time’? I don’t want to be married to an American wrestling coach.”

“You might prefer being married to a man. It’s the only way you’ll be getting any anal sex.”

“Or a decent frittata.”

“You see. This is why nobody comes round. Who makes jokes about frittatas? Can you just answer the door? No, hang on. It might be someone I don’t want to see. Just look out of the window and check who it is.

I scurry into the front room, peek round the curtain and get a good view of our guest. I scurry back.

Good news,” I announce. “It’s one of your friends.”

Oh no. That’s bad news,” she says. “I don’t want it to be someone I like.”

Why?

Because I’ll have to put my teeth in.”

To be honest, when I skipped down the church aisle, I didn’t think I’d be having this conversation three years later. I was hoping to reach a ripe old age before I saw my wife rooting through the fruit bowl for her teeth.

Hang on,” I say.

What?” she replies impatiently.

Are you saying my friends aren’t good enough for you to bother putting your teeth in? They’re not…teeth-worthy.”

“Definitely not. I wouldn’t hold a fart in for some of your friends.”

“Who else is on the no-teeth list? My mother?”

“Your mother? No way. I owe her a lot. I mean, where do you think I got my farting policy from?”

The doorbell chimes again.

Quick,” she says. “See if my teeth are in the bowl of crap on the sideboard.” 

“Why would your teeth be in the bowl of crap?” I ask.

“The same reason why there’s a stapler, a bouncy ball and a map of France in there. Everything gets sucked into the bowl of crap. Just check it.”

“Oh, wait. Here they are,” I say.

“Oh good. Where were they?”

“Just on the shelf, next to your glass eye and your wooden pirate leg,” I say and laugh out loud, to drown out the deafening silence coming from my wife.

“That’s a joke, isn’t it? You haven’t found them. This joke makes your frittata material look inspired.”

“Hold on,” I say, “what’s that smell? Have you just farted?”

“Yep, I’m not holding them in for you any more either.”

I decide to look for her teeth in a less hostile environment. “I’m going to check the bathroom,” I say, “and I’ll get one of the kids to answer the door. Where are the kids?”

The oldest is at his friend’s house.”

“What about, Michael Jackson?”

“Yes, Michael’s in.”

Michael Jackson is our new (and temporary – may I add) nickname for our daughter. She’s six years old, and got two new guinea pigs (Hall & Oates) for Christmas. Like all kids her age she is struggling to come to terms with the fact that guinea pigs are living things and not toys, and as such, she holds them in the same awkward way that Michael Jackson dangled his kid over that balcony.

As it turns out, getting my daughter, Michael to answer the door was a good call, because our guests horror at seeing Michael Jackson opening the door whilst holding Hall & Oates upside down by their legs, gave us enough wriggle room to find my wife’s teeth.

On reflection, a fab evening was had by all. So good in fact that my wife and I took the good mood up to the bedroom. And did she put her teeth in? Yes, yes she did. And did I microwave the build-up? Yes, yes I did.

I’ve unwittingly strayed into my marriage’s Danger Zone.

It’s Saturday night and I’m splayed on the couch. There’s nothing on TV so I start daydreaming about being a secret millionaire and surprising my wife with a cheque for a million pounds. 

Relaxing in the warm, cosy glow of my own pretend generosity, I glance over to my wife who also looks lost in thought. “What you doing?” I ask.

Just thinking,” she replies.

Me too. What about?”

What type of disease you would have to get for me to leave. You know, the Disaster Scenario.”

Please take note, TV schedule people, this is what happens when you keep showing reruns of Border Patrol, it gives my wife enough breathing space to come up with an exit strategy.

To be honest, my wife’s always trying to work out what she would do if I ruined the party by having a long, lingering death. She once saw a film called, Love Triangle where the husband had an accident and was confined to a wheelchair, but allowed his wife to take on a lover, who eventually moved in with them both. But it wasn’t all bad news for hubby, she still made him his tea everyday, and installed wheelchair access to the patio so that he could get some fresh air while he was crying.

“What did you decide? Which ailment would make it OK for you to leave?” I ask.

Tinitus,” she says.

“Well done. You’ve just lost a million pretend pounds,” I reveal.

I don’t need it. I’m a modern, independent woman; I’ve got my own pretend money that I can live off.”

“You’re being a bit harsh,” I say.

You deserve it. Especially after last night.”

Last night?”

Last night…

It’s Friday night and, rather frustratingly, I find myself four days into a two-day DIY job.

I’m making cupboards in my daughter’s bedroom. A job which requires the use of sharp, stabby items, and with the kids flying around barefoot it looks like the opening scene from Casualty. All that’s missing is a pair of abandoned roller skates at the top of the stairs and two men moving a large pane of glass at the bottom.

I’m busy thinking about all the possible scrapes the kids could get into when I trip and bang my head.

Aaaaagh. For f*ck’s sake!” I scream.

Mum. Are you OK?” asks my son through the door.

It’s me,” I reply. “I’m the one swearing in here.”

Where’s Mum?”

She’s swearing at people in Sainsbury’s.”

What’s for tea?” he asks and then I hear the front door bang, followed by much profanity. “It’s Ok. I can hear mum now,” he says and scuttles off.

I trudge downstairs rubbing my head, looking for sympathy from my wife. She is stood in the kitchen, and by the way the shopping bags lay strewn on the floor, I can tell that sympathy will be hard won.

My son barrels into the room, ignores all around, and sticks his head in a bag like a sniffer dog. This always happens when new food lands in the kitchen. I could be doing a naked majorette routine in the sink and he wouldn’t notice. But it’s not just my son, most pre-teens trying to feed a growth spurt tend to ‘apple bob’ their head in a shopping bag to root for food; its a real time-saver. I find this side-effect of puberty to be the height of ignorance, and also something that I must try out.

That was an absolute nightmare,” she says. “I’m never going back to TK Maxx again. It’s just full of ignorant people; all pushing each other. And they just sell cheap crap.”

This happened the last time you went to TK Maxx, why do you still go?”

To get your Christmas presents.”

My son pulls his head out of a bag and says, “What’s for tea?”

Fish cakes,” she announces matter-of-factly.

I don’t like fish cakes,” he says.

I know,” she replies, looks at me curiously and mouths, “What the f*ck’s wrong with your head?”

In case you’re wondering, I don’t count this exchange as sympathy, in fact my wife is exhibiting all the classic ‘please leave me alone’ signs: the scattered shopping bags, swearing at my head, forcing fish cakes on a twelve-year-old. My son and I should have just walked away, granted her ten minutes’ peace to put her feet up and let the day wash off her. But we didn’t.

I don’t want fish cakes,” he repeats, then sticks his head in another bag.

My daughter walks in. “What’s for tea?” she booms and sticks her head in a bag.

My wife calmly walks out of the kitchen and into the front room, slamming the door behind her.

Both kids jerk heads out of bags and scan around nervously. “What are we going to do about tea now?” they chant in unison.

I don’t know,” I say and go after my wife. I enter the room…

I sit on the couch and glance over to my wife. After the longest time, I manage to catch her eye and it’s there, right in that moment, I realise the part of me that I hate the most, is the part of me that can only daydream about being a better man.

Merry Christmas Facebookers, The Twitterati and my fellow bloggers!

Thanks for giving me your time, support and feedback this year. And I promise, the next time I daydream about being a millionaire, you’ll all get a slice. Pretend-spend it wisely!

 

School, was it really any different back in the 80s?

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The 80s. Come on, what’s not to like?

Please be warned, there is some coarse 80s language in this post. For those easily offended by the eighties, please scroll away.

Back in the eighties, I had the dubious pleasure of going to the third worst school in Britain, and with a name like, Julian Boffin, it wasn’t all sunshine and lollipops. If memory serves my correctly, I think my school missed out on the top spot due to our bullies being unable to waterboard properly.

The school was nestled in a large council park and during winter months we would receive phone calls from flashers saying they were going to pounce. Flashers wouldn’t do that now, back then they had much better flashing etiquette. 

We would have an emergency assembly, warning us that the flash level threat had been raised to Amber, and that all girls had to be escorted through the park by two boys. Acting as a flasher bodyguard was scary but also a great way to meet girls, and flashers; who to be honest, always ended up being the local butcher. ‘Hi, Norman’, we would say. ‘Tell your Mam I’ve got that brisket in for her’, he would reply. It was all very cordial.

Our main claim to fame was that our top bully, or ‘Cock of the School’, had one eye and was called, Mad Morgan. For a guy with one eye, Mad Morgan was a crack shot with an air rifle. He would bunk out of lessons, climb up a tree and shoot at us when we were doing cross country.

During cross country we had to do three laps of the park. Start at school, go round the duck pond, slalom past the flashers and whizz past the teacher. As you approached the finish line, you would just see little puffs of smoke near your legs, followed by a glint of Mad Morgan’s glass eye from a nearby tree. At this point it was prudent to pick up the pace a little and belt it past the teacher, who seemed constantly surprised by my turn of speed. “Well done, Boffin. Keep them knees up. Excellent last fifteen yards,” he would say.

Aaaaagh, get down…incoming fire,” I would reply.

We also had a Bad Hut. This was a portacabin, situated in the middle of a field, that housed all the loose cannons. It was our version of Alcatraz; the worst of the worst. When Mad Morgan wasn’t up a tree shooting people, he would sit in here being rehabilitated.

A good joke to play would be to offer the Bad Hut a sacrificial goat for slaughter, usually, Sloppy Sid from year 8. You would grab Sid, tie him up to the Bad Hut and then bang on all the windows shouting, ‘Wankers!’ It was the eighties, it was totally politically correct to bang on portacabins and shout, ‘Wankers’, in fact it was frowned upon if you didn’t. This is something that these 80s review shows never touch on. We weren’t all dancing to Wham, fiddling with a Rubik’s cube and getting AIDS. No, some of us where goading psychopaths.

Just as I finished my little walk down memory lane my son shuffled in looking worried.

What’s up?” I said.

I’ve got a problem at school, Dad,” he replied.

Ok, what is it?”

It’s my best friend. I don’t know what colour Jack Wills socks to get him for Christmas.”

“Stripy. Always go stripy.”

“And there’s something else. My nickname. They’ve given me one, but I don’t like it. Can I change it to one I like?”

“Don’t think it works like that.”

“What was your nickname at school?”

“Sloppy Sid.”

 

What’s it like having sex and drugs when you’re middle-aged?

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In case you were wondering, this is my sex face.

I’ve recently discovered that strong pain medication makes me both drowsy and horny. I’m like a wanking Frankenstein, or as I like to call my drugged-up alter ego: Wankenstein.

Transforming into Wankenstein is great fun, but it’s a state of being that makes it so much harder to do the household chores. They should put that on the packet. Side effects: wanking, unable to clean curtains.

Against all the odds I manage to empty the dishwasher and slowly shuffle across the lino to my wife who is dealing out carrots to the kids. I saucily rub myself up against her as she bends over to pick up the carrots that my 6 year-old has thrown onto the floor.

Not now. Not now!” screams my wife. “Inappropriate. Inappropriate!”

I shuffle off into the living room and sit down. Bad Wankenstein, I think to myself and doze off. 

Some time later my wife enters the room with a walnut whip and snatches the remote off me. To someone high on medication, my wife couldn’t look any sexier than she does right now as she pulls off the walnut topping, scrunches up her face in disgust, throws it on the floor and then angrily flicks through the channels. Maybe it’s not the drugs, maybe I get turned on seeing food thrown onto the floor. I quickly dismiss this notion after recalling an image of my wife wolfing down half a chicken in Nandos. Then I make my move.

In case you’re wondering, I’ve been drugged-up due to a botched dental procedure. It was done so badly that I’ve spent many hours festering, thinking about dentist revenge. Often times I imagine the dentist roaring off in his Audi from his dental practice – which has limited parking – to a swanky dental orgy, with excellent parking facilities, where they’re all laughing with perfect teeth. I burst through the door, shuffling slowly and wanking, people flee in panic and then…it all gets a bit hazy but I don’t think it ends well.

The dentist flashback makes me angry. I am now angry, dopey and horny. The perfect storm to have sex with my wife while she is watching, Flog It. A tricky manoeuvre; one of the hardest secret parent shags in the book. I have to initiate proceedings during Flog It, then deftly tiptoe past the kids to the master bedroom while they are shouting, “What’s for pudding?” I’m living the dream.

I shuffle past the walnut on the carpet and slump next to my wife.

Not now, Wancula,” she says.

“It’s Wankenstein. I’m Wankenstein.”

My pre-teen son shuffles in. He flops down next to me on the couch; thankfully he is just dopey and angry. To my wife, my end of the couch must look like a scene from, Dawn of the Dead. I just have to wait for the impending teatime argument to end, then Wankenstein will be regenerated.

I’m hungry,” he says. “What’s for pudding?”

You’ve just had tea,” my wife exclaims. “How can you still be hungry?” He shrugs his shoulders and shuffles out in a huff. My wife chases after him. I doze off again. I go back to my apocalyptic End of Days dentist scenario. I am stomping through the room, people are fleeing… food is knocked over. I get horny. Hang on…

I may be having sex later but I don’t know what type.

It’s Friday teatime and my wife is pestering me for some make-up sex. Problem is, I didn’t know we’d fallen out.

When did we argue?” I say.

We haven’t…yet,” she replies. “But it’s still early…”

Why don’t we just have normal sex for a change?” I ask.

Tssk” she replies.

Thinking about it, I’m not sure what the difference between my normal sex and my post-argument sex, but what I do know is that when you’re married to my wife you need to be aware that sex, no matter what type, may happen at any time.

Before disappearing through the door frame, she looks back over her shoulder and breathes seductively: “You need to argue with me. I’ll be in the front room…waiting.” I go back to slicing the carrots. A couple of beats later I think of a great argument that will send her insane; insane enough to have some kind of sex with me.

Ten minutes later I enter the room to drop my awesome argument.

I’ve been thinking,” I say, “maybe we should spend christmas at my family’s this year.”

Shut up!” she says with great conviction.

Is me talking about my family at Christmas making you horny?”

This is not a sex argument!” she shouts. “This is an argument, argument,” and then my wife angrily flaps our daughter’s school report in front of me.

If you’re unfamiliar with modern primary school reports, they consist of a coloured bar chart and your child’s progress is ranked by number. Good colours are, purple and blue; red is bad. The number and colour system comes with a key code. At present my daughter is a Green 2, which is exactly the same ranking as my new boiler.

Look… look,” she says. “Green 2. That’s your fault. It says here that she’s ‘easily distracted’. Easily distracted – that’s you. You’re easily distracted.”

I’m not,” I say and then look up at the ceiling and go to my happy place. I don’t stay there long.

We need to sort this out,” she says. “My daughter’s not a Green 2. She’s a Purple 2. Anybody can see that.”

OK,” I say, “but let’s make it fun.”

Fun but harsh,” my wife says enthusiastically.

I can’t readily think of a learning technique for six-year-olds that is fun but harsh, but we both agree to try and improve her concentration in a fun learning environment; an environment where she wont realise she’s actually learning a lesson. We need to trick her a little, but fortunately, she’s a Green 2, so it shouldn’t be too hard.

As part of my fun learning program, I sit my daughter on the couch and tell her to stare straight ahead while I do goofy stuff in front of her. She is not allowed to look at me. She just needs to sit and stare; no distractions.

I begin by going past her direct line of vision doing the MoonWalk. She starts giggling. I then go behind the couch and mime descending in an elevator. She giggles. Then, I see the door open – it’s my wife. It appears that she has written the 2 times table on her knuckles.

Look at Mummy’s knuckles!” she shouts. “Look at Mummy’s knuckles,” and then she moves like an angry crab from side to side in front of our daughter.

Two twos are what?” she shouts. “Four. Two twos are four! What are two twos? Look at Mummy’s knuckles. Look at Mummy’s knuckles!”

Before this whole thing started I was struggling to think of a learning technique that was fun but harsh, but now, now I don’t have that problem.

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Thanks to the wonderfully talented Heather @betamother for bringing my wife’s angry crab to life. See more from Heather here

It appears that my wife has a few secrets.

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Les Dennis & Dustin Gee. The thinking man’s Hale & Pace

It is Thursday evening and the dishwasher is broken. I am scrubbing the dishes and my wife is drying. She is in a good mood and is busy telling me that she is a ‘happy-go-lucky’ type, and that stabbing her sister was a ‘one-off’. I pass her the big knife to dry.

I watch her dry the knife slowly. “Why did you stab her?” I ask.

It was nothing really. Something to do with mashed potatoes.” Eyes mesmerised on the knife, I cautiously pass her a clutch of forks. She puts the knife down, picks up the forks and says, “Nice try, but I stabbed her with a fork.”

Are you taking the piss?” I say.

You trying to make me angry?” she replies.

I am 16 years into what looks like a 16-year relationship, and tense dish washing episodes are becoming common. I think my mere existence is now reliant on how often the dishwasher breaks down. Some people worry about global warming, I worry about blocked nozzle jets and the efficacy of rinse aid.

You got any more secrets?” I ask. She waggles the fork around and stares into the mid-distance; deep in thought.

When I was about ten years old,” she says, “I went to Dustin Gee’s funeral.”

What! How come you were invited to that?”

I wasn’t.”

What the hell’s going off. When I was a kid I was busy playing with my Subbuteo, but it seems my wife was busy stabbing relatives and gate-crashing celebrity funerals.

If you don’t know who Dustin Gee was, he was in a comedy double act with Les Dennis but he died from a heart attack, or as I am now inclined to think, he may have succumbed to a random fork stabbing.

My wife goes on to explain, “His funeral was held in York and anybody could go. I just managed to get inside – that’s all.”

When I asked about any more secrets,” I say, “I was hoping for something a bit more, lesbiany.”

My wife rolls her eyes and I pass her a dish. “What about you?” she asks. “Any secrets?”

Not really, but I did something bad that I regret.”

Go on,” she says.

When I was about 12, I locked my brother in the shed for 6 hours.”

What happened?”

He got out and shot me in the arse with an air rifle. I was grounded for about a month.”

Why did you lock him in?”

Because he was trying to shoot me in the arse with an air rifle. He had this air rifle that fired coloured feathered darts. We were always squabbling and my Dad thought it best to hide the gun to stop my brother shooting me. It’s just that he never really hid it that well. To be honest, the gun hiding was so lame, I thought my Dad was encouraging it.”

My wife laughed, threw the cloth in my face and walked out. I was left alone, cloth on my head, thinking about my funny old wife. About how the breaking of the dishwasher had slowed life down a bit and given us the chance to just chat to each other. And how, after 16 years, I was still finding out new things about my wife that I should be afraid of.

I looked down at the broken dishwasher and thought, you, my friend, can brake down as much as you want, because sometimes, just sometimes, when one thing is broken, something else gets fixed.

Date Night. Strangers in a bar.

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It is Thursday night and I am busy coming up with suggestions for date night, suggestions that even I don’t want to go on, just so that it looks like I’m putting some effort in.

Let’s do something fun this time; something exciting,” says my wife, with hope rapidly draining from her face.

What did we do last time?”

Sex.”

On date night you have to go out and then have sex, don’t blame me – it’s the rules. Alternatively, you have to come up with a great excuse not to have sex, such as a recurring back injury or that you’ve had too much shepherd’s pie. I find it’s alway handy to keep a few shepherd’s pies in the freezer just in case anyone tries to have sex with me.

I’ve got it!” she says like a woman possessed. “Stranger’s in a bar. Let’s do Stranger’s in a bar.”

You know I don’t drink.”

Yes, but you’re alter ego does.”

Who is my alter ego?”

He’s dynamic. A guy that knows his own mind and doesn’t take any shit.”

I don’t want to do it,” I say.

Tough, you’re doing it.”

I wish my alter ego was around during the daytime to be honest. I have to think up some kind of fictional character, a person who embodies all the characteristics that I admire, and more importantly, a fictional character that my wife would want to have sex with…twice.

If you’re not sure what Stranger’s in a Bar is, it’s a role-play sex game where you pretend to be someone else and pick your wife up in a bar. You then have to put in extra effort during sex, such as sucking your gut in or taking your slippers off.

The night finally arrives and my alter ego is fully fleshed out in my mind. I drop the kids off with my sister-in-law, and find that I can’t look her in the eye because of what my alter ego is going to do to her sister later on, then go home to transform. The house is empty and it feels quite eery. My wife has already left to take up her seat in the bar in a hotel in Leeds city centre; all I can smell is her perfume, and it seems like her alter ego enjoys smelling like the beauty counter at Boots. I get changed into my character.

My no-bullshit, sexy alter ego is called, Dr Fong. He is a talented bio-physicist who is just stopping by a bar in Leeds for a quick drink before he flies off to a bio-chemical conference in Michigan. I know there is no direct route from Leeds/Bradford airport to Michigan but Dr Fong doesn’t care, he’s a freaking wildcard.

I enter the bar and I can immediately smell my wife. I make my way over.

Hi, is this seat taken?” I ask in a smooth, talented bio-chemist voice.

What the fuck?” she says.

You’re feisty,” I say. “I like that. Let me introduce myself. I am Dr Fong. The talented..”

Bollocks, you’re not Dr Fong. You’re Troy Maddison, the technology entrepreneur.”

The waiter comes over and asks if we would like anything from the bar menu. Troy looks at the menu but is feeling a little bit sad that Dr Fong has left.

I’ll have the Nicoise salad,” says my wife.

And I’ll have the shepherd’s pie,” I reply.

 

Dr Fong spotted!

Don’t worry Dr Fong fans, apparently Troy Maddison wasn’t very good in the sack so we may see Dr Fong again some time.

If you’re wondering what Dr Fong looks like, the very talented blogger, Katy from http://www.carryonkaty.com managed to spot him and get down a sketch before he flew off to his bio conference in Michigan.

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How squatting can prep you for rearing a tweenager.

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“Aaaaghh!! Get this Tweenager off me.”

As a spectator sport, puberty is hard to beat. I mean that in the most normal way possible. My son is always up to something secretive and when I get back from work there is always a puzzle to solve. Here are a few of his puberty puzzles.

The Bedroom iPad mystery.

Last week I walked into his bedroom unannounced, which is something you should never do. You must always make tweenagers aware that you are coming; knock, whistle, wear cymbals on your knees…anything. But I didn’t, so I walked in and caught him, and three of his mates, all hunched over the ipad watching Murder She Wrote. 

I didn’t know this at the time, but it seems that huge doses of testosterone make tweenagers lust after busybody granny detectives. Of course, this may have been a smokescreen and he could have easily clicked from Brit Babes to Cabot Cove before I even noticed. I did the same sort of thing when I was pubing. I remember disguising my porn videos by writing, The Sky at Night on the cover. It was an effective ruse, and every year my uncle still buys me an astronomy book for Christmas.

How is he trying to kill me?

It’s called Stagging, where the young buck attempts to dethrone the dominant male. In this scenario, I am the hairy ape, and each night before I sit down for tea I have to uncover his latest attempt to finish me off before we can get round to pudding. To be honest, I don’t mind if he takes over and drives the submarine for a bit. Sitting on the back seat and gawping out the window would suit me fine.

There are two forms of Stagging.

Physical attacks disguised as play fighting.

Just when you’re feeling nice and relaxed, your pubing child will take you out with a rugby tackle and rub your face into the dirt – just a little bit too hard. So be prepared, I have taken to wearing one of those padded bite suits they use to train police dogs. The bite suit manufacturers have cottoned on to this now and have produced a skinny leg version for Hipster dads.

Twisted mind games.

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My squat.

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Me outside the front door of my squat. We were young, idealistic revolutionaries and dispensed with traditional house numbers, replacing them with slogans instead. I lived at: The fat ladies got no chewing gum.

In my youth I used to squat in a derelict block of flats in Hulme, Manchester that were about to be demolished D.ring the day I worked for free as an intern copywriter at an advertising agency called, Stowe, Bowden & Wilson. It was a crazy time and I used to get a full body wash in the toilets before breezing into the boardroom and pitching ideas to clients.

Like Cinderella, I had to leave work early before it got dark because that’s when all the muggers congregated near the squat. The flats were built on concrete pillars and the muggers would slowly weave in and out of the pillars on BMX bikes scouting for victims, and I had to try and run past them to get home unscathed. It was a bit like doing the gold run on Blockbusters but without the chance of winning a kayaking weekend for two in the Lakes.

This fear, this blind panic of weaving in and out of concrete pillars with three muggers on bikes chasing after me, ringing their bells louder and louder, is the same feeling I get when I am alone in the house with my tweenage son, especially if I go in the bath and he’s pinballing around the house getting frustrated by internet blackouts.

I was in the bath last week and I swear I heard him whisper under the door: “You must be erased.” To make it sound even more chilling, he did it in a camp voice.

Puberty check list.

So, if you’re wondering if you’re child’s hit puberty or not, here’s a quick check list: Are they obsessed with retro detective shows? Can you hear what sounds like Larry Grayson issuing death threats under the bog door? Are you dead?

Note.

I have since learned that the noise I heard in the bathroom was not my son threatening me, it was in fact a slow release of spray coming out of the shower head, making a sort of, shuwmistbeeherazed, noise. I know this because it happened again the other day when my son was out and only my wife was in.

Three things dads should avoid.

Drunk mums who brag about the strength of their pelvic floor.

Drunk mums; we all know one, are one or are married to one, but how do they let people know how strong their pelvic floor is when they are completely hammered at a kid’s birthday party? They do synchronised star jumps; that’s how.

They tend to hang around in the kitchen, so be vigilant when entering. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve gone into the kitchen at a party and seen a Gin Mummy doing star jumps and shouting, “Look at me! I’ve had four kids as well,” or “Look at me! I’m doing lunges and I haven’t spilled any wine.”

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Drunk mums go from  this…

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…to this in ten minutes. That’s less time than it takes the space shuttle to leave orbit.

 

Freerunning.

Freerunning, or Parkour as it’s known in France, is famous for spectacularly nosediving from cool to uncool in the fastest time ever; even quicker than flash mobs.

If you don’t know what Freerunning is, it’s a leisure pursuit that allows both amateurs and experts the opportunity to bang their knackers on park benches and then upload it to youtube. 

For some people testicles are important, and if you’re one of those people, Freerunning should be avoided at all costs until the day arrives when the male anatomy becomes so advanced that men can tie their testicles around their neck for safety, or wear them as a hat, just like what Pharrell does.

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The future may not be all jet packs and space travel, it could be bollock hats.

Jennifer Aniston’s perma-erect nipples in Friends.

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Only joking, don’t avoid these; record and pause all you want.  

Here’s how I cleverly hide the fact that I’m purely focused on the acting abilities of Aniston’s nipples while I am watching Friends.

Wife: Why are you watching Friends again?

Me: It’s so well written.

Wife: Which series is it?

Me: Not sure, how can you tell just by looking at it?

Wife: Easy, is Chandler fat or thin?

Me: Which one is, Chandler?

 

Unwarranted Flash Mob criticism explained.

‘Dude!’ I hear you saying in fluent ‘guy’ speak. ‘What you doing disrespecting flash mobs?’ I’m edgy, what can I say, but it’s quite easy once you’ve seen this, the laziest flash mob ever… http://bit.ly/1pEVipe

My son has just pointed out that what happens in the video isn’t actually a flash mob, it is in fact – real. Take off the rose-tinted glasses boy, as you get older you’ll come to realise that you’ll never find 20 knickerless catwalk models hanging about in the bus station.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In-depth analysis of the PR-Blogger relationship.

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Pipe not included.

The world of parent blogging is all new to me but the important role PR companies play in the daily life of a blogger is slowly emerging.

Once a month you will be asked to review an eastern european board game called, Bobble, or Froggle or Frog Bobble. While you are doing this, all the top bloggers will drive you insane by getting all the good stuff to review such as, Jaffa Cakes and tea bags.

The email will always start, ‘I hope this email finds you well’ which may seem a little frightening, as though they are expecting something bad to happen to you at any moment, but on the upside, you’ve just learned an ominous email greeting that you can use to make people think you’re hiding in a bush with a gun trained on their temple.

Next, they will subtly reveal that they have a massive marketing department by saying, ‘After careful consideration we think your readers are perfect for Frobble’. Now, I have met most of my readers, and not one of them is a Frobbler. They can barely be arsed to read my normal blog never mind spend time reading about how I spent the night Frobbling with the next door neighbour’s kids.

At this point it’s a good opportunity to try and scare the PR person by asking for payment. Just send them an email saying something like, ‘I hope this email finds you well. How much do you pay for reviews?’ They will reply by saying they don’t have the ‘budget’ for paying bloggers and that the £8.99 game is your payment.

This may sound bad but don’t worry, what it actually means is that they see the board game as legal currency and as such you will be able to use Frobble to pay for your petrol. Just go up to the counter and explain that you don’t have a ‘budget’ to pay for petrol, but all they have to do is review Frobble; about 300 words and a few pics – no rush.

Once you have refused to do the review it is then OK to go onto Twitter and check who actually accepted to do the review, and feel that somehow the PR lady is cheating on you. Repeat this each month until you get the Jaffa Cake gig and then retire.

This post doesn’t adequately tell you exactly what happened to my testicles.

It’s a glorious Friday morning, midway through the school summer holidays, and I am stretched out on a chair in the Doctor’s surgery next to my injured son. My son is nervous and is reading aloud anything that scrolls across the electronic notice board in the waiting room.

X-Ray scans must be submitted before 12 noon…” his legs judder nervously up and down like two engine pistons. “There were 346 missed appointments last month…” he looks around like a Meerkat on high alert. “X-ray scans must be submitted before 12 noon.”

I look at him reassuringly and say, “They really don’t want X-rays after 12, do they?”

No,” he replies, and laughs the nervous laugh of a child preoccupied with the thoughts of doom associated with a doctor’s appointment.

I try and take his mind of it, “Hey,” I say in a cool dad voice. “Why don’t you go up to the receptionist and tell her that you’ve got some X-rays, but she can’t have them till after 3pm.”

He shakes his head in annoyance, and starts reading out the messages again. “Mrs Thorner to Dr Bartholemew. Room 2.”

You don’t need to read out all the messages,” I whisper to him. “Just read out the X-ray stuff, not people’s names.” We sit in silence, all we can hear is Ken Bruce on the radio. Rock Me Amadeus, by Falco, chants its way out of the radio

My son starts nervously singing, “Amadeus, Amadeus…Amadeus. Amadeus, Amadeus…Amadeus. Amadeus, Amadeus. Oh, oh, oh Amadeus. Come and rock me Amadeus. Amadeus…”

Have you heard this before?” I ask him.

No.”

How come you know the words?” He doesn’t laugh.

The doctor is now thirty minutes late for our appointment. We used the touch screen computer to log in and the computer flashed up that we had been ‘acknowledged’. I think thirty minutes is the official length of time you can wait before doubting a computer, so I approach the receptionist to check if the computer knows that we are here.

Hi. Our appointment was thirty minutes ago. I’m worried the computer doesn’t know we’re here. Does it?”

Yes,” she replied. “The computer and I both know you are here. We are very busy.” I look around the sparse reception room. There is an old man in one corner reading a leaflet and in the other corner is my son who is murdering, Knights in White Satin, by the Moody Blues.

I glance back at the receptionist. It’s just with a computer, you never know; you know? I just prefer talking to a human.”

The Doctor is very busy,” the human snaps back.

I return and decide to calm my son’s nerves by telling him a gruesome medical anecdote which will put his bruised wrist into perspective, “You know, when I was your age…”

…It’s not another one of your stories is it, Dad? I’ve heard them all before. Please don’t tell me the one about how your first girlfriend dumped you for a dwarf.”

Ssshhh. I think the preferred term is: Little Person. No, I’m going to tell you a new story, one that will put all this into perspective.”

Go on.”

When I was your age, I was the subject of the following sentence: ‘Quick! We need to get him to a hospital within the next hour or he may lose the testicle’.”

My son laughs the nervous laugh of a boy having to listen to his dad talking about his testicles and says, “So, what you’re trying to tell me is that she went with the dwarf because he had two testicles?”

Before I get the chance to clarify the testicle anecdote he comforts himself by reading the notice board again, “Repeat prescriptions can only be issued for one month…Brodie Boffin to Dr West. Room 3.” He looks up at me nervously and says, “That’s us, Dad.” He takes my hand, squeezes hard and we both get up. I look down at him and say, “Little Person. The Little Person had two testicles.”

Can you use a selfie stick in a Swinger’s club?

My wife rushes into the room; a cheeky grin spreads across her face. I’ve seen that look before; someone’s died.

Have you heard? Have you? You’ll never guess in a million years,” she pants breathlessly and plonks hands on hips.

Over the years my wife and I have learned to share out the household chores that play to our strengths; I do the bins, and my wife breaks the news of celebrity deaths. This isn’t her only job, she also buries family pets. She’s a one-stop-shop for all your funereal needs. I fully expect that when I die she’ll do the eulogy, catering and digging.

My wife gets her fondness of announcing celebrity deaths from her mother. I got five missed calls from my mother-in-law when Jackson died, in fact I think that’s how Tito found out.

I do what I always do in this situation, I stare back at my wife and mime sifting through a mental list of celebrities that I think are knocking on death’s door, I call it, The Dead Pool, but she always interrupts me before I can say, Freddie Starr.

She dumps herself next to me on the couch and says, “I’ve just heard…” I am urging her to mouth the words, Freddie Starr, “… that there’s a Swinger’s club in Pudsey on a Wednesday afternoon.”

“Won’t that clash with the Farmer’s Market?” I reply sarcastically, and she gives me a withering look, the kind of look I think husbands see before their wives go on an afternoon shopping trip to Pudsey.

I’ve got to the age now where I can barely be arsed to go to the cinema in the afternoon, never mind shag strangers in Pudsey. For a start, the parking’s terrible and I wouldn’t know what to wear.

I give my wife a quizzical look, flip open the ipad and type: Is Freddie Starr dead? I get a quick response, he is alive and well, so I put Freddy back in the Pool. My wife frantically scans around the room for other people to gossip about swinging to, but the kids don’t look too interested, so she targets me again.

“You know Gary’s mum from year 5?” 

“Yes.”

“Apparently, she’s been swinging since year 2.” 

“Isn’t she married?” 

“Most of the time,” she replies optimistically.

“How many days of the week are you married?” I ask.

The phone rings before I can get an answer. It’s my mother-in-law trying to get through on our celebrity death line. We all pretend to look busy, which I’m rubbish at, so I pick up the phone.

“Who has died? Tell me, tell me,” pesters my wife, tugging my sleeve as I listen to her mother on the phone.

“No-one. She’s just called to ask if you want to go to the Farmer’s Market in Pudsey on Wednesday afternoon.”

“You’re kidding me. That’s next door to the Swinger’s club.”

“Yes, I’m joking, but I’m afraid we need to take Cilla Black out of the Pool.”

Breaking Updates.

Since I posted this I’ve had allot of people messaging me for more information about the Swinger’s club, here’s what I know:

The club is split into three pleasure zones: a Group Room, a Couple’s Room and a Voyeur Room, and yes, the orgy room does have free wifi. The dress code is, office casual, and no, they don’t allow selfie sticks.

More details as I get them.

 

Captain Nemo and the classic £20 con trick.

Like most parents, I sometimes need a break from parenting to recharge my batteries, and it’s the same with writing a blog about parenting; a short interlude can give me clarity, plus I think my one reader (Hi Margaret – how’s prison life treating you?) needs a break too.

So, just to spritz things up, I occasionally post the best bits from my now defunct first blog, which ran for three years and revealed some of the curious goings-on at my cafe.

Enjoy the break and normal service will be resumed next week.

This is episode three in a five part series and includes: Captain Nemo, a shocking sex story that will change the way you look at Cbeebies, the infamous £20 con trick and details of a kid’s game I invented called: What am I scratching now? 

The classic £20 con trick.

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A Mancunian showing off his new wardrobe for spring/summer 15.

Let me start this blog by saying that not all Mancunians are criminals.

I know a couple of Mancs who are wonderful (that’s maybe stretching it a bit; they’re OK) but we’ve only ever had two in the cafe and they’ve both tried the £20 con trick; a con that all shopkeepers get stung by at some point.

I’m still confused about how it works, but the upshot is, a Manc waddles in with a £20 note and waddles out with £30 and a can of coke.

All I can say is that Mancs must really love fizzy pop and money. Or perhaps I’m mistaken, and there is a pop and cash shortage in Manchester, for which I apologise, but I haven’t seen anything on the news. 

This is how the scam is done:

A Manc bimbles into a shop and asks for a can of coke, but only has a £20 note. Coke is 90p, we give him £19.10 in change. The Manc complains that he doesn’t want all that shrapnel change and suddenly finds a tenner in his pocket. He then asks if he can have the twenty back and use the tenner instead, and this is where I get confused, but somehow he ends up with £30 and a can of coke.

This first happened 2 days ago, and the word must have spread around Mancland because another one tried it yesterday. I don’t know why they don’t just form an orderly queue, or maybe do it a bit slower so I can work out how it’s done.

Failing that they could try a more flamboyant act of 18 century deception to get pop, such as the classic magician’s trick of sawing a woman in half. The top half is holding a twenty, the bottom half wants the change, the legs give back a tenner and the head gets the pop. 

To be honest, it really upset my wife. Whenever you get conned it makes you feel vulnerable and naïve, so her faith in humanity has taken a bit of a hit. It’s also made me fear for her safety when she is working alone, which is not something I bargained for when we first opened the cafe.

To put my wife’s mind at ease, I’ve decided to get rid of all the coke and stock Lilt instead; no one drinks Lilt. It’s a simple tactic; just remove temptation. I employ the same technique when I’m hiring staff, that’s why all my waitresses look like wardens from Prisoner Cell Block H.

Just to clarify, it’s not to stop me from being tempted, it’s the customers. I once employed a pretty waitress but we got loads of Justin Bieber types, and dads who’ve been ‘married too long’ staring at her through the window. I went out a few times to reason with them, but I found I got quicker results if I just hit them with a broom. 

My customers are sex mad.

Here’s some sex gossip I overheard in the cafe today.

One of my regular customers, let’s call him Barry, lives in a terraced property next to a woman, let’s call her Margaret (Hi Margaret) who is also a regular. It turns out that she is a Commercial Broker and an avid sex screamer.

While Barry was decorating his child’s bedroom, he overheard the sex screamer shouting: “F*ck me harder! Aaaaagh you twat! Squeeze my f*cking tits…aaaagh! That’s it, put it in there. Aaaagh…F*cking hell!”

The problem is that her boyfriend is the spitting image of Mr Tumble.

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What am I scratching now?

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We shopkeepers take an overseas vacation around this time of year to give the impression to our competitors that we are doing much better than they are. It’s all smoke and mirrors of course; admittedly, we have just returned from Italy, but it was on a tight budget.

On the last night of our holiday we were all crammed together in a hotel in Pisa, not in the city centre, but some way outside the city in a business district. The air conditioning was broken, and someone had nicked the bath plug. I can’t say who did it, but I bet there’s a Manc somewhere guzzling coke and admiring his collection of European bath plugs.

There was laminate flooring in all the rooms, and the walls were paper thin, so you could hear every footstep. All we could hear from the guy next door was a tippy-tap noise on the laminate, going from the bathroom to the bed. He was either racing cockroaches, or he had really long toenails and a weak bladder.

To alleviate the tension, I decided to play a game I’ve invented that always helps to get the kids to sleep, it’s called: What am I scratching now? This is how you play:

Turn out the lights, scratch a body part and the contestants have to guess which bit; simple.

I always go for the same three areas: ankle, foot and ballbag. If any of the kids shout out the correct combination of: ankle, foot and ballbag, they are the winners.

The fantastic underwater adventures of Yorkshire’s Captain Nemo.

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I always try and make sure I’m in the cafe on Tuesday mornings because that’s when Captain Nemo floats in. 

Nemo is a retired submarine commander who loves spinning exaggerated tales about battling Johnny Foreigner beneath the ocean waves. As soon as he’s placed his order, I ring the chemist next door and he immediately stops selling itchy cock cream and pops in. We both sit down, like a couple of dough-eyed kids in library corner, with a strong cup of tea and a hot chocolate brownie (only £2.20!) and listen to a weathered old man talking about submarines. 

According to Nemo, during the cold war Russia deployed subs up to the northern Scottish coast to spy on us Brits. They would play a game of cat and mouse with our submarines; hiding in the reeds and slipping in behind our subs. This really annoyed the Royal Navy, because once a sub is behind you; it’s game over. So with great fortitude and that unique sense of British endeavour, the Royal Navy dispatched our entire submarine fleet to the Channel, with strict orders to do the same to the French.

 

Off-grid activities to do with the kids on a budget.

Watch TV.

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The next door neighbour has just bought a big ass plasma screen, stuck it on the wall and hasn’t closed his curtains since.

I think the plasma fitting instructions tell you to use appropriate wall fixings that can handle the weight and to leave the curtains open for the first few months so everybody can see that you’ve got one.

To cash in, I made Brodie a rope swing. When he reached the apex of the swing he could see what they were watching.

We watched parts of Harry Hill yesterday and a sizeable chunk of Eggheads today.

Acrobatics.

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I don’t know about you but after a hard week at work I like to unwind by seeing how many nappies I can balance on my son’s head.

Last night I managed to stack a jaw-dropping 16 nappies on the boy’s head.

I’m sure in years to come he will look back at this achievement with much pride and thank me for helping him break a record he didn’t even know he wanted to break.

Craft time.

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I don’t know about you, but after I’ve relaxed by balancing nappies on my son’s head, I like to march him down to the local supermarket, so that he can accomplish my dream of seeing him sat upon a throne of multi-pack kitchen rolls. The look of joy on my little lad’s face will stay with me forever.

Make up your own games.

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Quality time with the kids is important. I like to turn off the TV and invent new parlour games. This is one of Brodie’s favourites. It’s called, BOX BALLOONS!!

It’s pretty straight forward, I put Brodie in a big box and put him in a room where there are some balloons.

You cannot see his little face, because it’s in a big box, but I can assure you he is enjoying every minute of the two hours he has to be in there.

Gracie is sat at the table behind him, and even though she is far away, you can just about make out the look of joy spreading across her face, as it suddenly dawns on her that when she gets older she will too have to play, BOX BALLOONS.

Role play.

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Some parents force their kids to become cooler versions of themselves when they were young, which has resulted in a generation of tiny body poppers; popping, locking and whirling about all over the place. I don’t agree with this. In my view, it is much kinder on your kids to force them to look like Brat Pack characters. I force mine to look like James Spader.

Upon my command: “Look like James Spader now!” My son has to rush around, find his Rayban Wayfarers and adopt a confident pose.

He then has to be dismissive towards a college geek who will then ironically beat him in a love dual for the hand of the college sweetheart.

Obviously, I don’t do this with my young daughter. I force her to look like Baby Bjorn Borg.

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