Running a cafe. Tips from the top.


So here it is; what you’ve all been waiting for. Finally, after running a cafe with my wife for 7 years, here is my definitive review of dishwashers and mops.


Bosch Classix. 

Scientists have discovered that the force of an asteroid hitting the planet is equal to that of a teenage waitress slamming a dishwasher door after an argument with her boyfriend. This is, of course, untrue. It’s equivalent to two asteroids.

The dishwasher in my cafe has been used 5 times a day, 7 days a week for 7 years; it’s indestructible. The Bosch Classix has survived 300 kid’s birthday parties, and emerged unscathed after our waitress Sonja found out her boyfriend had kissed Tonisha at Debbie’s party.

Affordable with an impressive array of rinse options, I can’t recommend this product highly enough. As I’ve already mentioned, it’s great at surviving the door slams of betrayed teenagers, but the external shell is also really sturdy, which makes it ideal for waitresses to slump against while they’re texting or crying. 

I once stumbled upon a waitress sobbing in the kitchen. It was an awkward moment because the customers could see her through the cowboy doors. Her torso was obscured, but her ankles and face were on display. Ideal for perverts who get off on heads and ankles.

I had to act with speed and sensitivity, so I bent her over the counter. Hey presto, she could continue crying and the customers couldn’t see her. Plus, I found that she calmed down if I kept asking – as she choked back the tears – how she was getting on with the beef baguette order.


Vileda. SuperMocio Soft Mop.

Many experts believe that the pink-headed duck is extinct. One intrepid explorer, Richard Thorns, my old flatmate from university, has devoted his life to scouring Burma in the hope of finding one alive. So far, he has been 4 times and it has cost him £10,000. But I hold out more hope of him finding the world’s rarest bird, than one of my teenage waitresses finding the mop and bucket.

We have a Vileda mop but I can’t write a full review until Sonja actually uses it. Don’t hold your breath.

With all this in mind, I’ve crafted a new advert to attract waitresses, which I am going to stick up in the window of the cafe this afternoon. I’d appreciate your feedback.


Do you know what this is?

Can you cry and make beef baguettes at the same time?

Does your boyfriend know Tonisha?

If you answered: Yes. Yes. No. Please email: Julian @Cafe Village.


To see how my old mate Richard Thorns, or as he’s now known, The Crowborough Twitcher, is getting on hunting down the pink-headed duck, it’s all here 

Decoding teen noises. The ultimate guide.

You’ll find many articles on the internet about how to ‘survive’ the teenage years, as though it’s some kind of battle zone. But, if like me, you love trying to work out the meaning behind teen noises, these will be your boom years.

I’ve decoded a few teen sounds for you. No need to thank me. I’ve got a teenager now, so I don’t expect any thanks.


They’ve just remembered that they have to go to a sleepover at grandma’s house. They’ve also remembered that her house is a wifi blackspot and the only video she has is Spy Kids.

Where’s the Cheese?

I once saved a dog from plunging over the edge of a waterfall. It was submerged beneath the water, wedged between two rocks. As I struggled to free it, the dog looked up at me with desperation in it’s eyes. The kind of desperation you only see when things are at their darkest. It’s exactly the same look you get from a teen when they find that there’s no cheese left in the fridge.

Don’t worry, it’s purely biological. Powerful hormonal surges make them crave cheese. I once found my teen going to extreme measures to find the stuff, he actually moved two things in the fridge to see if it was at the back.


This is the sound of your wife remembering that it’s her turn to drive the kids to a sleepover at grandma’s house. She’s also remembered that she will have to make polite chit chat with her and that grandma doesn’t have any ‘proper coffee’.

Scrittle. Scrittle.

It could be mice or a teenager indulging in the ‘unmentionable act’. Either way, lay down a few traps. For bait, I suggest cheese. As the parent of a teen, it’s a joy to wake up, throw open the curtains and discover that you’ve caught either a mouse or a crispy sock which, through sheer desperation, has tried to walk itself into the laundry basket.

For god’s sake! Don’t touch the screen.

It is expected for men of my age to adopt a long-term project known as a MAM, a Middle-Aged Man project. Typically, this means either building a man cave in the garden or taking on a Thai bride. But if you can’t get the wood, there are other things you can try. I’ve made it my long-term goal to try and annoy my teen by touching his iphone screen when he’s showing me a meme. It’s a double whammy because it invades his personal space and gets smears all over it.

A smudged screen will send a teenager insane, so take precautions. Before I touch the screen, I like to protect myself by wearing an old diving suit. So buckle up, check your oxygen levels and get smudging.

Powerboat racing with Don Johnson

Imagine drawing a goofy face on a balloon and watching it slowly deflating. That’s what my wife looks like when I try to tell her a funny anecdote. She always finds some way to cut me off and talk about herself. But not today, because I have a killer anecdote: I’m stood in a queue at the timber yard behind one of the Kaiser Chiefs.

I make the call…

It’s me,” I whisper. “I’m in the timber yard. I’m stood behind a celebrity. Guess who?”

“I don’t know,” she says, “but I do know that Tom Selleck once tried to seduce me. That’s hard to beat. Back to me. I’ve got news. The local councillor has just been in the cafe. He said I’d make a great MP. What do you think?”   

“No way. You don’t know anything about politics, and you’ll be in the public eye. What about all the abusive twitter comments and emails?”

Yes. You’re right. I’d better stop sending those.”

It’s harsh being an MP. Things escalate quickly. It’s rape threats, death threats, Strictly Come Dancing. The general public are fickle. They either want to kill you or watch you do a Pasa Doble. 

Will you please just guess the celebrity,” I say.

Your obsession with quizzes. It’s not attractive.”

I’ll just tell you. It’s one of the Kaiser Chiefs.”

Which one?

The one who always wears a hat.”

What’s he buying, a hat rack?”



Me or the Kaiser Chief?”

Work it out. Honestly, if dildos could mow the lawn, you’d be out of two jobs.”

‘I don’t mow the lawn,” I say.

I know. I’ve just craftily doubled your workload. It’s called: politics.”

Bonus feature.

Since posting this I’ve had a few people asking me to expand on the Tom Selleck seduction allegation. So here we go. In her own words, how my wife fended off not one, but three, celebrity sex pests.

David Beckham…

We were in Selfridges. Trafford Centre,” she said.

What did he do?” I asked.

He looked me up AND down.”

Then what?”

He walked off through the homeware department. But you could feel the tension. It was palpable. He would have asked me out if things had been…different.

Things like: him being married with children?”


Er…like you.”

Your obsession with facts. It’s not attractive.”

Henry from Neighbours…

“We were in York railway station.”

“You get around.”

“It was sunny and Henry was topless. He was wearing a guitar.”

“I’m confused,” I say.


“Does this mean I still have to mow the lawn?”

“You’re jealous. You’re deflecting. It’s understandable.”

Tom Selleck…

“I was stood behind him in a bakery on Lake Michigan. He was powerboat racing with Don Johnson. He definately wanted me,” she said.

“What gave it away?” I asked. “Did he run off through the Selfridge’s homeware department?”

“You need to see someone. About the jealousy.”




Teens, chocolate and tantrums.

It’s only 2pm but I’ve already eaten all my teen son’s chocolate fingers out of the fridge. The last time I did this he spiralled into a mega strop. It went on so long I thought he was doing a sponsored stropathon for Comic Relief.

He’ll seek revenge, but chocolate tantrums are no big deal; I’ve experienced worse things. I once had 7 teenage girls on roller skates call me a ‘bald twat’. It was Britain’s first documented ‘roll-by’ attack. But it was their maiden voyage on skates, so they escaped really slowly. I could have whittled an owl in the time it took for them to abscond.

So I sit on the couch, make myself comfortable, and wait for him to unleash hell. I am both nervous and excited.

It’s not long before I hear ‘teen noises’ coming from above. It sounds like he’s dabbing so energetically that his phone is flying out of his hoodie pocket. Thrust clang. Thrust clang. It’s a noise I hear so often, if I ever have another child, I think I’m going to call it Thrust Clang.

He makes his way to the kitchen turning on every light in his path. It’s essential that the house is lit up like a landing strip, because it helps him see more clearly when he’s putting empty biscuit packets back in the cupboard.

To my delight, the teen noises are garnished with some embarrassing white boy rapping: Thrust clang. Bitty bang bang. Brap brap’. Then I hear him bump into his mother, which gives him a golden opportunity to exchange unpleasantries.

My wife stomps down the hall and bursts through the door. 

You have to stop him,” she says and angrily gestures towards the teen.

What’s he doing?” I ask.

He’s trying to talk to me about Tinie Tempah.”

We hide behind the door.

During the teen years, hiding behind a door to avoid talking about Tinie Tempah is a regular occurrence, so you might as well enjoy it. I take this opportunity to tell my wife a humorous observation.

If we had another kid,” I say, “I think we should call it…” my humorous observation is interrupted by the angry slamming of a fridge door.

Hang on,” she says. “I’ll handle this,” and slopes off.

I put my ear to the door. I can hear my wife pleading with the teen.

You have to stop him,” she says.

What’s he doing?” he asks.

He’s trying to tell me one of his humorous observations.”

ALERT! We’ve got a teenager defying a bedroom snack-eating ban. Call for backup!

You’ll like this,” says my wife and knocks on the door.

My wife and I are stood on a doorstep in the rain, waiting to pick up our daughter from a playdate. A playdate where the parents do things ‘old school’. 

“I can hear angry voices,” says my wife.

I open the letterbox and peer in. “It’s brutal,” I say. “It sounds like a teenager arguing with his mother about…”

“Let me guess. Xbox?”

“No. Pot Noodles.”

“Pot Noodles? Really? I’m now cold, wet and slightly disappointed.”

“In that case. Can we…”

“No,” she says. “We can’t class this as Date Night. Let’s just go in. Buckle up. You’re about to see some 50s style parenting.”

We both creep in.

I’m an expert at creeping about. It’s a key skill. In my younger days, I lived with someone who was rubbish at creeping. They had really long, manky toenails and there was laminate flooring everywhere. Whenever they went on a secret midnight mission to raid the fridge, all I could hear was toenails tapping on the laminate. We’re married now, but for the first few months of our relationship, I thought we had an infestation of tap dancing crabs.

A teenage boy barrels down the stairs with his mum in hot pursuit. It looks like Cagney chasing down a perp.


Freeze Mutha Flippa! Step away from the Xbox.

My wife nudges me and whispers, “Watch and learn.”

The teen is cornered and the mother lets rip, “What have I told you about eating Pot Noodles in your bedroom?”

“They’re NOT Pot Noodles!” screams the teen. “They’re Super Noodles! Don’t you know the difference?”

Right!” she shouts. “You’ve been warned!” and stomps back upstairs.

Quick. Let’s get our daughter,” says my wife. “I don’t want to miss the teen getting punished.” 

We creep down the hallway. I take the lead, followed closely by Hammertoes. The door creaks as I open it. We both look inside…

What the hell is that?” I ask.

It’s genius. That’s what that is,” she says.

Our daughter, and four other girls, are sat in the foothills of a sock mountain. They are being made to play a game called, ‘Match the socks’. A game that tests their cognitive skills, and also puts a dint in the mother’s laundry chores.


My daughter sitting at the Base Camp of Sock Mountain.

I grab my daughter and we head back to the kitchen for the dramatic end scene.

The teenager is alone, trying to look cool, tapping away on his phone.

“Make small talk to the teen,” whispers my wife.

Regular readers will remember that I once declined to go to a swinger’s club in Pudsey because they’d banned the use of selfie sticks. And that I also spy on the staff at my cafe from a bush over the road. This is the only small talk I’ve got, and I don’t think it’ll go down well with a teenager who gets angry about the incorrect classification of noodles.

The mother appears clutching an Xbox, with a knot of wires trailing behind her like the innards from a fresh kill. She dumps it on the kitchen table. 

No more Xbox for you!” she shouts.

My wife gasps. “I’ve dreamed about doing that,” she says.

What do you think happens next?” I whisper.

I’m guessing that the dad appears and does absolutely nothing.”

“That’s not fair,” I say. “We’re not all cavemen. Some of us are modern men.”

Caveman. Modern Man. Super Noodle. Pot Noodle. What’s the difference?”

The random aisle of shit.

It’s Thursday night and it’s getting dark outside. It’s a real struggle to release myself from the warm embrace of the sofa to close the curtains.

Ha!” shrieks my wife.

Ha, what?” I say.

I win.”


Our stand-off. Who breaks first and closes the curtains.”

I didn’t know we did that.”

Yes we do. And I’m winning.”

Dwindling sexual activity can be a sign that your relationship is dying, but if you find yourself having imaginary curtain stand-off competitions, I’d call a priest.

But we have a plan.

To keep things zesty, one day every year we flip parental roles. A whole day walking in eachother’s shoes. It helps rebuild our bridges by tapping into the hidden story of each other’s day.

It’s probably best if you know what our existing roles are. They’re very traditional. My wife takes responsibility for burying the family pets – sometimes she even waits till they’re dead – and it’s my job to answer questions about the 1980s.

Role Reversal Day.

Remember,” I say to my wife. “I’m you today.”

Monday’s are busy for me. You won’t cope.”

I’ve already started doing your chores,” I say.

Really?” she replies. “Such as?”

I got up early and killed all the houseplants.”

I don’t kill the houseplants,” she replies. “I neglect them over a long period of time. Big difference. Keep up.”

Have you done any of my chores yet?” I ask.

Yes. I’ve just googled Jennifer Aniston’s fake nipples.”

They’re real,” I say.

Fake. Nipples can’t be that hard for that long.”



This goes on for a while.

Flip-Over Day is my idea. I dreamed it up five years ago. About the same time I invented ‘Love Rockets’.

I was getting seriously fed up with Valentine’s night. I’ve never understood why couples go out for a big, luxury meal and then have sex. Why not have the sex first? Rather than wait till you’re full of gammon.

So, on Valentine’s night I drive my wife out to a deserted field, passing all the gammon-munching perverts, then I launch two rockets. Each rocket represents our love for each other. The whole thing only lasts twenty minutes, which means we’ve got plenty of time to get home, dismiss the babysitter and have a curtain stand-off.

Ok,” I say. “What do I need to do first?”

Food shopping. You need to go to that store where everybody just buys bread and vodka.”



Then what?”

Don’t get cocky kid. Let’s see how you get on at the bread & vodka shop first.”

One question. Am I allowed to…”

No. You are not allowed to buy anything from Aldi’s random aisle of shit.”

The random aisle of shit is my only food shopping highlight. I find the stark juxtaposition of products exhilarating. Last time I went in, I saw a plastic croquet set being sold next to an industrial log turning machine. Both £4.99. To be honest, I think they’ll have a hard time shifting these products, because since Brexit, there’s been a distinct lack of croquet playing lumberjacks entering the country.

Twenty minutes later I’m balls deep in the random aisle of shit when I get a text from my wife.

‘I know what you’re doing’. It says.

‘Gammon’s on offer’. I reply.

‘No thanks. Newsflash. You have to pick the teen up from school’.

Twenty minutes later…

BANG! The teen slams the car door shut.

How was school?” I ask.

Meh,” he replies.

We drive on. He plays with his phone. Tap, tap, tap.

We arrive home and the house is sitting in darkness.

BANG! The teen slams the car door shut. Tap, tap, tap. We enter the house. It’s eerily silent.

Dad, where’s mum?” he asks.

It’s Role-Reversal Day. She’s doing what I do.”

“Hiding from the world?” he says smugly, and slithers back into the cocoon of his phone.

It’s then, out of the corner of my eye, I notice muddy footprints leading towards the back door. The door is unlocked and banging in the breeze. I start to worry.

Has anyone…” I say.

Has anyone what?” asks my son, as we both creep towards the unknown.

Has anyone bought any new pets lately?”


RIP Mr Nibbles. Taken way too soon. Literally.

An open letter to publishers of children’s books.

Dear publishers,

To aid stacking, can we just have 3 book sizes?

I was thinking of using small, medium and large. Not: small, smaller, middle, medium, square oblong, small but tall, tall but small, fucking massive and postcard.


13 different sizes. Btw, I didn’t choose the carpet colour.

Here’s my plan, all books about the adventures of church mice should be this size:


By the way, I found three of these. How many adventures can church mice have? Church gets put up for sale, greedy developers move in and threaten their home. Mice rise up and scare them away by pretending to be human. This isn’t The Matrix, we don’t need a trilogy. Just to clarify. All ‘mice turning human’ stories should be oblongish.

Books about yams. This size please:


You can have it. Calm down.

I am not allowed to give this book to charity because my wife has attached sentimental meaning to it. She used to read it to our son every night for a year. He now has a pathological fear of yam theft.

Obviously books about dinosaurs and monster trucks should be massive. To convey their massiveness.



I also call for a complete ban on all books that aren’t flat, as they are responsible for 90% of all book avalanches. I’m fed up of watching the Princess Poppy range sliding off my monster book of dinosaurs. Princess Poppy deserves better, even though she is a spoilt little bitch.

This is madness.


I don’t believe there is a sane mind in the country who truly believes that a book about a penguin, who has a ‘devil may care’ attitude about where he pisses*, should be infinitesimally larger than a book about a tiger who came to tea, and the parent’s major concern was how much tea it drank.

Together we can escalate change.

Please join my campaign to increase the size of ‘The Tiger who came to tea’, by an amount that can barely be registered by modern measuring techniques.

*Note. I appreciate the Pingu pissing reference won’t make any sense unless you’ve seen the episode where he pisses on a trumpet. Utter filth.

17 views & no likes.

It is Thursday evening and my wife is busy swearing at her inbox…

“Bad news?” I ask.

The bread suppliers. They’ve cancelled my trade account,” she replies.

But…” I say.

But what?”

You asked them to cancel it.”

I know, but I thought they’d try and talk me out of it. I feel rejected.”

I empathise with your imaginary pain,” I say, “but I’ve got real problems. Nobody’s reading my blog. I uploaded a post yesterday, and so far, it’s only had 17 views – and no likes. Actually, that’s quite a good title for a blog post.”

No, no, no,” she says. “You can’t judge the quality of a post by how many likes it generates. It’s the enjoyment you get from writing it that counts. Besides, you can’t use that as a title. Never tell anyone your stats. You want your readers to be uncertain about how crap your stats really are. It creates an air of mystery, and mystery creates…intrigue.


Think about it. Are you really 100% sure that I like you?”


Aaaah…you’re uncertain. You find my coldness…intriguing. Now, put this blindfold on.”

I’ve always suspected that my wife is a spy. A few little things just don’t add up. She runs a quaint little cafe in a charming village and spends all day serving food to people and yet, she doesn’t like cooking or people.

I put the blindfold on.

Kids,” she shouts. “Come in the kitchen.” I hear them shuffle in.

“It’s too late for me,” I say. “Run – save yourselves.”

Stop it. You’re alarming them,” she says. “Just sit there quietly with your blindfold on.”

“Ok,” I say.

Now,” says my wife, “your father is going to do a blind taste-test on two seeded loafs. I want both of you to be witnesses. One loaf has been made by me and the other by my ex-supplier.”

Hang on,” I say. “You want me to tell you if I like your bread?”


But earlier, you said that it doesn’t matter who likes what you do. Bake for the art of baking.”

I know. I told you I was intriguing.”

It’s Tuesday morning and I’m making a deal with the devil. She’s called, Betty.

You weren’t expecting me, were you?” says the old lady in a ghoulish voice as she opens the door.

She’s right I wasn’t but this is what happens when you advertise your joinery services in the local paper. You get old women ringing up and dragging you into their shenanigans.

Who are you?” I ask.

Betty. Margaret, the woman you saw last week, is in hospital. Her new pills didn’t agree with her. They slowed her down, she lost her sparkle.”

I think sparkle is the last thing you want to worry about when you get to that age. I’m 46 and I already know my anus wont hold out. But that’s the eighties for you.

I don’t understand what’s happening,” I say.

I’m here to let you in and lock up when you’ve finished. And then…” she says.

And then what?” I ask.

You can drive me home.”

In case you’re wondering what old ladies wear when they’re ordering tradesmen to give them free lifts, Betty chose to partner green trousers with a yellow roll neck top. She looked like a massive budgie. A massive budgie with a new chauffeur.

I step into the bungalow and I’m hit by a tropical heat wave. It’s like walking into the sun.

Betty looks at me and says, “It’s cold. Where’s the thermostat?”

I find the thermostat and point at it with intensity.

It’s dialled up to 30 degrees,” I exclaim.

Is that high?” she asks.

Not if you’re wanting to smelt gold,” I say.

Betty ruffles her feathers and sits down.

I’m sitting down,” she says.

Are you going to tell me everything you’re doing while you’re doing it,” I ask.

She opens a book and starts reading. I’m reading a book,” she replies. I usually spend my days getting outsmarted by my wife, I’m finding this quite refreshing.

For the next 90 minutes I work in sweltering conditions repairing two cupboard doors with a large budgie sat in the corner giving me the stink eye.

I’ve had worse jobs. As a student I worked on the night shift of a swiss roll factory. I got the sack for writing graffiti inside the boxes. I scribbled, ‘Ring for sex’ and put my own phone number. A cunning double bluff. Two weeks later I got a call from head office. They asked me to come in for a meeting. I thought they’d spotted my potential and selected me for fast track promotion. I was sacked immediately. I’ve never eaten a swiss roll since. Mainly because there’s another 10 boxes out there with cocks drawn in them.

Betty looks up from her book and says. “I’ve been told to give you a cheque.”

But I haven’t finished,” I say. “I need to come back tomorrow. Will she still be in hospital?”

Betty wobbles her hand in a fifty/fifty gesture.

Is she going to die?” I ask. She does the same gesture.

This is a conundrum,” I say. “Should I take the cheque now, knowing she may die before I’ve finished?”

Take the cheque,” she says seductively.

I decline, and judging from the glint in Betty’s eye, this isn’t the first time she’s tried to lure a young soul into making a deal with the devil.

We lock up and I walk Betty to my car.

I’m not so good with my legs,” she says. “It may take me a while to get in.”

It’s OK,” I say.

I open the door.

I’m getting in the car,” she says, and starts getting in the car.

2 minutes later…

I’m getting in the car,” she says.

Two minutes later…


Take the cheque. Take. The. Cheque.

The puberty scattergun.


Let battle commence.

“Who’s that guy?” asks my wife.

Which one?” I say.

The one who is swearing at that kid?”

Oh, he’s the referee,” I say.

My son’s football team are playing in a rough part of Leeds and it’s my wife’s first time watching him. He’s given me strict instructions to contain her. She’s not allowed to embarrass him by running on to the pitch to chastise anyone who tackles him.

A few dads turn up and we stand on the touchline, mirroring each other’s body language.

“This game’s going to be a bit violent,” says one. We all nod and mutter in agreement. I can hear my wife anxiously grinding her jaw.

It was horrific last week,” says another. “The way his leg broke clean in two.” Grind, grind.

It was the screaming I couldn’t take,” says another. Grind, grind. “Oh, and by the way,” he adds. “I think you’ll all be glad to know that I’ve finally found the guinea pig.”

My wife jabs me in the ribs. “A broken leg and an errant guinea pig. Tell me more?”

Gerry’s guinea pig is always escaping,” I say. “They’ve had to reinforce the cage.”

“Where is it now?”

“It’s back inside Guantanamo Hay.”

The leg?”

“That happened because of the puberty scattergun.”

Under 14s football is a dangerous mismatch due to the scattergun approach of puberty. You have late bloomers, who are small and squeaky-voiced, playing against early adopters, who are hairy and 6 foot tall. Think: boy band members playing against the Hell’s Angels. It’s all hair gel and pubes.

The whistle blows.

We’ve got guinea pigs, a rabbit AND a dog,” sighs another dad. We all look at him and make sympathetic noises. Out of the corner of my eye I see a hairy boy sidle up to my son and growl, ‘I’m going to fucking twat you!’ I glance over to my wife. She is guerning and glaring at the hairy boy.

I’m starting to panic. The game’s only just started and it’s brewing into a perfect storm. I’m wrapped up in a foreboding atmosphere of impending physical violence mixed with an infectious dose of pet fatigue.

You’ve got what?” says another.

Guinea pigs, a rabbit AND a dog. The holy trinity of shitting machines.”

Have your kids lost interest yet?” I ask.

Mine have,” says another but our chat is derailed by events on the pitch. One of our team is writhing on the floor clutching his ankle. The hairy boy is standing over him swearing, and is being encouraged by his coach and parents. We all look over with a degree of concern, until we become certain that the injured kid doesn’t belong to one of us.

This is barbaric,” exclaims my wife. “Those parents. They’re fucking idiots. I’m going to say something.” 

“Calm down” I say. “You can’t just go around calling them idiots. We didn’t see the tackle. It could have been our player’s fault. They’re parents, like us. We’d get angry too if someone hurt our kid. I’ll go and have a word with their coach.”

As I make my way round the pitch, I have to pass a group of the opposing team’s dads. I always tell my son to stand up to bullies, and if he’s getting grief on the pitch, he shouldn’t back down. Put in the same position, I have to admit, I’m buckling.

My heart pumps faster as I get nearer. They see me coming and start muttering to each other.

The big one pokes his friends in the ribs and says, “We’ve just got a guinea pig.”

Cool,” replies his friend. “I hear they’re really low maintenance.” My god, I think. They really are idiots.

The ‘Outfit’.


Dad, are you crying?” asks my son.

As a parent there are two things you should always do in private: crying and wanking. If you’re doing both at the same time, call the appropriate helpline.

As it happens, I am crying. I’ve just watched the famous clip of the Brownlee brothers. They were competing in a triathlon in Mexico. The younger brother was leading when he collapsed near the finish line. His brother stopped to help him and heroically carried his younger brother over the line, forsaking his own chance to become world champion.

I show my teen son the emotive footage. “That’s really inspiring,” he says. “Seeing something like that really makes me want to get involved in sport. In fact, I’m going to go out for a run. Now.”

Bullshit – I think. Teenagers don’t just voluntarily exercise, even after seeing their dad crying. It’s a smokescreen. He’s nipping out to the shop to buy fizzy dummies with stolen money; my money. But I’ve got a devious plan to scupper his cunning plan.

OK. Just let your mother know,” I say.

He thunders up stairs and I hear the low murmur of a teenager telling his mother a bullshit motivational jogging story. This is followed by excited squeals. He thunders downstairs.

You knew about this, didn’t you?” he says angrily.

What?” I say.

She wants to come jogging with me. And she says that she’s got an ‘outfit’.”

It’s tight,” I say, “and it’s ‘coordinated’.”

Christ,” he mutters and starts pacing around the room. The kind of frenetic pacing I usually see him doing when the wifi drops out.

Don’t worry about it,” I say. “Your mates won’t see you jogging with your mother.”

They will,” he says, “and we’ll be out for ages. She said that because I’m going with her, it means that we can jog past this ‘dodgy’ place. Somewhere she usually avoids because she doesn’t feel safe. Where’s that?”

She means the Conservative Club,” I say.

I nip upstairs to check on her progress. My wife sees me and does a little catwalk posturing. “What do you think of the outfit?” she asks, and theatrically plonks hands on hips.

I can totally see the outline of your fanny,” I say.

You’re meant to,” she says, and launches in a series of star jumps. It gets very graphic, very quick.

I don’t think I’m legally old enough to see this,” I say and she flips me the finger.

I rejoin my son in the living room. A few moments later, the door bursts opens and a massive fanny on legs stomps into the room. 

It’s pain time peasants!” shouts my wife like a drill sergeant, and propels herself into an exaggerated warm-up lunge. The colour drains from my son’s face.

“Yes; yes it is,” I say and search on my phone for an appropriate helpline.

One night in that there London.

I feel a sharp tug on my sleeve as the curtains close and the coffin disappears.

Have you read the eulogy on the back of the programme?” whispers my wife.

“Can you stop tugging my sleeve?” I ask.

“Sure,” she says, and pokes me hard in the ribs. As a mark of respect, I muffle my shriek of pain. She draws me in close and whispers angrily, “It says, ‘Live everyday. Smile more. Sing. Dance. Be happy’. We should honour her last words by doing something spontaneous. Let’s forget about the kids and just go out and get drunk.”


But what?” she asks.

We’re in Watford.”

I immediately try to change her mind, which in itself, is quite spontaneous.

I think the underlying message of the eulogy,” I say, “is not about spontaneity. It’s about people making more effort to be nice to each other.”

Bollocks,” she whispers, before adding, “I’ll arrange a babysitter; book a hotel and we’ll go into London for the night and get pissed.”

I’m no fool. She’s arranging a fun night out to annoy me. My wife knows that when I drink booze my feet swell up. I spend most of the night trying to stop her dressing me in sandals so that she can see the swelling in real-time.

We manage to find a vacancy at the Holiday Inn. Luckily, it’s the last room they have available. I drag her suitcase through the lobby. The plastic wheels sound like a train thundering down the tracks as they run over the gaps in the floor tiles. I see my wife holding court with a gaggle of female receptionists. There seems to be some confusion. My wife is gesticulating wildly with her arms and I overhear her say, “They swell up like balloons.” Four receptionists look warily at my feet. One of them waves. I wave back.

We arrive at the room. I try to swipe the key card.

Let me do it?” she says.

No. It’s my turn,” I say and keep on swiping. “You can have a go after the next funeral.”

My wife snatches the card, swipes it once and we enter. I flick the kettle on and she starts getting ready.

Give me an ETA on this. How long are you going to be?” I ask. 

I’m ready. Just doing my hair. Get your jacket on and we’ll get off.” I put my jacket on.

Ok. I’m on the launch pad. You?” 

Yes. I’m ready,” she snaps, walks purposefully towards me, looks me dead in the eye and says, “Hang on, I’ll just change my shoes.”

Eventually we head into London. The night is a blur. I remember stumbling out of a cocktail club. I also remember strangers asking me how I’d managed to get in to a swanky cocktail club wearing sandals.

I wake up groggy. One hour later, my wife, my headache and my swollen feet head off for breakfast. We leave the room and spill out into a rabbit warren of narrow corridors. I take the lead and wife shuffles behind. Soon, a large gap opens up between us.

“It’s left!” she shouts. “Turn left!”

“No. It’s a right turn to the breakfast room. If I go left, it takes me down to the spa,” I say and look behind me, but she has vanished.

Ten minutes later I arrive at the breakfast bar. My wife is already seated and drinking coffee. A curtain flaps behind her and a waiter scuttles out. He looks at me, coffee ready to pour, and says, “How was the spa?” they both laugh.

“Stop telling the staff about my little quirks,” I say. “There’s a watress over there who looks like she’s out of the loop. Maybe you should tell her about my piles.”

I feel a sharp tug on my sleeve as the curtains close and the coffee man disappears. She draws me in close and whispers angrily, “Don’t look now, but there is an American at the self-service pancake machine. He’s not letting anyone else use it. That’s so rude.” Throughout the rest of the meal my wife stares at the Pancake Man. The tense silence is occasionally broken by my wife whispering, “He’s making another one. The bastard!”

“Stay strong. Remember the eulogy,” I say. “‘Sing. Dance. Be happy’.”

“I’m going in,” she says, “It’s Hammer Time.”

In memory of our dear friend, Carrie. We sang, we danced, we were asked to leave the breakfast bar.

The lucky armadillo.

I’m trying to get ready for an important meeting but my phobias are flaring-up. I suffer from Koumpounophobia, which is a fear of buttons.

It started when I was 7 years old. I was asleep on the couch and when I woke-up, my little sister had covered me from head to toe in buttons. I don’t visit her much. In fact, I’ve only ever visited her new home once. I have my reasons…

My sister lives in a terraced house that sits on the footprint of an old button factory. There is a delapidated shed in the back garden which was originally used to store buttons. It rests on a patch of barron earth. When the rain falls, it sends little tremors through the ground and all the lost buttons rise up from the soil. It’s a horror show, and as I sit here, writing about the zombie buttons, I finally realise that there was no button factory, and my sister planted the buttons before I arrived. 

I have two other phobias. I feel sick, scared, angry and want to hit someone whenever is see a trifle. This comes from my Dad. I don’t visit him much. I have my reasons…

I was 21 and living at home with my dad and my button-stalker sister. My dad worked for several charities. He was a chaperone for Barnardos and also helped out at a local pensioner’s group; cooking them a free meal every Thursday. He’s always been a bad cook, but saw feeding pensioners as a chance to experiment. I remember one of his creations was just called, ‘Meat Bits’.

Thursday rolled around and I was forced to try my dad’s latest concoction. He’d made a trifle but it was a poor first attempt; all sloppy and lumpy. He called it ‘Scronge Monge’.

What do you think? he asked.

Bit sloppy,” I said. “Are you thinking about putting Scronge Monge on the menu with Meat Bits?”

“It’s already on. You’re eating leftovers from today. Dont worry, it’s fresh. I scraped it out of their bowls and put it straight back in the fridge.”

“Eurgh. Are you telling me that I’m eating trifle that pensioners have spat out?”

“Yes. What do you think Meat Bits are?”

This leads on to my last phobia. Unsurprisingly, I have a sensitive gag reflex. It gets really bad if I wear a tie, which is why I hate pitching work to clients. During presentations I do a lot of dry-heaving, then I panic and attempt to discreetly end the meeting. In my experience, it’s rare for a client to employ the guy who kept puking, and then tried to jump out of the window.

There are several things you can take to deal with phobias: pills, herbal teas, meat bits. But I put my faith in lucky charms and superstition. I always carry a lucky armadillo with me. It’s very special; my daughter bought it for me with her own birthday money. I also think I’ll be cursed if I change the CD in my car. I’ve been playing Bruce Springsteen’s Tunnel of Love for the last 5 years. This irritates my wife. She thinks that the constant repetition dilutes the meaning of the words, and she ends up hating the songs. I know this because she tells me over and over and over…

Unfortunately, it seems that I’ve passed my quirks on to my daughter.

Dad,” she says, as I thunder down the stairs, clawing at the knot in my tie.


Where’s the Lucky Armadillo?”

It’s in my bag” I say, “next to the lucky pebble and the lucky bird’s feather.”

I delve into my bag to prove it, but it’s not there. 

Have you lost him?” she asks. Her cheeks redden. A dramatic mock-cry is on its way.

No, he must be upstairs. I’ll go get him.” I thunder back upstairs.

What the fuck are you doing?” asks my wife, as she picks up her white dressing gown from the bedroom floor, and loosely wraps it around her. She is bleary-eyed, and her hair is all frizzed-up at the back. She looks like a drunk Tina Turner searching for a sauna.

Where’s the Lucky Armadillo?” I ask.

Fuck knows. I’m the only good luck charm you need,” she says, and bangs into the door on her way out.

Eventually I remember where it is. It’s in the bowl of crap. I peer into the bowl and see that Armadillo is sandwiched between a stapler, a map of France and two…buttons.

I can hear the first few spluttering bars of my daughter’s false cry wafting down the hallway. I pull my sleeve up over my hand to make a rudimentary glove, close my eyes and fish out the Armadillo. I hand it over to my daughter.

Naughty Armadillo,” she says. “Where have you been?”

“Toss him over,” I say. “I need to take the plastic Armadillo to an important meeting.” My daughter takes Armadillo to one side and whispers to him.

What are you two whispering about?” I ask.

I’m just telling him to look after you.” 

My wife staggers into the room. Our daughter looks concerned. “What’s happened to Mum?” she whispers.

“The night. That’s what’s happened to her,” I say, and covertly pass her the armadillo. “I think you’re going to need this more than me.”


What have I told you about delivering salads to dogs?

The phone rings…

I’ve been bitten by a dog!” screams my wife.

Where?” I ask.

On my ankle.”

No, where were you?”

I was delivering a salad.”

What have I told you about delivering salads to dogs?”

It’s not funny. It’s a serious bite on my ankle.”

Anybody in this type of situation – pumped-up on adrenalin – can be prone to exaggeration, but I needed to know exactly how bad it was in case I had to leave work and pick up the kids.

Has anyone else seen it?” I probed.

Yes. The plasterer.”

The plasterer! Where the hell are you? The Annual Plasterer’s Dog Show?”

This isn’t helping.”

What did he say?”

He said it looked: ‘Nasty’.

We’re venturing into unknown medical waters here. I’ve never seen a dog bite story where a salad was involved and the victim was left so delusional that they asked a plasterer for a medical assessment.

Do I need a tetanus jab?” she asks.

I don’t know. What does the plasterer think?”

The only thing I know about dogs is that if you run one over you have to call the Police. I found this out after my mother knocked one over. She called me the day after the incident. Her voice was still trembling. She described how she’d just been out on a late-night shopping trip to Sainsbury’s. About how the dog had scampered out from a bush and bounced off the front nearside wing.

What did the Police say? Are you in trouble?” I asked her.

No, I’m not in trouble,” she said.

Did they take pity on you because of your age?”

No, I told them it was a fox. You can run them over.”

To be honest, I think this is very specific knowledge. You’re only going to know the legal requirements surrounding the hitting dogs, as opposed to foxes, if you’re doing it a lot. And judging by the amount of dents in my mum’s car, it looks like she’s on a mission.

The adrenalin surging through my wife’s body is starting to fade and is slowly being replaced by fury.

The owner hasn’t even apologised,” she snarls.

She’s probably embarrassed,” I reason. “She must be mortified that her dog has bitten someone. Now everyone in the village is going to be scared of approaching her dog with a salad.”

My wife lets out a chuckle. “Can you pick me up?” she asks.

Sure, and to make you feel better, would you like my mum to take another ‘late-night trip to Sainsbury’s’?”

The fear of dread.

It’s Sunday night, and due to my immense lack of resolve when it comes to standing up for what I truly believe in, I find myself camping. 

We are in a remote part of the Yorkshire Dales. Our tent pitched in dense woodland, far, far away from civilisation. It’s dark, windy and foreboding. I lay awake – desperate for a wee – staring at the canvas walls. Thankfully, this soul-crushing tedium is interrupted by the noise of someone being murdered outside.

I poke my wife. “What’s that noise?” I whisper. 

You do realise,” she says, “that you’ll enjoy camping much more if you can just ignore the sound of people being murdered.”

Do you think it’s an owl?” I say.

Yes,” she agrees. “An owl being murdered. Just relax. Camping is something that’s totally out of our comfort zone. We’re going native. Just go with the flow.”

I hate going with the flow; I’m a stick in the mud. The last time I went with the flow I ended up buying a pair of lemon-coloured flares. Since then I’ve vowed to stay away from anything dangerous or risky, such as freeform jazz.

The ghoulish noise draws closer. To defend myself, I pull the sleeping bag over my face. I poke my wife and whisper, “I don’t want to die surrounded by this much Gore-tex.”

Sssshhh,” she says. “Someone’s coming towards the tent.” My wife’s acknowledgement that something really was happening sent a tingle of fear down my spine. A feeling I’ve come to refer to as… The Fear of Dread. A sensation I usually experince when it’s my turn to cook and we’ve run out of fish fingers.

We can now clearly hear footsteps. We look at each other. Our faces contort into a mixture of bewilderment and shock. The footsteps fall silent as they reach the front of the tent. My wife gives me the stink-eye. I take this as a subtle hint that I should go out and confront the owl.

I unzip the flap.

I can see the outline of a young man, somewhere in his mid-twenties. He looks at me and says: “Did someone order pizza?”

Yoo-hoo,” shouts my wife. “That was me. Half pepperoni – half mushroom?”

Feeding the fish.

It’s Tuesday morning and I am getting the kids ready for school. I’m desperately searching for my daughter’s shoes when I notice my wife mooching about behind the car. She sees me, smiles and gives me the wanker hand sign.

I open the window.

Why are you doing that?” I ask.

It’s sign language for: Are you working from home today?”

This is quite insulting. Not every freelancer spends all day at home masturbating. Just for the record, I am working from home and I wasn’t planning on enjoying myself. But now she’s planted a seed. This is what happens when you get to my age. People have to remind you to masturbate. It’s like being reminded to feed the fish.

I carry on looking for the shoes but my mind is wandering. I’m trying to see how I can bend my schedule to accommodate this new development. It’s tricky and I even catch myself letting out a loud, desperate sigh.

There are several pitfalls that I’m trying to avoid. My wife is driving them to school. I can’t do it as soon as they leave because my wife might forget something and return. Eventually, I settle on a safe time, and if you work from home regularly, you’ll know exactly what that time is. Making a concrete decision lightens my mood and I congratulate myself on being flexible in an emergency.

Are they ready?” asks my wife.

They’re both ready,” I say and proudly point to two children wearing matching shoes.

Are you ok?” she asks.

Yes,” I reply. “Why?”

You’re smiling,” she says and eyes me suspiciously.

What time are you back from work?” I ask.

I don’t know,” she replies. “It could be any time.”

She’s on to me. To be honest, I don’t really want one, but I’ve put it in the diary now.

They leave. I lock the door and go into my office.

I click open my inbox and start sifting through my work emails. My mind wanders. If I get it over and done with now, then I can get on with my day unhindered. But I’m in the danger zone. My wife could come back at any moment.

I start the process.

My phone rings.

Hi, it’s me,” announces my wife, bright and breezy.

What do you want?”

I know what you’re doing.”

I’m not doing anything,” I say. “I’m just feeding the fish.”

Would you like me to come back and help you feed the fish.” she says suggestively.

I look at my schedule and sigh.

The overdue sleepover pick-up.

It is Sunday morning and the child we’ve had for a sleepover should have been picked up over an hour ago. My wife and I are discussing how best to show disapproval to the child’s parents without seeming petty…

When they arrive,” I say, “I think we should be standoffish.” 

Yes,” agrees my wife, “let’s be violent.”

No. You can’t be violent with other parents,” I say.

It’s the only reason I had kids.”

The sleepover kid stomps down the stairs…

I want Spaghetti Hoops,” it says. It’s been saying that since it got dropped off. I think they’re the only two words that it knows. I half expected him to turn into one during the night and roll down the stairs.

I fish out the tin opener, remove the lid and slide the hoops into the microwave. I turn around and I am slightly startled to see the sleepover kid stood motionless, staring at me.

“Spaghetti Hoops,” it says.

I’m doing them,” I reply, and point to the hoops rotating around the microwave.

Ping! Goes the microwave. I put the steaming hoops in a bowl and set them on the kitchen table. The kid sits down.

Spoon,” it says.

Spoon?” I ask. I don’t know why I just repeated what it said, I think I was just so excited to be saying a different word.

Get your own spoon,” says my wife as she glides across the kitchen, like a gunslinger entering a bar to get rid of the local menace.

You can’t say that,” I whisper.

Of course I can,” she says and points to the kid, “He’s thirteen.” 

The Negotiator.

It’s early evening and I’m sat on the couch flicking through the channels when I receive a text. It’s from my teenage son. He is texting me from his bedroom…

Son: What’s all that banging??? The pipes are rattling. And what’s with all the swearing???

Me. It’s not me. It’s your mother. She’s exercising.

Son: Do something!!!

Me: Are these texts costing me money?

Son: Fffp!!

I’ve got no idea what ‘Fffp’ means, but I don’t have time to decode teenage slang right now, I need to stop my wife exercising because it’s damaging the central heating. But asking my wife to stop is hard because we’re all banned from entering the room when she’s doing her fitness routine. She says it’s the only time she gets to herself, and she wants to spend that precious time doing lunges and swearing.

I enter the room…

My wife is stood motionless on a scatter rug. Two dumbbells lay discarded by her feet. She is watching an extreme fitness video called, Insanity: Body Transformation in 60 days. I notice that unlike my wife, none of the people in the video are wearing cardigans.

“What you doing?” I ask. “It sounds like you’re just dropping those dumbbells on the floor.”

“I am,” she says. “It’s called a ‘Mic-drop’. It’s trendy. Keep up.”

OK, but can you lower your voice when you’re swearing at the exercise video,” I say. “I’m getting complaints.”

What, like this…” she replies, and says in a slightly lower tone: “Twatface.”

Bit lower,” I say.

Twatface,” she whispers.

That’s fine,” I say and skulk backwards out of the room, like a butler in a horror movie. I return to the couch and resume flicking. Over the next few minutes I can hear the word, ‘Twatface’ getting louder. I think about ringing the noise pollution branch of the local council and asking to be put through to whoever deals with ‘Exercising Wives’.

I go back in…

The door creaks. I poke my head into the room and I’m relieved to see that my wife has finally discarded her cardigan. She is running on the spot to the sound of, I’m So Excited, by The Pointer Sisters. She sees me, smiles and shouts: “Fuck off! Fuck off! Fuck off!” to the rhythm of the music.

I skulk out again and return to the couch where I receive another text from my son. It’s a picture of him laughing…

Me: What’s this?

Son: Sorry, forgot to tell you. You only get charged for texts if I send you a picture.

Me: How much?

Son: 50p

Me: Fffp!!

The cold caller.

Its teatime 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 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?


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.



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.


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…


…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…


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


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…

IMG_0777 (1)

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.


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 refers 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.


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.



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…

cafe 194

Which was soon followed by the local high street jewellers…


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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?” I whisper to my wife as I creep further under the bedsheets.

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

It’s coming from the cupboard on the landing?” I say.

“It’ll be your granny. Coming back to haunt us,” she says with a dramatic flourish.

“She’s not dead.”

“Define dead,” she replies.

I know it’s definately not my granny because I can’t smell gin. It’s probably our son who has recently started sleepwalking. It’s a disturbing sight because he wears boxer shorts and he’s all balls-out. It’s like being stalked by an angry turkey.

Go and check,” whispers my wife, and gives me a little shove.

“I can’t be arsed. You go,” I say. I receive a further – more motivational – shove and I let the momentum propel me out of bed. 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.


I don’t want your 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, 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 sound of a guinea pig. If they’d have told me at the pet shop that every night guinea pigs like to take a UK short break to visit their holiday home in the cupboard, I’d have bought them a VW camper van so they could do it in style. 

I close the door and tiptoe back into the bedroom.

Was it your granny?” she asks.

“No. The guinea pig was trying to escape.

“I tell you what. If that was your granny, I bet it’s not the first time she’s seen a naked man with a baseball bat,” she says and chuckles to herself. This goes on for a while.

The day I’m dreading has finally arrived…

It’s Friday evening and my wife is relaxing on the couch. In my favourite spot. Obviously, 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.


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 last line of this post works 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.